Refusing to be deterred by this unfortunate observation (with which they all generally agreed) Camel temporarily halted recording and left the studio to hold auditions. Three days and 29 dreadful vocalists later, the band finally asked singer number 30 to perform on stage with them so they could get a feel for the singer's all-around capabilities. Camel/s forte from the outset was truly an instrumental one, which required innovative performing on a singer's behalf and it was important that a singer could improvise naturally and comfortably at these times. To the gaping astonishment of the band, singer number 30 leapt into the air, arms flapping and thrusting hip to hip ripped into a progressive rock version of "The Twist." Camel's quest for a separate vocalist came to an ubrupt end. Deciding they could sing as well as anyone else, recording was delayed no longer.
In many respects, this episode defined the group. From then on Camel would use vocal tracks creatively, blending them with their strong, melodic and moving instrumentals - the signature that would forever become the essence of Camel.
Constantly gigging, Camel approached the recording of Mirage much the same as a live performance. The lengthy guitar and keyboard solos audiences loved went straight to vinyl and hints of concept album Camel would ultimately come to prefer began to emerge. Gradually, Camel were weaving their way into the hearts of devoted listeners, sketching fantasies with instrumental visions. To capture the effect of flapping wings for The Snow Goose, Andrew Latimer helped Doug Ferguson carry his heavy, woolen duffle coat into the crecording booth. Given the weight of the material they mostly flapped themselves to exhaustion, but the intention is felt. The Snow Goose brought the band their greatest achievement of the time despite it having been written and recorded piece by piece but never played in its entirety until completed and mixed. Paul Gallico, the non-smoking author of the book which had inspired the music, snubbed the band because he had confused them with the cigarette company. Nonetheless, The Snow Goose proved to be one of Camel's most revered recordings and remains so to this day.
Developing their sound, Camel also earned a deserved reputation for great sounding live performances. Moonmadness included three vocals and the album was written with the band's individual personalities in mind: Air Born (Andrew), Lunar Sea (Andy) etc. Less specific in it's conceptual direction, Moonmadness possessed a wonderful sound quality in cooperation with the co-producer Rhett Davies, probably the finest producer ever to touch a Camel album. Although CDs have mostly replaced vinyl, there are some things the CD format just can't manage. At the end of Lunar Sea, a low growling thunder was recorded on an endless loop and a groove cut into the vinyl. The effect caused the tone arm to play the thunder continuously, not stopping until lifted. Given certain influences of the times, this sound was perhaps played more than others....
During Rain Dances, Camel saw the first of many changes in their line-up. Each member had begun to explore a specific direction, not always compatible with one another. This push and pull situation created some surprising and terrific results. Elke was initially a short instrumental that underwent a metamorphosis in the studio. Producer Rhett Davies had been working with Brian Eno, an inspired innovator of sounds whose recordings Andrew Latimer particulary liked. At his request, Rhett asked Eno to come into the studio. As this was the era before the dawning of polyphonic synthesizers, each note had to be recorded separately to get the layered and stretched effect on the keyboards wich turned Elke into a haunting and wrenchingly beautiful melody. Bassist Doug Ferguson departed just before recording of Rain Dances commenced and so the bass in Skylines and Tell Me was actually Latimer before replacement Richard Sinclair (Caravan) arrived.
Seagulls soaring on the thermals above Golant, Cornwall inspired the intro to The Sleeper and also signaled the next phase of changes Camel were to undergo. Breathless is a hopscotch of influences starting with a new line-up, producer, and manager all the way to the multiple studios used for recording. The music scene had taken a dramatic turn throughout Europe and pressure for hit singles bore down upon Camel. Keyboardist Peter Bardens left shortly before recording had been completed and the '78 tour had begun. Friends (Jan Schelhaas) and family (cousin Dave Sinclair) joined to make the union of Camel and Caravan official, producing the nickname 'Caramel' amongst the music tabloids and devotees alike. Camel's first tour of Japan was a blockbuster success and Breathless forever secured a place in the hearts of Japanese fans.
By now, changes were matters of fact and Camel moved through them quietly. I Can See Your House From Here was their first truly vocal album, yet it is the longest instrumental that captures the ears and hearts of the fans. Ice, a ten-minute guitar virtuosity was the only track recorded live in the studio at The Farmyard in Little Chalfont, Berkshire. To the utter astonishment of both the band and onlookers alike, Andrew Latimer wanted to redo the track because the one intro-note was slightly flat. Protestations exploded, but it was Phil Collins who really saved the day. When invited by producer Rupert Hine to add his unique touch of percussive style, he too agreed that Ice was perfect and needed no dubbing. Thank you, Mr. Collins. Originally titled "Endangered Species," the album sleeve was designed and brought to the group for approval.
Quite remarkable, yet consistently serious, the sleeve inadvertently signalled the next set of changes when some members wanted to lift the image of seriousness that surrounded he band. Urged by this desire, the title was reluctantly changed to inject a slant of humor, the success of which is left entirely to the individual.
Nude was Camel's truest concept album after 'Goose.' When writing had been completed, the band decided to take the music on the road as opposed to going into rehearsals as was the tradition. Travelling incognito as 'Desert Song,' they toured the nightclubs of Holland to test the response. An enjoyable and successful venture, the band re-wrote some songs and entered Abbey Road's No. 3 studio. Inspired by the story of a Japanese WWII soldier acclaimed for 'fighting the longest war,' Nude added both story and lyrics within the instrumentals. Recording at Abbey Road also introduced Camel to the talented and likeable Alan Parsons Project. These friendships would endure through the next set of changes, more painful than all the others, when drummer Andy Ward severely injured his hand and had to leave the band.
The Single Factor is tongue-in-cheek mixture of what came naturally and what was instigated. Andrew Latimer was now the sole surviving member of Camel. Contractual obligations gave him the chance to express both the pain and pleasure of being a survivor. Seizing the opportunity to work with David Paton and Chris Rainbow from the Alan Parsons Project, The Single Factor envolved with an ambiance of vocal influences Camel had not found possible before. The support and light-hearted nature of these musicians inspired Sasquatch, named affectionately - and pictured graphically on the sleeve insert - for Andrew Latimer's feet.
Stationary Traveller was to be Camel's swansong with a major record label. Inspired by the social and physical divide of Berlin, Stationary Traveller is a concept from the heart rather than a literary work. The dramatic apparition of this exciting city drew many parallels for Camel and it is these emotions that were drawn through the music. Captured on vide (Pressure Points - Live In Concert) at what was to be their last London performance in the 80's, this endearing band reinforced their reputation for live performing. But it was not possible for anyone to predict the pattern of events that followed nor possible to foresee that an era, on more fronts than the obvious, would come to a close. It would be seven years before Camel would resurface with their own record label, new album, world tour and total confidence in their ideas of exactly what they were about and best at.
In 1991, Camel returned with a vengeance. Andrew Latimer formed Camel Productions and released the first Camel album, Dust and Dreams. Totally conceptual, Dust and Dreams was inspired by John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath" and has proved, without question, that music is a self-sustaining force. It does not wither and fade with time. Dust and Dreams, a powerful composition that remains true to itself, touches the past and present with Camel's signature and brings everything home again. Steinbeck's story tells of a family that faces all adversity, loos and gain in the struggle of starting over. The parallels drawn are perhaps accidental but not incidental. The rise and fall and rise again of a musical group that believes totally in itself is forever enduring within the music that tells its own story. As always, Camel leaves interpretation to the listener and, as always, the listener finds so much more than expected.