Camel


Camel are an English progressive rock band formed in 1971. The founder of the band, Andy Latimer has guided Camel through the highs and lows of musical tastes, trends and fashions. He has, from time to time, stumbled beneath the pressures of outside forces and these times are left to the listener to decipher. But all will agree that Latimer has never compromised the sound, feel and integrity of Camel. He  has stayed true to himself and it is his sound that transports you back or holds you in the present. The albums Mirage, Snow Goose and Moonmadness are for many the essential trilogy of Camel.


HISTORY

Andrew Latimer (guitar), Andy Ward (drums) and Doug Ferguson (bass) had been playing as a trio called The Brew around the Guildford, Surrey area of England. The Brew enjoyed a steady stream of performance dates and recorded their first demo, Crossroads in which DJM Records seemed to show interest but the trio were disappointed to learn that it was only in using them as a backing band for another of their artists, Philip Goodhand-Tait. In 1971, they recorded an album with Goodhand-Tait, called I Think I’ll Write A Song, but the success was minimal and the trio were dropped. They recruited Peter Bardens (keyboards) and after an initial gig to fulfill a Bardens commitment on 8 October 1971 in Belfast, Northern Ireland under the name of Peter Bardens' On, they changed their name to Camel. 


Camel played their first gig at Waltham Forest Technical College, London supporting Wishbone Ash on 4 December 1971. By August of ‘72, Camel were signed to MCA Records. They quickly entered the studio to record their first self-titled album, Camel. A collection of individual songs, chiefly from Latimer and Bardens, the album was greeted with muted success. MCA did not take an option for a second album and the band moved to Decca Records. Camel gigged 9 months of the year and firmly established a reputation for their excellent live sound.

Arubaluba

In 1974 they released their second album, the critically acclaimed Mirage on which Latimer showed he was adept on flute. Although failing to chart at home, it gained success on the U.S. west coast, prompting a three month tour there. The album sleeve attracted the unwanted attention of the USA branch of Camel cigarettes who demanded the band to change the cover or face legal action. The USA record company quickly fashioned a new sleeve to avoid legal hassles. The original sleeve remained unchanged throughout the rest of the world as manage Geoff Jukes had already struck a deal with the European branch of the cigarette company.

Supertwister

Nimrodel-The Procession-The White Rider

For Mirage Latimer had written ‘White Rider’ inspired by Tolkien’s ‘Lord Of The Rings’ and Ferguson suggested doing an entire album based on a book. All band members were fond of reading at the time so each set out in search of a good story. Ferguson suggested Paul Gallico’s The Snow Goose, so the entirely instrumental, orchestrated concept album of the same name was released in 1975, inspired by the Paul Gallico's short story. This was the breakthrough album that brought Camel wider attention, earned them Melody Maker’s “Brightest Hope” award and firmly established the band with a strong and loyal fan base. The album's success led to a prestigious sell out concert at the Royal Albert Hall, London, with the London Symphony Orchestra in October 1975. Gallico, who loathed smoking, thought the band was related to the cigarette brand and threatened to take legal action. Camel avoided this by adding the frase 'Music inspired by...' to the album's cover. 

The Snow Goose/Friendship/Rhayader Goes To Town

Rhayader

A fourth album, Moonmadness in 1976, continued the success, but was the last to feature the original line up. Mel Collins' (former King Crimson) saxophone augmented the band for the subsequent tour, beginning an eight year association. Drummer Ward was pushing for a more jazz direction and this demand led to Ferguson's departure in early 1977. 

Another Night

The first major shift in Camel’s lineup created Rain Dances (1977). Although not an “official member” of Camel, Mel Collins would spend much of his time in the studio and on the road with the band. Preferring to maintain his independent status as a session player, Mel would continue to appear with Camel on and off until 1985. Richard Sinclair, formerly from Canterbury’s Caravan and Hatfield and the North, replaced Ferguson and possessed the jazzier style Andy Ward had hoped for but the mix of personalities did not posses the balance of earlier days.


First Light

Upon release, Breathless (1978) proved a bit of a shock to fans with its unusual combination of pop, jazz and progressive. It was loved by some, hated by others. The album entered the charts and quickly exited shortly thereafter. It was the last album to feature keyboardist Peter Bardens, who announced his departure before the supporting tour. Bardens went straight into rehearsals with former bandmate Van Morrison for the album Wavelength and tour, and also promptly signed a lucrative solo deal with Arista Records and soon released ‘Heart To Heart’. He was replaced by two keyboard players: Dave Sinclair (cousin of Richard and also from Caravan) and Jan Schelhaas (also of Caravan). 

