Camel Overview

Camel are an English England progressive rock band formed in 1971. An important figure in the Canterbury scene, the group has been releasing studio and live recordings steadily, with considerable success, since their formation.

 
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1970s

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. 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. Their first gig was at Waltham Forest Technical College, London supporting Wishbone Ash on 4 December.

In August 1972 Camel signed with MCA Records and their eponymous debut album was released six months later. The record was not a success and the band moved to the Deram Records division of Decca Records (UK).

In 1974 they released their second album, the critically acclaimed Mirage Mirage (Camel album) on which Latimer showed he was adept on flute. Although failing to chart at home, it gained success on the U.S. west coast, prompting a three month tour there.

Released in 1975, the instrumental, orchestrated concept album Music Inspired by The Snow Goose Music Inspired by The Snow Goose (album) , had been inspired by the Paul Gallico short story of the same name. This was the breakthrough album that brought Camel wider attention, but not without controversy. Gallico, who loathed smoking, thought the band were related to the cigarette brand and threatened to take legal action. Camel avoided this by adding the prefix 'Music inspired by...' to the album's cover. The album's success led to a prestigious sell out concert at the Royal Albert Hall, London, with the London Symphony Orchestra in October 1975.

A fourth album, Moonmadness Moonmadness (album) 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.

Richard Sinclair (previously in Caravan Caravan (band) ) replaced Ferguson and this line-up released Rain Dances (1977) and Breathless Breathless (Camel album) (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.

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. Despite some fans' reservations about commercial leanings, the album concludes with a ten minute instrumental 'Ice Ice (Camel song) ', showcasing Latimer's lead guitar skills.


1980s


Camel returned to the concept album for their next recording. *** *** (Camel album) (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 realising the war was over. Duncan MacKay Duncan MacKay (musician) 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 (who had in fact contributed lyrical ideas, albeit anonymously, to I Can See...). In mid-1981, Ward stopped playing drums due to alcohol alcohol abuse and drug abuse and Camel quietly disbanded. Years later it emerged that Ward had made a suicide attempt.

Without a band, but a contract to fulfill and pressure from Decca for a 'hit song', Latimer was joined by an array of guest and session musicians, including David Paton, Chris Rainbow and Anthony Phillips at Abbey Road studio in early 1982. The resultant album, ironically entitled The Single Factor, was a far cry from the band's early hard rock/progressive sound, but it scraped the lower regions of the charts and enabled a successful Tenth Anniversary Tour, featuring Paton, Rainbow, Watkins, Stuart Tosh (drums) and Andy Dalby (guitar) accompanying Latimer. Legal wranglings over royalties then began with their former manager which took five years to resolve.

Ton Scherpenzeel (of Dutch prog-rock band Kayak Kayak (band) ) joined Latimer as Camel's new keyboardist with Paul Burgess Paul Burgess (musician) 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 the release of the resulting live Pressure Points Pressure Points (album) in late 1984, Camel disappeared without trace as far as the public was concerned. Finishing the contract with Decca, Latimer was unable to interest other British record companies and eventually moved to California when the lawsuit ended (successfully for him).


1990s


After a seven year hiatus, Latimer revived the Camel name, releasing a new album, Dust and Dreams Dust and Dreams (album) , 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.

Scherpenzeel's fear of flying made him largely unavailable for touring. So former Mike Oldfield and Fish Fish (singer) keyboardist Mickey Simmonds joined Latimer, Bass and Burgess for the 1992 "comeback" world tour from which in 1993 a double live CD, recorded in Holland, Never Let Go, was released. In 1994, former members Bardens and Ward formed Mirage Mirage (band) with members of Caravan. In this incarnation, it played a short European tour, with a setlist including numerous Camel pieces, but it quickly gave way to a Bardens-led band with no other Camel or Caravan alumni.

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 Irish Potato Famine (1845-1849) ) under the Camel name, which was released in 1996.

In 1997 Camel again toured the west coast of the U.S., Japan and Europe (as they had in 1992) with Latimer supported by Bass, Foss Patterson (keyboards) and drummer Dave Stewart Dave Stewart (drummer) . The tour resulted in Coming of Age Coming of Age (Camel album) , a live double-CD and DVD.

In 1999 Latimer, Stewart, Bass and guest Scherpenzeel, recorded Rajaz. Set in ancient times, Rajaz was a spontaneous composition inspired by the rhythm of the camel's footsteps to help the weary travelers reach their destination. Latimer was smitten with the idea that the rhythm of the camel would help people reach their journey's end, and this album truly took Camel back to their prog-rock roots.


2000s


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. The 2000 tour was augmented by Guy LeBlanc on keyboards. Latimer, Bass, LeBlanc and Clement then went to a tour of South America in 2001.

In 2002 this quartet released A Nod and a Wink, - a reflective, mellow album, prominently featuring Latimer's flute. The album was dedicated to Peter Bardens, who died in January 2002.

