Camel are an English symphonic/jazz-rock band that released ten studio albums between 1973 and 1984. They formed as a quartet composed of guitarist Andrew Latimer, keyboardist Pete Bardens, bassist Doug Ferguson, and drummer Andy Ward. This lineup made the 1973–76 albums Camel, Mirage, The Snow Goose, and Moonmadness, which established their mix of subdued vocal tracks and spacey instrumental passages.
In 1977, Ferguson cleared out for Caravan bassist Richard Sinclair on Rain Dances. Bardens left during the 1978 sessions for Breathless, which features reedist Mel Collins and keyboardist Dave Sinclair (Richard’s cousin). In 1979, the cousins cleared for bassist Colin Bass and Happy the Man keyboardist Kit Watkins on the album I Can See Your House from Here, which introduced new styles to the Camel mix.
In 1981, a revised lineup of Latimer, Bass, and Ward recorded the concept album Nude with assorted guests. Ward’s departure left Latimer as the sole original member on 1982’s The Single Factor, recorded with ex-Genesis guitarist Anthony Phillips and singer Chris Rainbow. A new Camel stabilized in 1984 with Kayak keyboardist Ton Scherpenzeel on Stationary Traveller, a modernistic effort about Cold War Berlin.
After a seven-year pause, Camel resumed with the 1991 disc Dust and Dreams, followed by the 1996–2002 titles Harbour of Tears, Rajaz, and A Nod and a Wink.
Members: Andrew Latimer (guitar, vocals, flute, keyboards, penny whistle, piano, bass, drum machine, recorder), Doug Ferguson (bass, vocals, 1971-76), Andy Ward (drums, percussion, vibraphone, 1971-81), Pete Bardens (keyboards, vocals, organ, Mellotron, synthesizer, piano, electric piano, Minimoog, pipe organ, 1971-78), Mel Collins (saxophone, flute, piccolo, 1976-78), Richard Sinclair (bass, 1977-78), Jan Schelhaas (keyboards, Moog, grand piano, sequencer, 1978-81), Dave Sinclair (keyboards, 1978), Kit Watkins (keyboards, Hammond organ, Moog, Minimoog, clavinet, flute, 1979-82), Colin Bass (bass, vocals, 1979-81, 1984-92, 1997-present), Andy Dalby (guitar, 1982), Chris Rainbow (vocals, keyboards, 1982-84), David Paton (bass, fretless bass, vocals, 1982), Stuart Tosh (drums, backing vocals, 1982), Ton Scherpenzeel (keyboards, grand piano, accordion, 1984), Paul Burgess (drums, 1984-92)
The roots of Camel trace to psych-rockers Brew, which featured guitarist Andrew Latimer (b. 1949), bassist Doug Ferguson (b. 1947), and drummer Andy Ward (b. 1952). As a standalone trio, they cut the 1969 acetate “Crossroads” (b/w “Play Your Tune”) on limited-press Oak. They subsequently backed singer/songwriter Phillip Goodhand-Tait on his 1971 sophomore solo album I Think I’ll Write a Song. Tait hailed from psychsters Circus, which also featured future Camel reedist Mel Collins.
After the Tait association ended in late 1971, they linked with keyboardist Pete Bardens (1944–2002). Bardens had a journeyman background dating to the mid-1960s with recorded stints in R&B/beatsters Them (with Van Morrison), The Cheynes (with Mick Fleetwood), and Shotgun Express (with Rod Stewart). More recently, he cut a 1969 single with the power-trio Village (with Quiver/Moonrider/Attractions bassist Bruce Thomas) and released two solo albums on Transatlantic Records. He also produced Arena, the 1971 second album by Marsupilami.
The newly assembled four-piece made their live debut as ‘Peter Bardens’ On’ for an October 1971 live engagement in Belfast, Ireland. They premiered the name Camel on December 4 at Waltham Forest Technical College as the opening act for Wishbone Ash.
In the spring of 1972, Camel gigged the English club and college circuits on bills with Vinegar Joe (4/27/72: Marquee), Sandy Denny (4/28/72: London School of Economics), Stone the Crows (4/12/72: King George’s Hall, Blackburn), Amazing Blondel (5/20/72: Imperial College), and the Third Ear Band (7/18/72: Marquee). That August, they signed to MCA Records. They recorded their debut album amid November–December live dates with Barclay James Harvest.
Camel released their self-titled debut album on February 28, 1973, on MCA. It opens with the Ward–Latimer composition “Slow Yourself Down” and proceeds with three songs apiece by Bardens (“Mystic Queen,” “Curiosity,” “Arubaluba”) and Latimer (“Six Ate,” “Separation,” “Never Let Go”).
“Slow Yourself Down” is a mid-tempo organ number (in E minor) with turbulent percussion and lyrics about two souls with checkered pasts embarking on new beginnings. Midway, the tempo accelerates for a tradeoff of wailing guitar and skiing organ — a section capped with airy, thematic vocalise (an eventual Camel trademark).
“Mystic Queen” is a medium-slow organ ballad with acoustic guitar, Hammond organ, and an eight-bar chordal progression relative to D minor. The lyrics consist of two three-line stanzas about a mystic queen “riding in her limousine.”
“Six Ate” is an instrumental with subtle guitar lines over a jerky 3/4 Hammond riff (in G minor). After a winding scaly bridge, the cadence tightens with a 4/4 passage of trebly synthesizer over a three-note bass ostinato.
“Separation” is an uptempo number with an arching organ–bass riff (in F#). The lyrics consist of two stanzas and a chorus line about onetime lovers at an impasse. Latimer overtakes the final stretch with a noodly cadenza over pile-driving drums and stormy organ sustain.
“Never Let Go” opens with acoustic folk-classical fingerpicking (double-tracked); colored with subtle Mellotron. The song is a medium-uptempo ballad with windy organ, turbulent rhythms, and survivalist lyrics that reject the words of doomsday alarmists. Midway, Latimer renders the song’s melodic contours with a flute solo. After a final round of vocals, he carries out the track with crying, oozing leads over a stormy rhythmic pattern.
“Curiosity” starts with light guitar over a falling bass ostinato (in G minor). The verses feature trickling piano over misty ride cymbals with soft vocals about a first-time physical encounter. Bardens dominates the mid-section with a cascading organ solo; intermixed with Latimer’s refined licks (played in a clean tone reminiscent of Tal Farlow).
“Arubaluba” lurches in with a medium-slow yet heavy, ascending organ–bass pattern. It takes shape as a whirlwind instrumental (in D minor) with speedy passages of wailing guitar over engine-like organ; intermixed with tight, driving, noodly moments. Midway, a closed-cadence martial pattern takes hold. As the song heads towards its climax, Latimer stabs the high-D note amid a stormy backdrop of foggy organ and avalanche drums.
