Camel: ‘Music Inspired by The Snow Goose’

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Camel in 1970.
Camel in 1970.

How this wonderful album ever made it into record stores is beyond me.  It was Camel’s third studio outing and after success with shorter pieces inspired by literary novels, they decided to do a whole album based on one book (actually correctly titled a novella).  “The Snow Goose” by Paul Gallico was eventually decided upon and tells the stirring tale of one man and his small boat plugging backwards and forwards across the English Channel, rescuing the desperate retreating British forces from the bombarded beaches of Dunkirk in 1940.

Writing and recording started in early 1975 at Island Studios in London and then overdubs were laid down afterwards at Decca Studios before the whole thing was handed over to the London Symphony Orchestra, with David Bedford doing the final arrangements.

At this point the package was delivered to Decca Record executives to give their approval.  The record company suits were appalled, there were no lyrics, so the band members were then asked to go back in the studio and add some words to the music, to which they refused.  So the record company threatened not to release it at all.

Whilst all this was going on permission was sought from Paul Gallico to call the album “Paul Gallico’s Snow Goose”.  But Gallico was a fervent anti-smoker and as Camel’s last album had been adorned by a packet of Camel cigarettes, he refused.  So the album had to change its title to “Music Inspired by The Snow Goose”, just to appease the author.

The record company suits finally gave in on the album and the all instrumental 16-track LP vinyl record was released to the public in July of 1975.  It was immediately acclaimed as a Progressive Rock classic and it is still held in very high esteem to this day.  It made it to number twenty-two in Britain and also cracked the American Billboard charts.

The music itself is inspiring, summoning up the courage of the old man rowing backwards and forwards across the twenty-two miles of English Channel with the Snow Goose flying overhead and the image of a Union Jack fluttering in the wind behind his boat as he does his bit for the boys stranded on the beaches.

The compositions are nothing short of superb, with the late, great Peter Bardens playing his keyboards with the skill of a master and Andy Latimer laying down some triumphant lead guitar and some haunting flute as well.  Doug Ferguson and Andy Ward are also a more than competent rhythm section.  David Bedford and the London Symphony Orchestra do not put a finger out of place and the album engulfs you right from the beginning before gently releasing you at the end after repeated Channel crossings.

The success of the album meant that Camel, along with the London Symphony Orchestra, played to a sellout crowd at the Royal Albert Hall in London and “The Snow Goose” section of this concert was later released on the Camel album, “A Live Recording” (1978).

Camel went on to further success although they did concede to putting vocals on some of their tracks on future albums.  Andy Latimer still leads the band to this day.  A solid 5 stars!

Camel line-up:

Peter Bardens – keyboards

Andy Latimer – guitar and flute

Doug Ferguson – bass guitar

Andy ward – drums and percussion.

The Snow Goose (16 sections):

The Great Marsh

Rhayader

Rhayader Goes To Town

Sanctuary

Fritha

The Snow Goose

Friendship

Migration

Rhayader Alone

Flight of The Snow Goose

Preparation

Dunkirk

Epitaph

Fritha Alone

La Princesse Perdue

The Great Marsh (Reprise)

Note: Written by Mott The Dog (not a sailor’s dog) who can be often heard telling salty tales at Jameson’s Irish Pub, Soi AR, North Pattaya.