Following somewhat-troubled live tours of recent years, Camel Productions announced the 2003 tour to be Camel's "Farewell Tour". Guy LeBlanc had to quit shortly before going on the road due to the illness of his wife, and was replaced by Tom Brislin (in the US) and a train-travelling Ton Scherpenzeel (European leg). The US leg of the tour was highlighted by a headline appearance at NEARfest, the world's most prestigious progressive rock festival.

Latimer started work on unplugged Acoustic music (acoustic) versions of old Camel material, but this was aborted. In 2006, Latimer accepted an invitation to audition for a guitar/vocal role on Roger Waters tour, the position eventually being filled by Dave Kilminster.

In October 2006 Latimer completed a move back to the UK with intentions of recording and releasing future Camel albums from his home country and completing a project started in 2003 with Andy Ward and Doug Ferguson.

In May 2007, Susan Hoover announced through the Camel Productions website and newsletter that Andrew Latimer has suffered from a progressive blood disorder Polycythaemia vera since 1992 which has progressed to Myelofibrosis. This was part of the reason why Camel ceased extensive touring. Latimer underwent chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant in November 2007. He responded well to treatment, but has suffered from fatigue and cycles of severe joint pain.

In the latest newsletter (September 2008), Susan happily reported that Andrew is gradually regaining strength and they are adopting a positive frame of mind that Camel will eventually be able to play a mini-tour and release a new studio album.A tribute band, The Humps, routinely performs material from the classic era of the band.;Most recent line-up
* Andrew Latimer - guitar, vocals Singer , flute, recorder, keyboards Keyboard instrument , bass guitar (1971-)
* Colin Bass - bass guitar, vocals, keyboard, acoustic guitar (1979-1981, 1984-)
* Denis Clement - drums Drum kit , percussion Percussion instrument (2000-)
* Ton Scherpenzeel - keyboards (1984, 1991, 1999, 2003-)

;Former members
* Doug Ferguson - bass, vocals (1971-1977)
* Peter Bardens - keyboards, vocals Keyboard instrument (1971-1978)
* Andy Ward - drummer, percussion Percussion instrument (1971-1981)
* Richard Sinclair - bass, vocals (1977-1978)
* Mel Collins - saxophones, flute (1977-1979)
* Jan Schelhaas - keyboards (1979-1981)
* Kit Watkins - keyboards, flute (1979-1982)
* Paul Burgess Paul Burgess (musician) - drums, percussion (1984-1992)
* Dave Stewart Dave Stewart (drummer) - drums, percussion (1997-2000)
* Guy LeBlanc - keyboards, vocals (2000-2003)

;Additional studio musicians
* 'Eddie' - congas on Camel
* Tony Cox Tony Cox (South African musician) - synthesizer on Camel
* Jimmy Hastings - flute on Mirage
* David Bedford - orchestral arrangements on Music Inspired by The Snow Goose
* Martin Drover - trumpet on Rain Dances
* Malcolm Griffiths - trombone on Rain Dances
* Brian Eno - keyboards on Rain Dances
* Fiona Hibbert - harp on Rain Dances
* Dave Sinclair - keyboards on Breathless
* Phil Collins - percussion on I Can See Your House From Here
* Duncan Mackay - keyboards on *** and The Single Factor
* Chris Green - cello on ***
* Gasper Lawal - percussion on ***
* Herbie Flowers - tuba on ***
* David Paton - bass, vocals on The Single Factor and Harbour of Tears; vocals on Dust and Dreams
* Graham Jarvis - drums on The Single Factor
* Dave Mattacks - drums on The Single Factor
* Simon Phillips - drums on The Single Factor
* Anthony Phillips - guitar, keyboards on The Single Factor
* Chris Rainbow - vocals on The Single Factor and Stationary Traveller
* Haydn Bendall - keyboards on Stationary Traveller
* Francis Monkman - harpsichord synclavier on The Single Factor
* Tristian Fry - glockenspiel on The Single Factor
* Jack Emblow - accordion on The Single Factor
* Mae McKenna - vocals on Dust and Dreams and Harbour of Tears
* Christopher Bock - drums on Dust and Dreams
* Don Harriss - keyboards on Dust and Dreams
* Neil Panton - oboe on Dust and Dreams; oboe, soprano saxophone, harmonium on Harbour of Tears
* Kim Venaas - timpani, harmonica on Dust and Dreams
* John Burton - French horn on Dust and Dreams and Harbour of Tears
* Mickey Simmonds - keyboards on Harbour of Tears
* John Xepoleas - drums on Harbour of Tears
* Barry Phillips - cello on Harbour of Tears and Rajaz
* Karen Bentley - violin on Harbour of Tears
* Anita Stoneham - violin on Harbour of Tears
* Terry Carleton - drums, percussion, backing vocals on A Nod and a Wink
* JR Johnston - backing vocals on A Nod and a Wink

;Touring Musicians

'1971-1976'

