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Camel - Rajaz CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.07 | 856 ratings

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Symphonic Team
3 stars Camels walk too slow in the too cold dessert

I am somewhat surprised that so many people refer to this album as 'a return to form' for Camel when it came after two such brilliant albums as Dust And Dreams and Harbour Of Tears (both masterpieces for me!). Personally, I consider Rajaz to be a large step down from the creative peak that brought us those two truly excellent concept albums. Indeed, I think that Rajaz was the least good Camel album since Stationary Traveller from 1984 to which is also has some similarities. Don't get me wrong though, both Rajaz and Stationary Traveller are very good albums indeed, but Camel has made even better in my opinion!

Rajaz abandons the "organic" and "warm" sound of Harbour Of Tears in favour of a more "cold" sound similar to the sound on Stationary Traveller and to some of Pink Floyd's music. The electric guitar work is amazing as usual from the great Andy Latimer and it is the guitars that work best on Rajaz. Andy's guitar sound is very much his own distinctive one (even if it often reminds of David Gilmour). But you could not mistake Andy for someone else playing and singing. Those are the marks of a great artist!

The other strong point of this album are the vocals. Andy Latimer has never been a great vocalist in the technical sense, but he has really found his own distinctive singing voice. Having a distinctive voice, something that makes you stand out from the crowd is actually always much more important than range and overall technical ability. However, I must add that I miss the harmony vocals from previous Camel albums that are totally absent here.

Further, all songs have basically the same instrumentation. The keyboards are not very varied and there are not many instruments involved apart from guitars, keyboards, drums and bass. There are some sparse flute and cello parts and I think I can detect an acoustic bass somewhere in the mix on some track(s). The drums are often quite simple and structured; are they using a drum machine here? The drums could clearly have been more "alive". Also, (and this is probably the biggest problem I have with this album) all of the songs are in a similar tempo and mood; generally very slow and mellow. The album's songs have been composed on the camel's walking metre! And I will have to conclude that Camels walk to slow to make music out of it! Rajaz is, on the other hand, exceptionally well produced, but the sound is slightly sterile.

The part I like the most on this whole album is when, half way through the track Sahara, an unexpected Middle-Eastern sounding guitar melody kicks in, in a somewhat different tempo and mood compared to the rest of the song. This is a great reward for sitting through the earlier parts of that song. Overall, the Eastern influences (that can be found on a few of the songs here) are very refreshing, but they could easily have taken this further and added more of those Middle-Eastern moods. Perhaps, also having some Middle-Eastern instruments?

This last part of Sahara is one of the very few passages on Rajaz that actually rocks. There is another such passage in the instrumental opening track Three Wishes as well. This opening track is followed immediately by the second track in a somewhat sudden and slightly unexpected manner which is another place on the album that holds interest. This album would have needed more of those sudden, surprising changes. Overall, this album feels somewhat predictable. Several songs take a little bit too long to get off the ground. It takes too long to get to the interesting parts.

To sum up: Rajaz is a very good album that feels somewhat predictable and it is too far between the great bits for this to be really excellent. I have to say that Rajaz is actually the least good Camel album of the 90's/2000's. If you want to hear Camel's true return to form, try the aforementioned masterpieces Harbour Of Tears and Dust And Dreams!

Rajaz is very good indeed and definitely recommended, but I'm sticking with three (strong) stars for this one

SouthSideoftheSky | 3/5 |


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