Tag Archives: space rock

Daevid Allen Remembered, with Don Falcone

The death of Daevid Allen earlier this year hit fans hard. Daevid was the Australian poet, composer and musician who co-founded Soft Machine and Gong, exploring the outer reaches of space rock and psychadelia to the delight of fans over the world. He was a long term friend of my editor at Gonzo weekly, Jon Downes, and of owner Rob Ayling. He was a very prolific musician both with his own projects and his contributions to other people’s work. One of those collaborators was Don Falcone of Spirits Burning who enjoyed a long association with this artist. I talked with Don about his work with Daevid over the years and the impact this renown musician made on his life.

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Daevid Allen, Don Falcone, and Michael Clare

DH: What was the first record you owned that Daevid was part of?

DF: Technically, it was “You” by Gong. It took some time for me to appreciate it, as it felt a little too produced for my tastes at that moment. What really reeled me in was the live Planet Gong “Floating Anarchy” album, which was Daevid, Gilli, and the Here & Now band. It had all the space elements you’d find with Hawkwind, but it was so different in execution. Not having experienced live Gong yet, this was my first chance to hear Daevid in a heavier, wilder, spacey environment.

DH: How did this early exposure draw you in – what did you see in his art that spoke to you?

DF: At the time of those initial listenings, I thought of Daevid as a confident vocalist, and perhaps a maestro who could assemble and lead musicians to new places. I tended to like the mix of play and intensity he brought to an ensemble, things like “Opium for the People,” and the “Black-Sheep” piece. I wasn’t quite ready for some of the quirkier moments of “You.” I’m not sure if it’s the right analogy, but where I liked Monty Python, Bonzo Dog Band, or even the Bob Calvert “Capt. Lockheed” quirks, I never connected with Frank Zappa, and something about early Gong arrangements initially hit me as more like Zappa. It took some time for me to appreciate Daevid. To be honest, it was easier for me to latch onto the solo, and more instrumental-based adventures of Tim Blake and Steve Hillage, or their work with Clearlight Symphony and Nik Turner.

Early on, I had no clue that Daevid was a master of gliss, and underrated as a guitarist on so many levels. I simply thought that most of what I heard was Steve Hillage in Gong, and Steffe Sharpstrings in Planet Gong. I knew that Daevid has some solo albums, but thought that he did acoustic guitar here and there. It’s funny what you pick up (or don’t pick up) from album covers, reviews, and so on.

It wasn’t really until he was in my home studio that I discovered how much I had been missing. Or, the moments where he performed locally, prior to those sessions, and where I got to see him in person: playing guitar, performing, putting out so much energy and passion.

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DH: How did you end up collaborating with Daevid?

DF: I contacted Michael Clare and asked him for help in setting up a session with Daevid at my home studio. Daevid was probably staying at Pierce’s McDowell’s house and I either picked him up there, or dropped him off, or both… I knew that Daevid was visiting San Francisco in those days, and I thought it simply made sense to get him involved with a project that celebrated space rock.

[Michael and Pierce have since become long-time Spirits Burning bass guitar contributors, and are part of the Gong family of musicians, having played in University of Errors and Mother Gong, respectively.]

DH: What stories or anecdotes do you have for the times you worked together – his sense of humanity, of humor, or life?

One year, Daevid showed up for a session with a gift for me. A copy of Robert Calvert’s “Centigrade 232” book/cd. Daevid knew that I was a big fan of Calvert’s poetry and music. I was blown away. It was also kind of serendipitous, in that I had brought Daevid and Robert together on two pieces a few years earlier (when Robert’s wife Jill had given me a tape of the “Centigrade 232” readings, and I had recorded Daevid on the two pieces with Robert’s voice).

