Book review: On track…CAMEL (Every album, every song) by Hamish Kuzminski

On track...CAMEL (Every album, every song) by Hamish Kuzminski

Sonicbond Publishing [Publication date 14.06.21]

Camel are a band that certainly deserve both a concise overview and a continuing recognition of their collective greatness, and significant contribution to the world of prog. None other than Steve Rothery supplies the foreword, reflecting his early interest in the band and the inspiration of Andy Latimer in terms of his own guitar playing.

Hamish Kuzminski does a very good job of synthesis, drawing upon online sources as well as consulting some of the band members.  He is also not shy of putting forward his own analysis where appropriate although at times he relies fairly heavily on the Curriculum Vitae DVD (2003).  He also acknowledges the input of a guitarist – Pete Byrchmore – to help his critique of Latimer’s guitar style.  A couple of playlists reinforce the author’s fanboy credentials although I’m not so sure about his proposed title for a “fusion” collection.

If Camel influenced a future Marillion guitar player, Andy Latimer told me in 2014 he was personally influenced by Dutch guitar maestro Jan Akkerman and indeed Focus were not a million miles from Camel in their melding of classical, jazz and rock motifs, using keyboards, guitar and flute.  This is perhaps one oversight in the author’s narrative, along with his  incorrect attribution of that interview to ‘Ready to Rock’ Radio.

Elsewhere this book is the usual plumbing of each studio album, allowing the reader to be directed to the highlights.  Kuzminski identifies ‘Moonmadness’ as a landmark (1976) and – in the “later” period -  the conceptual ‘Dust & Dreams’ (1991) whilst he considers the guitar solos in ‘Ice’ (Nude, 1981) and ‘Sahara’ (Rajaz,  1999) amongst the best. It’s hard to disagree.

Thankfully, Camel’s output has been closely controlled since 1990 by Latimer and partner Susan Hoover via their Camel Productions and the author evidently awaits a remastering of earlier catalogue by Steven Wilson, another muso fan of the band.  We would agree that Camel need to have possibly a final stab at new material and a new studio album.

Perhaps the most we can be thankful for is Latimer’s return to health by 2012, followed by successful UK tours in 2013 and 2014, including a re-run of ‘Snow Goose’ climaxing at Royal Albert Hall, and then a brilliant revisiting of ‘Moonmadness’ in 2018 captured on the latest DVD.

Nearly 50 years on, that Camel sound was still intact and the band – and Latimer in particular – sounded better than ever.  Credit is also due – latterly – to keyboard player/vocalist (and multi-instrumentalist) Peter Jones who handles the Camel catalogue with incredible feel and empathy.

The book contrasts with many of the under-par offerings in this series in packing a lot of relevant history in its sub-150 pages whilst remaining very readable and well illustrated with the usual colour section this time supplemented with relevant images throughout the text.

There is a useful  survey of live albums although this would have been better with a full track listing in each case whilst the 2010 Universal/Decca anthology (and indeed any compilation) is strangely absent in the listings.  This is often a good entrée for the unconverted.

There is a brief list of solo albums from the respective band members, with Andy Latimer conspicuous by his absence.  A list of session appearances would also have been useful, as there is an earlier reference to Latimer’s contribution to Kayak’s album ‘Seventeen’ (2018) and he also played on David Minasian’s album in 2010.

For the moment this ‘On Track…’ dissection allows us to either confirm our own long-held views or – for the unfamiliar – reaffirm the band’s significance and need for urgent investigation.   ****

Review by David Randall

Collectible Collections: Camel

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