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LIVE: Camel Perform The Snow Goose
Heather Weil , November 4th, 2013 04:15

Heather Weil heads to London's Barbican for a prog nostalgia performance of The Snow Goose, performed by the remnants of Camel

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Welcome back my friends, to the show that I hope never ends. This is Camel performing their classic album The Snow Goose in its entirety at the beautifully grotesque brutalist monstrosity, the Barbican.

There was time when watching Camel’s Andrew Latimer play guitar was like walking into a room and seeing your best friend jerking off to incredibly filthy porn. After battling an incredibly serious illness for years, one which almost meant an untimely end for Latimer, watching him play at the Barbican show is different. What once was pure egotistical lust, is now softer, almost a desperate plea. 

Despite my attempts in creating a sexual time machine, Latimer doesn’t make the cut, but original drummer Andy Ward is at the top of the list. Sadly, (r)Andy Ward has left his drumming behind due in part to his struggle with dependency and depression  throughout his time in Camel and is not present. In fact, Latimer is the only original member to join us for the evening, part of a tour in memory of Pete Bardens, who lost his battle with cancer nearly over a decade ago. It was Bardens who co-wrote the master stroke of Camel's career, The Snow Goose.

Growing up in Buffalo, NY, close to the shores of Canada there was simply no border between hard and progressive rock. Classic rock radio in America and Canada is something to behold and cherish, unequalled in every other realm of airwave transmitted musical appreciation. Being rocked by complicated music from the cradle is how many forge their path through modern music, driving through cities between 5 and 6pm and having 'Rush Hour' was the cornerstone of my success as an awkward, loud, prog-loving, record collecting, Settlers Of Catan-playing nerd. 

Truth be told, very few English prog bands made their way onto FM radio in the States as I was growing up. Of course the Major Players were all accessible: Yes, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Hawkwind, Pink Floyd... but it wasn’t until I moved to England that I truly discovered the majesty Canterbury produced throughout the 70s. Abstruse lyrics, jazz-noodling, key and tempo changes abound; my lap and ears were filled with delightful and complicated obscurity. My love for prog nudged aside punk, powerviolence and youth crew hardcore, exceedingly growing both my record collection and inability to talk to the opposite sex.

Camel's The Snow Goose is an odd story, but one worth repeating. 

In 1940, author Paul Gallico, wrote a beautiful story in the Saturday Evening Post which was then expanded into a novella, The Snow Goose: A Story of Dunkirk. For their third studio album, Camel followed trend and followed Mirage with a concept album, eventually based upon Gallico's story. However, legal battles ensued and Gallico wanted no part of Camel's tribute, which is why the sleeve states that it's "inspired by the Snow Goose". 

As an album, The Snow Goose triumphs. The London symphony orchestra's arrangement over the band's musical fapping is not only stunning, but feels essential. My sheer joy of seeing this album replayed in full extruded a level of enthusiasm that has only happened four other times in my lifetime. It doesn't matter how many keyboardists are playing, in this case two, there is no synthesizer that can recreate the sound and drama of a stringed instrument. The drums are also overbearing in louder parts, as well as being big, new and brassy. 

The second half features selections from various later albums, including Moonmadness. The low point is a cringeworthy, embarrassing segue which incites the crowd to imagine wandering the Teletubbies field, before rolling into the shamble of a song, 'Fox Hill', from the 2002 album A Nod & A Wink

After a faux walk-off, the band return to end the evening perfectly with the nearly 12 minute epic, 'Lady Fantasy'. The break at nine minutes in is quite possibly my favourite of my (personal micro managed self indulgent) sub-genrelisations of post-folk Canterbury progressive rock. I wouldn't blame you for hating me based on this paragraph, I'm right there with you. See this unapologetic fist pump.

Despite the reservation that it would have been nice to have an orchestra present, and I would certainly have preferred period instruments, these small points are forgotten when you watch Latimer doing what he loves and the recognition he deserves doing it. 

Now if I can only get Chris Farlowe (favorite singer) and Jon Hiseman (favorite drummer) to do the same with Colosseum’s Daughter Of Time (favorite record), my exuberance will be unmatched and unfuckwithable. Chris, if you’re reading this; I’ll provide the sandwiches if we can make a date.

Peter Beasley
Nov 4, 2013 10:56pm

Enjoyable and amusing read. I was there too and wish there'd been an orchestra. 'A Nod and Wink' is a 2002 release, not 1984.

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Nov 5, 2013 12:39am

In reply to Peter Beasley:

@peter late night oversight, I'll have someone amend it. Regardless, glad you enjoyed my idiocy.

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Nov 5, 2013 9:22am

Period instruments at the next gig, I'd like to see THAT !

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Nov 5, 2013 10:28am

In reply to Mikey:

Forever ruined by the Zombies playback of "Odessey & Oracle" with the instruments used on the original recording. That's a level of perfection that needs to be the basis of any reunion.

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