Another memorable moment… our first session. I had this piece called “Arc” (or “A Real Creeper”), and after Daevid finished two different gliss parts, he turned to me, and asked if I had anything in the room that he could recite for the piece. I said… well, I do have my college thesis, with a number of poems I wrote. As I played back the piece, Daevid proceeded to flip through my thesis and vocalize various lines of my poetry, interpreting them on the spot, bringing new life to them, experimenting with various ways to actualize them. It was quite amazing. One of my first experiences with Daevid’s ability to improv vocally. This was a predecessor, I guess, to his work on the Weird Biscuit Teatime album, specifically with “Beezlebabble Slush.” For that piece, he improvised vocalizations that were between pre-human and inhuman. Utterly breathtaking: Concurrently scary and inspirational. To be in the same room…

Daevid was also open to try anything. I truly admired (and appreciated) this willingness to let me lead him to a place, where he could do lyrics that I gave him, or as was often the case, where he would turn to his sheets of lyrics. There were funny moments in there too. For example, when I gave him the “Book of Luana” lyrics, and said that one part needed a manic preacher feel, he dived in. Daevid’s tall, and him stamping a foot on the ground while yelling “You can call him the preacher” shook the house here, and got our dog barking quite a bit. When we let her in, she could only look up quizzically at this giant wizard.

The mentions of Daevid as a vocalist barely scrape what he brought to Spirits Burning and other projects we worked on throughout the years. His gliss work remains heavenly, ethereal, haunting. It was always special to be in the same room, as he took the song and me to a place that I could not have imagined. He brought so much to so many SB CDs, as well as brief moments for Astralfish, Quiet Celebration, and Fireclan. But, the gliss workings were just the beginning. When we first got together, I had no idea that Daevid was so adept at guitar improv. I could not have predicted the numerous rhythms and leads that he would do over 12 SB CDs, and a couple “Weird” albums. Daevid’s parts have a way of making a song more creative, passionate, deeper. More than I could have dreamed of.

As the 2010s rolled in, Daevid no longer swooped into the bay area, and our in-person sessions ended. Daevid did continue to work with me remotely. He was using a Pro Tools system that I had helped him set up, and a mic that I had given to him in lieu of a session or two. I think he did some of his vocals for later Gong albums with that setup. I recently looked back at our emails the last few years, and there were the occasional questions about how to do something on Pro Tools. While I was always respectful of Daevid’s time and email address, it was always good to be able to help him in these adventures.

In the Spirits Burning parts that he recorded in Australia, I could see, or rather hear in the files that he sent me, a strong interest in trying to do more things with his voice. For example, on “Bring It Down,” he supplemented the lead and backing vocals with a vocal bass part, and a vocal cymbal part. Things like that.

Perhaps the final joy that Daevid brought to me, was the same joy that he first brought, more than a decade earlier. His support and belief in me as a musician. One passionate musician to another. We all need that sometimes. We’re human. In January of 2015, when Michael (Clare) and I sent Daevid the results of our months of work on the second WBT CD, Daevid responded with more than I could have expected. “you have done a fascinating job of mixing this up for me and I find myself both moved and nicely surprised….. Love to you all and thanks for your patience, your cards and your sweet caring! Huge hug.”

Shortly after, Daevid announced to the world that his time on this world was coming to an end.

DH: How do you think history will view Daevid and his important work?

It’s hard to say… it’s like asking what will be the view of 70s bands that didn’t have hits when we’re all dead and gone.

There will be digital text histories like Wikipedia. Although I do wonder what happens to the band sites that many have started when no one is left to pay for them, or the companies running them are gone…

There will be the aural histories: Various streaming services, posts on the Facebooks of today and tomorrow, and lots of collections that hopefully will get passed down or over to others. Plus, our conversations about Daevid, our ongoing dialogues.

There are also the hidden gems of Daevid’s works. For example, what he has brought to Spirits Burning. Many Daevid and Gong fans are less aware of his amazing contributions to the history of SB.

It’s in all of these histories that Daevid will rest and continue to grow.

DH: Do you have anything still “in the can” to be released of your collaborations?

Yes.

