Camel: Evolution of the Band
One of the most remarkable things about Camel, is their evolution over time. In the early 70s the name Camel was chosen by the four members of the band, Peter Bardens (keyboard), Doug Ferguson (bass), Andy Ward (drums) and Andrew Latimer (guitar).
In that setting they made four albums, the first one called Camel, a good debute album, but not yet a coherent whole. The second, Mirage was already more structured and had just a few, but rather long tracks. The next album was their first concept album which was based on a book by Paul Gallico. The Snow Goose is their most famous album which they performed live with the London Symphony Orchestra in 1975.
The next and at the same time last album in this setting was Moonmadness. Moonmadness was released in 1976 and the tour they did was recorded and, just recently, released on the dvd Moondances. That dvd featured their strength in that setting, where they played truly amazing, confident, strong and breathtaking some of their best work at that time. They were very good together as they each had their role. The sound was very coherent and all seemed to work just perfectly together. One song transforms into another as if it was one ongoing movement, even if they were from separate albums (Mirage, The Snow Goose and Moonmadness). A true highlight and amazing to watch, with the stunning camerawork (especially the beginning of Lunar Sea and the end of Lady Fantasy) and fantastic bright colours in a dark background.
But at the same time it was the end of that setting. After that tour, the bassist Doug Ferguson would leave the band. And they would start a new road as a band. On the next five albums (Raindances, Breathless, I can see your house from here, Nude, The Single Factor) appeared many musicians. Some of them just played on the albums, while others also went on tour. And the sound was very different at times, one album better than the other, but all of them had some very good tracks which contained the characteristic emotions, expressions, structure and tight playing of the band. And while they were touring, which they did a lot, they also played their older songs which evolved as they changed settings.
The next coherent setting was at the same time their last for a long time. It was the Pressure Points tour with the promotion of the album Stationary Traveller in 1984. Which was very much in line with the phase of the band. After that tour it all would more or less fall apart and not until the early 90s before it would rise again in a new and independent form.
But Pressure Points itself was a very strong and fascinating concert. The members at that time were Ton Scherpenzeel (keyboard), Colin Bass (bass), Andrew Latimer (guitar, flute, vocals), Chris Rainbow (vocals) and Paul Burgess (drums).
If the timeline of the band would be compared with a symphony, this concert could be called the adagio. And the track Stationary Traveller the centre of that adagio. It gives the feeling of a journey that is forced to contemplate and reflect to come to the conclusion that independence is needed, but at the same time the realisation of the responsibility that comes with that. In there I hear the inescapable struggle and darkness but at the same time amazing beauty and strength, which is reflected in the whole concert.
So the next phase is that of a band independent of the pressure of record companies. The first album in that phase is Dust and Dreams which perfectly reflects their development. The central theme of the album appears to be the energy that is needed to start this whole new phase, together with the overwhelming struggle of life. The band at that point had some remaining members along with new ones but the feeling of the sound, although new in a way, still had the same power and melancholic beauty.
But the band did not stop evolving as is clearly shown in the Coming of Age concert in 1997. During that concert, in the second half, they played the whole of their album Harbour of Tears. That album was another concept album and there the strength of the tracks being more a part of the whole. All emotions seem to pass in less than an hour, follow each other in such a natural way. Latimers guitar sounds so very powerful but he just perfectly knows how to handle it and places every use at just the right place.
But before that, in the first half of the concert, they played ‘some old favourites’ of which some where just unbelievably fantastic. Some where better (in my opinion of course) in their other concerts (like Lunar Sea), but some where just so very good here. Drafted, Docks and Beached from the album Nude (also a great concept album), and Hymn to Her from the album ‘I can see your house from here’ (which has some of the best, but also some of the worst tracks).
And best of all, also from that album, was Ice. That is performed here in a way that is beyond words, so really very good. I was trying to get a blog post done about that video, but I just could not get into words what happens here. I will keep trying, but am not sure it will be possible to find the right words for that.
I was also trying to get a blogpost done about the album Dust and Dreams because I was so very moved by the book and the movie where the album is based on, The Grapes of Wrath. Reading a character analysis of Tom, the main character of the novel, I was really fascinated by his development during the story and found some interesting similarities with Rhayader, the main character of The Snow Goose.