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Camel - Pressure Points CD (album) cover

PRESSURE POINTS

Camel

 

Symphonic Prog

3.32 | 154 ratings

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SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
4 stars Partial pressure: less is sometimes more!

There are, as far as I know, as many as three different official releases of this very same live recording, originally recorded and filmed on the tour in support of the Stationary Traveller album in the mid 80's at Hammersmith Odeon in London. These three releases are two different video releases (called Pressure Points and Total Pressure respectively) and the present live album. The most recent of these releases is the DVD called Total Pressure and it is also the most complete version (hence the title; Total Pressure) with 16 tracks as the main feature + four extra tracks as a bonus feature. The Pressure Points live video had 13 tracks (as listed here on PA, I don't own that version), while this album version has only ten tracks. If completeness alone is your guide, it is thus obvious that you should go for the Total Pressure DVD. However, with the only exception of the classic Lady Fantasy from the Mirage album that closed the original show, all the tracks that are missing on this album (as compared with the Total Pressure track list) are songs from the Stationary Traveller album which, though a fine album, is not Camel's best album, anyway.

I can thus fully understand why they chose the songs they did for this live album, as it actually flows much better than Total Pressure which features almost the full Stationary Traveller album (though not in the same running order as the studio album and split into three "portions" with songs from other albums played in between). The "only" songs that are missing here (again, as compared with Total Pressure) are Refugee, Vopos, Stationary Traveller, Cloak and Dagger Man, Long Goodbyes and Lady Fantasy, and to be honest, the only two tracks out of these that I actually miss are Stationary Traveller and Lady Fantasy. But these two tracks are better heard elsewhere anyway, in my opinion. The studio version of Stationary Traveller (the title track) is better than the live version and the Total Pressure version of Lady Fantasy (though an absolutely brilliant song in its own right; one of my Camel favourites) was not the best live version of the song and it is featured on countless other live albums, anyway.

The weakest part of the Total Pressure set was, in my opinion, when they played five tracks from the Stationary Traveller album in a row in the middle of the show. The performances of the Stationary Traveller tracks were rather lifeless actually. Hence it is all for the better that this is exactly the part of the show that has been considerably reduced for this live album. The only tracks that have been preserved from that album are the excellent instrumental Pressure Points as well as two vocal numbers in West Berlin and Fingertips. The latter two are hardly great, but the already great Pressure Points has been considerably extended and improved compared to the studio version and features stunning guitar work by Andy Latimer.

The other albums represented in this show (as it is presented on this live album) are Nude, The Single Factor, I Can See Your House From Here and The Snow Goose. Admittedly, none of these are among Camel's better albums, but the songs chosen from these albums here are mostly very good and they have been generally improved compared to their studio counterparts. These songs have a bit more punch compared to their original studio versions (that this reviewer finds a bit subdued). The best of the three songs chosen from Nude is the instrumental Captured that is clearly more lively and energetic than the studio version of the same. Sasquatch is taken from The Single Factor and is another good instrumental, one that has become something of a mainstay of the band's shows. Wait is taken from I Can See Your House From Here from 1979 and is actually the oldest song featured here with the exception of the two Snow Goose songs that end this album. Wait is a bit of a Pop song and as such is not one of my favourites here, but it works fine within the context of the other songs!

Another thing that speaks in favour of this live album over the Total Pressure DVD is that the visual aspect of that DVD is rather weak. The whole thing is rather badly filmed and you never really get an overview of the stage. The cameras are almost never where the action is i.e. the camera men almost never manage to film the one who is playing the most interesting passage at the time (or the angles are simply badly chosen). Indeed, I have never seen such a badly edited concert film! But I guess they had to work with what was actually in the archives when they prepared the re-release on DVD.

From a visual standpoint this version of the band is rather dull, I must say. The band consists of six people plus two guests (for a few of the songs only) in Mel Collins on saxophone and Peter Bardens on organ. As many as four different keyboard players take part in this show (including Peter Bardens)! Ton Scherpenzeel of Kayak does a good job together with Ritchie Close and vocalist Chris Rainbow who also play keyboards. However, the stage presence of these keyboard players is close to zero! The performance of Close and Scherpenzeel feels like "a regular day at the office" for them, visually speaking that is. Andy Latimer himself is easily the most charismatic person of the show. Don't get me wrong here, though, I personally prefer bands that concentrate on playing their instruments instead of doing a lot of unnecessary theatrics. It is really the music itself that counts and this live album really collects the best parts and aspects of the show.

As I have said elsewhere, Camel's best albums are their first four and their most recent four, and that what they did in between was of varying quality. This live album does, however, represent some of the best songs from those in-between-years. However, this is by no means the best of Camel's several live releases. The more recent ones, the Never Let Go (double CD) and the Coming Of Age (DVD and double CD) are absolute live masterpieces of progressive music! The present album is, however, better than the overrated A Live Record, in my personal opinion. A Live Record suffered from being compiled from several different shows over several years and it also relied too heavily on the jazzy/Canterbury style that Camel adopted during the latter part of the 70's (which is probably my least favourite type of Camel).

To sum up. I was a bit disappointed with the Total Pressure DVD. But I enjoy this shorter live album from the same show as it flows better and leaves behind several of the least good songs from the set list as it is featured on the DVD (particularly the rather dull Pop songs Refugee, Cloak And Dagger Man and Long Goodbyes, all from the uneven Stationary Traveller album). This proves that, at least sometimes, less can actually be more!

Highly recommended live album (in addition to the much better Never Let Go and Coming Of Age live releases)

SouthSideoftheSky | 4/5 |

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