Camel recorded the album at Morgan Studios, London, with Dave Williams, a producer of assorted pop singles on Polydor. The engineer, Roger Quested, worked on 1969–72 albums by Audience (self-titled), Chicken Shack, Delivery, Hungry Wolf, Keith Christmas, Martha Velez, Pink Floyd (Meddle), Shelagh McDonald, Steeleye Span, Strawbs, T2 (It’ll All Work Out In Boomland), Titanic, Trapeze (Medusa), and Trees. He subsequently worked with Cat Stevens, Esperanto, Fruupp, Rick Springfield, and The Real Thing.
Barden’s arsenal consists of organ, Mellotron, piano, and VCS3 synthesizer. One “Eddie” plays congas on “Slow Yourself Down.” A technical credit of “synthesizer operator” goes to Tony Cox, a veteran producer (Caravan, Gringo, Jonathan Kelly, Tea and Symphony, Tír na nÓg) who also did arrangements for Barry Ryan, Family (Family Entertainment), Harvey Andrews, Juliet Lawson, Magna Carta, Mick Softley, Mick Greenwood, Mike D’Abo, Spirogyra, and Yes (Time and a Word).
Camel sports an airbrushed painting of a crying camel on a silver train that enters a tunnel from outer space. The design is credited to Modula, which also did 1973 covers for Curved Air (Air Cut) and Fleetwood Mac (Mystery to Me). The red-tinted group shot on the back cover was taken by rock photographer Brian Cooke, whose photography also appears on 1970–73 albums by Alan Bown, Average White Band, Hanson, Frankie Miller, Mott the Hoople, Paul Kossoff, Procol Harum, Sharks, Ten Years After, and Traffic.
On February 19, 1973, Camel plugged the album with an appearance on BBC Radio 1, where they taped a four-song session (“Never Let Go,” “Arubaluba,” “Curiosity,” “Six Ate”) for DJ John Peel (broadcast 3/15/73). On March 1, they kicked off a month-long UK tour with Stackridge at Albert Hall, Bolton. On August 25, they appeared at the Cavalry Exercise Field for the Windsor Free Festival, which also featured sets by Gong, Hawkwind, Pink Fairies, and the Global Village Trucking Company.
On October 8, Camel played Dingwalls Dance Hall in Camden Lock, where they unveiled “God of Light Revisited Parts One, Two & Three,” a 19-minute composition–jam that consumes side one of Greasy Truckers Live at Dingwalls Dance Hall, a two-LP document with sets by Henry Cow, Gong, and GVTC.
Camel released their second album, Mirage, on March 1, 1974, on Deram, a sublabel of Decca. It features five numbers, including Latimer’s “The White Rider” (based on the high fantasy novel The Lord of the Rings by English author J.R.R. Tolkien) and the group-written “Lady Fantasy,” both three-part suites. Bardens wrote the opener “Freefall” and the instrumentals “Supertwister” and “Earthrise,” a co-write with Latimer.
“Freefall” fades in with an ominous, pounding beat and striking power chords over a bass drone (in E); intercut with jagged guitar lines (in A). The lyrics concerns a mental freefall with “smoke rings” and “bright sparks of fire.” Midway, Latimer runs scales over a brisk 3/4 bass ostinato (in Am and Cm).
“Supertwister” appears with calm flute (in G minor) that cuts to a jerky, ascending 5/4 pattern of bass, Fender Rhodes, and trebly synthesizer. The flute resumes over a brisk, turbulent 3/4 pattern and yields to a rapid keyboard figure (in D), which plummets three whole steps (to A♭) for an arching bassline.
“The White Rider” (9:16) is an epic in three parts. A) “Nimrodel” is a dark ambient passage of ‘watery’ guitar and theramin-like synth. B) “The Procession” is a field recording of crowd cheer and marching band. C) is the song proper (starts at 1:54). It starts as a ballad with lyrical guitar over foggy Mellotron (in G minor) and lyrics about the “wizard of them all.” This leads (at 3:44) to a whirlwind passage of soaring Minimoog over stormy drums and a brisk three-chord progression (F…C#…E♭…C#…). After two minutes, things slow for a third ballad verse (in F) that resolves with a lyrical, thematic guitar spotlight. The final phase (at 7:00) is an ominous stretch of ‘spine-tingling’ licks and smoky, fuzzy keyboards over a syncopated ostinato.
“Earthrise” fades in with wind and churchy organ. The piece-proper begins with a descending, medium-uptempo pattern, overlaid with a long-resolving Minimoog theme that crests (in F) for a tight sequence of martial snare. They speed up (at 1:57) for a moment of keyboard tradeoffs that break to a hurricane flurry of oozing Moog and breakneck strum (mostly in D minor). The final moments recap the earlier descending pattern.
“Lady Fantasy” (12:44) is another three-part suite. A) “Encounter” opens with a high-end 3/4 Moog fugue (in A minor); wrestled by hard-rock power chords that fall and rise between octaves (of A). This cuts to a mid-pace sequence of lyrical lead guitar, followed by a strummed set of verses where the narrator, addressing the second person, sings of her resemblance to a fantasy lady. B) “Smiles for You” (3:47–5:12) is a fast instrumental passage (in A minor) with scaling Latimer leads over cymbal-laden drums and Hammond organ. C) “Lady Fantasy” takes over with a medium-slow melodic ‘lyrical’ lead, followed (at 6:35) by a faint keyboard drone (in Am and F) with ‘ghostly’ guitar sustain (Hackett-like). The final two stanzas commence (at 8:12) with metaphoric visuals of the fantasy lady (“riding on a moon cloud… walking on a whirlpool… sitting on a sunbeam”). After Latimer sighs “I love you,” a frenetic instrumental passage takes hold (at 9:10) with Clavinet, organ, and dissonant guitar against a two-note ostinato (A…F…) and a hopping rhythmic structure with emphasized third beats. A recap of “Encounter” (second passage) closes out the piece.
Sessions took place in November 1973 at three London studios: Decca, AIR, and Island. Bardens expanded his arsenal with celesta, Minimoog, Fender electric piano, and Hohner clavinet.
Mirage was produced by David Hitchcock, a veteran Decca soundman with credits on albums by Aardvark, East of Eden, Fuchsia (self-titled), Genesis (Foxtrot), Jan Dukes de Grey, Mellow Candle (Swaddling Songs), Nazareth, Satisfaction, Walrus, and most of Caravan’s output, including their recent For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night.
Mirage lists twelve sound engineers, including AIR staffers John Punter (Hunter Muskett, Osibisa, Roxy Music, Tempest), Bill Price (Badfinger, Mandalaband, Nektar, Sparks), and Decca’s John Burns (Whistler, Zakarrias). The backing tracks were engineered by Howard Kilgour, a technical hand on albums by Free (Heartbreaker), Lard Free, Rolling Stones, and String Driven Thing.
Modula designed the Mirage cover, which appropriates the carton art of the Camel cigarette brand. It renders the camel mascot (front) and the Indian temple (back, as seen on the reverse of Camel cartons) with shimmery lines. The inner-gates feature brass-tinted monochrome images of the mascot (left) and rows of member photos (right).
