Being a fan of Camel it´s always a pleasure to get acquainted with a new album with music from Andy Latimer and his musical partners. One of them is his partner for life, Susan Hoover and she contributed to all of the seven compositions on this album.
The musicians that accompany Andy Latimer on this album are Guy LeBlanc on keyboards (also active in the Canadian band Nathan Mahl), Denis Clement and Terry Carleton on drums and his old mate Colin Bass on bass guitar.
The atmosphere of this new album very much reflects that of its predecessor "Rajaz", which was released two years ago, although this is not so much as a concept album, but just a collection of songs. As on "Rajaz", the songs are quite reflective and inspired by personal and global events, as the decease of his band mate from the early Camel years, Peter Bardens, and the shocking attacks on the WTC on September 11th, 2001. No heavy but delicate sounds with pleasant rhythms, new age like flute parts and, as ever, melodious, sensitive and sometimes "bluesy" guitar solos.
The first track of the album, “A nod and a wink” (11:16) is a strong and typical Camel piece of music. It starts off with some atmospheric steam train and nature sounds, then Andy plays a melody on his flute and starts singing accompanied by acoustic guitar. Happily his vocal performance has improved over the years. After a few minutes the rest of the band joins in a more up tempo part with beautiful guitar and synthesizer solos. This is again interrupted by a beautiful more peaceful fragment but, after a vocal intermezzo, evolves again in a thrilling instrumental part with polyphonic guitar and keyboards solos. The song fades with ambient sounds, following a more mysterious part (reminiscing of "Stationary Traveller"). A beautifully structured piece of relaxing yet fascinating music.
“Simple pleasures” (5 :31), the second track is a more easy song with a jazzy rhythm and some percussion at the start and again featuring a very nice bluesy guitar solo.
The melancholy style Camel has developed in recent years shows in the third track of the album “A boys life” (7:20). After an acoustic guitar and vocal introduction strings accompany an easy guitar solo, than a clarinet-keyboard en some acoustic guitar notes and ambient sounds followed by a part that sounds as if a salon orchestra is playing forms a bridge to the finale of the song. This features more rhythm and again a very sensitive and melodious guitar/synthesizer solo.
Happily it’s not all melancholy and drama: “Fox hill” (9:19) is a pleasant and joyful up tempo song, that features Andy singing with a sort of accent. Nice bass playing by Colin Bass, harrowing and dueling guitars and synthesizers in a typical Camel tempo and style. A short brass part like on "Nude" and an easy ending with flute and piano. Cheerio Andy!
Track 5 “The miller’s tale” (3:34) opens again with twirling birds and flute melodies accompanied by acoustic guitar chords. A dramatics theme is played by keyboards again sounding like the salon orchestra we heard before, this time also with some keyboard-choir. Very sensitive, but also very beautiful
“Squigely fair” (8:02) is again a merry and up tempo mostly instrumental song, although this track also ends more seriously, but again with beautiful melodies and arrangements.
Influenced by the images of the attacks on the World Trade center in New York on september 11th, 2001, Andy and Susan Hoover wrote the emotional final track of the album “For today” (10:40). The piano opening shows dramatic sense right from the start. It has an almost religious atmosphere and a rather bombastic but impressive finale with choir and strings. And again a touching guitar solo. “Never give a day away; always live for today” and enjoy the music on his album.
This album is in my opinion better than "Rajaz" because it shows more variation in feelings and therefore is very gripping. Next to this, it is very well produced and all songs have good arrangements, without any superabundance. The quality of the musicians needs no comment. Of course this album has a more melancholy and mellow style than earlier works of Camel, but it fits the process of getting older: not only Andy Latimer, but also his fans from the past, of whom I am one. A near masterpiece.