There’s just something about April, and springtime in general. No other month just feels so comfortable, and affectionate. I mean how can you not be moved when you see all this life just blossoming around, or notice days getting longer, and the whole environment just warming you up from the cold chills of winter. Even the coldest heart can’t help but endear itself to the gentlest of things and in April there’s an overabundance of this. It’s hard to deny its genuine beauty because it exist as so, with no pretense or assumption. So, rather than deny this feeling doesn’t it feel good when you embrace it?
With all this lengthy exposition in mind, I can’t help but state how much this inform why I love Camel’s “Breathless” my album of the month. It is in my opinion one of the warmest, and dare I say it…most beautiful albums ever made. This makes it apropos for the month. Camel, just to provide some backstory, was one of progressive rock’s best instrumental bands, which means that outside of a core niche of progressive rock fans…you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who wants to sit through over an hour of very pretty noodly instrumentals, let alone buy those same records. Hard up on time, and money for the first time they acquiesced to release an album with vocals and even more brazen…craft actual pop songs.
This was a sellout job pure and simple. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, expected failure. Nearly every Prog dinosaur like Yes, ELP, the Moody Blues etc. in the late 70s was releasing some of the worst adult contemporary dreck you can imagine just to stay relevant in the punk/new wave age. Only Pink Floyd, who went considerably darker with “Animals”, had managed to survive with their heads held high.
Luckily, Camel had the benefit of sharing that same great taste Pink Floyd had at the time. Rather than deny the influence of disco, punk, funk, soft-rock or reggae they deftly incorporated them into their own style of music. Where Pink Floyd went into darkness, Camel went into lightness. For example, you hear on this release tons of gorgeous 12-string guitars, the opening track is a great example of it (it’s a sound that any jangle rock band in the 80s would kill for). Even the only “prog” bones thrown to their older fans, the tracks “Echoes” and “The Sleeper”, still function with the feel of the album. However, the meat of this album are the other tracks which exist in a unique world unto themselves.
Just listen to the electric piano and funk lines on “Wing and a Prayer”. How marvelous do they blend with those 12-string guitars and vocals? Who even thinks of doing this with such sincerity and heart? I mean, it’s this sincerity that carries the album. “Down on the Farm” is a track full of charm and catchy silliness that the Kinks would have killed for. “Starlight Ride” is pure romance, something about the atmosphere they whip up here earns this track its feeling. “Summer Lightning” is one of the best, if not the best, disco track ever done by a white group (I say this as a massive disco fan!) and it’s filled with just brilliant guitar playing that makes almost any chill genre music out there sound superfluous compared to it. “You Make Me Smile” has this glorious dance groove lighting up some truly affectionate vocals, the whole track sounds exactly like the warm rays of sun. Even “Rainbow’s End”, when heard through the prism of the album, sounds positively majestic.
The brilliance of this album is that it’s just so passionate in creating its light world. Camel just presents you these tracks full of expertly made breeziness and before you know it you’re swept in with their charms. Of course, there will always be occasions and seasons where harder sounds, sadder emotions, darker themes, and different albums are more appropriate. However, right now it’s still Spring in April and doesn’t it seem like the perfect time to enjoy something lighter for a bit?