In the US, Mirage appeared in a single sleeve on Janus. To avoid conflict with the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, Janus copies sport an airbrushed photo of a lunar camel-dragon hybrid with a shiny diamond in its mouth. The domed group font mimics the shape of the camel hump.
Camel gigged throughout the UK during the first eight months of 1974. In France, they opened for Soft Machine on three May benefit shows for that band’s recently paralyzed ex-drummer and singer Robert Wyatt. On July 6, Camel appeared at the Olympia, London, for a multi-act engagement with Can, Kevin Ayers, Isotope, The Winkies, and Stomu Yamash’ta’s East Wind.
On Friday August 23, Camel appeared with 10cc, Alex Harvey, Beckett, and Nutz on the opening day of the 1974 Reading Rock Festival. The three-day event also features sets by Chapman–Whitney, Chilli Willi & The Red Hot Peppers, Cockney Rebel, Esperanto, Focus, Gary Farr, Greenslade, Heavy Metal Kids, Jack the Lad, Strider, and Thin Lizzy.
Camel opened their first American tour on November 19 at Ladyland in New York City. The five-week tour included shared bills with Renaissance (11/30/74: Capitol Theater, Passaic, NJ), Foghat (12/6/74: The Auditorium, Milwaukee), and a New Year’s Eve show with Carmen and Blue Oyster Cult at the Academy of Music, NYC.
1975: The Snow Goose
Camel released their third album, The Snow Goose, in April 1975 on Decca. It’s a 43-minute instrumental suite based on the 1940 novella The Snow Goose: A Story of Dunkirk by American author Paul Gallico (1897—1976).
In the story, Rhayader is a disabled wartime painter who squats in an Essex lighthouse, where he’s visited by Fritha, a young girl who brings a gunshot-wounded snow goose. The goose — symbol of Rhayader and the horrors of war — heals and later returns to the site where Fritha, now a grown woman, sees it as a soul messenger for Rhayader, who disappeared in the Dunkirk evacuation. After German bombers destroy his lighthouse, Fritha retrieves an intact painting of herself as Rhayader first saw her: a little girl with a snow goose.
Camel conjure the story through a sequence of slow–pastoral and fast–intricate passages. “The Great Marsh” opens the album with goose sounds, faint keyboard (in G minor) and distant vocalise. The piece swells in its final seconds with a gust of Mellotron and guitar, which pause for “Rhayader,” which has a striking, angular flute theme and a windy jam of Fender Rhodes and synthesizer (primarily in C). “Rhayader Goes to Town” commences with synth-swirling power chords that usher a galloping descent with hyperactive drums and lyrical lead guitar. This cuts to a tight, moderate passage with keyboard tradeoffs, followed by a slower, bluesy sequence with oozing leads.
“Sanctuary” is an interlude of plucked acoustic guitar, interspersed with clean electric notes (ECM-like). It seques into “Fritha,” where Bardens injects Latimer’s acoustic pattern with piercing, glowing ARP. “The Snow Goose” is a medium–slow piece with soft organ sustain and clean guitar leads that form a long-resolving melody. “Friendship” is a stately interlude of oboe and melodica (?), cut by a glowing Fender refrain. It segues with a snare-roll to “Migration,” a brisk jazz-rock piece of shifting keys with sparkling synth and airy, thematic vocalise. That fades into “Rhayader Alone,” a subdued, rhythmless piece with dark Fender and soft, melodic lead notes.
“Flight of the Snow Goose” opens side two with spinning, oscillating ARP, which ushers a medium-uptempo passage of lyrical guitar over wavy keyboards (in D), broken by a trebly synth bridge (in D minor). It fades into closed chords that herald the flute-laced staccato guitar pattern of “Preparation,” where Bardens dominates with thick, watery keyboards (in E minor), overlaid with faint, glowing glockenspiel and ghostly vocalise. A foreboding march signals “Dunkirk,” where martial drums drive a stately keyboard theme (for the evacuation). The theme — constantly wrestled by a jagged refrain — succumbs after three minutes to a stormy passage with wheezing ARP and menacing outro chords.
“Epitaph” recaps the watery “Preparation” sequence with ominous synth sustain and spine-tingling metals. “Fritha Alone” is a light piano etude (rooted in A minor) with two-handed Steinway overlaid with faint, echoey keys. “La Princesse Perdue” recaps “Flight of the Snow Goose,” this time with a fluttering orchestral fade-in. Barden’s vibrato ARP carries the melody across the windy keys (A…D…) and spiraling refrain (in D minor). The second half of “Perdue” reprises “The Snow Goose,” enhanced here with strings. “The Great Marsh” reprises as the album’s postlude with fading goose sounds and Fender notes.
Bardens and Latimer joint-composed the music, which they initially planned to accompany with lyrics based on the novella. They abandoned this due to Gallico’s disapproval of the project, which they affixed with the words “Music Inspired by” to avoid legal action. Before choosing his novella as the basis for their album, Camel considered the 1922 spiritual novel Siddhartha by German–Swiss author Hermann Hesse.
Hitchcock produced The Snow Goose at Island Studios with Rhett Davies, the engineer on 1973–75 albums by Bryan Ferry, Brian Eno (Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy), Genesis (Selling England By the Pound), Jess Roden, Phil Manzanera, Quiet Sun (Mainstream), Robert Calvert, Robert Palmer, and Stealers Wheel (Ferguslie Park). Overdubs were added at Decca Studios by Burns, who also worked on Caravan’s 1975 release Cunning Stunts. David Bedford supplied arrangements with the London Symphony Orchestra.
The Snow Goose is housed in a single sleeve designed by Modula. It shows a goose curled inside a chrome ring with the title in three-dimensional, cursive blue–white gradients. UK Decca copies retain the Camel cigarette brand logo; US copies on Janus replace the logo with the cursive title font. On the back cover, the song titles are accompanied with summaries of the correlating plot developments in the story.
The Snow Goose reached No. 22 on the UK Albums Chart. Camel promoted the album with appearances on the Radio 1 show In Concert (aired 4/22/75) and the BBC music program The Old Grey Whistle Test (aired 6/21/75). On October 17, 1975, they performed the album in its entirely at the Royal Albert Hall with the London Symphony Orchestra.
(In 1976, the London Symphony Orchestra played on another adaptation of The Snow Goose, narrated by Spike Milligan and conducted by Ed Welch. Before his death, Gallico corresponded with the makers of this recording, which appeared in the UK on RCA Victor with synthesizer work by Dave Greenslade.)
Camel released their fourth album, Moonmadness, on March 26, 1976, on Decca and Janus. This is the last album by the original four-piece lineup of Bardens, Latimer, Ferguson, and Ward. Side one is bookended with a miniature by Latimer (“Aristillus”) and Bardens (“Spirit of the Water”). They co-wrote four-fifths of the album’s contents: the slow, spacey “Air Born,” the pace-shifting “Song Within a Song,” and two instrumentals — the frenetic “Chord Change” and the swelling, spiraling “Lunar Sea,” a nine-minute run of the Solina String Ensemble. The side two opener, “Another Night,” is a group-written track.
