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on 20 August 2002
I have been a fan of Camel since 'Snow Goose' back in 1975, and in my opinion they have produced some staggering music in the past.
'A Nod and a Wink' however, has to be their best yet.
I say this after just one play of the new CD.
I was so completely blown away by the sheer power,passion,and intricate melodies that exist on this album.
It is reminiscent of Camel's 'Moonmadness' which was their previous finest work, but there are other influences here.
The fantastic title track opens up and you are immediately taken on a musical rollercoaster ride that doesnt stop until the final track, dedicated to September 11. Andy Latimers' guitar playing is absolutely magnificent throughout. My own favourite has to be the instrumental 'Squigley Fair' which seems to change into several different tracks, so cleverly.
This is Camel at their most inventive.
The tracks 'Fox Hill' and 'The Miller's Tale' are not based on 'Squonk' or 'Robbery Assault And Battery' by Genesis as thought by other reviewers, but is clearly inspired by the Genesis track 'All in a mouse's night' from Wind and Wuthering'
In fact some of the many instrumental breaks throughout seem to have been inspired by Genesis at their peak of ingenuity.
This album will be have to be played over and over to fully appreciate all of it's beauty, but I can promise it is instantly accessible to anyone who appreciates good inventive progressive rock, with a bit of humour thrown in.
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on 31 August 2002
30 years on and Camel are at it again. Camel have been one of progressive rock's unsung heroes, never actually attaining the heights of many bands of their generation. Although Camel moves their music more in the softer sector, since the album Dust and Dreams, the album still manages to exude a warmth via the lush keyboard filled production coupled with Latimer's mellow voice and his delicate guitar work. Like all the forthcoming albums after Dust and Dreams, also this album has to grow on you, but if you let that happen, it rewards you with beautiful music to dream on and on and on......
A Nod and A Wink opens the album, sound effects setting the scene of a lazy summer evening, a steam train leaving a quiet country station as a hypnotic nursery rhyme tune meters out the time. The melody is carried by the flute in this beautiful opening section and precedes Latimer's dulcet voice. The tempo is picked up as the band joins in, the song develops through a series of lighter and darker passages..
Simple Pleasures, as its title might infer, is a gentle track, the opening section predominantly vocal with the instrumentation fairly subdued.
A Boy's Life has also a gentle opening section. On this occasion the accompaniment for the vocals are in the form of acoustic guitars which act as a precursor for the other instruments. This song continues the underlying theme of the album, reflecting upon our young country lad as he views summers past and present.
Next in line is Fox Hill . A jaunty song with a bouncing 12/8 feel, full of voice characterisation. The subject matter of this ditty being a fox hunt, our boy, high on his horse, and chasing the fox across the meadows - the music captures the mood of the chase superbly.
The Miller's Tale. A gentle acoustic guitar and vocal number with carefully chosen string, choral and woodwind sounds from Guy LeBlanc, played towards the close.
The last track is called For Today, opening with an almost hymn like quality, led by piano, voice and light band instrumentation. The piece evolves, gradually unfolding with Andy Latimer's passionate guitar soloing.
Critics of the band have many times criticised the band for not being adventurous and bold, especially during the times when progressive rock was being ruled by bands that were taking rock music to the limits of pretentiousness, like Yes an all-time favourite of mine. Camel have almost always stuck to a musical formula which has won them numerous fans worldwide, like me. Again, Camel made an album that leads me to the unavoidable conclusion that they have created another emotional masterpiece.
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on 31 July 2002
After a few years in the doldrums, Camel re-emerged from legal wars and wrangles not with a play-it-safe album, but the heavily conceptual "Dust and Dreams", based loosely on John Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath". A risky move considering concept albums all but died out over twenty years ago, but by their own admission, the album surprised the band with its success. Whilst no platinum best-seller, D&D's success reassured Camel that in spite of today's mass-produced computerized music fodder, there was still a healthy demand for wholesome music created by good old-fashioned human beings.
A confidence-booster, D&D soon led to "Harbour of Tears", another concept album with some good songs buried amongst all the desire to tell a story of the Irish colonization of America.
