Camel - Footage DVD
Camel made a few television appearances back in the 1970's and early 80's in the days before domestic VCRs (video recorders) were commonplace. Despite individual enquiries to the BBC by fans of the band for a repeat transmission or better still, a video release, nothing was forthcoming. Such requests were invariably fobbed off in a polite way with response along the lines of 'the recordings are lost' or ' many tapes are wiped and used again and that is what may have happened here'.
Andrew Latimer, aware of the demand, clearly persuaded the BBC to look again and, gawd bless 'em, here they are (well, all that's available) on this superb Camel archive DVD.
From the early days in 1973, there's Never Let Go from Guildford Civic Hall and excerpts from The Snow Goose in 1975 from the Old Grey Whistle Test studios, both of which feature the original line-up of Latimer, Bardens, Ward and Ferguson, young, fresh and with full heads of hair. How often did you see girls in a prog audience who were not tagging along with boyfriends? Yep, the music of Camel was always (almost) a foolproof way of introducing women to prog (still is, actually).
I don't recall any other occasion where a prog band brought along a wind quartet dressed in dickie bows and DJs to perform with them on TOGWT but it certainly had an impact on me at the time. This band took their music seriously.
Maybe I imagined it but I thought that Camel's performance on Sight And Sound In Concert was longer than is shown on here. With a change in line-up, Richard Sinclair replacing Doug Ferguson and the introduction of Mel Collins on sax, the band perform four classics from the then new Raindances album plus the ever brilliant Lunar Sea from Moonmadness. At this stage in their career, Camel were motoring. Collins added a new dimension, Sinclair's vocals bringing clarity and both his bass playing and the saxophone adding to the underlying jazziness to the band's unique style. To many, THIS was the classic line-up.
Moving on to 1981 and City Life, recorded for TOGWT (which at the time concentrated more on post punk and mainstream artistes) saw another line-up change with Bardens and Sinclair now gone and incomers Colin Bass and two keyboard players in the form of Jan Schelhaas and Kit Watkins. While multi keyboardists worked well here and in the Pressure Points DVD, the live shows were a little overpowering with, seemingly, Jan and Kit vying for supremacy of volume.
The remaining footage includes Captured from the 1984 Mirror Image programme (Pressure Points concert), Amateur video from the 1992 Dust And Dreams tour from London's Town And Country and more excerpts from The Snow Goose shot by the producer of this DVD, David Minasian, in 1997.
The bonus material is entitled Left Luggage and features Latimer, Ferguson and Ward reunited more recently, recording for the forthcoming Brew album. OK, it's not Camel as such but it's one hell of a groove.
No 5.1 or DTS sound here as such technologies were not considered for TV broadcasts in the 70's. The sound is, however very good and stereo and picture quality, as one would expect, is also better than expected. The amateur footage leaves much to be desired in all respects but accept it for what it is and it is still enjoyable. There is a glitch during the Sight And Sound Unevensong (sort of lives up to it's name) section which lasts for a few seconds but nothing could be done to correct it as the problem lay with the master tape. It's a shame but unavoidable.
The DVD menu has the eerie but soothing sound of Raindances on a loop and offers the option of playing the entire footage, selecting individual tracks or going straight to the bonus footage.
A loose leaf enclosed with the DVD. shows stills from the DVD on one side and lists DVDs/CDs available from Camel Productions on the other. A full list of tracks and credits appears on the rear cover of the DVD box.
The DVD is NTSC format region 0, with a picture aspect ratio of 4:3 (standard 'square' TV) and stereo sound. Note that the DVD should be playable on all DVD players and televisions (bar TVs that are not NTSC compatible. Check the handbook. Pal DVD players should be set to ‘auto’).
If Camel is not to your taste, frankly, I have no idea why you are reading this (nor, for that matter, why I typed this sentence!). Fans of the band's earlier material, especially those who saw the original broadcasts, should have no hesitation of adding this DVD to their collection. The BBC has specifically licensed their material contained on this DVD and, I would imagine, there could be a time limit factored in meaning that reprints may not be available in years to come, so get it while you can.
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