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CAMEL – AIR BORN – THE MCA & DECCA YEARS 1973-1984 (2023)

Camel’s relationship with Decca was a fraught one; indeed, drummer Andy Ward suffered a mental breakdown, but Decca insisted they make a commercial album anyway – “The Single Factor”, a nadir in their illustrious history (Of course bands like ELP had a similar experience as the era of punk held sway).

So, what is new here? Firstly, the quality demos recorded between their mighty debut album and their progressive peak “Mirage”, with early versions of every track except for ‘Freefall’; it does have a track that stayed in the vaults, ‘The Traveller’ to compensate. Also, the box cleverly compiles the complete individual live recordings that were compressed for “A Live Record”, including a quality recording of the band’s 1974 Marquee gig, with cracking versions of tracks from “Mirage” and a road-test of excerpts of “Snow Goose” (I can testify: I wasn’t at the Marquee, but did see Camel on consecutive weekends that year). The full Royal Albert Hall performance from 1975 (most of the second LP of “A Live Record” is dedicated to it) is included, as is the Hammersmith Odeon set from 1976, only a portion of which has appeared before. The 1977 Odeon gig with the “Rain Dances” line-up is also present and correct.

There are 26 discs in all, and if you are a Camel ‘nut’ like me, you will want to listen to this. The only downside is that, while this boxset contains just about everything anyone would need, there has still been no reissue of concept albums like “Dust and Dreams” (1991) and “Harbour of Tears” (1996) on Camel Productions. Four albums were released between 1991 and 2002 – wouldn’t it be great if these too were combined into a boxset. Given the rarity of the CDs, I would certainly pay money for that!

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