Daevid_SB_Starhawk

For Spirits Burning, there are definitely 2-3 songs, maybe a couple more. First, the next Spirits Burning (titled “Starhawk,” and coming out Oct 30, 2015) will end with “So Strong Is Desire,” featuring a vocal duet by Daevid and my wife Karen. Daevid commented that he really liked the piece, and was kind of surprised that I wrote the piece and its words. One of my music cohorts thinks it’s the poppiest thing that Daevid’s ever done. My intent was to capture the psychedelic feel of one of those mid-70’s Hawkwind numbers with Nik Turner and others Hawks singing.

Further down the road will be two pieces on the second SB & Clearlight CD. There’s a piece that I started when I went to an Ableton Live class years ago. I sent it to Daevid and he added guitar and vocals (about a female friend of his ending up at a hospital). He even did some digital cutting and pasting to suggest a different arrangement. Actually, there are two versions that we did. One is an instrumental, which will have Cyrille and Camper Van Beethoven violinist Jonathan Segel on it. The vocal version is currently under new development. They’ll be the bookends for the album.

The big news, is that there is a successor to the Weird Biscuit Teatime album, under the name Daevid Allen Weird Quartet. On vinyl too. It’s Daevid, Michael, me, and drum duties over the album split by Trey (Sabatelli) and Paul (Sears). The album was started a few years ago, when Trey and I worked at Digidesign, and we reserved the studio for us to record in while Daevid and Michael were visiting the bay area. I had started some songs, brought them in, and Daevid, Michael, and Trey played to them. They also did a couple of jams that turned into songs. For the rest of the album, David did vocals and guitar at my home studio. The album was on hold for a few years, for various reasons. Then, in 2014, Michael and I dove back in. Michael doing missing bass parts from Hawaii, me doing new mixes and experiments here. For the pieces that still needed drums or percussion, we brought in Paul, who had worked recently with me in Spirits Burning, as well as on the 2014 Clearlight CD.

DH: What is the next Spirits Burning project?

“Starhawk,” an adaptation of Mack Maloney’s “Starhawk” novel. It’s scheduled for an October release on Gonzo Multimedia.

The starter tracks for the next Spirits Burning & Clearlight album are finished. I’m now reviewing what we have, and deciding what other instruments we need for each piece.

Then, there are a slew of SB projects in the works. I’ll be announcing them on the Spirits Burning Facebook page as they develop.

Daevid touched so many people. Literally, and sonically. He almost always would talk to people before and after shows. Sometimes even during… He was one of those few musicians who could just hang out. He made so many musician friends too, as he was willing to play with so many musicians, in so many different styles and setups. He reached so many listeners, in so many ways.

On a personal note, I feel that he gave life to Spirits Burning, in the sense that he helped get it off the ground, and bring in label interest. It’s something that I’ll always remain thankful for.

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The Daevid Allen/Spirits Burning Family Sessions (as best we can remember)

  • Summer, 1998 (San Leandro, California): 7 songs for Spirits Burning “New Worlds By Design.”
  • Between September, 2000 and March, 2001 (San Leandro, California): 7 songs for Spirits Burning “Reflections In A Radio Shower.
  • Late 2001 (San Leandro, California): 7 songs for Spirits Burning “Found In Nature,” 9 songs for Weird Biscuit Teatime “DJDDAY,” 1 song for Quiet Celebration “Sequel,” and the track “Clear Audient v2.5” for the “Bay Prog CD” and its remix on daevid allen & don falcone “CD “Glissando Grooves.”
  • December, 2002 (San Leandro, California): 7 songs for Spirits Burning “Found In Nature,” and mixing of 9 songs for Weird Biscuit Teatime “DJDDAY.”
  • April, 2003 (San Leandro, California; Daevid in the bay area for gig with Makoto & Cotton): 3 songs for Spirits Burning “Alien Injection,” 2 songs for Fireclan “Sunrise to Sunset,” and 6 songs for Spirits Burning “Crazy Fluid.”
  • November 2006 (San Bruno, California, and Digidesign Studio in Daly City, California; Daevid in the bay area for University of Errors show at the Hemlock): 4 songs for Spirits Burning & Bridget Wishart “Earth Born,” plus 11 songs for the follow-up to the Weird Biscuit Teatime album (later renamed as Daevid Allen Weird Quartet).
  • April, 2007 (San Bruno, California): 3 songs for Spirits Burning & Bridget Wishart “Bloodlines , and 11 songs for Spirits Burning “Behold The Action Man.”
  • May 2010 (San Bruno, California): “The Book of Luana” for Spirits Burning “Crazy Fluid,” and 2 songs for Astralfish “Far Corners.”
  • 2011 to 2013 (remote, from Australia): “Make Believe It Real” for Hawklords “Friends and Relations,” 2 songs for Spirits Burning & Bridget Wishart “Make Believe It Real,” 1 song for Spirits Burning & Clearlight “Healthy Music In Large Doses,” 1 song for Spirits Burning “Starhawk,” and 2 songs for Spirits Burning & Clearlight “Roadmaps” (future release).

