Monday, March 14, 2011

Rainbow's End, Part 1

Camel's RAINBOW'S END 4-disc best-of is a pretty solid collection of the band's work, more in-depth than their earlier 2-disc ECHOES best-of, & with a more detailed history of the band than the 1 included in ECHOES. But I'm not sure it shows-off the group at their absolute best.
Let me Xplain: Tho their early work includes some definite progressive-rock classics (SNOW GOOSE, etc.), apparently unlike a lotta fans I think Camel got better later on as guitarist Andy Latimer's songwriting improved -- the instrumentals got where they were going faster & with less noodling -- & with more majestic results -- & summa the actual songs were Xceptional. & their later albums include 1 flat-out prog masterwork, 1980's gorgeous concept album NUDE.
& tho Camel was a big victim of record-company/commercial pressures, when they didn't completely cave-in they walked the tightrope with some style. When they fell-off however, the results could B gruesome -- see occasional trax scattered on albums from RAIN DANCES onward, or the whole 1st side of THE SINGLE FACTOR.
Most hard-core prog fans boost the early albums, so they should Njoy this package, which features 2 discs+ of the early work thru 1977. 21 of the 59 trax included R also live recordings -- rather a lot, I thot, & not all the live trax R ID'd on the box. Counting the live trax, U Nd-up with ALL of MIRAGE & MOONMADNESS, 4 trax offa their debut, 5 offa SNOW GOOSE, & 1/2adozen more off RAIN DANCES.
The later, more "commercial" stuff takes-up less than a disc & 1/2. I think this is something of a mistake, but hard-core prog fans should B happy, & the #'s don't lie -- about 1/2 of this set I either hadn't heard B4 or ignored or overlooked 4 years....
Camel Classics included: Never Let Go, Lady Fantasy, Rhayader & Rhayader Goes to Town (both in studio & live versions), Spirit of the Water, Unevensong, Echoes, Breathless, City Life, Drafted, Sasquatch, A Heart's Desire/End Peace, West Berlin.
Classics NOT included: Flight of the Snow Goose (1 of their punchiest & most direct early instrumentals), Down on the Farm (which I still think is sorta Britain's version of Joe Walsh's "Life's Been Good"), Eye of the Storm, Who We Are, Wait, Manic.

Reviewed so far: Never Let Go, Slow Yourself Down, Curiosity, Mystic Queen, Nimrodel/Procession/The White Rider, Freefall, Earthrise, Lady Fantasy (original mix), Ligging at Louis' (live), Arubaluba (live), Supertwister (live), Homage to the God of Light (live).

Much of the earliest stuff & the live trax here reveal Camel as a sorta prog-rock jam-band, very pleasant but not distinctive. The gorgeous, life-affirming "Never Let Go" is their best early song, with Xcellent Latimer guitar & Peter Bardens' organ runs 2 set it off along with the strong verses & great choruses. Edited 4 airplay-time it shoulda bn a hit. It still sounds great. The version here perhaps plays-up Bardens' organ work a bit more clearly in the mix compared 2 the version on ECHOES.
"Slow Yourself Down" is slower & jazzier, featuring Bardens' vocals & a nice, loud, energetic gtr&organ middle-break. "Curiosity" has a jazzy/bluesy feel & again some nice keyboards. "Mystic Queen" has a nice mysterious atmosphere & good swirling keybs.
So far, nice & mostly laid-back -- not that much 2 get Xcited about.
Which leads us in2 the trax from MIRAGE: I hadda copy of this album 4 years, but after obtaining ECHOES I realized I only kept MIRAGE 4 the closing "Lady Fantasy" suite, so I traded the album off. Which means I overlooked mosta this stuff 4 YEARS. Nice 2 have it back in the house. The "White Rider" suite takes a few mins 2 get rolling, but the closing section is mostly a very pretty gtr-flute-keyboards showcase.
"Freefall" is closer 2 the "standard" Camel sound of this period, lotsa fast action & quick changes. Repeated listenings will likely show this up as a new favorite.
Other than "Never Let Go," "Earthrise" is the 1st track in this package that I actually recognize. More flashy, fast-paced work w/ memorable themes.
The version of "Lady Fantasy" included here is sposta B the "original mix" -- but 2 me it doesn't sound all that diffrent from the previously-released version. Bardens' keyboards R perhaps not as loud, & there R definitely just-slightly-diffrent keyb phrases in the rockin' closing section. It still makes 4 a fast 13 mins.
"Ligging at Louis'" & "Arubaluba" R OK live trax, nice 2 have if not stunning. "Louis'" is probly at best pleasant background music, not distinctive. "Arubaluba" is a flashy gtr jam w/o a really memorable melody. "Supertwister" is not ID'd as being a live track on the box. It's pleasant enuf. If I remember right, the studio version on MIRAGE closes w/ the sound of a beer bottle being opened....
Bardens' "Homage to the God of Light" is a sorta funky, pulsing gtr&keyb instrumental jam that rolls on 4 19 mins. It gets kinda noisy & shapeless in the middle, but it's nice 2 have. The liner notes indicate this performance was the last time the band played the piece live.
...I'll have more notes on the resta this set soon, including the later stuff I'm more enthusiastic about -- & will likely Xpress some frustration about summa the great stuff that ISN'T included....

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