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Camel: Moonmadness (1976)

Camel, unlike Yes, ELP, Genesis, etc., was a British prog rock band that never really got the fame they deserved, but they made some great music that's truly worth having. Certainly Camel might have not been the most original band on the face of the planet, as influences from such bands as Genesis, Pink Floyd, and Focus were rather obvious, but they were a big influence on many lesser known prog rock bands to come in its wake.

Moonmadness is Camel's fourth album and is regarded by many as the band's crowning achievement, and I have no argument over that. The band at that time featured guitarist and flutist Andy Latimer, drummer Andy Ward, bassist Doug Ferguson, and keyboardist Peter Bardens. Ferguson, Latimer, and Ward handles the vocals. This was the last album to feature Doug Ferguson, after this album, the band was to have a very unstable lineup and albums of varying quality.

Moonmadness is basically Camel in a nutshell. It's a very easy album to get in to and I very highly recommend it to all newcomers. The album opens with "Aristillus" which is an instrumental number with some great spacy Moog synthesizer. "A Song Within a Song" is Camel at their best. It goes through several changes, and of course, a Moog solo that seems so common in prog rock albums.

The instrumental "Chord Changes" is a rather pleasant number that's a bit like Pink Floyd circa Dark Side of the Moon. Perhaps the album's real crowning achievement is the instrumental "Lunar Sea". The guitar and synth solos are just simply amazing, and I love the spacy feel to the song, especially the use of string synths.

There are two different covers to this album. One, featured on the American pressing on Janus Records, is my favorite, which features silly artwork of a camel in an astronaut's suit on the moon. The other features some strange artwork of a landscape with a bush, cattails, a pond with a fish hopping out of the water (this artwork was also included as the gatefold to the American LP of the camel in a spacesuit cover). I never could quite understand why American versions of albums often had different covers to the British versions (for example, the American verses the British versions of Van der Graaf Generator's The Least We Can Do is Wave to Each Other, Gentle Giant's Three Friends and Octopus, Rare Bird's self-entitled debut and As Your Mind Flies By, and Yes' self-entitled debut and Time and a Word are several examples). Regardless, I feel Moonmadness is an absolute must if you're a prog rock fan. Essential stuff you should not go without.

Added: December 12th 2002
Reviewer: Ben Miler | See all reviews by Ben Miler
Category: Music
Location: UK

Hits: 10633

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Camel: Moonmadness (1976)
Posted by Simon Clinch on 2010-08-15 01:52:10   My Score:
It wasn't a Roland string synthesizer. I think Roland didn't produce a string synthesizer yet back then. I am desperately trying to remember the name of the thing because it was a MECHANICAL string synthesizer, i.e. instead of being produced electronically, it had real strings and keyboard-activated wheels that rubbed the strings. I wanted one of course and when I responded to an advert in the Melody Maker for a Zoot horn 4x12 speaker (I wanted it because it was what soft machine used) it turned out to be Camel selling it along with that very same string synthesizer used in Moon Madness - they replaced it with an electronic one for Raindances -- I could afford the speaker, but at 620 quid second hand, as a student, I couldn't afford the string machine - what I'd give to find it now!!

Camel: Moonmadness (1976)
Posted by peter on 2005-11-26 10:45:17   My Score:
I agree with the review in most respects. I feel however that Camel were more of an original band than the review gives them credit particularly in the style of their playing. This came over in their live performance due to the high quality of the musicians in this original line up and their early recordings, of which Moonmadness was one, clearly captures their live feel.

Camel: Moonmadness (1976)
Posted by Dan on 2005-02-01 08:29:25   My Score:
Agree Camel was one of the very best of the lesser-known bands of its type. I saw them several times throughout their career, including in Japan around 1996 or so, and they were really impressive live. There has always been a very spacey quality to their work, but not way out there noodling; time/key changes make them much more dynamic than many others. I really agree with the conclusion of the review; anyone interested in prog rock needs to be exposed to Camel, and moonmadness is a good place to start.

Camel: Moonmadness (1976)
Posted by Jost on 2004-08-19 13:06:51
Good review, but: you won't believe it, the "strange" artwork of the european cover got me interested in the album and made me buy it... that was in 1978, I believe. I never regret my decision, and I am listening to the recently purchased CD (which has that strange artwork) right now, on 19th Aug 2004, 12:54.

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