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Old 07-30-2009, 09:01 AM   #51 (permalink)
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Mirage - Camel - 1974

Personell:
Andrew Latimer - Guitar, Flute, Lead vocals, Oboe.
Peter Bardens - Keyboards.
Doug Ferguson - Bass, Backing vocals.
Andy Ward - Drums.

I admit Camel weren't exactly the most original prog band, while a canterbury scene band that formed in 71, their most memorable work, starting with this album, came out at a time when prog was already on the way out in terms of mainstream acceptence, and this album sounds like it could have been made in 1969, and their influences were quite obvious. You can hear the Hendrix, The Doors, Santana, Floyd, Crimson and Deep Purple in here for sure.

They were one of the more "rock" sounding prog bands in their day and despite being a little late in the prog parade, Camel are still considered one of the finest bands in the genre that most people haven't heard, and rightfully so.

Like most prog bands they couldn't really keep a consistant lineup, the leader that has held the band together at all times was Andy Latimer, an extraordinary guitar wizard who is on par with Fripp, Howe and Hackett. A pretty bitchin flautist too.

Camel were one of the few successful prog bands in the late 70s who didn't conform to 70s arena rock, as Kansas and Styx did. They would become more ambitious with laters albums, specifically Snow Goose and Moonmadness, unlike those albums, Mirage is much more rooted in psychedelic rock, but this should be considered the first in their trilogy of excellent albums.

Freefall: Starts off with the sound of blowing wind and synths, which leads to a repetitive drum beat that is joined in by crashing guitars, I just can't get enough of that intro, proof that simplicity can work wonders for prog. It starts off sounding like a Deep Purplish acid rock song with some catchy vocals before kicking off into a big jam, Latimer and Bardens really duel if off on this one, greasy hammond organ combined with Latimer's guitar layers, which is very much all over the place, it sounds very Santana-esque at times but he also manages to pull some neat surprises and gorgeous flourishes.

Supertwister: A short little track but it's by no means filler, one of the big highlights of the album. It's a hypnotic instrumental with no guitar at all, instead it's dominated by some gorgeous flute work by Latimer. Not a note is wasted in this composition, it's melodic brilliance through and through and a great use of the loud/fast dynamic. One of my favorite pieces of prog, ever.

Nimrodel/The Procession/The White Rider: Yep, a prog epic made up of multiple parts, this is a really weird one. The intro with aquatic sounding guitar effects and synthesizer is very beautiful and haunting, but just when you think it's gonna build up into something, it fades out. The next segment begins to fade in with the sounds of a parade, followed by millitary drums, brass and flutes, this segues into a gorgeous guitar melody with mellotron and oboe, then the vocals and acoustic come in and this whole segment sounds a LOT like old school King Crimson, and in a good way, this is followed with.... Well sh*t, it's really tidious just to write down everything that happens isn't it? Well f*ck it, no point in walking you through the whole damn thing, just believe me when I tell you the climax is awesome. Fantastic stuff, amazing showcase for the whole ensemble.

This also hints at the more symphonic rock direction the band would follow with their later albums.

Earthwise: Another instrumental, yet another great melodic piece that makes a great showcase for the musicianship of every band member, mostly it's a big face off of guitar and synths, like the whole album there's a lot of mood change so describing it is pointless. Just because I'm being lazy with the description doesn't mean this is not on par with the rest of the album though.

Lady Fantasy: Ah yeah, this was the first track I heard from Camel. It's also my favorite song on the album and an excellent closer. It starts off with scrambled synths combined with crushing guitar riffs. Despite being the longest track it's also the most poppy sounding, the organ playing and Latimer's gloomy baritone gives this one a very Doors vibe. But just when you expect this song to head towards a certain direction, it doesn't, about a third way in it unexpectedly kicks off into a funky organ/bass ryhthm and IMO the most face meltingly awesome guitar solo you'll ever f*cking hear in your life. And then it leads to a very mellow Santana-ish guitar solo with acoustic guitar backing, then comes in another vocal section where Latimer sings about walking on moonclouds and sitting on sunbeams (hey, it's prog man). Then things get intense again, another kickass guitar solo, then an organ solo and the outro brings things back to right where it started, this is when you realise you've just heard the most awesome f*cking song ever.

Yeah sure, the lyrics are corny, but like most prog albums the vocals just function like another instrument, it's the overall music that does all the talking, and as you can tell with this clumsy review, I had a difficult time trying to describe the music, but that's true for most prog, it's not something you can describe very easly. And I just wanted to give you a general idea of what to expect, still, you have to hear this and judge for yourself.

The key to great prog is being able to surprise the listener, to build up suspense and to provide a lot of great hooks, and especially within the context of stellar musicianship. This album certainly applies. I love all 5 of the tracks on this album so I'd say it's very consistant. If you're a canterbury fan this is one you can't miss.