“Aristillus” is a marching album intro (in C) with fanfare synth and beaming ARP over a rhythmic 2/4 harpsichord pattern. It’s named after a lunar impact crater on the eastern Mare Imbrium lava plain (discovered by Greek astronomer Aristyllus c. 300 BC).
“Song Within a Song” (7:13) opens with a midtempo rhythmic pattern (in B) overlaid with winding Moog lines. It slows for a flute passage over watery wah-wah chords (in D). Ferguson sings two languid stanzas about the correlation between dreams and songs. Latimer takes hold (at 3:08) with a soaring nine-note solo (in D) with alternating bars of 7 and 8. Amid tightening cadences, a fluid stream appears (at 4:24) with beaming, spiraling Moog over a swift, slick rhythmic structure. In the final ninety seconds, things climax with an ensemblic, ascending riff over pile-driving drum fills.
“Chord Change” (6:45) bursts in with a brisk, darting, 7/8 guitar line (in A minor). Fifty seconds in, the pattern crests (in G) with scaling high-end runs amid stormy cymbal mist, overlaid with airy vocalise. Things slow for a quiet passage of faint organ sustain and a clean, long-resolving guitar melody. Bardens overtakes the structure with a fugue-like pattern as the cadence tightens, signalling a recap of the brisk earlier passages.
“Spirit of the Water” is a slow, sparse piece (in D minor) with distant, echoey vocals and tender piano, which interlocks with flute on the thematic refrain. The lyrics concern the never-ending cycle of water in relation to the finite span of human life.
“Another Night” (6:58) beacons with a circular synth fugue that triggers a 6/8 medium-uptempo pattern (in F) with striking chords and bobbing bass against a swaying drum pattern. They plunge into a syncopated, spiraling descent with Latimer’s faint, searing sustains; intercut with a marching bridge (in C with rising fourths). The bobbing–swaying pattern resumes with cowbell accents and lyrics that favor night over day. This pattern, intercut with the marching bridge, carries out the piece with rippling organ and rising leads.
“Air Born” (5:02) opens with a tender flute melody (in C minor), soon joined by piano. Rising synth strings (at :43), usher a medium-slow passage of lyrical guitar and foggy synth. Everything parts for Latimer’s vocals, which entertain the concepts of human flight and out-of-body experiences over water and land. After a brief passage of flute and finger-picked acoustic guitar, Bardens Moog spirals upward (in Cmaj7) for a slow, spacey sequence.
“Lunar Sea” (9:14) sets forth with icy organ and foggy synth (D… B♭…) amid bubbling water and sparkling chimes. Eighty seconds in, a brisk, windy 6/8 rhythm takes hold (in D minor) with searing leads over a bobbing bassline. Latimer (bending 3rds and 4ths in D) slows things (at 2:40) for the middle passage: a moderate-paced stretch (in D with rising–falling fourths) with pinching, oozing Moog lines over a clicking 4/4 rhythmic pattern. When the synths start to bubble and sputter, Camel resumes the brisk, windy passage for a more aggressive round of Latimer licks, which soar and shred against Ward’s stormy tom fills. They play up a storm during the final, fading stretch against Barden’s foggy, icy tones, which carry the last notes out to the windy elements.
Rhett Davies produced Moonmadness at Basing St. Studios (aka Island Studios) during January–February 1976 with engineer Guy Bidmead. Both worked as soundmen on Eno’s 1975 third solo album Another Green World, Davie’s first full-length production. They subsequently co-engineered Second Thoughts, the 1976 sophomore release by Kiwi art rockers Split Enz; and the 1977 self-titled album by Crawler, the late Paul Kossoff’s ex-backing band. Davies also engineered Russ Ballard‘s second post-Argent solo album (Winning) and played percussion on “No One Receiving,” the opening track on Eno’s 1977 release Before and After Science. Bidmead, a soundman on the 1973 Yes double-album Tales from Topographic Oceans, also engineered the 1976 self-titled release by the American space-funk band Automatic Man.
Moonmadness sports a gatefold sleeve designed by Jon Field with logo graphics by David Anstey. It shows a frosty white landscape under beaming moonlight with dead shrubbery and a cold pond occupied by a frog and a leaping mullet. The inner-gates have a monochrome group shot of the long-haired quartet with a circular image of a lunar camel in the lower right. On Janus copies, the frosty landscape appears on the inner-gates and the lunar camel occupies the front cover, encircled in black. Anstey’s prior credits include cover visuals for the Moody Blues (Days of Future Passed), Galliard (Strange Pleasure), Khan, and Chicken Shack (Imagination Lady).
Camel promoted Moonmadness with a March–April UK tour, followed by a string of midyear California shows, including a July 3 performance at The Roxy, Los Angeles. Moonmadness reached No. 15 on the UK Albums Chart, No. 16 on the Dutch Album Top 100, and No. 21 in Spain.
In the summer of 1976, Camel expanded to a five-piece with saxophonist Mel Collins, a one-time member of Circus (with Goodhand-Tait) who played on the 1970/71 King Crimson albums Lizard and Islands. After several years as a session player (Claire Hamill, Humble Pie, Snafu, Uriah Heep), Collins returned to band life in funk-rockers Kokomo, which issued two 1975 albums on CBS.
On August 14, 1976, Camel played 1st Rock Meeting, a two-day event in Wiesmoor, Germany, with sets by Budgie, Epitaph, Franz K., Ramses, and Scorpions. They were scheduled for an Aug. 18 slot at Oakland Coliseum as part of Day On the Green #7 with Electric Light Orchestra, Jethro Tull, and Rory Gallagher.
On August 28, Camel played the 1976 Reading Rock Festival, which featured sets by A Band Called ‘O’, Automatic Fine Tuning, Back Door, Brand X, The Enid, Gong, Mallard, Osibisa, Sassafras, Supercharge, and the Sutherland Brothers & Quiver. Camel performed on Saturday (day two) along with Colosseum II, Eddie & the Hot Rods, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, Moon, Pat Travers, and Van der Graaf Generator.
On October 2, Camel appeared at the Westfalenhalle in Dortmund, Germany, as part of the First Dortmunder Rock Dream, which also featured sets by Golden Earring, Gordon Giltrap, John Cale, Magna Carta, Rainbow, Wallenstein, and VdGG (supporting World Record).
In early 1977, Doug Ferguson cleared out for bassist Richard Sinclair, a founding member of Caravan who played on their first four albums (1968–1972) and then teamed with members of Egg and Matching Mole in Hatfield and the North, which issued the 1974/75 albums Hatfield and the North and The Rotter’s Club on Virgin Records.