Ty Segall’s Glam and Grind

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Ty Segall

Ty Segall is a 27 year old indie rock wunderkind from San Francisco. Ty has released eight studio albums, beginning with 2008’s Ty Segall and continuing thru to 2014’s rocker Manipulator, building a solid fan base of these last seven years. In addition, he has released more than two-dozen singles and EP’s and played on as many albums by other indie bands. The man is prolific – just this week shipping a live album on vinyl appropriately titled Live in San Francisco, adding to this lengthy catalog. We caught up with him here last week, for the second of two packed, fantastic shows at the Great American Music Hall on January 30, 2015.

TS_band2Ty’s influences come from rock, glam and punk heroes of the past (think T-Rex, Velvet Underground, Stooges, and the Ramones) with some garage rock, space rock (Ty lists Hawkwind as an inspiration), psychedelia, and alternative thrown in for good measure. These influences are skillfully mixed into his unique sound, ending up in a fresh new stew of melody and noise. Multiple guitar tracks bring fat power chords and ferocious solos that build to intense crescendos along with shimmering symbols and melodic bass. Ty’s vocals are clear and strong, sometimes treated, and recalling a young Marc Bolan. Ty even titled two of his EP’s Ty Rex.

TS_plusdrumOver time, Ty’s work has become more refined. The latest studio release Manipulator, is a watermark album, brimming with ideas. Check out tracks like “Feel” (arguably his best to date) or “Tall Man and Skinny Lady” or bass riff driven “Mister Main” as examples. The work is accomplished, and while still muscular, has started to lean away from his more punk roots – a journey common to many before him, and one that often results in very interesting developments, which is the case here. It’s one of our favorite records of 2014.

TS_band1Ty made a triumphant return to the stage in his original hometown of San Francisco having just completed a fairly extensive tour of the UK and Europe last fall. We arrived at the venue with great expectations. From the first note it was clear that Ty’s punk roots remain strong. Hard core fans populated a mosh pit up front, slowing to rapt attention only during some of the new numbers, and building to a fever on the rest. The performance was energetic and unrelenting, as Ty, dressed in workman’s jump suit attacked both guitar and vocal leads with aplomb, recalling an early, angular Pete Townsend, though channeling less anger, more excitement (he is from California after all). With nary a break, he led a three piece backing band through a blistering set culled from his packed catalog, including opener “Wave Goodbye”, “Finger”, “Girlfriend”, “and mid-set placement of “Feel.” Herein lies a key takeaway – Ty’s work is maturing – as his new compositions favor groove over grind, his audience will grow and change as well. Despite a mid-set trio of tracks from Manipulator, on this night his focus was on the grind. No acoustic guitars or keys, though one can see that coming, as Ty expands his palette. Instead we were treated to the best of his white hot rockers feeling as though we caught this young artist at a perfect moment, as he steps onto a larger, global stage.

TS_dissoIt’s going to be fascinating to see where he travels next. The ride is recommended.

