Years: 1971 - present
Styles: Art Rock, Hard Rock, Pop Rock, Progressive Rock, Symphonic Rock
Andrew Latimer - 12 string guitar, Acoustic guitar , Autoharp , Backing vocals, Bass Guitar, Flute, Fretless bass, Glockenspiel, Guitar, Keyboards, Mellotron, MiniMoog, Organ, Panpipes, Piano, Recorder, Slide guitar, Synthesizer, Tin whistle, Vocals (in band: 1971 - present)
Doug Ferguson - Bass Guitar, Vocals (in band: 1971 – 1977)
Peter Bardens - Celesta, Clavinet, Electric piano, Keyboards, Mellotron, MiniMoog, Organ, Piano, Synthesizer, Vocals (in band: 1971 – 1978)
Andy Ward - Drums, Glockenspiel, Ocarina, Percussion, Talking Drum, Vibraphone (in band: 1971 – 1981)
Richard Sinclair - Bass Guitar, Vocals (in band: 1977 – 1979)
Mel Collins - Alto saxophone, Bass Flute, Clarinet, Flute, Saxophone, Soprano saxophone, Tenor saxophone (in band: 1977 – 1979; touring - 1976 - 1977)
Dave Sinclair - Keyboards (in band: 1978 – 1979)
Jan Schelhaas - EMS Sequencer, Grand piano, Keyboards, MiniMoog, Moog synthesizer, Prophet 5, Yamaha CS80, Yamaha Electric Grand Piano (in band: 1978 – 1981)
Colin Bass - Acoustic guitar , Backing vocals, Bass Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals (in band: 1979 – 1981, 1984 – present)
Kit Watkins - Clavinet, EMS Sequencer, Fender Rhodes , Flute, Hammond organ, Keyboards, MiniMoog, Moog synthesizer, Prophet 5, Solina String Ensemble, Yamaha CS80, Yamaha Electric Grand Piano (in band: 1979 – 1981; touring - 1982)
Stuart Tosh - Backing vocals, Drums (in band: 1982)
David Paton - Bass Guitar, Vocals (in band: 1982 - 1984)
Chris Rainbow - Keyboards, Vocals (in band: 1982 - 1991)
Paul Burgess - Drums, Percussion (in band: 1984 – 1992)
Ton Scherpenzeel - Accordion, Grand piano, Keyboards, Korg, Organ, PPg, Prophet 5, Roland Juno 60,, Yamaha CS80 (in band: 1984; 1991; 1999; touring - 2003, 2014 - present)
Mickey Simmonds - Keyboards (in band: 1991 - 1992)
David Stewart - Drums, Percussion (in band: 1997 – 2000)
Guy LeBlanc - Keyboards, Vocals (in band: 2000 – 2015)
Denis Clement - Bass Guitar, Drums, Percussion, Recorder (in band: 2000 – present)
Jason Hart - Keyboards (in band: touring 2013 – present)
Camel are an English progressive rock band formed in 1971. Andrew Latimer (guitar), Andy Ward (drums) and Doug Ferguson (bass) had been playing as a trio called The Brew around the Guildford, Surrey area of England.
On 20 February 1971, they auditioned to be the back-up band to singer/songwriter Phillip Goodhand-Tait and released an album with him in August 1971 titled "I Think I'll Write a Song" on DJM Records. This would be their first and last album with Goodhand-Tait. They recruited Peter Bardens (keyboards) and after an initial gig to fulfill a Bardens commitment on 8 October 1971 in Belfast, Northern Ireland under the name of Peter Bardens' On, they changed their name to Camel.
By August of '72, Camel were signed to MCA Records. They quickly entered the studio to record their first self-titled album, "Camel". A collection of individual songs, chiefly from Latimer and Bardens, the album was greeted with muted success and MCA did not take an option for a second album. By now, the group had acquired management, Geoff Jukes and Max Hole of Gemini Artists (later to become GAMA Records), and moved to Decca Records where they would remain for 10 years. The push & pull relationship between Latimer and Bardens brought out the best from their compositional skills. They inspired one another with their individual solo work both in the studio and on stage. Energies were high. Camel gigged 9 months of the year and firmly established a reputation for their excellent live sound.
With their second album “Mirage”. Camel begins to develop their own distinctive sound, highlighted by group’s liquid, intricate rhythms and the wonderful, unpredictable instrumental exchanges by keyboardist Peter Barden and guitarist Andy Latimer; Camel also distinguishes itself from its prog-rock peers with the multi-part suite “Lady Fantasy”, which suggests the more complex directions they would take a few albums down the line.
Also, Latimer’s graceful flute playing distinguishes several songs on the record, including “Supertwister”, and it’s clear that he has a more supple technique that contemporaries as Ian Anderson. Camel is still ironing out some quicks in their sound on “Mirage”, but it’s evident they are coming into their own.
Camel classic period started with “The Snow Goose”, an instrumental concept album based on a novella by Paul Gallico. Although there are no lyrics on the album – two songs feature wordless vocals – the music follows the emotional arc of novella’s story, whichis about a lonely man named Rhayader, who helps nurse a wounded snow goose back to health with the help of a young girl called Fritha he recently befriended. The goose returned during the battle, and it is then named La Princesse Perdue, symbolizing the hopes that can still survive even during the evils of war.
With such a complex fable to tell, it is no surprise that Camel keeps their improvisational tendencies reigned in, deciding to concentrate on surging, intricate soundscapes that telegraph the emotion of the piece without a single word. An even though “The Snow Goose” is an instrumental album, it is far more accessible than some of Camel’s later work, since it relies on beautiful sonic textures instead of musical experimentation.
