Monday, May 7, 2007

Camel - Timeline

@ Camel Productions

1964 - 1968
Richard Over : Rhythm guitar
Ian Latimer : Bass & vocals
Andrew Latimer : Guitar
Alan Butcher : Drums

The embryonic origin of CAMEL was conceived circa 1964 when brothers Andrew and Ian Latimer got together with their respective friends Alan Butcher and Richard Over to form THE PHANTOM FOUR.

Gigging extensively in their UK hometown of Guildford, The Phantom Four quickly achieved local notoriety. Rhythm guitarist, Graham Cooper soon replaced Richard Over and the band's name changed to STRANGE BREW. The group performed mainly cover tunes until mid-1968 when Ian Latimer quit to get married. Graham Cooper left the band soon after with wedding plans of his own.

Andrew Latimer and Alan Butcher placed an ad in the Surrey Advertiser for a bass player to which Doug Ferguson responded. On 13th November 1968 Ferguson arrived for an audition and promptly impressed the duo with his confidence, a 'fat' bass sound, excellent gear (Fender jazz bass, 2 Vox T-60 cabs with amps) and his own roadie! He was offered the gig on the spot. The new blues orientated trio was called... THE BREW.

1969 - 1971
Andrew Latimer : Guitar
Andy Ward: Drums
Doug Ferguson: Bass

Shortly after joining THE BREW, Ferguson told Latimer about an exciting drummer he knew. Despite having not seen his drums for more than 3 months, the new percussive prospect more than proved his mettle and on 15th January 1969, Andy Ward joined THE BREW at the tender age of 14 and the heart of CAMEL had begun to take shape.

Ferguson rapidly proved himself to be a great asset with his talent for getting the band attention and gigs. He was also very good at coaxing the promised fees out of promoters, who often protested they didn't have the money on hand. As a result, 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. The experience, however, was enlightening. Phil Tait was a piano player. The three musicians agreed a keyboard player would broaden the sound of the band and they promptly placed an ad in The Melody Maker.

On 20th September 1971, Peter Bardens responded to the ad with an extensive resume (Shotgun Express [Rod Stewart & Beryl Marsden], Them [Van Morrison], Peter B's Looners [Peter Green & Mick Fleetwood] to name but a few) as well as two solo albums under his own name. The four hit it off instantly. Bardens, who had been planning to depart England for what he thought to be "the more promising shores of the USA", had previously arranged a few gigs in Ireland. Thus, on 8th October 1971, the group performed their first gig in Belfast under the name of "Peter Bardens On".

Not long after they would collectively agree on a new name... CAMEL.

1971 - 1975
Peter Bardens : Keyboards
Doug Ferguson : Bass
Andy Ward : Drums, Percussion
Andrew Latimer : Guitar, Vocals

in front of The Albert Hall, London, 1975.
CAMEL played their first gig at Waltham Forest Technical College supporting Wishbone Ash on 4th Dec 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 and MCA did not take an option for a second album. By now, the group had acquired management, Geoff Jukes and Max Hole of Gemini Artists (later to become GAMA Records), and moved to Decca Records where they would remain for 10 years. The push & pull relationship between Latimer and Bardens brought out the best from their compositional skills. They inspired one another with their individual solo work both in the studio and on stage. Energies were high. CAMEL gigged 9 months of the year and firmly established a reputation for their excellent live sound.

Their second album, 'MIRAGE', heightened their profile and the album sleeve attracted the unwanted attention of the USA branch of Camel cigarettes who demanded the band 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 Geoff Jukes had already struck a deal with the European branch of the cigarette company to release tiny packets of cigarettes (5 cigarettes to a packet) using the CAMEL artwork, including track-listing. So enamoured were the executives in Europe, they visited the band in the studio trying to talk CAMEL into renaming the songs on 'MIRAGE' (e.g., "Twenty To The Pack"). They also wanted CAMEL to cover their amps with camel skins, allow advertisements and give away cigarettes at all the performances. The latter was successful as Jukes had struck a deal the band were never privy to. The band were getting 'belligerent' and a sarcastically amusing Peter Bardens suggested an album song-title of "Twenty Sticks Of Cancer".

Thus ended the association twixt the beast and the leaf.

