Autor Wątek: CAMEL - AIR BORN [THE MCA & DECCA YEARS 1973-1984] (2023) [CD16-BREATHLESS]  (Przeczytany 95 razy)

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Po lekkim wakacyjnym wydawniczym marazmie sezon przedświąteczny prezentuje się całkiem bogato. Wśród wielu zapowiedzianych pozycji, o których będę sukcesywnie pisał, szczególnie interesująco wygląda imponujący box, jakże uwielbianej przeze mnie grupy Camel. Wydawnictwo „Air Born: The MCA & Decca Years 1973-1984” przygotowano z okazji 50-lecia ukazania się pierwszego longplaya formacji. Będzie ono zawierać aż 27 płyt CD (!!!) oraz 5 Blu-Ray’ów.

Zestaw wypełnią zremasterowane wersje wszystkich albumów studyjnych, koncertowych oraz singli zrealizowanych przez Camel dla wytwórni MCA i Decca. Do tego dojdą trzy recitale dla BBC: BBC Radio One „In Concert” – 6 czerwiec 1974, BBC Radio One „In Concert” – 22 kwiecień 1975 oraz BBC „In Concert” – Golders Green Hippodrome – 29 wrzesień 1977. Kolejne trzy koncerty to na nowo zmiksowane występy: „Live at Marquee Club, London” – 20 czerwiec 1974, „Live at Hammersmith Odeon” – 14 kwiecień 1976 oraz „Live at Hammersmith Odeon” – 1 październik 1977. Wszystkie te zapisy były co prawda już publikowane jako bonusy na poprzednich edycjach albumów zespołu, ale w nieco chaotyczny i nieuporządkowany sposób. Teraz będzie można ich wysłuchać w całości. Nader ciekawie i obiecująco przestawiają się studyjne (w większości niepublikowane) bonusy, pochodzące z sesji do poszczególnych albumów. Nie ma ich dużo, ale na pewno przysporzą sporo radości fanom formacji. Odrzutem z pierwszego albumu jest utwór „Sarah”. Aż pięć nagrań, które trafiły na płytę „Mirage”, otrzymamy dodatkowo także we wczesnych wersjach demo z 15 czerwca 1973r. Dwa mniej znane nagrania „Autumn” i „Riverman”, zespół zrealizował gdzieś pomiędzy longplayami „Mirage” i „The Snow Goose”. Krążek „Moonmadness” uzupełnią trzy studyjne dema. I wreszcie utwór „Captured” z płyty „Nude” usłyszymy we wczesnej, nieznanej dotąd wersji.

Jakby tego było mało, albumy „Camel”, „Mirage”, „The Snow Goose”, „Moonmadness” i „Nude” otrzymujemy także w zupełnie nowych miksach stereo oraz 5.1. Ogromna szkoda, że w podobny sposób nie opracowano pozostałych płyt. Być może nie udało się odnaleźć taśm z zapisami wielośladowymi?

Jeśli chodzi o materiały wideo, to poza paroma klipami i fragmentami występów z TV znajdą się tam koncerty: BBC TV „The Old Grey Whistle Test” – 21 czerwiec 1975, Live at Hammersmith Odeon – 1 październik 1977 oraz film „Pressure Points”. Pudełko uzupełni oczywiście gruba książka oraz plakat.

Paweł Nawara

The box features 27 CDs & five blu-rays and includes newly remastered versions of every Camel album and single issued between 1973 and 1984, but also includes new stereo and 5.1 Surround Sound versions of five albums, as well as new mixes of three concerts; The Marquee Club, London 1974, Hammersmith Odeon 1976 and Hammersmith Odeon 1977.

The package also features previously unreleased outtakes from album recording sessions and BBC Radio ‘In Concert’ appearances from 1974, 1975, 1977 and 1981.

Emerging just in time to honour the 50th anniversary of their debut album, Air Born is a sprawling boxed set which, as the title implies, celebrates their years spent with MCA and Decca. This was not always a happy time in terms of the band's relationship with Decca; in particular, after Andy Ward suffered a mental health crisis and attempted suicide, Andrew Latimer wanted to put the band on hiatus for a while to give Ward a chance to recuperate, but heartlessly Decca demanded that Camel put out a new studio album anyway - and pressured them to make it commercially friendly on top of that - which is what led to the critical stumble of The Single Factor.
Still, musically speaking this covers the music which Camel built their legacy on and more besides. Full remasters (and, for some select albums, additional stereo remixes) of all the Camel studio releases from their debut to Stationary Traveller are, naturally, included, along with a range of supplementary material ranging from unreleased studio tracks through to full live performances.

