Review Summary: Another former progressive rock band does the 1980s, and success is nowhere to be found.
It is 1984. Nearly all of the well known progressive rock acts from the 1970s have either disbanded or chosen to ride the synthesizer-laden pop trends that are currently dominating the airwaves. Genesis had already released both Abacab
, the two albums that solidified Phil Collins' position as a pop genious. Trevor Rabin had turned Yes into a pop act with the 90125
, which even came with a #1 hit. The last hope for progressive rock was murdered in 1982, when the supergroup Asia
, complete with former members of Yes, King Crimson, and Emerson, Lake & Palmer turned out to be just another arena rock band. One would think that some of the more underground progressive rock acts would know better than to stay away from this trend, but Andrew Latimer's sights were set on just doing what everybody else was doing at the time. Stationary Traveller
, Camel's 10th album, continues further down the pop road that was previously seen in 1982 with The Single Factor
, featuring more synths and weaker songwriting than ever before.
At first glance at a detailed tracklist, one would notice that there are four instrumental tracks to found on Stationary Traveller, something that could give a prog-head from the 70s some hope that Camel turned back on these pop stylings that were hinted at in 1982. Upon hearing the opener, Pressure Points, it even sounds possible that Camel could combined what may have seemed like polar opposites, synths and progressive rock. However, once the album begins with its first real song, it is painfully obvious that this will not be the Camel album we had hoped for. Heavy synths are everywhere, electric basslines, pads, and synth strings are all put at the forefront ahead of guitar on far too many of the tracks. Andrew Latimer’s beautiful tone is forced to fills, mostly, on the distinctly 80s ridden tracks such as Vopos
and Cloak and Dagger Man
. Chris Rainbow’s immensely 80s pop sounding vocals on some tracks do not help Andrew Latimer’s cause at possibly creating one final masterpiece, as well.
Yet, it seems as if for one song the original Camel returned, for the five minutes of the title track, Stationary Traveller
, everything came together, the synths were not a particular forefront, instead used to accent the mood that the piano and acoustic guitar created in the beginning of the song. And for a few minutes, Andrew Latimer gets to show off his lead skills, unveiling one of the finest solo pieces of any progressive rock guitarist, ever. This musicianship was able to carry on even to a very synthesizer-laden instrumental, Missing
, which adds in more guitar leads than in previous songs to build up upon itself, and resolving like only Andrew Latimer can do it. After Words
and Long Goodbyes
work well together to form a strong ending to an otherwise relatively weak album from a band that formerly made top notch progressive rock in the 1970s.
Camel fans should more than likely stay away from this album, but the title track truly is a masterpiece that must be heard at least a few times. Even fans of 80s pop should not be inclined to purchase this, as many other former progressive rock artists produced much better pop music than Camel (Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Asia). For a good feel of what went wrong with the lesser known progressive rock acts in the 80s, Stationary Traveller
by Camel is the album that represents it the best.