 

Don Falcone and Spirits Burning at Home

I sort of lost the plot with progressive rock and other similar music from the mid ’90’s to mid ’00’s.  We didn’t collect a lot of it – focusing on more alternative rock forms. But more recently, I’ve been missing the music that fueled my imagination as a younger man, and am realizing that many of the original practitioners are on their last laps, and some others have been filling in, developing the art and taking this music to new places.

A case in point is the cSpirits-Burning---Bridget-Wishartompelling band Spirits Burning. This space rock collective has as its main practitioner and organizer one Don Falcone, keyboardist, editor, and producer.  His notion has been to work with scores of musicians on each new release, collaborating over the internet, and producing a wondrous home brew of space rock, world music, and anything that lights the way.  I visited Don at his home studio this May of 2014.

The latest release from Spirits Burning & Bridget Wishart is Make Believe It Real from Gonzo Multimedia.  This is the third release with Bridget Wishart, who sports her own rich catalog including time as lead vocalist for Hawkwind along with other projects.  This one is a longer release spanning two CDs.  To begin, I asked Don if this double is a watershed moment or mark in time for the Spirits Burning project, as can be the case with longer releases:

Don: Actually, to make this release a bit special, we said why not have a second CD – a bonus disk – with some tracks that are only available on compilations, some remixes, and a piece with Twink, which we made into a new track.  So it’s not a “best of” or anything like that.  Instead the length of this new double CD allows us to do something special for the release.  One note – we are planning a compilation disc that will be coming out through Gonzo, and which may be tied to a Hawkwind release as a promo.  Our last compilation was after 10 years and this one will be at the 15 year mark.

Being in Don’s studio, it was a great time to take a look at his recording equipment, methods and approaches.  Don and I walked through several tracks and talked about how his approach to recording has changed over the years.

P1010063When Spirits Burning started, many of us recorded together in the same place.  Over time, more people have gained the ability to record themselves.  So things have developed and changed – it’s clearly given me the opportunity to do different things with space rock and not get bogged down with the same musicians and instruments.

Collaborations have included band members from such disparate sources as Counting Crows to Hawkwind, along with concepts and words from literary sources including Michael Moorcock, and Bob Calvert (posthumously).

Collaborating in this way, I thought it was a great way to write or start pieces and then have other people change that track and turn it into something else, and also to have them start pieces.  So it wasn’t just about me – I’ve always felt that the best band is one where everybody is as good as or better than me.  The other thing is, from the beginning – I wanted to make this a celebration of space rock – over time what’s it’s morphed into is a celebration of collaborating – the result is lots of space rock but there’s prog and other elements – people taking the chance to play with others they would not normally play with.  Slowly over the years, I’ve asked people and they’ve said “yes” – so for example I asked Steven Wilson (of Porcupine Tree) and he agreed, Daevid Allen (from the band Gong) comes in when he is here.  And there are several collaborators from Hawkwind. Most of the recent recording sessions now happen remotely, although Cyrille (Verdeaux from Clearlight) and others still come here to record.  To continue being relevant, I do think I have to vary the classic artists involved and mix in more contemporary performers.

P1010058At this point, we walk through a new track Don is working on – from the upcoming release titled Starhawk (an adaptation of a Mack Maloney novel).  I asked Don how these compositions begin and become developed into the final form:

About 75 percent of the pieces start off with the rhythm and some chords I have in mind.  If I have a vocal line in mind, I know where that has to go as well, but to get it into the digital workstation, I need to decide on the tempo.  Then I get a click track or fake drum.  As an example, I have a bunch of plug-ins for this piece – there is a drum plug-in called Strike and there are others I use.  I sometimes mix drum machines.  To begin, my intent with this piece is to get rid of the drums once I have a drummer.  Occasionally, I will find that I lose something with the real drummer and then I do a bit of both.  So this piece started with the drums (plays a bit of the drum track).  And then I knew what I was going to do on keyboards (plays a bit of the keys with drums).  There are five MIDI instruments – organ, piano, two synths, plus keys that sound like a guitar.  Next, I did a scratch vocal.