Much of this stuff has emerged in one form or another as bonus tracks over time, but there are a few significant bits of material which are new to this release. The major scoop of the collection is the full demo tape the band recorded in between their debut album and Mirage, which finds early versions of almost all the Mirage tracks present - only Freefall from that album is missing, and instead we get The Traveller, a Uriah Heep-ish piece which seems to have been abandoned as being more in keeping with their debut album's sound than Mirage's. In terms of sound quality, the demo is top notch, and captures the band's musical growth since they recorded their self-titled album marvellously, forming a hitherto-missing link between that and Mirage.

As for the live material, this is largely a mixture of BBC sessions and material released elsewhere, though there are enhancements and additions here and there. Early live performances include the take on God of Light Revisited originally recorded for the Greasy Truckers - Live At Dingwalls Dance Hall release, a funky, Santana-influenced piece. Again, this has been fairly widely repackaged as a bonus track on some issue or other over the years.

BBC sessions here include a June 1974 recording showcasing the band fresh from the release of Mirage, a more expansive 1975 offering giving extensive extracts from The Snow Goose (with the band on excellent form and proving they didn't need the orchestra to evoken the album's magic live), their excellent appearance on The Old Grey Whistle Test, and a 1977 Sight and Sound In Concert appearance from the Rain Dances lineup primarily focused on that album but also including great takes on Snow Goose material, Never Let Go from the debut, and an absolutely stellar take on Lunar Sea from Moonmadness. Much of this material has shown up as bonus tracks or on bootlegs over the years, but it's nice to get it in fairly definitive versions here.

Rather than presenting A Live Record in either its original or expanded configurations, the box instead offers the complete original live recordings from the different shows which made up that release. This includes a full set from the Marquee Club in October 1974, in which the band both burn through excellent renditions of Mirage-era material and road test compositions which would later make it onto The Snow Goose. The sound quality on this is remarkably good - perhaps the best of any of the pre-Goose live offerings here - and it's interesting how the Snow Goose compositions differ to account for the lack of an orchestra in tow.

Naturally, there's also the Royal Albert Hall full performance of The Snow Goose with orchestra from 1975, which would form the basis of the second disc of A Live Record; this is enhanced by an encore performance of Lady Fantasy, skillfully adapted to account for the orchestra.

We also get a full concert set from the Hammersmith Odeon in 1976; previously only smatterings of this had been borrowed for the extended CD version of A Live Record or on some reissues of Moonmadness, but having the full show to hand in its original running order is excellent. There's a few technical issues audible - notably some faint buzzing on a few tracks which could be down to the original tapes having an issue or might be indicative of some of the band's equipment having a bit of a moment, but this is a mild blemish easily overlooked, especially since some care seems to have been taken here to tidy up the lives tapes as best as possible.

This live set is especially valuable since it provides a final showcase for the original lineup of Camel - some would say the classic lineup - prior to personnel shifts and their Rain Dances-era drift into a Canterbury-influenced direction. You get Latimer, Ward, Ferguson, and Bardens at the absolute top of their game, with a setlist drawn from some of the greatest albums not just in the Camel discography but in the progressive rock pantheon as a whole, with the setlist finally presented on disc more or less as it was conceived to be delivered onstage; when you think about it, that's absolutely fantastic.

The band return to the Odeon in 1977 for a barnstorming set which, along with some stray tracks from other venues rounding off the Live Record material. The 1977 Odeon show is the fullest document of the Rain Dances lineup live on this set, and it's absolutely superb. Between that and the tracks from Bristol and Leeds, the Rain Dances period ends up being the era of the band that's perhaps best-represented by live material here (with The Snow Goose period a close second).

Other live material in the collection includes a tightened-up reissue of the BBC session previously released as On the Road 1981 (including two tracks - Summer Lightning and Ice - not included on previous releases of the BBC session) and, lastly, a remaster of Pressure Points.

Most prog fans will have at least some of the material here - though the new mixes of Camel, Mirage, The Snow Goose, Moonmadness, and Nude are good enough to be worth dipping into (and the previous mixes are also presented so you can judge which you prefer) - but even Camel fanatics probably won't have all of it. If you've got significant gaps to fill in your Camel collection - or if the prospect of all those live goodies have you salivating - it's highly worthwhile, offering the lion's share of their output in one package.


CD 16 [Breathless]:
1. Breathless
2. Echoes
3. Wing And A Prayer
4. Down On The Farm
5. Starlight Ride
6. Summer Lightning
7. You Make Me Smile
8. The Sleeper
9. Rainbow's End

Bonus Track:
10. Rainbow's End (single version)

...( Obsada )..

Andy Latimer - guitar, flute, vocals
- see Camel 1973-1984 line-ups
Hasta la vista, baby!