Camel – Mirage (1972) [CLASSIC REVIEWS]

Shams, who wrote a great review of Joy Division’s debut album, returns once again with a classic review of Camel’s groundbreaking progressive rock album – Mirage.

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People my age in my country are usually broke. And I am no exception. So what do I do when I like music? As much as I hate it, I download it. So one day I’m watching this DVD which I too downloaded by not so obscure band which might be called Opeth. And before performing, he calls one of my favorite tracks by them a Camel rip-off. So now obviously I NEED to listen to this band. Mirage was luckily the first Camel album that I heard.

This is the CAMELshair smoking jacket I slip into most often, well worn over the ages and sculpted to my musical temperament like a certain pair of jeans in need of a patch. The band had obviously settled on what sort of music they wanted to make with “Mirage“, and it’s palpably progressive at every turn, shrouded in a magical mist that falls and rises with the needle. The sleepy vocals, carried on the winds of a magnificent mellotron and buttressed by the bass and drums, conjure a waking dream-state that few albums can match. This (Mirage) first takes the form of “Freefall,” whose seductive sirens call simply smokes, followed by the instrumental “Supertwister”, featuring Andy Latimer’s heretofore unheard (and otherworldly) flute playing. It’s all leading up to the two-part “Nimrodel”, a transcendent retelling of GANDALF’s reappearance as the white wizard that remains my favorite journey in all of CAMELogue.

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For this heroic feat alone, CAMEL could count itself minstrel-kissed through the ages. “Earthrise” shakes off some of that sleepy, far-off land with a sweaty workout that finds Pete Bardens’ brilliant organ working overtime while Andy Ward attacks his kit with unrelenting energy. The three-part “Lady Fantasy” would seem to continue in this vein, but soon slides effortlessly into a mesmerizing melody spiced with keyboard commentary from Bardens that beats down The Doors hallowed path. If I were assembling the Gods in order, a task best left to presumptive chess players, “Mirage” would appear near the head of the receiving line for progressive initiates.

The entire album bespeaks what’s best about the genre: a self-sustaining musical world where fantasy is the reality and the strings of man remain unseen. CAMEL provides a different ride than the great carriages of the immortals (Yes, Genesis), using softer strokes in lieu of striking genius, but “Mirage” is no mere illusion of prog heaven, it’s the genuine article. So climb aboard and strap yourself in for a ride you won’t soon forget.

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– Shams us Zuha

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