Do you ever start with sheet music you’ve written?

I may write down leP1010059tters – A minor, G, whatever and then I experiment – if I’m going to do 7ths or 9ths, then it’s more in the playing, not what I’ve written down.  I don’t know with people who contribute outside this room whether they write things down or not.  I do know someone like Cyrille, will have his way of writing things down.  Violinist Craig Fry will chart everything out.  When Daevid was here for the original Spirits Burning CDs, he would be here for a day and do six pieces – he kind of installed in me more improv – it’s fun to see what happens – when you throw something at somebody.  If they like it, if they get along with it, and you see what they do.  If you are playing rhythm tracks, of course you have to stay consistent with that, and make that work, but if you are doing a solo or effects, you can stretch out. Plus, if I play something that sounds great – I don’t have to worry about playing it live, as I might not play it ever again.  Yes, I’ve captured it digitally, and while I could generate sheet music from it, I typically won’t, unless someone requests it.

Next on this track, a lot of things are done as stems, so you can click on that one Aux or VCA track, for instance, to modify the volume of all the “stemmed” keys at one time (Plays track again while changing the level of the keyboard stem). With every song, I pick a reverb and plug it in (replays background vocals which sound wide across the spectrum, modifying what we are hearing with an external Eventide Model H3000 SE Ultra Harmonizer).

P1010055As an example of how these ideas come together, for this same track, I had a specific idea in mind for the progression of vocals.  “Vagabonds of the Western World” by Thin Lizzy was one of their early tracks that I liked and it inspired me – it starts off with a vocal line and then has a lead vocal line, and a third part – and then at the very end of the song, all three parts happen at once.  I went back and studied what they did – they used complimentary keys that work on top of each other, and using the stereo mix – left, right, center for the lead vocals – it’s very powerful.  I decided to use the idea – of course with different chords, a totally different song, but planned so that the three vocal segments line up in a similar way.  (Plays verse, chorus, lead vocal from “Our Crash”).  Here, eventually, I bring them all together – lead guitar during the bridge is Billy Sherwood (plays a great melodic solo from Billy). Here is the first part on the left, second on the right, center for the lead.

To put down these vocals, we need two singers. For now, the lead is me. I’m working on getting someone special for the final version. For backing vocals, Judge Smith did 3-4 parts — he’s got a great voice.  I gave him a version with all of my scratch vocals and one without.  Given the same parts happen in multiple places, he could concentrate on when it was cleaner and fit best.

P1010061To pull all these tracks together, there are many cloud services on which to collaborate.  I typically use Dropbox but also have a Box account.  When I put all this together, we align the track to “zero,” before anything starts. There is also a mark (or transient) I’m watching for (Don points back to the session window, early in the piece where the first sound is displayed).  If someone is sending a small part, they might not send the whole WAV file (these are quite large), and in those cases I line up the bit where it’s intended to go.  But I ask them to also send me a quick mix of their part with what I gave them, so I can hear where they see themselves fitting in, and at what volume.  If for any reasons there is some latency, where their part is a couple samples or seconds off, I can hear it and know to line it up.  There has been some fun mistakes over the years.  There’s a song on the Spirits Burning & Bridget Wishart CD, “Skyline Signal” where Bridget and I got confused, and invited two bass players.  Luckily, one played in a higher frequency and the other a lower and it sounds really cool together.

So these pieces are coming up on the next project.  “Our Crash” plus “Two Names” are the first two tracks.  Not sure if there will be more instrumentalists in between.  I have been thinking about the type of transition heard in the Hawkwind piece “Assault and Battery” as it goes into “Golden Void” – one of my favorites.  I love how they start with this massive sound and then they come down into this combination of mellotron and bubbling synths and tabla.  You can be influenced by things you like – then work with those influences and take them to a new place.  For “Our Crash” you would never make a Thin Lizzy connection for a million years.  But just structurally it inspired the work.  This is typical of how Spirits Burning tracks are formed.