HoT did well, but for their next offering Camel decided wisely to opt for a traditional collection of songs in the follow-up "Rajaz", which contains some pretty stonking material, and even the weaker tracks have a habit of worming their way into your affections.
Following this comes the lighter hearted "A Nod and a Wink" in which the band explore new areas and the result has more than overtones of early Genesis and later Pink Floyd, whilst managing to sound exactly like neither. The title track is a pure piece of neo-Victorian nursery nostalgia with Andrew Latimer's flute weaving some beautiful and haunting melodies along with some spine-tingling guitar and Guy LeBlanc's strong but not dominant keyboards.
After the promise of the opener, the next two tracks ("Simple Pleasures" and "A Boy's life") seem weak by comparison and whilst they do have some excellent instrumental breaks, they illustrate amply Camel's main shortcoming, which is in the area of vocals. Both of these songs could have done with a tad more melody on the vocal lines - as it stands, you find yourself fast-forwarding to the superb instrumental bits.
"Fox Hill" is memorable both for its silliness as well as reminding one of "Squonk" by Genesis but without sounding anything like it. It is a lighter song than its companions and conjures up pure Englishness, right down to the cucumber sandwiches and the smell of freshly brewed tea.
After this, the album shifts into a higher gear with some excellent guitar work by Latimer that would (andleave Dave Gilmour gasping with envy. This along with guy LeBlanc's wonderfully atmospheric keyboards, creates the same warm, but awe-inspiring excitement not felt anywhere since "The Snow Goose" or Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon".
I guess this dates me, but I'm glad to say that the old dinosaur dubbed progressive rock is still very far from extinct. Buy this - you won't regret it.
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on 15 August 2002
The opening (title) track starts with the sound of an old steam locomotive as childhood memories are evoked and the listener is pulled into dreamland. In typical Camel style, the song passes through many changes of mood and builds in power. Andy Latimer's awesome guitar playing is superbly supported by Guy LeBlanc's tasteful keyboards, Denis Clement's powerful drumming and Colin Bass's solid bass work. In fact the musicianship on this release proves this is one of the best Camel line-ups for years (can't wait for the live shows next year). A real bonus is that Andy has featured the flute more here than on any album since 'Snowgoose' and the songs are all the better for it. Once again, it's a collection that is rewarded with further listening and it wasn't until about fourth time through that I fully absorbed all of the subtleties within. That said, the first song blew me away first time through.
'A Nod' is sprinkled throughout with moods, imagery, and sympathetic sound effects, and the production is top notch, benefiting from crystal-clear high-density CD encoding and some wonderful vocal close-micing techniques.
Proving that Camel don't take themselves too seriously is the delightfully humorous 'Fox Hill' with some great Gabrielesque character voices playing the parts of a fox and its pursuing horse & rider. It draws comparison with Nursery Crime-era Genesis but is completely original and has you grinning from ear to ear. Other highlights are 'A Boys Life' and the rousing instrumental 'Squigley Fair'.
The album closes with the highly emotive 'For Today'. Evocative of Camel' s own 'Ice' from 'I Can See Your House From Here', it showcases Andy's fluid bluesy guitar lines and ably demonstrates why he's right up there on the podium (at the top, in my book) with the likes of Dave Gilmour. Read the sleeve notes and you will understand the special significance of this song and why (if you're a fan of the depth and emotion of Camel's music) it produces yet another 'hairs on the back of the neck' moment.
It's easy to let the clichés fly but Latimer and co have produced an album that is majestic, powerful, emotive, humorous, whimsical, and in a class of its own within today's bland musical climate. It is only through their refusal to follow the corporate path and to retain total artistic independence that they have been able to produce something of this quality and in a style that is their's alone. A Nod and a Wink is undoubtedly one of their finest.
