5 August 2014

Camel - A Nod And A Wink

It's a loose term Progressive Rock. If I had to define it in one sentence, then I would describe it as mature rock music with a heavy reliance on a multitude of instrumentation. It evolved about the late 60s, where bands like Yes were bringing together Steve Howe's dexterity on his six string with Rick Wakeman's similar skills on the ivories. The latter then branched out and did a full album with a theme based on Henry VIII and of his six marriages. Genesis's early ideas for example seemed to revolve around farm animals and garden tools. That's what free thinking was like forty years ago!

Camel also did the same. In the 1980s for example, they wrote an album called Nude, based on Hiroo Onoda, a Japanese from  WW2 who survived on a Filipino island for thirty years evading detection even from his own comrades until he was finally persuaded to come out of hiding by his superior officer. Andrew Latimer, the guitarist, vocalist, flutist and basically the nucleus of Camel has been with them since their 1971 inception. He's also a hand in practically every song written as well as the string arrangements and was regularly partnered with keyboardist Peter Bardens until his death just a couple of months before this album's recording. In more recent times, the creative contributions have come from Latimer's wife Susan Hoover and Guy LeBlanc, the eventual successor to Bardens.

To date, A Nod And A Wink is their most recent album and seems to work a rustic charm, probably harking back to their Breathless days. Our first track is the title track, and it's the first time I've heard Latimer sing. He sounds very David Gilmour-ish although not as rocky and A Nod And A Wink opens up with some acoustics of a very English pastoral scene, birdsong etc. There's also some predominant xylophone leads on it, as well as some flutework and occasional six string leads from Mr Latimer himself, hardly surprising when you bear in mind the album was recorded in a studio somewhere in a converted barn somewhere in Sussex. Back to the song, it's a delightfully crafted little number, very easy going throughout its eleven minute appearance and plenty to show for it.

The English rural theme continues with some sharp and impressionable percussion in Simple Pleasures, sounds like a thinly disguised love theme, with again the guitar leads and gentle choral layers running along reasonably well. Next track, A Boy's Life begins with a slow beat of basic acoustic and vocal arrangements, but things don't stay the same. It starts to spread its wing about a minute and a half with what sounds like pedal steel work and gentle keyboarding. Another brief slow pace verse, and then it girds its loins and finally picks up the pace as the curtains seem to open up a broader landscape with Latimer on leads. It's steady but not frenetic.

The singing accent is sounding even more South Coast from Mr Latimer, seems he's taking a lend of his twang from Benny Hill and Steve Marriott, the synth stylings and six string leads also feel like a hankering to the same material Camel were writing up on twenty five years earlier. Not quite as slow paced and stuck in treacle as I thought on first listening. One of the more brief songs here is The Miller's Tale, a short acoustic tale where the second half is taken up by more flute and clarinet work with a choir fading out. A bit pedestrian in my opinion, but thankfully in Squigley Fair, it gets very brisk. Affirmed guitar riff introduction, flute, and three members with a brief repertoire before the gentle percussion kicks in and proceedings are tucked into bed.

A Nod And A Wink never really hurries and for all of its fifty or so minutes it's not going to be forced on with a bamboo cane. It certainly doesn't matter for prog rock fans and there's plenty of evidence to suggest that Andy Latimer still has much to offer for all his talents. It's a shame that the life threatening he sustained shortly afterwards curtailed proceedings but even if now he's seemingly overcome it, it doesn't seem likely that we'll be seeing more compositions. And as for the album itself? It's steady and very mature, but you do need a lot of time for it, so for those of a racy nature, please move on.

7 out of ten. This is good and well worth a check.
Best Track : Squigley Fair

Buy A Nod And A Wink here on Amazon
The album isn't available on Spotify or Deezer now, but I'll include the links if and when it becomes available
Official Camel Website here on this link
Official Camel Facebook page here on this link

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