A fourth album, "Moonmadness" in 1976, continued the success, but was the last to feature the original line up. Mel Collins' saxophone and flute augmented the band for the subsequent tour, beginning an eight-year association. Drummer Ward was pushing for a more jazz direction and this demand on Ferguson led to his departure in early 1977. Ferguson is now a property developer. Both "Snow Goose" and "Moonmadness" have been certified Silver by the BPI.
Richard Sinclair (previously in Caravan) replaced Ferguson and Mel Collins joined the band in an official capacity. This line-up released "Rain Dances" (1977) and "Breathless" (1978). The latter was the last album to feature Bardens, who announced his departure before the supporting tour. He was replaced by two keyboard players: Dave Sinclair (cousin of Richard and also from Caravan) and Jan Schelhaas (also of Caravan). The Sinclair cousins both left the band after the tour, replaced by Kit Watkins and Colin Bass. Collins also ceased working in an official capacity with the band at this time.
This line up recorded the more commercial "I Can See Your House from Here" (1979), an album which caused problems for the advertisers due to its irreverent cover, displaying a crucified astronaut looking at Earth. The album was Camel's most varied to date, ranging from the fast paced "Wait", through lush orchestration ("Who We Are", "Survival") and light-hearted, sequencer driven electronica ("Remote Romance") to the 10 minute instrumental conclusion "Ice", showcasing Latimer's emotional lead guitar playing.
Camel returned to the concept album for their next recording. "Nude" (1981), is based on a true story about a Japanese soldier Hiroo Onoda found on an island many years after World War II had ended, not having realised the war was over. Duncan Mackay provided most of the keyboards in lieu of Watkins and Schelhaas, who were involved in other projects, but returned for the tour. This was the first album to feature lyrics by Latimer's future wife Susan Hoover. In mid-1981, Ward stopped playing drums due to alcohol and drug abuse and Camel quietly disbanded.
Internal problems of the band were not the concern of Decca Records to which Camel were contractually bound for a specific recorded output. Decca refused to be put off any longer and upped the pressure for a hit single. With delays no longer possible, Latimer had to accept that his friend and drummer would not recover and thus, with Andrew Latimer the sole surviving member of Camel, "The Single Factor" was recorded and duly released in April 1982. Writing on demand had produced an odd mix of songs but entering the studio provided an unexpected bright spot.
During the recording of "Nude" in studio 3 at Abbey Road Studios, the Alan Parsons Project were recording just down the hall in studio 2. Curious by nature, singer Chris Rainbow and bassist/singer David Paton popped in on the Camel sessions and new friendships were forged. Unbeknownst to all at the time, this laid the groundwork for a new lineup. Eventually, "The Single Factor" would see a whole new line of artists including Rainbow and Paton aswell as Anthony Phillips (former Genesis), Francis Monkmon (Sky), and guest drummers Simon Phillips (The Who, Jeff Beck, Toto), Dave Mattacks (Fairport Convention) and Graham Jarvis (Cliff Richard). Time had healed the rift between Latimer and Bardens and although their opposing musical styles would not see eye-to-eye again, Bardens made a guest appearance on the album, forging new friendships himself that would later become "Keats". But Ward was unable to appear on the album and hoping to keep the matter private, Camel naively included a simple footnote in the liner notes that Andy Ward did not appear due to an injury to his hand.
Ton Scherpenzeel (of Dutch prog-rock band Kayak) joined Latimer as Camel's new keyboardist with Paul Burgess on drums for 1984's "Stationary Traveller". Bass returned (for good) to fill the bass position for the tour, which also included Rainbow on backing and occasional lead vocals and some keyboards. For the Hammersmith Odeon shows which were filmed, an additional keyboard player, Richie Close (who died a few years later from Legionnaires' disease) was also added, and former members Peter Bardens and Mel Collins made guest appearances.
After a seven-year hiatus, Latimer revived the Camel name, releasing a new album, "Dust and Dreams", in 1991. Part of it had actually been recorded as early as 1988, before Latimer's departure to the US, and featured all members of the previous incarnation, i.e. Bass, Burgess, Scherpenzeel, alongside a number of additional musicians. The album was largely instrumental and inspired by John Steinbeck's classic novel "The Grapes of Wrath". It was released under Latimer's own label Camel Productions and, whilst according to some it was a triumphant return to their progressive roots, to others it was a disappointingly middle-of-the-road effort.
Inspired by the death of Latimer's father, he and Hoover then wrote "Harbour of Tears" (nickname for Cobh (pronounced 'cove') harbour in Ireland from which many sailed off to the USA during the Potato Famine) under the Camel name, which was released in 1996. In 1999 Latimer, Stewart, Bass and Scherpenzeel, recorded "Rajaz". Set in ancient times, "Rajaz" was a spontaneous composition inspired by the rhythm of the camel's footsteps to help weary travelers reach their destination. Latimer was smitten with the theme, and this album truly took Camel back to their prog-rock roots.
Stewart left the band when he was offered the chance to manage a drum store in Scotland before the following live tour, to be replaced by French Canadian Denis Clement on drums, and Scherpenzeel departed and was replaced by Guy LeBlanc. Latimer, Bass, LeBlanc and Clement then went to a tour of South America in 2001.
1. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camel_(band)
2. Source: http://www.camelproductions.com/
3. All Music Guide to Rock. The Definitive Guide to Rock, Pop and Soul. 3rd Edition 2002. Edited by Vladimir Bogdanov, Chris Woodstra, Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Published by Backbeat Books, page 176 - Daevid Jehnzen
4. All Music Guide to Rock. The Definitive Guide to Rock, Pop and Soul. 3rd Edition 2002. Edited by Vladimir Bogdanov, Chris Woodstra, Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Published by Backbeat Books, page 176 - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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