Review Summary: One of the best live albums I’ve heard. It has the very best version of “The Snow Goose”.
“A Live Record” is the debut live album of Camel and was released in 1978. The line up on the album is Andrew Latimer, Peter Bardens, Mel Collins, Doug Fergusson, Richard Sinclair and Andy Ward.
Camel’s not so imaginatively titled “A Live Record”, serves as a kind of a retrospective, as it includes performances both contemporary at the time and archived. This is a live album with the original band Camel in action, running great classics of the group, and with the addition of Richard Sinclair on backing vocals and bass, more Mel Collins on flute and saxophone. It can’t be anything but the best that could be seen in concert, in terms of progressive rock live albums.
“A Live Record” has twenty two tracks and was originally released as a double vinyl disk with recordings which were taken from three different live tours. The first disk, features recording sessions taken from their second studio album “Mirage” released in 1974, when they toured that album, and from their fifth studio album “Rain Dances” released in 1977, when they toured that album too. The first track “Never Let Go” released on “Camel” in 1973 and the second track “Song Within A Song” released on “Moonmadness” in 1976, were recorded at the Hammersmith Odeon, London, in October 1977 and were taken from “Rain Dances” live tour. The third track “Lunar Sea” released on “Moonmadness” was recorded at the Colston Hall, Bristol in October 1977 and was also taken from “Rain Dances” live tour. The fourth track “Skylines” released on “Rain Dances” in 1977 was recorded at Leeds University, Leeds, also in October 1977, and was also taken from “Rain Dances” live tour. The fifth track “Ligging At Louis” is an instrumental song composed by Peter Bardens and unreleased on any Camel’s studio album and the sixth track “Lady Fantasy: Encounter/Smiles For You/Lady Fantasy” released on “Mirage” in 1974, were recorded at the Marquee Club, London in 1974.
The second disk is devoted to the performance of “The Snow Goose”, released in 1975 during the live tour of the album in 1975 and was performed with the London Symphony Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
About the tracks, “A Live Record” opens with “Never Let Go” that sounds completely different from the original version. This one it’s a lot jazzier and is probably how it would have sounded if it had been written and recorded to “Rain Dances”. Definitely interesting, it’s no substitute for the superior original. “Song Within a Song” and “Lunar Sea” are performed very similar to the studio versions, despite the inclusion of Collins. “Ligging At Louis” is a good jam despite wasn’t be found on any of their other albums. “Lady Fantasy” sounds, in my humble opinion and unfortunately, rather tame and a bit less inspired compared to the much more powerful studio version. However, it still remains a great live version, for my taste. Then we go back in time to hear the band perform the then brand new “The Snow Goose”.
About the performance of “The Snow Goose”, I must say that I’m a big fan of the original. Still, this live performance is truly a stunning experience. The warmth that is added by the orchestra, not exactly absent from the studio recordings, is evident. It’s overall a good performance with some interesting differences from the original, such as the additional solo on “Migration” and the theme on “Flight Of The Snow Goose” being played on organ instead of the usual synthesizer. As happened with “Rhayader” you notice “the second voice”, artfully inlaid by David Bedford, who also wrote the arrangement. And although you would think that an orchestral setting might make the performance somewhat stiff, Bardens makes with his solo in that song the same short with this prejudice, and later even more violently in the extended “Migration!”. In “Rhayader Goes To Town” Bedford puts in a great Latimer's guitar additional layers on top.
Conclusion: “A Live Record” shows the band’s strength on stage during their early years. As I wrote before, this isn’t an album of one single concert but a selection from several. It was released shortly after “Rain Dances” and the record label didn’t wish interfere with the studio album sales. So, they reduced the number of tracks to be included from the “Rain Dances” live tour. The second record is “The Snow Goose” performed entirely with the backing of The London Symphonic Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall. And what a fabulous rendition it is. It just gives to the piece a whole new dimension sound. “The Snow Goose” is one of my favourite albums and this live version is, in my humble opinion, even better than the version on the original studio album. “A Live Record” is a brilliant live album, by one of the most brilliant bands of the 70’s. It isn’t less inferior to other great live albums from some other great bands of the 70’s. If you want to feel the power and the strength of Camel on live, you must get this album and I would certainly recommend it to everyone. This album would make a great starting point to anyone who wishes to listen to Camel for the first time. The production of the album is warm and clear and it serves as a great representation of their classic early musical period.
Music was my first love.
John Miles (Rebel)