1977: Rain Dances
Camel released their fifth album, Rain Dances, in September 1977 on Decca and Janus. This is the first of two albums by the quintet lineup of Bardens, Latimer, Ward, Collins, and Sinclair. Side one consists of four co-writes between Bardens and Latimer: “First Light,” “Metrognome,” “Tell Me,” and “Highways of the Sun.” They also co-wrote the title-track on side two, which contains Latimer’s “Elke” and the group-written “One of These Days I’ll Get an Early Night.” Ward helped the pair on “Unevensong” and “Skylines.”
“First Light” beams in with foggy synth and an interlocking guitar–keyboard pattern (in E). The track congeals as a brisk instrumental with a soaring Moog theme that modulates amid shifting key centers. Midway, a quiet passage takes hold with faint, ominous winds over a persistent beat with a circular 6/8 bassline (in G minor). The theme reappears on saxophone, which soars over renewed speed to the final fadeout.
“Metrognome” has four harmonized stanzas over a moderate keyboard pattern, intercut with soaring guitar leads. The title is a play on metronome (a pace-keeping device) with “g” added to the third syllable. The lyrics lampoon high-tech time-keeping and its gnomic effect on humans. Two minutes in, the song turns instrumental with a fast jerky sequence (in E and G), overlaid with noodly guitar. The final eighty seconds consist of a 7/8 pattern (in E) with wailing leads over steamy synths.
“Tell Me” is an airy, rhythmless ballad with fretless bass and choral layers (ala “I’m Not In Love”). In the lyrics, Sinclair urges a shy, secretive subject to reveal her thoughts and recommends musical expression as the vehicle.
“Highways of the Sun” rides in with a medium-uptempo pattern with a low-end keyboard theme on a monotone bass groove (in D). The lyrics concern a never-ending drive to the vanishing point of the horizon. The pace slows during the instrumental break, where Bardens experiments with blurred, spiraling Moog lines.
“Unevensong” jumps in with a staccato 13/16 tri-tone keyboard pattern (E minor to B♭). The verses careen with lyrics about romantic memories, set to breezy open cadences with slick, sliding hi-hat. The tempo slows and syncopates on the bridge (in D), where soaring guitar licks trade bars with brimming, oozing synth tones. A guitar variation of the vocal melody triggers a recap of the theme (in F#) before a slower, quieter vocal passage takes hold. They carry things out with a speedy, ascending pattern of windy synth and lead sustain.
The final four tracks are instrumental. “One of These Days I’ll Get an Early Night” opens with glistening Fender Rhodes on a deep, murky bassline (in F#) with funky precision; overlaid with solo passages of keyboard, saxophone, and (later) guitar. “Elke” is an ambient soundscape with soft flute and faint harp over cloudy synth sustain. “Skylines” is a jerky 3/4 cut (in F) with a galloping bass ostinato adorned with oozing guitar; intercut with spiraling Moog over roaming key centers. “Rain Dances” is a faint, rhythmless recap of “First Light,” overlaid with foggy synthesizers.
Sessions took place at Basing St. between February and August 1977 with Davies and Dave Hutchins, the engineer on the 1974 Genesis rock opera The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway and 1975–77 albums by Aswad, Bullfrog, Dog Soldier, Fruupp, Gonzalez, Rough Diamond, and Caravan’s 1976 release Blind Dog at St. Dunstans. Davies subsequently engineered albums by Dire Straits (self-titled), Talking Heads (More Songs About Buildings and Food), B-52’s, and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. Hutchins worked under German producer Conny Plank on assorted continental acts (Hoelderlin, Kraan, Satin Whale, SBB) and engineered albums by Ultravox (Systems of Romance) and Eurythmics (In the Garden).
“Skylines” and “One of These Days I’ll Get an Early Night” feature trumpeter Martin Drover (John Surman, Keef Hartley Band, The Real Thing, Skin Alley) and trombonist Malcolm Griffiths (Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood of Breath, Harry Miller’s Isipingo, Hugh Hopper, Kenny Wheeler, Michael Gibbs, Mike Westbrook, Norma Winstone). Both players also back jazz-rock guitarist Ray Russell on his 1977 solo album Ready or Not, which Hutchins engineered. “Elke” features Eno (in a return favor to Davies) and harpist Fiona Hibbert, who also plays on one track (“Man In a Car”) on Caravan’s concurrent Better By Far. She subsequently played on an album by Playboy Playmate (and longtime Hugh Hefner partner) Barbi Benton and supplemented Swing Out Sister on the sophisti-pop duo’s 1989 second album Kaleidoscope World.
Rain Dances features a sleeve design by Paul Henry and an illustration by Bob Searles, a designer on Better By Far and albums by Maxine Nightingale, Nova, and Pilot. It shows the apparition of a boy’s face against a rainy, celestial backdrop, flanked on opposite sides by leaping nude nymphs. The back has a shaggy-haired, denim-clad shot of Bardens, Latimer, Sinclair, and Ward, but not Collins. Henry also notched visual credits on 1976–77 albums by Alkatraz, Dr. Feelgood, Groundhogs, Michael Chapman (The Man Who Hated Mornings), and The Stranglers (Rattus Norvegicus, No More Heroes). Latimer backs Chapman on the Hated Mornings track “Dreams Are Dangerous Things.”
Camel played at the First Rider Open Air Festival, a planned 23-act event at the Eichenring Speedway Station in Scheeßel. The scheduled two-day event (Sept. 3–4, 1977) was set to include Barclay James Harvest, Klaus Schulze, Nektar, Nite City, Graham Parker, The Damned, The Stranglers, Eddie & the Hot Rods, and several reformed American ’60s bands (The Byrds, Iron Butterfly, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Steppenwolf). In the end, only five acts appeared, including Camel and their Reading/Dortmunder festival cohorts Colosseum II (plugging Electric Savage and War Dance), Van der Graaf (plugging The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome), and Golden Earring, whose set concluded with audience mayhem and a stage fire that prevented Eichenring Speedway concert events for several years.
Rain Dances reached No. 20 on the UK Albums Chart and bested that position in Norway (No. 17) and Spain (No. 18). Camel promoted the album with 18 shows across Germany, Scandinavia, and the UK, including a September 22 showcase at Golders Green Hippodrome for the BBC1 series Sight and Sound in Concert.
1978: A Live Record
In April 1978, Decca issued A Live Record, a four-sided chronicle of three Camel tours. Side one contains late 1977 renditions of songs from Moonmadness (“Song Within a Song,” “Lunar Sea”) and the Camel chestnut “Never Let Go,” all performed with Collins and Sinclair, who didn’t appear on the original studio recordings. Side two features an October ’77 Leeds performance of the recent “Skylines” and 21 minutes of a 1974 Marquee show with the Mirage epic “Lady Fantasy” and the Bardens’ jam “Ligging at Louis’.” Sides three and four contain the October 1975 Royal Albert Hall performance of The Snow Goose in its entirety.
Davies, in his last engineering work with Camel, remixed the tracks at Basing St. A Live Record is housed in a gatefold sleeve designed by Henry with illustrations by Terry Pastor. It shows a cyborg hand conducting currents through the index finger with a radiating red vinyl record. On the inner-gates, live group pics float though outer space. Pastor’s prior visual credits include albums by Byzantium (self-titled), David Bowie (Hunky Dory, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars), Soft Machine (Six), Three Man Army, and recent titles by Sweet.
