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Camel - Breathless CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.14 | 739 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Why is no one talking to me?

While Camel are often listed as a "Canterbury" act, this appears to stem primarily from their association with Caravan, and in particular the Sinclair cousins. Camel themselves were not originally from the Canterbury area, nor indeed did they spend a great deal of time there. Furthermore, they do not feature the unique keyboard sound which is often associated with that sub-genre.

The band have a happy knack of coming up with a really strong opener for their albums, and the title track here is no exception. It's a lilting, melodic piece, with some infectious instrumental hooks which are guaranteed to make you feel good. Unfortunately, the feel good factor was the one thing which was missing for the band themselves when they recorded "Breathless", with Peter Bardens being all but ostracised by the rest of the band. By this time, Mel Collins had formally joined the band, his sax contributions once again providing an extra dimension to the sound. Despite the bitter acrimony during the recording of the album, Bardens and Latimer worked together on many of the songs.

The track "Breathless" provides early evidence of the generally lighter feel to this album. Richard Sinclair may have had more influence than he did on "Rain dances", but it is his whimsical side which comes through, rather than anything resembling the early work of Caravan. Sinclair's vocals certainly help to make tracks such as "Breathless" more melodic though.

There are effectively three feature tracks here. "Echoes" (no relation to the Pink Floyd track) a melodic upbeat number, "Summer lightening" which has a superb long guitar solo by Andy Latimer, and "The sleeper", the intro to which was inspired by seagulls flying in Cornwall where Bardens and Latimer wrote together. On "The sleeper", Andy Latimer uses different guitar sounds to create both fusion and rock feels within the track.

There are several weaker tracks too. "Wing and a prayer" is dull, with a lifeless melody, and an overt pop influence. "You make me smile" takes the blandness a step further, being a nondescript love song, with cringe inducing lyrics.

The story behind the track "Down on the farm" illustrates the divisions in the band well. Peter Bardens had submitted a track for inclusion on the album, but such was the desire of the rest of the band to evict Bardens from the band that they rejected the song, on the pretext of allowing Richard Sinclair to include one of his. Bardens disliked Sinclair's song so much, that he does not play on it at all. To be fair to Bardens, Sinclair's dominance of the track, and its whimsical nature make it sound more like a discarded Caravan outtake than a Camel song. In retrospect, Bardens was right, the song should have been left off the album.

The final track, "Rainbow's end" was written by Latimer for Bardens, the soft reflective nature and delicate vocals conveying the end of an era nature of the album.

In all an uneven album, with some tracks which are well up there with the band's best, but with others which should have been left in the studio.

Even before recording of the album had been completed, Bardens had left Camel to work with Van Morrison, and to rekindle his solo career. For the tour to promote "Breathless", Bardens was replaced by two keyboard players, including Richard Sinclair's cousin Dave, who had guested (without being credited) on two tracks on the album. Both the Sinclairs would leave the band after the tour, which had taken its toll on all the band members.

Easy Livin | 3/5 |


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