In 1975, CAMEL 'concept' album came about. For 'MIRAGE' Latimer had written 'White Rider' (inspired by Tolkein's 'Lord Of The Rings') and Ferguson suggested doing a 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. Bardens suggested 'Siddhartha' and 'Steppenwolf' but when Ferguson suggested Paul Gallico's 'THE SNOW GOOSE' the emotional appeal was strong. 'THE SNOW GOOSE' took fans by surprise. Entirely instrumental, 'THE SNOW GOOSE' earned them Melody Maker's "Brightest Hope" award and firmly established the band with a strong and loyal fan base. It also took author Paul Gallico by surprise. Gallico, a fierce opponent of cigarette smoking, hated the name of the band believing it to be connected to the cigarette company and threatened to sue if the title was not changed. Legalities observed, the album title had the additional words "inspired by" and the threat was subdued. This behind-the-scene drama had no effect on the appeal of the album. On 17th October 1975, accompanied by the London Symphony Orchestra, CAMEL performed 'THE SNOW GOOSE' at The Royal Albert Hall to a sold-out crowd.

Peter Bardens : Keyboards
Andrew Latimer : Guitar, vocals
Mel Collins : Flute, Saxes
Doug Ferguson : Bass
Andy Ward : Drums, Percussion

The lamentable brevity of this lineup is illustrated by the lack of recording output.

In early '76, 'MOONMADNESS' brought greater critical acclaim in the USA. Producer Rhett Davies created an open, intimate sound for'MOONMADNESS', and the 'concept' was more ethereal with inspiration derived from the individual musician's characters. Yet'MOONMADNESS' would become the swansong for some. A jazzy influence had impressed itself upon CAMEL and, during the European tour, the dynamic sound of saxophonist Mel Collins marked the first change in the sound of Camel after Ferguson had encouraged Collins' inclusion in the band.

Not long after Andy Ward was pushing for a more complicated rhythm section, a style that matched neither Feguson's ability nor interest. This would be the first major change CAMEL would see. In the early days of 1977, bassist Doug Ferguson left CAMEL never to appear with them again. The loss of Ferguson's quiet strength would prove, in years beyond, to have the greatest impact on the band...

1977 - 1978
Richard Sinclair : Bass, Vocals
Andy Ward : Drums, Percussion
Peter Bardens : Keyboards
Andrew Latimer : Guitar, vocals
Mel Collins : Flute, Saxes

The first major shift in CAMEL's lineup created 'RAIN DANCES'. 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, possessed the jazzier style Andy Ward had hoped for but the mix of personalities did not posses the balance of earlier days. Inevitable change began to gather momentum. Pressure for a hit single was brought to bear from the management and Decca Records.

Latimer and Bardens struggled with their opposing styles of writing, complicating instead of complimenting their relationship. Camel's sound was further affected by a new producer, Mick Glossop. Upon release, 'BREATHLESS' 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.

'BREATHLESS' entered the charts and quickly exited shortly thereafter. But chart success was not the last change CAMEL would encounter in '78. On 30th July, just before Camel's tour and amidst a storm of disagreements, keyboardist Peter Bardens left the band...

Jan Schelhaas : Keyboards
Richard Sinclair : Bass, Vocals
Andrew Latimer : Guitar, vocals
Mel Collins : Flute, Saxes
Andy Ward : Drums, Percussion
Dave Sinclair : Keyboards

The split with Peter Bardens had been acrimonious but unavoidable. Bardens went straight into rehearsals with former bandmate Van Morrison for an album, "Wavelength", and tour. Bardens also promptly signed a lucrative solo deal with Arista Records and soon released 'Heart To Heart'.

But Andy Ward and Andrew Latimer decided to embrace the opportunity to expand the band. Two keyboard players would create an interplay CAMEL had not been able to experiment with previously. They contacted Richard Sinclair's cousin Dave Sinclair, and his former bandmate Jan Schelhaas for the '78 tour to promote 'BREATHLESS'. Although this lineup had no recorded output, Dave Sinclair had made a quiet appearance on 'BREATHLESS', performing keyboards on "You Make Me Smile" and "Rainbows End", a song Latimer had written for Bardens.

The 'BREATHLESS' tour lasted 3 months. The pressures of live performing took toll. By tours end, Dave Sinclair would return to Canterbury and Richard Sinclair would be asked to leave CAMEL...