Camel recorded their next studio album during spring–summer 1978. As sessions wrapped, Bardens left the band. He reunited with Van Morrison for the singer’s September 1978 release Wavelength and concurrently played on the Virgin Records release Beware of the Dog, the second album by the Fox-spinoff Yellow Dog. Bardens resumed his solo career with the 1979 Arista release Heart to Heart.
Camel released their sixth studio album, Breathless, on September 22, 1978, on Decca (UK, Europe) and Arista (North America). It features two seven-minute pieces — the symphonic-rock epic “Echoes” and the jazz-rock instrumental “The Sleeper” — and seven shorter pop–vocal numbers.
Latimer and Bardens co-wrote a pair of serene, rhythmless ballads (“Starlight Ride” and “Rainbow’s End”) and two mid-tempo songs: “Wing and a Prayer,” a West Coast-style number with a finger-picked acoustic figure; and “You Make Me Smile,” a disco-ish cut with sly vocals and a slippery bassline. Ward helped them write the two epics plus the title track; Collins is a fourth writer on “The Sleeper.”
“Echoes” (7:22) opens in 3/4 with a clicking uptempo bass–keyboard pattern (rooted in G minor) with shifting keys and searing leads. One-fourth in, the track slows two a keyboard-layered semi-tone (Emaj7→F) with backward effects. Midway, a brisk four-stroke riff takes hold and signals a vocal passage about “Ten thousand navajo braves… Born of the Earth set free.” The song enters a galloping sequence with Latimer’s lyrical held notes, intercut with beaming synth over hyperactive snare.
“The Sleeper” (7:06) fades in with glowing Fender Rhodes and searing guitar sustain over a slow, rhythmless semi-tone (D… D♭…). Ninety-five seconds in, the song-proper unfolds with an ARP-swirling semi-tone (E…E♭…) over a clicking, syncopated rhythmic groove; capped by a winding, spiraling refrain. They cut to a jerky bridge (in D♭m) with staccato sax and vibraslap. The winding ARP refrain carries out the piece with vibraslap and cymbal mist.
Sinclair submitted “Down on the Farm,” which veers between a hard-rock opening riff and folksie English verses (ala “Mr. Songbird” by The Kinks). He collaborated with Latimer on “Summer Lightning,” another disco-influenced cut.
Latimer plays the Yamaha model CS-50 and CS-80 synthesizers on this release. He sings everything apart from “Wing and a Prayer” (Bardens) and “Breathless,” “Down on the Farm,” and “Summer Lightning” (all Sinclair).
“Rainbow’s End” features piano by Richard’s cousin and erstwhile bandmate Dave Sinclair, a co-founder of Caravan who stayed with that band up through Cunning Stunts. Dave also plays synthesizer on “You Make Me Smile” with another guest: onetime National Head Band keyboardist Jan Schelhaas (clavinet), who replaced Dave in Caravan for the Blind Dog and Better By Far albums. Recently, the two interacted in the unsigned Canterbury group Polite Force, named after Egg’s 1971 second album. They both played on the Breathless tour. Schelhaas remained with Camel for the next two studio albums.
Sessions took place at three studios: the Manor, an Oxfordshire mansion owned by Virgin Records co-founder Richard Branson; Threshold, a London facility owned by the Moodies; and Chipping Norton Recording Studios, Oxfordshire, recently used by Gerry Rafferty for the 1978 mega-hit “Baker Street” and its parent album City to City.
Breathless was produced and engineered by Mick Glossop, an early soundman for Jade Warrior and Renaissance (Prologue) with tech credits on numerous Virgin titles, including albums by Delroy Washington, Tangerine Dream (Rubycon) and Clearlight (Forever Blowing Bubbles). Most recently, he worked on albums by Gryphon (Treason), The Motors, and Wigwam. In succession with Breathless, Glossop produced 1978 new wave recordings by Magazine (“Shot By Both Sides”) and Penetration (Moving Targets).
The Breathless cover depicts a foreground camel profile and a computerized backdrop with airbrushed neon title fonts. It was designed by the Dutch firm Cream, which also did covers for Alquin (Nobody Can Wait Forever), Druid (Fluid Druid), Gentle Giant (The Power and the Glory), Kayak (Royal Bed Bouncer), Stackridge (Extravaganza), and Tiger (Goin’ Down Laughing). The inner-sleeve has blue-tinted member pics by photographer Keith Morris, also responsible for album pics for Man (Rhinos, Winos and Lunatics), Nasty Pop (self-titled), Spirogyra (Bells, Boots and Shambles), and The Vibrators.
The six-piece Camel (Latimer, Ward, Sinclair, Collins, Schelhaas, Dave Sinclair) embarked on a six-week UK tour with Soft Machine and Michael Chapman, starting with a September 7 show at the Civic Centre Maxwell Hall in Aylesbury. Mid-October, Camel and the Softs went to Europe for a round of German, French, and Spanish dates, concluding with a November 28 show in Barcelona.
1979: Sinclair Exits, Kit Watkins Joins
In January 1979, Camel did a six-date tour of Japan that included three nights at Tokyo’s Koseinenkin Hall. They headed stateside for a California coast leg that culminated with a February 15–18 engagement (two shows each night) at LA’s Roxy.
In March, the Sinclair cousins left Camel. Dave rejoined Caravan for their 1980–82 releases The Album and Back to Front. The latter features a guest appearance by Richard, who teamed with Hatfield and Gilgamesh alumni for the 1982 Europa release Before a Word Is Said, recorded April–May 1981, weeks prior to the death of keyboardist Alan Gowan from leukemia.
Camel hired American keyboardist Kit Watkins and English bassist–singer Colin Bass. Watkins hailed from the DC-area symphonic band Happy the Man, which released the 1977/78 Arista albums Happy the Man and Crafty Hands. Bass cut two albums with funk-rockers Clancy and played on the 1976 Island Records release Che Che Kulé by Ghanaian musician Eddie Quansah. He also plays on the March 1977 Rainbow Theatre numbers included on Live Herald, a live double-album by Steve Hillage.
Collins stopped performing with Camel but remained in their orbit. He returned to session work, playing on Heart to Heart and 1979 albums by Charlie Dore, Cliff Richard (Rock ‘n’ Roll Juvenile), Mike Batt, and one track (“Side Door”) on Sides, the third proper solo album by ex-Genesis guitarist Anthony Phillips. Sides was produced by Rupert Hine, an occasional solo recording artist and recent member of jazz-funksters Quantum Jump.
Hine notched recent production credits with Quantum bandmate John G. Perry (another Caravan alumni) and two albums by the Scottish trio Cafe Jacques (Round the Back, International), plus the earlier Phillips title Wise After the Event. He summoned Camel to his own facility, Farmyard Studios in Little Chalfont, where the band recorded a new album under the working title Endangered Species.