Don walked through the stack of keyboards, equipment and software he most typically uses – including:

•    Kurzweil 2000 as his main keyboard MIDI trigger
•    Pro Tools HD system for recording and mixing it all
•    Eventide Ultra-Harmonizer Model H3000 SE – which is used for various reverb and delay effects
•    Roland Juno-60 – a classic synth used a little in 2012’s Astralfish release on Don’s Noh Poetry Records label.
•    M-Audio Venom – used for many of the moving synth lines on the “Make Believe It Real” album.
•    Virtual synths. Don says that he typically uses more virtual synths – software plug-ins — than physical keyboards. These include Structure sampler, Xpand!, organ, piano, and a couple of synth plug-ins.)
•    A mellotron he’s storing for a friend and has used for seven of the last eight Spirits Burning CDs!

His home studio is real and warm in a house filled with family and friends, often musicians!
Make Believe It Real  is now available and highly recommended.  Check it out!

Camel Coming Home

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACamel are one of the greatest yet least known of the “progressive rock” genre bands that came to life in the early 1970’s.  Associated with the Canterbury music scene in Britain, with Andrew Latimer (guitar, keyboards, flute, vocals) at the helm, the band navigates rock and jazz motifs, prog / space rock, and English folk.  Much of their work is surprisingly sunny – while Andy’s evocative guitar style might be compared to David Gilmore of Pink Floyd fame, there is less gloom in their work as a whole.  At the start, Peter Bardens (keyboards) co wrote the first six records from 1972’s self titled debut “Camel”, through 1978’s “Breathless.”  Peter left the band before the Breathless tour and went on to success as a solo “new age” music artist.  Other group members playing bass, keys, and drums have changed multiple times, with the most persistent member being Colin Bass, an amazing bass player who also offers warm vocals to many tracks since 1979.

The band has become Andy’s life occupation, being the one remaining original member, and who save for a hiatus from 1985-1990 remained productive, with regular releases and tours all the way through their 2003 tour.  At the end of that tour Andy and his wife moved from the US back home to Britain.  After a prolonged illness which made playing too difficult during the last ten years, Andy re-recorded their 1975 release “The Snow Goose” and booked a short series of concerts in Europe and the UK this fall to perform this release and a series of songs from their large catalog.  We flew to London to catch their stop at the Barbican Hall, October 28th, 2013.

The concert was a huge success.  The audience stood to applause for what seemed minutes before the band could play the first note.  Tears were shed.  Notes wound out of Andy’s Gibson Les Paul like siren songs.  Colin and Andy retain their rich vocals and the rest of the band played fabulously, as if no time had passed since their last outing.  The first half of the show found the band playing The Snow Goose in its entirety, with a few deviations from the original work, played beautifully and leaving the audience enraptured.  The second half of the show included early tracks starting with a half pace rendition of “Never Let Go” – beautifully executed, making it hard not to think of Andy’s triumph over health issues with the lyrics:
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMan is born with the will to survive,
He’ll not take no for an answer.
He will get by, somehow he’ll try,
He won’t take no, never let go, no…

Then on to others including “Song Within a Song” from “Moonmadness,” a gorgeous rendition of “Tell Me” from “Rain Dances,” “Echoes” from “Breathless,” and the encore “Lady Fantasy” from Mirage.  Their 1979-1984 work was skipped to include more from “Harbour of Tears” and “A Nod and a Wink” – their 1996 and 2002 releases. While I would have included the mid-period work in the set list, it was really special to hear them play The Snow Goose and so many key tracks again after 10 long years.

The dynamics of Camel’s music are so important, where volume, drums, double keyboards and particularly Andy’s plaintive emotive guitar played live are beyond what can be captured on record.  Comparisons to Clapton, Gilmour and the great slow-hand note benders are apt – and fortunately for Camel’s rapt fans, time and illness did not diminish Andy’s skills nor those of his band.  Camel continues the journey and after such a long break, made a welcome visit home.