1979 - 1981
Jan Schelhaas : Keyboards
Kit Watkins : Keyboards
Andrew Latimer : Guitar, vocals
Andy Ward : Drums, Percussion
Colin Bass : Bass, Vocals

Upon hearing an album by a group called "Happy The Man" in 1979, Andrew Latimer and Andy Ward immediately agreed Kit Watkins was a keyboardist they wanted in CAMEL. Bassist Colin Bass had been highly recommended and became Camel's lasting bassist. Jan Schelhaas had remained with CAMEL after the 'BREATHLESS' tour both for his playing skills and his easygoing temperament. Watkins and Bass arrived during rehearsals at Wood Farm, Suffolk, in early '79. A remarkable technician, Kit impressed all who heard him; Colin's solid, earthy sound melded with Ward in a seemingly perfect harmony.

For awhile, it appeared CAMEL would settle but, again, unavoidable circumstance would prevail. CAMEL worked nearly 12 months of '79, enjoying only short breaks in-between recording and touring. Originally titled 'Endangered Species', this title would be changed at the last minute to 'I CAN SEE YOUR HOUSE FROM HERE' a poor attempt at humour that would give the band problems, not only from their advertisers. The intensive schedule would create conflict and misunderstandings between the musicians. Watkins left the band shortly before CAMEL entered the studio to record 'NUDE' in 1981, but he would return for the tour and leave again immediately after.

The recording of 'NUDE' and the subsequent promotional tour would be the most devastating for CAMEL. In mid-1981, as he would tell 'Q' Magazine some 10 years later, Andy Ward succumbed to alcohol and drug abuse and attempted suicide, unsuccessfully to the relief of all. But it rendered Ward unable to play drums in the foreseeable future. In shock, the band dissolved, the remainder of the tour was canceled and recording for the next album was postponed in the hope that Ward would recover...

Andrew Latimer: Guitar, Vocals
Kit Watkins: Keyboards, flute
Andy Dalby: Backup guitar
Chris Rainbow: Vocals
Stuart Tosh: Drums, Vocals
David Paton: Bass, Vocals

Internal problems of the band were not the concern of Decca Records to which CAMEL were contractually bound for a specific recorded output. Decca refused to be put off any longer and upped the pressure for a hit single. With delays no longer possible, Latimer had to accept that his friend and drummer would not recover and thus, with Andrew Latimer the sole surviving member of CAMEL, 'THE SINGLE FACTOR' was recorded and duly released in April 1982. Writing on demand had produced an odd mix of songs but entering the studio provided an unexpected bright spot. 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. Unbeknownst to all at the time, this laid the groundwork for a new lineup. Eventually, 'THE SINGLE FACTOR' would see a whole new line of artists including Rainbow and Paton aswell 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). Time had healed the rift between Latimer and Bardens and although their opposing musical styles would not see eye-to-eye again, Bardens made a guest appearance on the album, forging new friendships himself that would later become 'Keats'. But Ward was unable to appear on the album and hoping to keep the matter private, CAMEL naively included a simple footnote in the liner notes that Andy Ward did not appear due to an injury to his hand.

The promotional tour for 'THE SINGLE FACTOR' turned out to be just the breath of fresh air Latimer needed. The mix of personalities was magical with a ceaseless, positive energy from Chris Rainbow who, with Paton and Tosh (Scotsmen, all three) maintained a flow of laughter from start to finish of the tour. Kit Watkins had returned for his third CAMEL tour and the level of musicianship delighted audiences. Latimer would call it "the funniest tour I've ever been on".

It would be a temporary respite, however, for soon after in late October, manager Max Hole, unexpectedly announced his departure for a position with a major record company, leaving CAMEL effectively without management. Then, as 1983 dawned, the inevitable came to be. Unable to stop abusing alcohol, Ward could not continue with CAMEL. On a sad January day at the offices of Fleet Street lawyers, Ward's association with CAMEL ended. Nearly 13 years to the day he had joined Ferguson and Latimer, Andy Ward formally left CAMEL never to perform with them again.

Reinhart Klaassen (Decca Gen. Mgr);
Andrew Latimer;
Brian Carr (Camel solicitor)
Carl Leighton-Pope (Agent)
Hugh Sebag-Montefiore (Decca solicitor)

The loss of Ward left Latimer in limbo and musical pursuits, for the most part, were overshadowed by the need to concentrate on sorting out legal problems that had plagued the band for years. Former manager Geoff Jukes had filed a lawsuit against CAMEL claiming past commissions from CAMEL's earlier days. Having literally abandoned the band in 1978 at the point of Bardens' departure and upon the eve of a world tour, Jukes' lawsuit would ultimately prove futile. The legal battle began to heat up by 1983. Latimer battled the suit alone despite all members being named and it would take 5 stressful years at great expense, both spiritually and financially, before settlement in Camel's favour. In this year of change, Latimer fought hard. CAMEL was worth the battle.