I Can See Your House from Here
Camel released their seventh studio album, I Can See Your House from Here, on October 29, 1979, on Decca and Arista. Latimer composed the opener “Wait,” a heady, windy rocker with staccato verses (in 7/8) and a fusiony middle strewn with the piercing, spiraling tones of the Yamaha CS-80. The free-wheeling lyrics, sung by Bass with airy urgency, were penned by John McBurnie, a onetime Justine member (and alumni of The Nice-spinoff Jackson Heights) who recently collaborated with Patrick Moraz on the Swiss keyboardist’s 1976–77 albums The Story of i and Out In the Sun. Bass also sings “Your Love Is Stranger Than Mine,” a buoyant, jangly pop-rocker that he co-wrote with Latimer, Schelhaas, and Ward.
Watkins submitted “Eye of the Storm,” a martial, Celt-tinged instrumental that Happy the Man recorded for a then-unreleased third album (released in 1983 as 3rd – “Better Late…”). He collaborated with Latimer on the sequencer-driven “Remote Romance,” a mix of new wave and electro-disco akin to M and recent Sparks (No. 1 in Heaven).
Simon Jeffes of the Penguin Cafe Orchestra did string arrangements on the Latimer compositions “Who We Are,” an airy APP-like ballad with a galloping instrumental forward; and “Survival,” a classical miniature that leads into “Hymn to Her,” a Latimer–Schelhaas ballad (in G minor) with piano-laden verses intercut with lyrical guitar sustain. They also co-wrote “Neon Magic,” a quasi-fifties rocker with cathedral Hammond refrains and youthful lyrical vignettes: sung by Andrew with uncharacteristic cocky bravado but penned by Vivienne McAuliffe, the one-time singer of Affinity (after Linda Hoyle) and Principal Edwards Magic Theatre.
“Ice” (10:19) is a Latimer instrumental with slow, building layers that echo the glistening numbers of Happy the Man (“New York Dream’s Suite”). It starts with faint, picked guitar and piano (in D minor). Ninetey-nine seconds in, Ward unleashes a slow rhythm that paces the track, which swells in volume and intensity amid Andrew’s crying, soaring leads. The final two minutes consist of faint acoustic guitar and clean legato runs.
Hine produced I Can See Your House from Here in the summer of 1979 amid projects with After the Fire and Murray Head. Jeffes — who recently did strings on the infamous Sid Vicious version of “My Way” (included in the Sex Pistols mockumentary The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle) — made his contributions at AIR Studios. The album was co-engineered by and
Mel Collins plays alto saxophone on “Your Love Is Stranger Than Mine.” Phil Collins — then active on the Brand X sessions that yielded Product and two further albums — plays percussion on select passages, having done likewise on the two Cafe Jacques albums.
I Can See Your House from Here shows an overhead view of an astronaut on a cross hovering outside Earth’s orbit. The image, which also appears on the LP labels of UK Decca copies, is credited to Gered Mankowitz, the visual director on nearly 500 sleeves, including recent titles by Bruford (Feels Good to Me), Cliff Richard (Green Light), Dirty Tricks, Doctors of Madness (Sons of Survival), Easy Street (Under the Glass), Generation X (self-titled), Gino Vannelli (The Gist of the Gemini), Glenn Hughes, The Jam, Kate Bush (The Kick Inside), Kiki Dee, Marshall Hain (Free Ride), Mr. Big, Pat Travers (Putting It Straight), Peter Doyle, Renaissance (Azure D’or), Sad Café (Fanx Ta’ra), Sherbet (Photoplay), and Ultravox (Ultravox!).
The ICSYHfH inner-sleeve has two group pics of the Bass–Watkins lineup by Melody Maker staff photographer Adrian Boot, also credited with photography on 1977–80 albums by Bethnal, The Boomtown Rats (self-titled), Bob Marley, Buzzcocks, Def Leppard, Magazine (Real Life), The Police (Zenyatta Mondatta), The Rezillos, Roy Harper, and Siouxsie & the Banshees.
Decca lifted “Your Love Is Stranger Than Mine” as a single (b/w “Neon Magic”). UK copies sport a modernist sleeve design with a suited gentlemen (seen neck-to-breast) wearing a ICSYHfH astronaut lapel pin. A lady hand pulls a heart-shaped neon light from inside his blazer. “Remote Romance” also appeared on 7″, backed with the Breathless track “Rainbow’s End” in a sleeve that appropriates the ICSYHfH cover.
Camel toured ICSYHfH with an October round of UK dates, followed by four shows in France and a two-week, 13-date sprint through Germany. After stops in Oslo and Rotterdam, the tour wrapped in Barcelona on November 25, 1979.
Camel opened 1980 with five dates in Japan, including another multi-night engagement (January 27–29) at Koseinenkin Hall. Watkins left the band and made his solo debut with the 1981 album Labyrinth, issued on self-press Azimuth Records. Camel were down to the trio of Latimer, Bass, and Ward when they commenced sessions for a new album in September 1980.
Camel’s eighth studio album, Nude, appeared on January 23, 1981, on Decca (UK, Europe), Passport (North America), Epic (Oceania), and London Records (Japan). The title is the Anglicized surname of Hiroo Onoda (1922–2014), an Imperial Japanese Army lieutenant who evaded capture at the end of World War II and survived for 29 years as a holdout in the hills of Lubang Island in the Philippines until his rediscovery and repatriation in 1974.
The music on Nude chronicles Onoda’s odyssey, from his draft into the Japanese military (age 20) through his time in combat and subsequent decades without human contact. Side two covers the search and rescue efforts and his eventual return: met with fanfare but beset with depression and social discomfort.
Nude has thirteen proper songs and two connecting miniature tracks. The album is instrumental apart from “Please Come Home,” “Lies” (both sung by Latimer), “City Life,” and “Drafted” (sung by Bass). The last three feature lyrics by Latimer’s wife, Susan Hoover. Latimer wrote all the music apart from “Docks,” which Watkins co-wrote before his departure; and “Captured,” a co-write with Schelhaas, who plays piano on “The Last Farewell.”
“City Life” opens the album as a rhythmless keyboard tapestry with Nude’s initial impressions of Japanese life at the outset of war. The song tightens into a mid-tempo bass–keyboard pattern (rooted in F) with a fluid sax solo. In “Drafted,” Nude sets aside his moral misgivings (“I must… Live without remorse… for the deeds I’m bound to do”) to answer the call of war. It starts as a piano–synth ballad but perks up with a lyrical guitar solo over a clicking drum pattern.
“Docks” is a slow, swaying instrumental with searing, echoing guitar over a plummeting five-note bassline (rooted in E minor). The track soars on the bridge with Hackett-like leads (in B) over a martial drum pattern. A piano-drizzling wash of Mellotron segues into “Beached,” a speedy instrumental with multiple movements: a flood-rush of choral Mellotron and crying guitar; a moment of jagged acoustic–keyboard counterpoint in 7/8; a brassy fanfare (in A); a galloping 3/4 bassline (in F); a soaring guitar solo (in A); and a final minute of oozing leads over dark organ and brisk, turbulent drums. (Combined, “Docks” and “Beached” resemble the sequenced numbers “Slogans” (turbulent) and “Leaving” (pastoral) on side one of Defector, the 1980 fourth solo album by Steve Hackett.)
