In 1975 the British prog band Camel recorded their third album The Snow Goose. The success of The White Rider suite − based on Tolkien's book The Lord Of The Rings - which appeared on the previous album Mirage (1974), inspired the group to write more novel-based conceptual suites. They considered several novels that might qualify for the next album. For a time they settled on Siddhartha (1922) by Hermann Hesse; some songs were written before the idea was abandoned in favour of Paul Gallico's novella The Snow Goose (1941). The album's name, originally called The Snow Goose as well, was altered to Music Inspired By The Snow Goose to accommodate legal protests by Paul Gallico. As is often stated his protests were not motivated by his disapproval of smoking - Gallico was in fact a keen smoker - but simply on the grounds of copyright infringement. The album was originally due to feature lyrics based upon Paul Gallico's text, but due to his objections, an instrumental album was recorded instead.
In celebration of Camel's return to the stage the album was re-recorded in May 2013 and released in November simply titled The Snow Goose. According to band leader Andy Latimer the new album is a tribute to former band mates Peter Bardens, Andy Ward and Doug Ferguson and remains steadfastly faithful to the original work including some additional written music as well. Camel embarked on a brief tour in 2013 and 2014, performing The Snow Goose for the first time since the Royal Albert Hall show in 1975.
As with many concept albums other bands tried to make their own version of this strong conceptual piece of music. One of them is Magnetic Sound Machine, an Italian band formed in 2005 that take their influences from several musical styles. Apart from prog rock they also incorporate jazz, fusion and elements from post rock and electronic music. Their debut album Chromatic Tunes appeared in 2008 followed by Chances & Accidents two years later. After this they started to work on their version of Camel's masterpiece. In December 2012 they recorded the music composed by Latimer and Bardens live in a recording studio. They did what Camel didn't dare to do, namely adding spoken parts from Paul Gallico's novella to the music. However, they did it in the Italian language which was translated from English and adapted by bassist Stefano Volpato.
Just like Camel did with their reissue of The Snow Goose, Magnetic Sound Machine remained very close to the original version. But unlike Camel they didn't add music to the original compositions. Remaining close to the original doesn't mean that you can't hear any differences. The major distinction is of course the addition of spoken words by narrator Fabio Fantin who either is the voice of Philip Rhayader, the main character in the story. The role of Fritha, who brings a wounded swan to Rhayader, is done by Alessandra Bertin. Unfortunately all the spoken words are in Italian, so most people, including myself, don't understand a word of the story. The aforementioned musical influences can hardly be heard on this album. Just occasionally Alessandro Caldato (keyboards), Giacomo Girotto (electric guitar), Stefano Volpato (bass) and Riccardo Pestrin (drums) dare to leave the well-known musical path of The Snow Goose, something which I would have loved to hear more often. In my opinion they remained too close to the original album. The way Anna Angelone plays the flute hardly differs from Mr. Latimer's way of playing it forty years ago.
Recording music that was first published almost forty years ago is kind of risky in the prog rock community! Does the outside world like to hear a copy of the original version or something that's only inspired by the original? As far as I'm concerned I always go for the adventurous version on which the musicians add many extras from themselves. I just want them to take more risk just to show the listeners how the original could have been recorded nowadays. However, Magnetic Sound Machine chose to go for the safe interpretation of the original work and hardly changed anything. Does this mean that it's less enjoyable? Certainly not; I just liked it as much as when I heard the original album for the first time. Those who like to listen to a version close to the original may enjoy this album, but I would have liked to hear a more adventurous rendition!
*** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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