Echoes

The Sinclair cousins both left the band after the tour. They were replaced by keyboardist Kit Watkins and bassist Colin Bass. Watkins and Bass arrived during rehearsals at Wood Farm, Suffolk, in early ‘79. A remarkable technician, Kit impressed everybody; Colin’s solid, earthy sound melded with Ward in a seemingly perfect harmony. Camel worked nearly 12 months during 1979, enjoying only short breaks inbetween touring and recording the more commercial album I Can See Your House From Here, an album which caused problems due to its cover displaying a crucified astronaut looking at the earth. The album concludes with the ten minute instrumental 'Ice', showcasing Latimer's lead guitar skills. The intensive schedule of the band created conflicts and misunderstandings between the musicians.


Eye Of The Storm

Watkins left the band shortly before Camel entered the studio to record the concept album Nude in 1981, based on a true story about a Japanese soldier found on an island many years after World War II had ended, not having realised the war was over. Duncan Mackay provided most of the keyboards in lieu of Watkins and Schelhaas, who were involved in other projects, but returned for the tour. During the recording of Nude in studio 3 at Abbey Road Studios, The Alan Parsons Project were recording just down the hall in studio 2. Curious by nature, singer Chris Rainbow and bassist/singer David Paton popped in on the Camel sessions and new friendships were forged. This would laid the groundwork for a new lineup. In mid-1981, Ward stopped playing drums. In shock, the band dissolved, the remainder of the tour was cancelled and recording for the next album was postponed. 

Docks/Beached

Without a band, but with a contract to fulfill and pressure from Decca for a hit song, Latimer was joined by an array of guest and session musicians, including Chris Rainbow and David Paton, from Alan Parsons Project, as well as Anthony Phillips (former Genesis), Francis Monkmon (Sky), and guest drummers Simon Phillips (The Who, Jeff Beck, Toto), Dave Mattacks (Fairport Convention) and Graham Jarvis (Cliff Richard). The resultant album, ironically entitled The Single Factor, was released in April 1982 and it was an odd mix of songs. Peter Bardens made a guest appearance on the album. It was followed by a successful Tenth Anniversary Tour, featuring David PatonChris Rainbow, Kit Watkins who returned for his third Camel tour, Stuart Tosh (drums) and Andy Dalby (guitar) accompanying Latimer. The level of musicianship delighted audiences. Then legal wranglings over royalties began with the band's former manager which took five years to resolve, before settlement in Camel’s favour. 


In preparation for the new recording, Latimer had gotten in touch with Dutch keyboardist, Ton Scherpenzeel (from prog-rock band Kayak) whose playing he had always admired. Ton visited London and the two musicians quickly made plans to record Camel’s new studio album Stationary Traveller which was released in April of 1984 and gained critical acclaim. Camel were once again on the road. Former Camel bassist Colin Bass returned to the UK, after having moved abroad in 1981. Bass got in touch with Latimer and the former bandmates patched up past differences. Chris Rainbow joined the tour and Paul Burgess on drums (Jethro Tull, 10cc) who had approached Latimer prior to recording Stationary Traveller did so again for the tour. Ton made a superb addition to Camel that thrilled Kayak and Camel fans, though his fear of flying would severely limit his time with Camel. For the Hammersmith Odeon shows which were filmed, an additional keyboard player, Richie Close (who died a few years later from Legionnaires' disease) was also added.

Pressure Points

Finishing the contract with Decca, Latimer was unable to interest other British record companies and in mid-1988, he sold his London home and moved to America. After a seven year hiatus, Latimer revived the Camel name, releasing a new album, Dust and Dreams, in 1991. Part of it had actually been recorded as early as 1988, before Latimer's departure to the US, and featured all members of the previous incarnation, i.e. Bass, Burgess, Scherpenzeel, alongside a number of additional musicians. The album was largely instrumental and inspired by John Steinbeck's classic novel The Grapes of Wrath. It was released under Latimer's own label Camel Productions. Scherpenzeel's fear of flying made him largely unavailable for touring. So former Mike Oldfield and Fish keyboardist Mickey Simmonds joined Latimer, Bass and Burgess for the 1992 "comeback" world tour.

Hopeless Anger


Inspired by the death of his father, Latimer wrote Harbour of Tears which was released in 1996. In 1997 Camel again toured the west coast of the U.S., Japan and Europe (as they had in 1992) with Latimer supported by Bass, Foss Patterson (keyboards) and drummer Dave Stewart

Coming of Age

In 1999 Latimer, Stewart, Bass and guest Scherpenzeel, recorded Rajaz. Set in ancient times, Rajaz was a spontaneous composition inspired by the rhythm of the camel's footsteps to help weary travelers reach their destination. Latimer was smitten with the theme, and this album truly took Camel back to their prog-rock roots. Stewart left the band when he was offered the chance to manage a drum store in Scotland before the following live tour, to be replaced by French-Canadian Denis Clement on drums. The 2000 tour was augmented by Guy LeBlanc on keyboards. Latimer, Bass, LeBlanc and Clement then, went to a tour of South America in 2001.