“Captured” is a harrowing instrumental with frantic collisions of keyboard (in B) and finger-picked acoustic guitar (in G minor) over a brisk, ‘raging sea’ rhythmic pattern. It fades for “The Homecoming,” a marching band segment marking Nude’s celebrated return to civilization. “Lies” is a medium-slow bluesy number with crying guitar over soft, subdued keyboards. The lyrics concern the repatriated Nude’s displeasure with modern-day society. “Nude’s Return” is a medium–slow instrumental outro with soaring guitar, fretless bass, and martial breaks that mark Nude’s second disappearance, purportedly back to the island. (In real life, Onada moved to Brazil for nine years).
The plot-driven sequences on Nude are connected with shorter cuts that include ambient soundscapes (“Landscapes”), ethno-tribal experiments (“Changing Places,” which has faint koto), and new age miniatures (“Pomp and Circumstance”). The shortest vocal track, “Please Come Home,” is a tender piano–vocal moment from the point of view of Nude’s concerned loved ones.
Camel co-produced Nude at Abbey Road Studios with engineers Babe Ruth, Cliff Richard (I’m Nearly Famous), Labi Siffre (For the Children), Olivia Newton-John, The Pretty Things, and Wings — produced the British–Australian classical–rock supergroup Sky, whose bassist, perennial session-man Herbie Flowers, plays tuba on “The Homecoming.” , who co-produced Sky, worked previously as an engineer on albums by Be-Bop Deluxe (Modern Music, Drastic Plastic) and the 3D EP by XTC. and . Clark — an engineer on ’70s albums by
Additional musicians on Nude include Mel Collins and keyboardist Duncan Mackay, whose prior credits include albums by 10cc (Bloody Tourists) and the Alan Parsons Project (I Robot, Pyramid). “Changing Places” features Nigerian percussionist Gasper Lawal (Atlantis, Joan Armatrading, Michael Fennelly, Vinegar Joe). “Drafted” features cellist Chris Green, who played on albums by Quatermass (self-titled), James Wells, Sky guitarist John Williams, and one track (“Street In the City”) on Rough Mix, the 1977 collaborative effort by Pete Townshend and Ronnie Lane.
Nude features Japanese-style cover art by Michael Munday. It depicts an empty suit, opened like a coffin, standing on a mat offshore with a mountain in the background. The inner-sleeve features diagonal rows of credits and spherical logos, including an imitation of The Great Wave off Kanagawa, the 1833 woodblock print also mimicked on the cover of Jade Warrior’s 1975 album Waves.
Camel launched their Nude tour on January 30, 1981, in Stockholm, followed by shows in Denmark, Benelux, and a round of February–March dates in the UK, France, and Spain. The tour wrapped with an April 2 engagement at London’s Hammersmith Odeon. Nude reached No. 11 in the Netherlands, No. 12 in Norway, and made the Top 35 in the UK, Spain, and Sweden.
Months after promotions wrapped, Andy Ward suffered a mental health breakdown and quit Camel. This left Latimer as the only original member. Ward briefly surfaced in Marillion between their first and second albums and performed on their Old Grey Whistle Test appearance. After a decade away from the music scene, he resurfaced in Richard Sinclair’s Caravan of Dreams.
1982: The Single Factor
Camel released their ninth studio album, The Single Factor, on May 6, 1982, on Gama–Decca. It features eleven new originals by Latimer, who partnered with Hoover for lyrics on five numbers: “Heroes” and the core of side two — “Manic,” “Camelogue,” “Today’s Goodbye,” and “A Heart’s Desire.”
The album contains three instrumentals: “Selva,” “Sasquatch,” and “The End of Peace,” the last of those co-written by guest musician Anthony Phillips, who plays grand piano, Polymoog, ARP 2600, and marimba on that track and appears elsewhere with organ (“Heroes”) and acoustic guitar (“Selva”). He plays 12-string guitar on “Sasquatch,” which features Bardens on Minimoog.
Musically, The Single Factor includes ambient soundscapes (“Selva”), piano–vocal interludes (“Lullabye”), and vocal numbers in a variety of moods. “No Easy Answer” is a mid-tempo harmonized number (about uncertainty) with strummed and finger-picked guitar over a beat-heavy bass–keyboard pattern (rooted in B♭). “Manic” is an uptempo rocker (in B) about psychosis with guitar-based verses (distorted riffing; hammered seconds) and an ominous, icy outro.
“Heroes” (4:53) is an epic ballad that questions the mythos of matinee idols. It fades in with light piano and flute over deep fretless bass (in D minor). One minute in, blaring ‘fanfare’ synth heralds the vocals, which soar on the chorus line: “Heroes I call for you! Legend to feed my heart and soul” — a swelling passage capped by a tender piano break; joined by Ant on finger-picked guitar.
“You Are the One” is a ballad about newfound love with slow, synth-laden verses and a driving, riff-based chorus (in B). “Sasquatch” has an interlocking pattern of finger-picked acoustic guitar and staccato lead, overlaid with wailing electric sustain to a hopping rhythm track. “Camelogue” is a medium slow number (in D minor) with staccato, chorused guitar and lyrics about creative pressures. “Today’s Goodbye” starts as a layered vocal experiment (ala Pet Sounds) and swells into a heavy, lurching power ballad (in F) with searing guitar sustain.
Ex-Pilot bassist David Paton and onetime Deep Feeling drummer Graham Jarvis (recently of Zed and Cliff Richard’s backing band) form the album’s rhythm section. The Single Factor sessions occurred in January–February 1982 at Abbey Road studio 3, where Latimer co-produced the album with and
Duncan Mackay (Prophet synthesizer on “Selva”) and accordionist Jack Emblow (“A Heart’s Desire”). “Manic” features two members of Sky: percussionist Tristan Fry and (ex-Curved Air) keyboardist Francis Monkman, who respectively play glockenspiel and Synclavier. “Sasquatch” features session drummer Simon Phillips, whose numerous credits include Rainbow’s 1979 EMI release White Trails.
Anthony Phillips — who partook in
- Camel (1973)
- Mirage (1974)
- The Snow Goose (1975)
- Moonmadness (1976)
- Rain Dances (1977)
- Breathless (1978)
- I Can See Your House from Here (1979)
- Nude (1981)
- The Single Factor (1982)
- Stationary Traveller (1984)
- Dust and Dreams (1991)
- Harbour of Tears (1996)
- Rajaz (1999)
- A Nod and a Wink (2002)
- Discogs: Camel
- English Albums: C
- 45worlds: Camel
- Concerts Wiki: Camel
- Skylines: Camel Web Page (lyrics)
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