Retro-spective Review: Camel – Music Inspired by the Snow Goose

Camel // Music Inspired by The Snow Goose
Released: 1975

Camel - Music Inspired by The Snow GooseSo, during this time of burnout, one thing doesn’t seem to be changing: the will to critique things and to tell people how important my opinion is how cool some music just really is. One of the things that happens to me when I get burned out on metal is that I go back and start researching other shit like, for example, the guy who wrote Meat Loaf‘s music (Jim Steinman) or in this case, 70s prog. The ’70s were an era when music was musical and the production didn’t suck fucking ass and there was no douchebag screaming about how tough he was into a microphone to try to make you realize just how extreme his music is (unless of course you count KISS, but I don’t, ’cause they suck and they weren’t screaming, they were just douching it up). 

In any case, Music Inspired by the Snow Goose doesn’t even have any lyrical vocals at all. It’s just a 43 minute functionally “classical” piece of music, inspired by the novella The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico. Starting out with the sounds of birds, keyboards and mystical harmonies fading in on “The Great Marsh” one can definitely hear how Opeth was influenced by these guys, even if what follows almost sounds like 1970s TV music. And really, in a lot of ways, this does sound like music one would’ve heard on 1970s TV programs. Flutes float through the soundscape and piano underneath it, accentuating happy melodies that make you bob your head and want to do handicrafts. The keyboard sounds were assumably high tech and highly modern for the time (mellotron, organs and more) , but they now sound very specifically dated to the 1970s. It’s a little bit like listening to a polaroid.

CamelBecause it’s based on a novel, then it’s obvious that The Snow Goose tells a story and is a complete saga. As one would suspect, then, there is a flow that goes from happy and sweet on “Rhayader goes to Town” and “Snow Goose” to more melancholy and sullen on “Rhayader Alone,” while being dark and almost evil at times on “Dunkirk” and “Epitaph,” as the saga reaches its climax. All of these feelings are portrayed expertly with some of the better musical performances and composition I’ve ever heard from a rock band. Camel feels distinctly more advanced and smart compared to their very talented peers because of their intelligent use of character themes in the music. Arguably, this record is similar to a suite or a “symphony” of sorts in its arrangement and presentation.

There really isn’t anything very edgy about this record, though the B side (from “Flight of the Snow Goose” to “The Great Marsh (Reprise)”) is a distinctly more sullen and darker movement, which sometimes wanders into Wishbone Ash or Jethro Tull territory as far as feeling like a predecessor to the more progressive heavy metal that followed it (especially the track “Dunkirk”). But most of this record is slow, lazy melodies and atmospheric, but in my opinion there isn’t a dull moment.

I know that I’m late to the Camel bus and everything as they’ve been largely popularized among prog fans who hadn’t heard them before by having been named dropped by Mikael Akerfeldt on dozens of occasions. But as I’m a fan, not a toady, I’d really not rushed out to check them out at the whim of my musical overlord. In this case, however, the hype doesn’t appear to be too overplayed. If you haven’t heard them, and specifically this record, you are missing out on something truly special. Music Inspired by The Snow Goose is, in my opinion, one very cool record and we’ll see how I like it in a couple years, but it seems like a classic I’d previously overlooked.

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