Saturday, April 18, 2015

the snow goose

Camel migrated to classical rock with the instrumental orchestrated sanctuary of this progressive parable.   The Guildford quartet had released their eponymous debut on RCA Records before moving to the Deram Records subsidiary of Decca Records for the celebrated 'Mirage'.  

It was at this point that songwriters Peter Bardens and Andrew Latimer decided to try something new.  Latimer reveals:    "We hadn’t really got the idea of doing a concept album, when we went down there. We went down there, we had a few bits and pieces we’d written, but we had no real direction for the album. We didn’t really fall on the conceptual idea until about a week after we’d been down there. I think Doug was saying it was a good idea if we do a concept album. So after about a week Peter and I were chatting, because Peter wanted to do Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse and I didn’t. I wanted to do The Snow Goose, because Peter had read it – I hadn’t read it until the week I went down there, and Doug had read it and said it was worthwhile considering. And I’d read it and thought it had great musical possibilities. And so we thrashed it out, Peter and I. We went up to the top of this hill – I remember it really well, and when we went up there, he wanted to do Steppenwolf, and me wanted to do Snow Goose. And we came back down and said “yeah, we want to do The Snow Goose.” It was great. And we worked on it, wrote the majority of it in about two weeks, which was very easy, ‘cos we both had a very clear defined picture of who and what the characters should say musically. So we were writing and as we were writing you know, Pete would write a piece or I would, and we’d say to each other you know, “do you think this is right for one of the characters?” We’d know, both of us if we found it was right, and sometimes we’d write five different pieces until we came on the right mood for the character. And so it was very easy in that area.   It was a strange album in as much as we wrote the whole thing and practiced each piece, but we’d never ever played it all the way through. So we didn’t really know how it was going to sound like all the way through. And I was sort of working on links and things with Peter. We eventually went into the studios to do it, and we recorded each piece separately.

Rhett Davies engineered the recording in London at Island Studios, with overdubs done at Decca Studios with John Burns.  The sessions featured Andrew Latimer on electric guitar, acoustic guitar, slide guitar, flute, and vocals;   Peter Bardens on organ, minimoog, electric piano, acoustic piano, pipe organ, and ARP Odyssey;   Doug Ferguson on bass and duffle coat;  Andy Ward on drums, vibes, and percussion.   David Bedford did the orchestral arrangements and conducted the London Symphony Orchestra.  

Latimer says:   "[It] was produced by David Hitchcock, who produced the Mirage album.  And he was very good actually, because he helped us really organise things, like getting together with David Bedford, and more or less took control when the studio musicians and orchestra came in to do their parts – which we were a bit inexperienced with at that stage; we didn’t want to tell anybody how it should go. It was quite funny.  It was successful album for Peter and I because it came very close to what we had in our heads about The Snow Goose. Whether it was successful on a commercial thing is a, you know, is rather irrelevant really. I think it was successful to us, that’s what art is all about. But it did turn out to be a successful album for the band. It really did push the band up into the public eye. It was the turning point I think for Camel, ‘cos up until then it had been a band that people didn’t take much notice of, though we had quite a keen set of followers. But when The Snow Goose came along it was welcomed in this country with open arms, and it really did – it went into the charts, and around that time we got Melody Maker Brightest Hope award I think…did the Albert Hall concert. So things were sort of generating interest. So it was a good period for the band, and we were working well together at that stage, Peter and I. We still had our arguments and some disagreements in the studio, but we were really pulling together on all things and fronts; on the stage show and album. It was a very harmonious time for the band.

'The Snow Goose: A Story of Dunkirk' tells the story of artist Philip Rhayader who lives in an abandoned lighthouse who befriends a local girl named Fritha when she finds a snow goose wounded by gunshots and together they nurse the animal back to health.  The animal is released and continues to visit the lighthouse during its migrations, although Rhayader and Fritha grow apart.  After Rhayader is killed assisting the British retreat from Dunkirk, Fritha sees the goose again and realizes that she loved him.    

The instrumental tribute to the novella by Paul Gallico was not welcomed by the author and he filed a lawsuit against the band for copyright infringement.  The album was re-released as 'Music Inspired by The Snow Goose' and the notes on the storyline were removed.   Regardless, the album was a breakthrough success for Camel, going to number twenty-two on the British album chart.


The Snow Goose / Friendship / Rhayader Goes to Town

'The Snow Goose' 
full album:

All songs by Peter Bardens and Andrew Latimer.

Side one
1. "The Great Marsh" 2:02
2. "Rhayader" 3:01
3. "Rhayader Goes to Town" 5:19
4. "Sanctuary" 1:05
5. "Fritha" 1:19
6. "The Snow Goose" 3:11
7. "Friendship" 1:43
8. "Migration" 2:01
9. "Rhayader Alone" 1:50
Side two
10. "Flight of the Snow Goose" 2:40
11. "Preparation" 3:58
12. "Dunkirk" 5:19
13. "Epitaph" 2:07
14. "Fritha Alone" 1:40
15. "La Princesse Perdue" 4:43
16. "The Great Marsh" 1:20

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