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Old 07-30-2009, 09:32 AM   #52 (permalink)
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I had a difficult time trying to describe the music, but that's true for most prog, it's not something you can describe very easly. And I just wanted to give you a general idea of what to expect, still, you have to hear this and judge for yourself.
And yet you went ahead and made a blog for it.

Well my hats off. While I fully intend to listen to it, the idea that its 60's-inspired is a little off-putting.

As a man of single, is there a song you might suggest?
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Old 07-30-2009, 11:15 AM   #53 (permalink)
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And yet you went ahead and made a blog for it.

Well my hats off. While I fully intend to listen to it, the idea that its 60's-inspired is a little off-putting.

As a man of single, is there a song you might suggest?
Supertwister.
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Old 07-30-2009, 11:39 AM   #54 (permalink)
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Supertwister.
impression from a mad man:

1. I youtubed it up and thought "a prog song that 3 and a half minutes? Who knew!!!!!

2. I started listening to the song, thinking it was an intro, turns out the intro is 3:24 long.

3. This song is what happens when Greensleeves has sex with Incense and Peppermints by the Strawberry Alarm Clock. Its kid clearly got moms genes...and more is gross looking. Thank god Greensleeves got drunk off mead, no?

4. in the right mood I'm sure it would be fine, but honestly its way too 60's for me, and not the cool kind. I didn't hear any of the influences you suggested in there. Give me another one????????
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Old 07-30-2009, 11:43 AM   #55 (permalink)
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Heh, I just don't think this is an album for you, if you didn't like that you probably won't like the rest of it.

Different strokes.
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Old 07-31-2009, 10:25 AM   #56 (permalink)
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Tormato - Yes - 1978

Personell:
Jon Anderson - Lead vocals.
Chris Squire - Bass, Backing vocals.
Steve Howe - Guitar, Mandolin, Backing vocals.
Rick Wakeman - Keyboards, Piano, Organ, Synthesizers, Harpischord.
Alan White - Drums, Percussion, Backing vocals, Vibraphone.

I thought it would be interesting to review a not so great album for once, and yeah, pretty odd that the first Yes album I'm gonna review is one that I don't think very highly of.

Well, to be honest, I don't think this is a HORRIBLE album like most people say, but for Yes it's a huge disappointment, this one is very much a mixed bag, of course there are still some of those moments of pure brilliance that for years have made Yes my favorite band, but there are also a lot of moments that that are just embarassing and a clear sign of a band struggling to stay relevant during the age of punk and new wave and not doing a very good job of it.

This album came out in 1978, when prog was already considered dead. After their 8th album, 1974's Relayer, Yes went AWOL for 3 years, then made a comeback in 77 with Going for the One, which marked the return of Rick Wakeman on keyboards, it was a modest success and overall a very solid and underrated album. It also saw the band heading into a more mainstream, arena rock direction.

Tormato expands on this, but unfortunately not very successfully. This was a band clearly at career crossroads, they were trying to please critics and mainstream musicgoers with more commercial sounds, hi fi production, less ambiguous lyrical subject matter and less of the over the top jams and elaborate epics that defined their previous efforts, while at the same time trying to cater to their own fanbase. In the end not very many people were pleased, listening to this record, you can really tell that Yes had no idea what they wanted to do, they threw in a lot more effects than usual, Squire uses reverb effects, synths and wah pedals that gives his bass playing a rather unique sound on this record, Howe and Wakeman also sound more polished than they usually do, but they seem to lack the power and energy they once had, Anderson's vocals sound rather weak and robotic on this record and it's as if he isn't really trying. They clearly didn't have much fun making this record and it shows.

Still, while this marked the first real lowpoint in their career, there are a few gems hidden within this clumsy, overproduced mess of an album. And since it's virtually impossible for progarchives to give cohesive, helpful reviews, especially for albums like this. I'll try my best to give you a fair, non fanboish perspective.

Future Times/Rejoice: While nothing mindblowing, this is a promising start. It starts off with a quite cheesy guitar/synth riff, which is thn joined with Squire's wah wah heavy bass and a millitary style drum beat from White. Anderson just does a lot of chanting here rather than singing. Nothing deep here but not bad, there's some nice jamming and of course some great (if overly glossy sounding) guitar and synth work by Howe and Wakeman. Not much else to say, a decent opener, moving on.

Don't Kill the Whale: Heh, when critics talk about how bloated and ridiculous Yes are, this is a song that always gets name dropped. This is a mind blowingly cheesy song, but no my lastfm isn't lying, it's one of my most played songs, it's a guilty pleasure, a song so horrible that it's actually kinda awesome.

It starts off with an unusually groovy guitar riff and funky bassline, and some sugary synths in the background. You heard Jon right, he is indeed singing about the sins of the whaling industry, pretty rare to have a Yes song where the lyrics actually make sense, but that's not really a good thing. Howe and Squire's great guitar and bass work really do their best to pull this one out of the sh*tter. But this song's most defining moment comes in at 2 minutes in when you're greeted with the cheesiest synthesizer solo in music history. But just when you think it couldn't get cheesier, it does, the song ends with Anderson chanting "Dig it, Dig it".