There were musical bright spots in 1983 including a new contract with Decca Records which had just been taken over by PolyGram. In preparation for the new recording committment, Latimer had gotten in touch with Dutch keyboardist, Ton Scherpenzeel (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'.

Ton Scherpenzeel: Keyboards
Colin Bass: Bass
Andrew Latimer: Guitar, flute, vocals
Chris Rainbow: Vocals
Paul Burgess: Drums

'STATIONARY TRAVELLER' was released in April of '84. Flush with critical acclaim of the album, 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 (Jethro Tull, 10cc) who had approached Latimer prior to recording 'STATIONARY TRAVELLER' did so again for the tour. Although not fond of touring, Ton Scherpenzeel never let it show. 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 to the disappointment of fans and musicians alike.

Meanwhile, producer Mike Mansfield had heard the band and wanted to include CAMEL in his upcoming television series, "Mirror Image", for the UK's Channel 4. Video recording plans mingled with tour production and an atmosphere of excitement followed throughout the tour and carried on into post-production for the live album and video that was to follow. CAMEL participated in the video recording of extra visuals for the broadcast and the pleasure of this experience concluded the year on a high note.

The live performance video and CD of the 'STATIONARY TRAVELLER' tour was appropriately called 'PRESSURE POINTS' . CAMEL wanted to include the entire concert but due to lighting problems on the night of recording, the first half was too dark for Mansfield's approval so only the second half of the performance made it to broadcast and a video cassette. Astonishingly, the earlier portion of the concert would actually be erased by PolyGram and lost forever! Decca Records (now owned by PolyGram) flexed their muscles and insisted on dividing the concert material so that both recordings had different track listings, under the auspicious assertion that it created more diversity for the buying public. There was an added pleasure for many fans when Richie Close joined the tour at the 11th hour on backup keyboards. Sadly, Richie died just a few years later from Legionnaire's disease. He will be forever young on Camel's video.

Andrew Latimer
Attorney, Clive Ransome
Peter Bardens
Andy Ward
Doug Ferguson

The lawsuit with Jukes reached fever pitch by 1985. Latimer divided his time between lawyer's offices and record companies as he sought an outlet for Camel's new material titled ''DUST AND DREAMS''. Each pursuit was filled with roadblocks but the lawsuit would finally take a sudden turn for the better. As Latimer scrutinized old contracts it came to light that CAMEL were owed royalties that had never been paid by Camel's management/production company, GAMA Records. Highly charged by this discovery, Latimer gathered support from Bardens, Ward and Ferguson to file a suit against GAMA. This lawsuit, by comparison, would be brief and glorious. On 25th March 1985, long overdue, they finally reaped the benefits of their past work together. Reunited in the same attorney's office that had accepted Ward's resignation from CAMEL just two years earlier, happier times now prevailed. The former bandmates settled their lawsuit with GAMA and received their first of many royalty payment to come. Formalities completed, they celebrated at a local pub until closing time. Old wounds healed, memories flourished and, though they no longer had interest in playing together, all parted as friends.

Geoff Jukes would finally accept the futility of his lawsuit and offer settlement. After lawyer's fees, court costs and general expenses were paid, CAMEL received "...just enough money to buy dinner for one (in a Bistro)". But it was a moral victory of momentous proportions and the end of a long haul for CAMEL.

Since the PolyGram takeover, the changes at Decca had reached the extreme and Latimer could see that CAMEL needed to get out of their contract. After a 10 year association, Decca and CAMEL would mutually and amicably agree to go their separate ways on 10th April 1985. CAMEL was free to search for a more like-minded record company, yet this newly found freedom also brought a shock to Latimer when he would later remark he "couldn't get arrested with new CAMEL material". That material would evolve to become ''DUST AND DREAMS''.

When not a lawyer's office, Latimer had hawked CAMEL for a deal. In late 1987, he began negotiating with EG Records, on a seemingly successful course. A small label, EG hosted such names as Brian Eno, Robert Fripp, Brian Ferry to name a few, and a CAMEL/EG marriage seemed a promising step. But negotiations dragged on for 6 months only to come to an abrupt end when Latimer was asked why Peter Frampton wasn't in the band any longer...

