A Live Record by Camel (1978)

Camel never quite attained the level of popularity that some of their progressive rock peers managed during the genre’s 1970s heydey. They did manage to gain a fairly dedicated following which has kept their music alive over the years. Vocalist and guitarist, Andrew Latimer, has been Camel’s main driving force and the band’s only ever present member. Their changing line ups have at times also featured several members from fellow prog rock band Caravan. Camel produced a total of 14 studio albums over a thirty year period, with their last release coming in 2002. And although they haven’t released a studio album in over 10 years, the band still performs live across Europe.

Camel were originally formed in Surrey, England in 1971, going on to release their self-titled debut album in 1973. After Mirage in 1974, their breakthrough came in 1975 with with The Snow Goose, an instrumental concept album inspired by the Paul Gallico short story with which it shares its name. Gallico would bring a lawsuit against the band for copyright infringement, which would force them to add the prefix “Music inspired by…” to the album’s front cover. The Snow Goose was followed up in 1976 by the another successful album, Moonmadness, their last to feature the original line up.  A new look Camel would release their fifth studio album, Rain Dances, in 1977. It is the music produced on these first five studio albums that A Live Record is made up of.

A Live Record was Camel’s first of many live albums and it is arguably their best. It is the only one that features the original line up, capturing the band when they were at their peak. It consists of material recorded from three different tours over a three year period between 1974 and 1977. The first LP is made up of recordings from the Mirage tour of 1974, and also the Rain Dances tour of 1977. It features a mixture of tracks from their four studio albums recorded either side of The Snow Goose and is performed by two different line ups. The Snow Goose is played in full on the second LP. It is performed by the original line up who are accompanied by the London Symphony Orchestra and is taken from the album tour in 1975.

Their studio material works very well live, with the full showing of The Snow Goose on the second LP being particularly impressive. While the studio album is a great piece of music in its own right, it is given a new lease of life here with some added energy in what is a close to perfect performance. If the album does possess a weakness it’s on the first LP, which although pretty good, doesn’t quite live up to the heights reached by the second LP. This could be down to the fact that the second LP features one fluid performance, whereas the first LP has been pieced together from a number of different performances from two separate tours and with two different line ups. It should also be noted that the band do a good job at keeping things pretty conservative, unlike many of their prog rock peers who were prone to over do it when performing live. If you’re already a fan of the band and haven’t heard this album, you’ll likely love it. But it also serves as a great introduction to Camel if you’re unfamiliar with their work. For those who want a little extra, a remastered version of A Live Record was reissued on CD in 2002 containing seven additional tracks.

Length: 97:14

Genre: Progressive Rock

Released: April, 1978

Label: Decca

Rating: 8.5/10

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