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on 10 August 2002
This is a typical Camel album in the way that it's content is familiar yet different. This is not a concept album as such, but you do get the impression from the lyrics that Andy Latimer is looking back over the memories of his life. The 10 minute plus opening track sets the scene - acoustic guitar and flute lead into vocals followed by strong electric guitar. Throughout the album there is more acoustic guitar and flute to the front than you would normally expect. All tracks are held togther with Andy Latimers talented guitar playing over the strong line up of musicians who backed him on the Y2K tour. Colin Bass (bass/backing vocals) Guy Le Blanc (keyboards/backing vocals) and Dennis Clement. (drums & percussion). The individual musical characteristics of each track grows with each listening and musically, there are no weak tracks. "Fox Hill" has been described as "whimsical" and is reminiscent of "Down on the Farm" (from Camels "Breathless" album) and "Robbery, Assault and Battery" from Genesis' "Trick of the Tail" album - it also includes a short drum solo. "Squigeley Fair" has Colin Bass' bass guitar playing to the front.The final track "For Today" could fit easily onto "Moonmadness" and features some fine playing from Guy Le Blanc.
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on 1 August 2002
Camel - A Nod & A Wink 2002
"Thirty years. Good grief" so the cover notes open. Yes it really is, but, somehow things just get better for Camel and this album is no exception.
The musicianship is first class as is the production done by Andy Latimer himself at Little Barn studios.
This album is diverse, and, yet works well as an entity by the continuity of writing and elaborate attention to detail, nothing is missed here, and what an uplifting joy it is to listen to such tracks as Fox Hill (could it be the seventies again) and Squigely Fair.
There are seven tracks in all totalling nearly 56min, but for all that time there's not a single minute wasted, everything's just so exquisitely produced!
I for one will play this album over and over again.
For those who don't know Camel (if there is anyone!) I highly recommend their album entitled "Moonmadness - 1976" for those who already love Camel may I suggest buying the late Pete Bardens album "Art of Levitation" (Pete Bardens was in Camel in the 70's and died in January of this year - May He Rest In peace).
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on 21 February 2003
Make no mistake! This album is a winner from start to finish and features all the Camel trademarks we've come to expect from Andy Latimer and the team of instrumentalists that are Camel. Perhaps a more reflective album than some, it scores heavily where emotions are concerned. The lyrics to 'A boy's life' will appeal to anyone who's a father with a young son and Andy's yearning melody on guitar touches the heartstrings. Elsewhere on this largely instrumental album there are orchestral sweeps of sound with Andy featured on flute, the music evocative of an earlier, more innocent age. The album's crowning glory is 'For Today' again poignant lyrics that pay tribute to those who lost their lives on 11 September, but with the untimely death of Peter Bardens also in mind.
The music rewards repeated listens from a band who should be cherished by music-lovers, the world over.
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on 19 January 2004
At first , when I saw this album , I didn't even want to listen to it. But when I saw all these good reviews about the album , I tried it! The album was great and very simmilar to Camel's old albums!It took me to the old good times of prog rock . Prog - Camel is back!
Get it , listen to it again and again and you won't be disapointed!
p.s. All fans must have it!
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on 30 October 2003
As a long time Camel fan I've looked forward to each new release eagerly; sometimes disappointed, sometimes loving it on first hearing. A Nod and a Wink is simply fabulous, although it needs a couple of plays to get into it and needs to be heard right through, but Foxhill and For Today are great on their own. Full of trademark Camel sounds, Andy Latimer's guitar is gorgeous throughout. Standout track has to be For Today, play this loud and howl along....if you're new to Camel this is the one to get, this is what prog rock should be.
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on 1 November 2005
Awhile ago I gave this album 2 stars. But Camel (like Peter Gabriel) are people whose music often takes a while to sink in and hit home. I've since played the CD a lot and it has definitely grown on me. I still have trouble with 'Fox Hill' but I think that's because the style of the singing grates with me.
The playing is exemplary and as inventive and evocative as ever. This time, the lyrics sometimes do seem less substantial than in past releases but, on reflection, I now put this down to the easy simplicity with which themes are handled.
So, in almost all respects, I'm happy to report a change of heart. Just wish I could find a way into 'Fox Hill'.
Oh yes ---- if you haven't yet done so, check out the four Camel DVD's. Well worth a look.
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