Disillusioned, Latimer made a drastic change. In mid-1988, he sold his London home and moved to America. He would take a 1-year sabbatical and during this time, he realised the "slap in the face" EG Records had given him was the sign of the future for CAMEL. He decided the second half of 'DUST AND DREAMS' "wasn't quite right", and rewrote it in 1990. He used the proceeds from the sale of his London home to finance construction of a small studio where he recorded and produced 'DUST AND DREAMS'. He then set out, once again, to find a deal but this time around, 'DUST AND DREA

Guy LeBlanc: keyboards : vocals
Denis Clement : Drums
Colin Bass : Bass, vocals
Andrew Latimer : Guitars, vocals

Life's what happens when you're busy making sooner did the dust seem to settle than a storm blew up that surpassed everyone's worst nightmares. It began in late 1999...

As Camel arranged the early preparations for their Y2K tour to tour with 'Rajaz', the clouds began to gather. At first, things proceeded smoothly with Latimer, Bass and Stewart eagerly anticipating their reunion and rehearsals for Y2K. Camel's UK agent, Paul Boswell, was dilligently booking performance dates and it was shaping up to be a more extensive tour for the band, with opportunities to perform in new countires. With the lineup of the trio seemingly solid, all thought it a straight-forward matter to arrange a keyboardist. A message from East coast promoter Rob La Duca reached CP in early 2000, with a simple suggestion to check out a French-Canadian keyboardist named Guy LeBlanc. Good ol' technology. LeBlanc, also an independent recording artist, had his own internet presence so it was merely a matter of visiting his site and listening to a few sound bites. Latimer promptly arranged to meet Guy LeBlanc.

In mid-March, Guy LeBlanc officially joined Camel for tour Y2K. It was smooth sailing for a whole 2 weeks when Camel Productions received an unexpected e-mail from drummer Dave Stewart saying he had accepted a position as manager of an Edinburgh drum shop and would not keep his commitment to the tour. Momentarily stunned by the news, Latimer, Bass and Hoover tried unsuccessfully to negotiate with Stewart, eventually accepting the need to replace him, albeit with great reluctance.

Bass suggested his former band-mate Clive Bunker who had once played with Jethro Tull. Bunker accepted the gig and arrived at Little Barn Studios for rehearsals on 4th August. Spirits were momentarily high but years of alternative playing styles hampered Bunker's ability to perform the difficult time-sequences demanded by Camel music and spirits quickly crashed. This, it would transpire, would be little more than a mere blip on the artistic landscape. Only 48 hours later a virtual tidal wave struck when manager Susan Hoover was seriously injured in a horse-riding accident. As the Life Flight Rescue heliopter lifted her skyward, it seemed tour plans would vanish into the clouds along with her.

Hoover would later quip "I wasn't about to take the hit for cancelling the tour". Insisting the band was made of sterner stuff, she refused to cancel the tour and promptly began working from her hospital bed. But there was still the problem of a drummer. Fortunately, LeBlanc had an ace up his sleeve. 10 days from the first performance, LeBlanc's compatriot, Denis Clement (pronounced Den-ee Clahmah) arrived at Little Barn studios. Despite being a completely unknown entity, it was clear after 10 minutes into their first 'jam' that he was the man they needed.

High energy replaced the tension and rehearsals began in earnest. On 21st September, Hoover left hospital in a wheel chair and 3 days later attended Camel's full scale rehearsal to hear Camel Y2K for the first time. 26th August saw the first official performance of the band where, at concerts end, Hoover received a standing ovation.

But of course it just wouldn't be interesting if it suddenly all went smoothly. Performing to sell-out crowds that were blown backward by the power and force of this lineup, events would catch Latimer up. Finally relaxed and his guard down, a cold virus firmly took hold after as many days as Clement had before the first performance. He would suffer throughout the tour, eventually losing his voice altogether in Holland. Upon reaching the UK in early October, Latimer chipped a bone in his knee, which was eventually nicknamed 'chip', but his cold would claim the Dublin performance at the 11th hour when doctors ordered him to rest or risk damaging his vocal chords. During the interim, Hoover recovered adequately to travel to the UK by 4th October and triumphantly walk, unaided, into the Cambridge gig. By the time the band hit Greece, Latimer was sufficiently recovered and Camel's Tour Y2K ended on the high note of a 'Lady Fantasy' sing-along as the Greeks gave the band a sendoff that would erase any thought of the previous drama, replacing it with a sense tremendous accomplishment and satisfaction.

