Camel - Nude


Year of Release: 1999
Label: Polygram
Catalog Number: 810-880-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 44:52:00

When I learned that Camel would be performing at NEARfest 2003 - their first east coast performance in 28 years -- I was ecstatic, as I've always liked Camel from the time I first heard their music. Since I try to "prepare" for each festival by becoming familiar with each band's music (or re-familiar, as in this case), I re-started my Camel journey at the point it first began for me - with 1981's Nude (Decca, ). As with Änglagård,'s Hybris, I don't recall what led me to this particular release, but I do have vague memories of article listing recommended prog titles. Nonetheless, this beautifully rendered album entered my collection and has been one of my favourite Camel albums.

Nude is a concept album, set in 1942 (the height of World War II) and concerns a young Japanese soldier, Nude, who is sent off to war. Almost immediately he becomes stranded alone on an island. The storyline is based, it says, on real incident. Along similar lines, many of you might recall the movie Castaway, as the story is similar one, though the setting is different. I don't ascribe any other commonality between the two, but like Tom Hanks character, Nude has to survive on his own for many years. In Nude's case, it's 29 years. When he is returned to civilization, it becomes much more than he can handle and he sails off for the island he made a home. Of course, this theme isn't unique to either of these references - the movie or this album.

What Nude is also is an allegory on many levels. Someone who doesn't feel comfortable in his own skin - that is the person inside is not the person seen on the outside - is suddenly given the freedom to be himself, and as a result, perhaps, finds himself. Thus, he is now nude, having shed this concealing exterior. There is a sense of anonymity living in a city - if you think of the hustle and bustle of New York, Tokyo, or any big city, most people tend to ignore you, and you them. And, even you do have to step out of your inner world as you're walking down Fifth Avenue, you put on a particular "face" or "suit" to respond (Okay, if you're being mugged, maybe not, but for other types of interruptions?).

Anyway, about the album itself. Most of the Nude is instrumental, telling its story in mostly peaceful, lyrical movements. There are four vocal tracks beginning with the opening piece "City Life." This is piece is easy going with a soft focus - a lot like how Alan Parson's produces his own projects. And, in fact, this gauzy feel is like the protective shell Nude wears in his daily routine (see the suit on the cover?). This same kind of feel is carried throughout most of the album. That doesn't mean we have overly airy and wispy passages, but they are airy and open. They breathe, grounded by the solid drumming from Andy Ward and throbbing bass from Colin Bass. "City Life" also features some brassy and warm sax from Mel Collins.

"Docks" is a dark and throbbing piece that features keening slide guitar effects from Latimer. This piece is a bit Floyd-esque - another band that came to reflect upon WWII, though in a different fashion. Towards the end, it becomes a bit wistful - the sense that the ship Nude is aboard is pulling away from the dock and heading for open waters. This leads into the energetic, rockier, adventurous "Beached."

"Landscapes" is very Asian in feel, and as the title suggests, provides us with images of an idyllic locale - it is a clear and sunny day on the island, the sea is calm, and the air is still. A stately, reverent flute plays softly, while keyboards provide an atmospheric bed. "Changing Places" features an throbbing, African-esque drum rhythm while a flute or piccolo tootles cheerily. Nude is settling into a routine and the repetitive rhythm helps to underscore this. He's making order of his chaos, along his path to finding himself. "Pomp And Circumstance" eschews "pomp" in that this is not a strident theme, but rather is more peacefully symphonic in structure, more akin to electronic music.

Nude takes a jazzier angle with "Lies" which is highlighted by some wonderfully warm and sweet guitar work from Latimer, not to overlook the quite nice bit of Hammond. Okay, yes, my favourite aspects to Nude are Latimer's guitar work - he is of that less is more, emotion over technique kind of player (something he sort of says in his recently published Progression interview). "The Homecoming" is a marching tune lead by bright and cheery piccolo; it as what you might expect would be played for a "ticker tape" parade. After living in isolation for 29 years, Nude finds himself thrust not just in the company of others, but hundreds of others and surely flash bulbs blinding him, reporter's microphones thrust in his face - though these particular details aren't included in the narrative (though they are alluded to). "Nude's Return" beautifully summarizes the themes heard throughout the album, including militarist percussion which echoes Nude's first foray.

How this album is viewed by long time Camel fans - those who came on board with the first album, for example - I don't know, but I have found it to be a wonderful album. Maybe more on the pop side than prog, given the comparatively simple lines, but in that it has an elegant grace, and an epic sweep befitting its story. It's not a Camel album to be overlooked, that's for sure. Maybe I'm too close to the album now, having been listening to it a lot over the past 10 years or so since I bought it, but I can't find anything wrong with it.


Tracklisting:
City Life (5:02) / Nude (0:22) / Drafted (4:18) / Docks (3:50) / Beached (3:32) / Landscapes (2:36) / Changing Places (4:10) / Pomp And Circumstance (2:03) / Please Come Home (1:12) / Reflections (2:45) / Captured (3:13) / The Homecoming (2:40) / Lies (4:57) / The Last Farewell: The Birthday Cake (4:05) / The Last Farewell: Nude's Return (3:41)

Musicians:
Andrew Latimer - guitars, vocals, flute, koto and various keyboards
Andy Ward - drums and percussion
Colin Bass - bass and vocals
Mel Collins - flute, piccolo, and saxes
Duncan Mackay - keyboards
Jan Schelhaas - piano (14, 15)
Chris Green - cello
Gasper Lawai - all percussion (7)
Herbie Flowers - tuba

Discography:
Camel (1973/2002)
Mirage (1974/2002)
The Snow Goose (1975/2002)
Moonmadness (1976/2002)
Rain Dances (1977)
A Live Record (1978/2002)
Breathless (1978)
I Can See Your House From Here (1979)
Nude (1981)
Chameleon - The Best Of Camel (1981)
The Single Factor (1982)
Stationary Traveller (1984)
Pressure Points - Live (1984)
Compact Compilition (1986)
Landscapes (1991, compilation)
Dust And Dreams (1991)
Echoes (1993, compilation)
On The Road ''72 (1993)
On The Road ''82 (1994)
Never Let Go (1994, live)
Harbour Of Tears

Rajaz (1999)
Coming Of Age (1999)
The Paris Collection (2001)
A Nod And A Wink (2002)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin UK

Added: February 11th 2003
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Score:
Artist website: www.camelproductions.com
Hits: 1547
Language: english

  

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