Colin Bass - An Outcast of the Islands

Colin Bass has been a member of the progressive rock group Camel since 1979 and has become a key person in Camel Productions' releases in the 90s. His devotion, distinct vocals and bass playing has made him familiar and appreciated by Camel fans all over the world.

The Background

Following a successful tour with Camel in 1997, Colin went to Poland to record a set of songs with musicians from the country's progressive rock groups Quidam and Abraxas, along with Camel's 1997 tour drummer, Dave Stewart. The tapes were then taken to the California, where Andrew Latimer added his own guitar playing.

An Outcast of the Islands started out as a concept album, based on Joseph Conrad's novel of the same name. Colin identified with some of the experiences of the novel's leading character, but thought him unsympathetic. In result of that, he chose to alter the story, delivering a more personal tone and a positive fate of redemption in the end.

The Production

Colin and his co-producers (Witold Andree and Ryszard Ostrowski) probably had a lot of inspiration coming from Pink Floyd. It is evident from their choice of having stadium-killer-distortion Guitar effect, warm Hammond sounds, female choir and some echo-effects over vocals - reminiscent of Pink Floyd albums such as The Dark Side of the Moon and the recent The Division Bell.

The Music

The album blends instrumental rock compositions, short arrangements for string orchestra, and several songs with lyrics. This combination enables Colin to express a good sense of composition as well as some penchant for moments of musical drama. He used his short orchestral compositions as prologues toward tight, exciting rock tracks. The drama is well presented in the orchestral piece Second Quartet leading to the climax in No Way Back, as well as Outcast leading to Burning Bridges.

The 'wordy' songs are sometime pop-oriented, and in some cases I feel the composition/production is less punctual. Colin's voice is silky and mellow-toned, while the rockier songs deserve a tougher, more prominent vocalist (or is it just me who likes Peter Hammill and John Wetton?)

The Musicians

No Way Back is the only track where Colin delivers a bass solo. Observing Colin's work with Camel, he mostly holds back and focuses on a solid rhythm line. In No Way Back Colin brings himself to the front with an effective, well-written bass line that eventually melds into the rest of this outstanding song.

Dave Stewart, as observed in Camel's 1997 tour, is a very talented drummer. I have always appreciated the quality of some able musicians to let go of their ego and integrate their playing into the whole; both Dave and Colin stand out in this aspect. Dave's drumming is very clean and precise, elegantly sliding to riffs and occasional breaks.

Latimer was brought in to provide some dominant guitar solo, and it's nice to see him breaking out of his usual styles, and being very successful at that. He experiences here playing some tougher guitar solos, some e-bowed guitar and some slide guitar in the conclusion track, Reap What You Sew - very Pink Floydian.

As mentioned earlier, the album was originally recorded by musicians from Poland; Keyboards are featured heavily on the album, doing mostly chord layers. There are some flute solos and some synth solos - but they are held back in favour of structure and melody instead of frantic solo playing. This is a good quality when trying to get into the album, but it may leave you a bit dry on your 20th listening.


Well, naturally, you should get it, it's a great album. For Camel fans, this is a must-have.

Approx. Playing Time: 63:16
Genre: Progressive Rock/Pop

The CD is distributed in East Europe: Agencja Handlowo-Artystyczna OSKAR, ul. Urocza 32, 61-602, Poznan, Poland, phone/fax (48 61) 8227779.
By arrangement with: Kartini Music, Postfach 301429, 10722 Berlin, Germany, fax (49 30) 217 55126. The CD can be ordered from The Artist Shop, or from Colin Bass' web site.

Web References:

  • Web sites for Colin Bass and his alter ego, Sabah Habas Mustapha
  • Skylines Camel Web Site