Review Summary: Can you disguise, can you simplify this change you've put me through?
Now here is quite the addled situation – after I Can See Your House From Here, its considerable success and follow-up tour, Canterbury-based keyboardists Kit Watkins and Jan Schelhaas had up and departed from Camel, the former of which becoming devoted to making his own solo career and the latter ironically played piano for a track titled “The Last Farewell” before up and leaving the band, also to go on and record his own solo albums. It’s a crying shame, for both Watkins and Schelhaas were very talented players, continuing the impeccable legacy Bardens had left: the duo added to Camel’s emotional music. Despite this, the band had to go forward with its scant three members, Colin Bass and Andy Ward – this time, the remaining trio opted to do a concept album, focusing around World War II, and recruited a multitude of additional musicians: the keyboards this time around are done by musician Duncan McKay. However, after Nude, Andy Ward was forced to leave due to his alcoholism – this upset Latimer, and with only a bassist left and no one to join, Camel disbanded, with Colin Bass hopping away to Paris.
So, as a result, we can ultimately blame Nude for the disbanding of Camel, for it would be a good seven-year hiatus before the name was revived again: we can doubly blame it for the next album, The Single Factor. Nude, far on the other hand, is a great album – it improves the previous three albums (Rain Dances, Breathless, and House) and does so with finesse, something that is simultaneously gorgeous and rugged. It enjoys a very robust sound and lacks superfluity, and that alone is worth a nod of respect. City Life is essentially a great opener, introducing our protagonist (Nude, in fact, which would be a frankly awesome name to have) and his thoughts both lyrically and instrumentally, in a lush combination of keyboards, upbeat guitars and percussion that intermittently is comparable to Dire Straits. On “Drafted” – easily Nude’s best track – the swelling passages and dynamic, complex performance that engulfs the whole track hasn’t sounded better since perhaps Breathless, or even as far back as Moonmadness, every instrument reaching the same caliber as the other.
The other songs on the album – as befit a concept album – range in terms of quality, time, and intensity. “Changing Places” is plain fun, with colorful saxophones providing the backdrop for Latimer’s vocals and his impeccable flute work. “Docks” boasts a vigorous riff that progresses effortlessly with the well-constructed, festive dynamics of the rest of the band. As point of fact, Nude has an absolute barrage of instrumentals that all work well together; because of this, it would be easy to overlook the songs with lyrics for they are the least memorable. “Lies” does swell with a funky breakdown in its middle that lacks the vinegar of its predecessors, and the same goes for the tiny songs “Nude” and “Please Come Home”.
But one would be remiss to criticize Camel too harshly for this: on their eighth album, they do anything but disappoint. Nude contains the right amount of punch and sass that was somewhat lacking in their previous three albums and gives Camel a brand new spark to keep them going strong. It’s a shame the spark did not last and Camel didn’t mature beyond this point: but for now, Nude is absolutely everything a longtime fan wants.