* Andrew Latimer - Peter Bardens - Andy Ward - Doug Ferguson
'1976'
* Andrew Latimer - Peter Bardens - Andy Ward - Doug Ferguson - Mel Collins
'1977'
* Andrew Latimer - Peter Bardens - Andy Ward - Richard Sinclair - Mel Collins
'1978-1979'
* Andrew Latimer - Andy Ward - Richard Sinclair - Mel Collins - Jan Schelhaas - Dave Sinclair
'1979-1981'
* Andrew Latimer - Andy Ward - Colin Bass - Jan Schelhaas - Kit Watkins
'1982'
* Andrew Latimer - Kit Watkins - David Paton - Chris Rainbow - Stuart Tosh - Andy Dalby
'1984'
* Andrew Latimer - Colin Bass - Paul Burgess Paul Burgess (musician) - Chris Rainbow - Ton Scherpenzeel - Richie Close
'1992'
* Andrew Latimer - Colin Bass - Paul Burgess Paul Burgess (musician) - Mickey Simmonds
'1997'
* Andrew Latimer - Colin Bass - Dave Stewart Dave Stewart (drummer) - Foss Patterson
'2000-2001'
* Andrew Latimer - Colin Bass - Denis Clement - Guy LeBlanc
'2003 (U.S.)'
* Andrew Latimer - Colin Bass - Denis Clement - Tom Brislin
'2003 (Europe)'
* Andrew Latimer - Colin Bass - Denis Clement - Ton Scherpenzeel
Studio Albums

*1973 - Camel Camel (album)
*1974 - Mirage Mirage (Camel album) (US Billboard #149; (13 weeks on chart))
*1975 - Music Inspired by The Snow Goose Music Inspired by The Snow Goose (album) UK #22; (13 weeks on chart); certified gold
*1976 - Moonmadness Moonmadness (album) UK #15; (6 weeks on chart); certified silver
*1977 - Rain Dances (UK #20; (8 weeks on chart); US Billboard #136)
*1978 - Breathless Breathless (Camel album) (UK #26; (1 week on chart); US Billboard #134)
*1979 - I Can See Your House from Here (UK#45; (3 weeks on chart))
*1981 - *** *** (Camel album) (UK #34; (7 weeks on chart))
*1982 - The Single Factor (UK #57; (5 weeks on chart))
*1984 - Stationary Traveller (UK #57; (4 weeks on chart))
*1991 - Dust and Dreams Dust and Dreams (album)
*1996 - Harbour of Tears
*1999 - Rajaz
*2002 - A Nod and a Wink


Live Albums

*1973 - Greasy Truckers Live at Dingwalls Dance Hall (Various Artists. Includes 19 minute version of Camel's 'God of Light Revisited')
*1978 - A Live Record (live, various venues 1974, 1975, 1977)
*1984 - Pressure Points Pressure Points (album) (live, 11 May 1984, Hammersmith Odeon, London, UK)
*1992 - On the Road 1972 (live, venue unspecified)
*1993 - Never Let Go Never Let Go (live) (live, 5 September 1992, Enschede, NL)
*1994 - On the Road 1982 (live, Dutch radio, 13 June 1982, Congresgebouw, Den Haag, NL)
*1997 - On the Road 1981 (live, BBC radio, 2 April 1981, Hammersmith Odeon, London, UK)
*1998 - Coming of Age Coming of Age (Camel album) (live, 13 March 1997, Billboard, Los Angeles, USA)
*2000 - Gods of Light '73-'75 (live, various venues)
*2001 - The Paris Collection The Paris Collection (Camel) (live, 30 September 2000, Bataclan-Club, Paris, France). Note: CD wrongly states concert as October 30th.


Compilations

*1981 - Chameleon - The Best Of Camel
*1986 - A Compact Compilation
*1986 - The Collection
*1991 - Landscapes
*1993 - Echoes
*1997 - Camel - Master Series (25th Anniversary Compilation)
*2001 - Lunar Sea


Singles

*1973 - Never Let Go / Curiosity
*1975 - Flight of the Snow Goose / Rhayader
*1975 - The Snow Goose / Freefall
*1976 - Another Night / Lunar Sea (Live)
*1977 - Highways of the Sun / Tell Me
*1978 - Breathless (Sin Respiracion) / Rainbows End (Spanish)
*1979 - Your Love is Stranger Then Mine / Neon Magic
*1979 - Remote Romance / Rainbows End / Tell Me
*1981 - Lies (Dutch)
*1982 - No Easy Answer / Heroes (Canadian)
*1982 - Selva (Dutch)
*1984 - Long Goodbyes / Metrognome (German)
*1984 - Cloak And Dagger Man / Pressure Points
*1984 - Berlin Occidental (West Berlin) Stereo Version / Mono Version (Mexican)


DVDs

*2002 - Coming Of Age (live, 13 March 1997, Billboard, Los Angeles, USA)
*2003 - Pressure Points (live, 11 May 1984, Hammersmith Odeon, London, UK)
*2003 - Curriculum Vitae
*2004 - Footage
*2005 - Footage II
*2007 - Total Pressure (full version of 'Pressure Points' concert).
*2007 - Moondances
 

 

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