Listening to reissues is a fantastic way to hear the old classic progressive rock albums one more time. Nowadays, so many new albums are released that you hardly do listen to the music that made prog music what it is today. Thank God we have a label such as Esoteric Recordings that release a lot of those beautiful albums in remastered versions one more time. Some of them even have some rare bonus tracks. You almost buy the albums for the fine liner notes and exclusive pictures only. A good example how it should to be done are the 5 studio albums made by Camel which have been released lately. The live double CD Pressure Points was also released, but did not arrive at our office unfortunately. So let’s have a quick look at the five studio albums only. The best way to look at them is chronological.
Breathless comes first and was originally released in 1978. This sixth studio album was the last one with Pete Bardens (keyboards) before he left the band to start a solo career. Richard Sinclair (bass & vocals) and Mel Collins (flute & saxes) had already been working on the bands previous album Rain Dances and showed their talents even more on this album. Most all the vocals and the song writing of Mr. Sinclair are more prominent on this release. Good examples are the title track, A Wing And A Prayer and the funny tune Down On The Farm. Highlights on the album are most of all the classic Camel piece Echoes with it’s fine synth and guitar solos, and the mellow track Rainbow’s End. The last one is also included with the single version of the same piece. A nice extra but does not add much extra to this release.
After the departure of Pete Bardens it was a real surprise as to who would play the keyboards on Camel’s next release. I Can See Your House From Here (1979) saw the arrival of two keyboard players, just like on the tour to promote their last album release. Only this time David Sinclair left after the concerts and was replaced by Kit Watkins. But Jan Schelhaas had remained and even did co-write some of the music on this fine release. A fine release that even had some modern danceable tunes such as Remote Romance and Neon Magic-but still very strong songs. Other strong songs on the album became classic Camel tunes featured at their future concerts. Wait was done later on in several live versions, sometimes with the original synth and guitar battles but also only with extra guitar solos when an extra guitarist joined the band. Ice is another classic piece nowadays with a leading role from Andy Latimer on guitar. Another highlight is certainly the Happy The Man tune Eye Of The Storm written by their old keyboardist Kit Watkins. The album featured also for the first time Colin Bass on bass-a musician that became Andy’s closest friend later on. Nice extras on this release are the single version of Remote Romance and a fantastic live version of the already mentioned Ice.
The band’s next release Nude (1981) might be considered by a lot of progheads as one of the best concept albums ever made. It tells the story about a soldier who was stranded on a deserted island during World War II. 29 years later he is discovered and returns to a completely changed society. The album is one big highlight but most of all the strong uptempo tunes Docks and Beaches show what a wonderful writer and musician Mr. Latimer had become. That he was a trained blues musician did show on the track Lies. The album was also played live as I could witness myself at the time. How wonderful this was done can be heard on the 10 extra tracks on this release. The band that played at the Hammersmith Odeon on 22nd February 1981 was not the same line up that recorded the original album. On this release we could hear musicians like Duncan Mackay (keyboards) and Herbie Flowers (tuba). Live on stage were the same musicians that recorded the bands latest album.
The bands next album is considered by a lot of Camel fans to be their weakest release. But if you hear The Single Factor (1982) in full glory one more time, you must agree with me that the band never released a weak album in their entire career. At the time, Camel was mainly Andy Latimer himself. Drummer Andy Ward had become a real problem because of his alcohol and drug abuse. At the time it was written that a small accident with his hand prevented him from playing on this album. Instead, other great musicians played his parts. One of them was the excellent Simon Phillips who did an excellent job on the classic instrumental piece Sasquatch. Other highlights on the album are Heroes, A Heart’s Desire and You Are The One. The last track is also added as an edited bonus track. Andy’s musical partner in crime was most of all former Genesis member Anthony Phillips who on this album played keyboards and guitars.
The last album that Andy made with Camel before he moved to America was Stationary Traveller (1984). For the live shows of this album Colin Bass was back in the line-up. But in the studio, the bass duties were done by David Paton most of the time. Paul Burgess became the drummer and on keyboards would be my fellow countryman Ton Scherpenzeel. Chris Rainbow who he did meet during the recordings of the latest album became the lead singer. This rather strong line-up also made a rather strong concept album about the problems at the time between east and west. Most of all the wall in Berlin was a great subject to write about. It’s not easy to mention any highlight because I certainly believe all songs are of a very high level but the title track is certainly special. On this instrumental piece we hear Andy not only on the lead guitar but also on the panpipes.
After this release, the band went on tour and recorded in London the live album and video Pressure Points. The video has been released on DVD several times in different versions. The live album was also again released, but this time as a double CD with a lot of bonus tracks that were also on the DVD. The studio track In The Arms Of Waltzing Fraulines that was used on the DVD and video has now become one of the extra tracks on Stationary Traveller together with the extended 12” single version of Pressure Points.
It is certainly difficult to rate the 5 new released Camel albums because they are all a part of my life in many ways. For me they are all releases that are true masterpieces because they all have their charm. The sound is certainly a lot better than on the earlier releases. Also, the designs of the booklets are a lot better than the cheap album credits we used to have before. The old CD’s can be thrown in the garbage bin-that’s for sure.
All ***** Henri Strik (edited by Robert James Pashman)
Tracks: Breathless / Echoes / A Wing And A Prayer / Down On The Farm / Starlight Ride / Summer Lightning / You Make Me Smile / The Sleeper / Rainbow’s End / Rainbow’s End Single Version
Album: I Can See Your House From Here
Tracks: Wait / Your Love Is Stronger Than Mine / Eye Of The Storm / Who We Are / Survival / Hymn To Her / Neon Magic / Remote Romance / Ice / Remote Romance Single Version / Ice Live Version
Tracks: City Life / Nude / Drafted / Docks / Beached / Landscapes / Changing Places / Pomp And Circumstance / Please Come Home / Reflections / Captured / The Homecoming / Lies
The Last Farewell: The Birthday Cake / Nude’s Return
Excerpts From Nude medley Live Versions: City Life / Nude/Drafted / Docks / Beached / Landscapes / Changing Places / Reflections / Captured / The Last Farewell: The Birthday Cake / Nude’s Return
Album: The Single Factor
Tracks: No Easy Answer / You Are The One / Heroes / Selva / Lullaby / Sasquatch / Manic / Camelogue / Today’s Goodbye / A Heart’s Desire / End Piece
Album: Stationary Traveller
Tracks: Pressure Points / Refugee / Vopos / Cloak And Dagger Man / Stationary Traveller / West Berlin / Fingertips / Missing / After Words / Long Goodbyes / In The Arms Of Waltzing Fraulines / Pressure Points
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