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Camel - Harbour Of Tears CD (album) cover

HARBOUR OF TEARS

Camel

 

Symphonic Prog

3.75 | 522 ratings

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VianaProghead
4 stars Review Nº 87

"Harbour Of Tears" is the twelfth studio album of Camel and was released in 1996. It was released only five years later of their previous studio album "Dust And Dreams" and three years later of the release of their fourth and double live album "Never Let Go". It was recorded in Holland and was taken from the world tour of 1992 called "Comeback". It was the first independent Camel's release, after Latimer's move to USA and get Camel back on his own hands. Again, it's a marvel that the band continues to invest so much skill and vision into their music at this late juncture in their journey.

The line up of the album is Andrew Latimer (vocals, guitar, flute and keyboards), Mickey Simmonds (keyboards), Colin Bass (backing vocals and bass) and John Xepoleas (drums). The album has also the participation of other additional musicians: David Paton (vocals and bass), Mae McKenna (vocals), Neil Panton (oboe and soprano saxophone), Barry Phillips (cello), John Burton (French horn), Karen Bentley (violin) and Anita Stoneham (violin).

"Harbour Of Tears" is another conceptual album. This time it tells us the story of an Irish family who is painfully separated of their young ones who departed to the United States to seek a better future. In the period of 1845-1850 Ireland was not only to current European standards, poor, but also in absolute terms. Latimer learned that the last sight of Ireland that his grandmother's family would have seen was Cóbh Harbour. As he explains on the back cover of the album, Cóbh Harbour is a beautiful deep water port in County Cork, Ireland. It was the last sight of Ireland for hundreds upon thousands of fractured Irish families who saw their sons and daughters departed for fates unknown towards the distant America. Those families called it the Harbour Of Tears and thus the album itself was also titled as the common alias name of the port, "Harbour Of Tears". This is really a very emotional album.

Musically, "Harbour Of Tears" pretty much follows the "Dust And Dreams" format. Latimer is a romantic guy and the music is pretty much on par with what it was made on "Dust And Dreams", a bunch of instrumental tracks and a bunch of vocal tracks. However, there is for sure more variety on "Harbour Of Tears", than on the 1991 album, I think. As expected, with the subject that is, and as on "Dust And Dreams", the majority of the "Harbour Of Tears" has a quite gloomy and melancholy tone. The mix of Celtic influences in progressive rock music is a phenomenon that the head pops up here and there, and, understandably also intervenes Latimer for this record and to that plea. A whole army of guest musicians, including the necessary string musicians may further enhance the musical revelry. All this, certainly includes some great very enjoyable moments all over the album. On "Harbour Of Tears" some of the tracks are short and others big. The music flows in a familiar fashion from start to finish, only adding drums and vocals when the energy picks up. The music is very often interspersed by folk elements, which are accentuated by the use of typical instruments. Despite the mood of the album it's continuously melancholic, especially through the numerous soft keyboard pads, it never comes to be bored or even lard. The songs, of which about half of them are instrumental, usually go seamlessly one into another. The whole work is a perfect unit. The vocal numbers are too much like the mid-8''s Camel. The only exception is the closing instrumental suite, the last track "The Hour Candle (A Song For My Father)", which has 23:00 minutes long and makes that this disc worth owning for all progressive fans of Camel. After that, it's almost 20 minutes of gentle waves, literally, in honour of Latimer's late father.

Conclusion: After some less good albums in the 80's and also after several years of retirement of the musical scene, Camel returned with four magnificent studio albums, of which "Harbour Of Tears" is the second of them. As I wrote before, these four albums mark the return of the band to their symphonic progressive routes and represent also the return of them to their high and solid quality musical work. In my humble opinion, "Harbour Of Tears" is a very special album in their discography. It's a very Irish album, very intimate, sensitive, tragic, sad, melancholic and nostalgic, but it's at the same time very beautiful. Its music gives to the listener the sadness and the tragic feelings of the Irish families who saw their sons and daughters departed for unknown lands, towards the distant America. Personally, nowadays when I hear Camel's music, I'm always with melancholic and nostalgic feelings that in some way carry me to the distant past, the past of my youth. Camel is the only band from the 70's in which their music brings me such feelings. "Harbour Of Tears" is probably the album that brings me more strongly, those feelings. However, I think beyond my personal feelings, I can consider it a great album. It's an album with beautiful and nostalgic music, good lyrics and very well arranged which makes of it an excellent progressive musical work. This is Camel in a great shape.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

VianaProghead | 4/5 |

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