Three Wishes

In 2002 this quartet released A Nod and a Wink, a reflective, mellow album, prominently featuring Latimer's flute. The album was dedicated to Peter Bardens, who died in January 2002. Following somewhat-troubled live tours of recent years, Camel Productions announced the 2003 tour to be Camel's "Farewell Tour". Guy LeBlanc had to quit shortly before going on the road due to the illness of his wife, and was replaced by Tom Brislin (in the US) and a train-travelling Ton Scherpenzeel (in Europe). The US leg of the tour was highlighted by a headline appearance at NEARfest, the world's most prestigious progressive rock festival.



DISCOGRAPHY
(Studio albums)

1973 – Camel:
1. Slow Yourself Down
2. Mystic Queen
3. Six Ate
4. Separation
5. Never Let Go
6. Curiosity
7. Arubaluba







1974 – Mirage:
1. Freefall
2. Supertwister
3. Nimrodel/The Procession/The White Rider
4. Earthrise
5. Lady Fantasy
a) Encounter
b) Smiles For You
c) Lady Fantasy





1975 – The Snow Goose:
1. The Great Marsh
2. Rhayader
3. Rhayader Goes to Town
4. Sanctuary
5. Fritha
6. The Snow Goose
7. Friendship
8. Migration
9. Rhayader Alone
10. Flight of the Snow Goose
11. Preparation
12. Dunkirk
13. Epitaph
14. Fritha Alone
15. La Princesse Perdue
16. The Great Marsh (Reprise)

1976 – Moonmadness:
1. Aristillus
2. Song Within a Song
3. Chord Change
4. Spirit of the Water
5. Another Night
6. Air Born
7. Lunar Sea







1977 – Rain Dances:
1. First Light
2. Metrognome
3. Tell Me
4. Highways of the Sun
5. Unevensong
6. One of These Days I'll Get an Early Night
7. Elke
8. Skylines
9. Rain Dances





1978 – Breathless:
1. Breathless
2. Echoes
3. Wing and a Prayer
4. Down on the Farm
5. Starlight Ride
6. Summer Lightning
7. You Make Me Smile
8. The Sleeper
9. Rainbow's End






1979 – I Can See Your House from Here:
1. Wait
2. Your Love Is Stranger Than Mine
3. Eye of the Storm
4. Who We Are
5. Survival
6. Hymn to Her
7. Neon Magic
8. Remote Romance
9. Ice




1981 – Nude:
1. City Life
2. Nude
3. Drafted
4. Docks
5. Beached
6. Landscapes
7. Changing Places
8. Pomp & Circumstance
9. Please Come Home
10. Reflections
11. Captured
12. The Homecoming
13. Lies
14. The Last Farewell
a) The Birthday Cake
b) Nude's Return

1982 – The Single Factor:
1. No Easy Answer
2. You Are the One
3. Heroes
4. Selva
5. Lullabye
6. Sasquatch
7. Manic
8. Camelogue
9. Today's Goodbye
10. A Heart's Desire
11. End Peace




1984 – Stationary Traveller:
1. Pressure Points
2. Refugee
3. Vopos
4. Cloak and Dagger Man
5. Stationary Traveller
6. West Berlin
7. Fingertips
8. Missing
9. After Words
10. Long Goodbyes





1991 – Dust and Dreams:
1. Dust Bowl
2. Go West
3. Dusted Out
4. Mother Road
5. Needles
6. Rose of Sharon
7. Milk n' Honey
8. End Of The Line
9. Storm Clouds
10. Cotton Camp
11. Broken Banks
12. Sheet Rain
13. Whispers
14. Little Rivers And Little Rose
15. Hopeless Anger
16. Whispers in the Rain

1996 – Harbour of Tears:
1. Irish Air (Traditional Gaelic)
2. Irish Air (Instrumental Reprise)
3. Harbour of Tears
4. Cobh
5. Send Home the Slates
6. Under the Moon
7. Watching the Bobbins
8. Generations
9. Eyes of Ireland
10. Running from Paradise
11. End of the Day
12. Coming of Age
13. The Hour Candle (A Song for My Father)


1999 – Rajaz:
1. Three Wishes
2. Lost And Found
3. The Final Encore
4. Rajaz
5. Shout
6. Straight To My Heart
7. Sahara
8. Lawrence







2002 – A Nod and a Wink:
1. A Nod and a Wink
2. Simple Pleasures
3. A Boy's Life
4. Fox Hill
5. The Miller's Tale
6. Squigely Fair
7. For Today
8. After All These Years