Camel

Music Inspired by The Snow Goose (Decca Records '75) Rating: A
The third album by this underrated, highly respected prog-rock outfit is my favorite by them, perhaps in part because it is all-instrumental (aside from some wordless chanting) and vocals aren't exactly a band strength. As you can tell by the title, this album was inspired by Paul Gallico's O. Henry Award winning novella. The band wanted to call it simply The Snow Goose – and that’s what everybody calls it anyway - a la the novella but couldn't get the rights, the why of which is mystifying to me; surely if Gallico heard this album he would've recognized it as a wonderful tribute and given it his blessing, no? Anyway, I digress, and I'm not going to get into details about the story since knowledge of it aids one's enjoyment of this album (since it follows the story closely) but isn't necessary to appreciate it. Indeed, I've never read the novella but simply read up on it a bit to get up to speed, and before I even knew anything about the story this had become one of my all time favorite "chill out" albums. Fact is, the music on this album works wonderfully well as an elegant, at times breathtakingly beautiful whole. Featuring lush, symphonic, primarily short songs that flow seamlessly into one another, the ornately arranged album is at times classical in its stately beauty, at other times progressive as there are times when Camel warrants comparison with bands such as Genesis (due to its bright Tony Banks-like synthesizers), Pink Floyd (due to Andy Latimer's similarly emotional guitar style with lots of sustained notes), and Jethro Tull (due to Latimer's flute playing; any rock band with a flute player must be compared to Jethro Tull; it's in the rock critic handbook). Still, this album is a Camel creation through and through, as its evocative chants (which act as another instrument), alternately jaunty and somber mood swings (depending on where you are in the story, the music can exude a resolute calm or hint at a galloping adventurousness), and inventive integration of orchestral arrangements and various sundry woodwinds, are unique to this album. Some songs are merely lovely mood enhancers, while others are more substantial and generally form the highlights of the album; check out Latimer's incredibly sorrowful guitar soloing on "Rhayader Goes to Town," "“The Snow Goose," and "La Princesse Perdue," for example. Musical passages are sometimes repeated, but rather than seeming lazy to me these sections simply reinforce the perfect symmetry of the whole album. Perhaps you could criticize a section here and there for being a bit boring, those bright synthesizers may not be to everybody's taste, and the hardcore prog nerd might even complain about this albums accessibility (prog fans have a weird habit of judging an album based on how prog it is as opposed to how good it is). But trust me these would be monumental nitpicks, at least in my opinion, as this is a gorgeously conceived album where you can just press play, sit back, relax, and enjoy. I often do just that.

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