Yeah, that's my description but you still have to hear it to beleive it, and I dare you to try and listen to the whole song without chuckling once, it's impossible. It's a pretty bad song, yet I can't help but like it anyway.

Madrigal: You hear right, this song is a showcase for Wakeman's mad Harpischord skillz, along with some acoustic neo classical guitar by Howe, and Anderson singing "Sacred ships do sail the seventh age", yeah don't ask me what it means. Proggies seem to consider this to be one of the better tracks on the album, but that's just because they have a hard on for cheesy neo classical wank, avoid at all costs.

Release Release: FINALLY things are getting interesting, this is the first real high point on the album. This is a very fast paced song by Yes standards, complete with rockabilly guitars from Howe and some of the fastest basswork Squire has ever done, it sounds like they actually had fun making this one, even Anderson manages to show some passion. It still has that cheesy 70s arena rock sound (Wakeman being the main culprit) but overall this is a great track, if only the whole album had as much energy and power as this song. This is a rare example of Yes actually doing a "rock" song, they even throw in a Bo Diddley beat at one point, and the results are a lot better than you'd expect.

Arriving UFO: But eh, just when they made it out of the muck, they fall right back in, and yeah, it's about UFOs. Yes have done the space themed songs before, and a hell of a lot better I might add. Mostly it's pretty boring though there is some weird guitar effects from Howe. The only real point of interest is Howe's crazy wah wah guitar solo, but man, Wakeman should have stuck to his moog, I don't know what kind of synths he uses here but it's getting really damn irritating at this point.

Circus of Heaven: Wow, they have finally made it to the bottom with this one. I couldn't even make it all the way through this song, it seems like they tried to capture a caribbean/reggae vibe here, but yeah, it's more Ob La Di Ob La Da than Bob Marley, this is followed with a lot of guitar and synth noodling that doesn't go anywhere. And then for whatever reason they thought a great way to close the song would be to have a little kid (Jon's son Damion) whine "But there was no clowns, or lions, or tigers". Yeah guys, where were they?

This is a good candidate for worst f*cking Yes song ever.

Onward: Get your cigarette lighters out for this one. That's right, a ballad. Now sure that sounds like the ultimate icing on the sh*tcake but surprise surprise, I really love this song, it's my favorite track on the album in fact, no prog at all, just a very simple, beautiful baroque pop ballad. Anderson's vocals are in great form here, he really works best with softer, melodic songs. This is excellent.

On the Silent Wings of Freedom: Despite all the rough moments on this album, this is a great closer and another great track. Once again this is a song where everybody seems to be giving it their all, why in the hell couldn't the whole album be like this? The beginning, middle and end is mostly jamming, and Squire and Howe really give it everything they got, even Wakeman's synth solo at the end is pretty cool.

So, in the end, this album is NOT as bad as people say, yes, there's some real sh*t in this album, but at least it would have made a great EP. So in the end, it's not a bad album, not a good one mind you, it's somewhere in the middle. What really hurt it was the lack of consistancy, it's like they were trying to do an album that showed they could be really diverse, they try a lot of styles here but add their own twist on it, this applies to the really bad songs just as much as it does to the really good ones, so you can't say they weren't ambitious, it's just that in the end, Yes came off as sounding tired and unmotivated, and they were. But with their declining popularity, growing tension between band members and the increasing media pressure to try and reinvent themselves, you can't really blame them for that.

Howe and Squire are in good form here, Wakeman and Anderson not so much, except for a few brief moments. Overall there are only a few songs where the contributions of every band member meshed together nicely, and it's no wonder it took 2 decades for Yes to return to this lineup.

So I recommend you download Release Release, Onward, On the Silent Wings of Freedom and just for the lulz Don't Kill the Whale and skip the rest.

I wouldn't recommend getting the whole album even for the diehard Yes fan, unless you're a completionist or just want to have some historical perspective. And yeah, if you want to know why Yes gave up on prog or what REALLY did prog in during the late 70s, download this album.

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Old 07-31-2009, 01:14 PM   #57 (permalink)
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Good review, still dislike album.
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Old 07-31-2009, 02:55 PM   #58 (permalink)
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The only Yes albums I've got are Fragile and 90125, both of which I definitely like but I've never really managed to get into properly (if that makes sense). I'll probably give them a go again soon enough. I'm guessing this isn't the best album to get next then.
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Old 07-31-2009, 04:09 PM   #59 (permalink)
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The only Yes albums I've got are Fragile and 90125, both of which I definitely like but I've never really managed to get into properly (if that makes sense). I'll probably give them a go again soon enough. I'm guessing this isn't the best album to get next then.
Close To The Edge???
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Old 07-31-2009, 04:40 PM   #60 (permalink)
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Close To The Edge???
Yeah, that one's been in my to-do pile for a ridiculous amount of time now. Should probably see to it. Recommendation noted!
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