In spring of 2001, Camel completed a much-anticipated tour of South and Central America. This segment of Y2K had been postponed from November 2000 due to prior committments of other band members and due to Latimer's need to return home not only to recover fully from the cold that had plagued him but also for knee surgery to remove 'Chip'. By Easter of 2001, Camel were enjoying the warm welcome of fans throughout the southern hemisphere.

On the 3rd March, Camel were included in the UK's Channel 4 television series 'Top Ten' (on Progressive Rock) which included interviews with Camel's original band members. Much was said about change, the good the bad and the ugly of it, but mostly the good. Andrew Latimer is keenly aware of his responsibility to the 'sound' that is Camel. Whatever changes the future may bring, Latimer will guide Camel carefully, always maintaining contact with the roots of Camel. As original drummer Andy Ward said in his interview 'change is a good thing and it's been good for Camel'.

It is now 2002 and the next chapter in Camel's history is gradually unfolding. Not unlike Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, there is much excitement yet to come. =>>>>>>>>>>>

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Greg Northrup [October 2001] @ Progweed
Camel certainly has reserved for them a special place in my music collection, being one of the first progressive rock groups I ever discovered, and their classic albums never fail to cast their subtle, melodic, magical spells every time I play them. The band seems to have gotten a relatively late start as far as the other great English bands were concerned, with the magnum opuses from the likes of Genesis, King Crimson, Van der Graaf Generator and Yes already having been released by the time Camel managed their first classic, Mirage, in 1974. Indeed, in hindsight, it seems that the group had a relatively small window in which to make their mark, and the fact that growing commercial disinterest in this style of music that began during their period of greatest creativity (1974-1976) goes a long way in explaining the band's perceived "second-tier" status in the English progressive rock hierarchy.

Camel was formed in 1972 when Andy Latimer, Andy Ward and Doug Ferguson hooked up with the older and more experienced Peter Bardens, formerly of a group called Them. Their first release was for MCA records, and showed a still maturing, but capable ensemble. After this album they signed a deal with Decca records, which would see them through their prime years. Over the next three years, the lineup would remain remarkably stable and churn out a trilogy of seminal progressive rock albums. The first of these, Mirage, is a stunning, instrumentally based prog tour-de-force. The album effectively establishes Camel as a major player, and innovator, in the scene. The next album, the all instrumental Snow Goose, which was based on a novel by Paul Gallico, was the band's breakthrough album commercially, reaching the top 30 on the British charts. This album in particular stands out today as perhaps the band's defining work, a brilliant, emotional album length piece that to some helps define the genre as a whole; undoubtedly an essential album. The next release, Moonmadness, is another that could contend as their finest, this time with more prevalent vocals, but no less of a somber and beautiful mood.

The first change in the band's lineup would occur here, and their real renaissance, for all intensive purposes, would draw to a close. Although the ousting of bassist Doug Ferguson would seem relatively minor, the situation was caused, and exacerbated by, an apparent rise in band tensions. The addition of former Caravan bassist Richard Sinclair must have seemed like a match made in heaven, as the band would finally posses a true vocalist as part of the package. The resulting album, Raindances, while certainly very good, takes an expectedly jazzier turn than their previous work, which in and of itself could have been great, but something holds the album back from standing solidly on the same high plateau as the three prior albums. This was unfortunately a sign of things to come.

The remainder of the decade would be riddled by changing public taste, shuffling lineups and inconsistent output. Bardens would depart after Breathless, and though the band would be complemented at one point by superstar keyboardist Kit Watkins of Happy the Man, they failed in the ultimate end of producing a great album. The next important album of the band's career would probably be 1981's Nude, which was a slight return to form. In 1982, Andy Ward broke his hand and was forced to step down, leaving Latimer as the only founding member. After a number of albums that flirted with slicker structures and formats, Camel became embroiled in a tenuous legal struggle with their former manager, halting the release of any new music until the late 80s. After winning their lawsuit, the band founded their own label, Camel Productions, and have since reentered a stage of dramatic productivity. Their more recent albums, 1991's Dust and Dreams, 1996's Harbour of Tears, 1999's Rajaz, and their latest, 2002's A Nod and a Wink, have been accompanied by numerous archival live releases and a slew of compilations, illustrating a definite resurgence of interest in the group. After some 30 years, Camel are still in the business of making progressive rock without compromise, one of the few members of the old guard that can attest to such an accomplishment . - =>>>>>>>>>>>

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