‘Breathless’: How Camel Held Back The New Wave

·2 min read

Progressive rock giants Camel had a long-established audience by the late 1970s, and proved it again with their fourth Top 30 album in little more than three years, Breathless. Released on September 22, 1978, it hit the UK chart on October 14.

After first charting with The Snow Goose in 1975, a No.26 entry, Camel made the Top 20 twice in a row, with Moonmadness, No.15 in 1976, and Rain Dances, No.20 in 1977. Breathless, the fourth of eight UK chart albums, consolidated their success at a time when the new wave was supposedly sweeping all before it.

Farewell to a founder

Recorded at the famous Manor Studios and produced by the band with Mick Glossop, it’s a landmark in the Camel story because this was the final album to feature the band’s co-founding keyboard player, Pete Bardens. After co-writing all but two of the songs on Breathless, Bardens departed before the band toured the record. Mel Collins was now in the fold on saxophones, and two keyboard players were drafted in for the tour: Dave Sinclair, the cousin of bass player Richard Sinclair, and Jan Schelhaas.

Listen to the Prog Rocks playlist.

While the album contained its share of extended, progressive pieces, such as “Echoes,” “Summer Lightning,” and “The Sleeper,” this was a record on which Camel also addressed a more poppy sound. It was evident on the opening, airy title track, with vocals by Richard Sinclair, and elsewhere.

When Sounds writer Phil Sutcliffe went to review the new band line-up right around the album’s release, he found them in good form. “The evidence at the City Hall [Sheffield] was that the spirit of this mildly avant-garde band is surprisingly persistent,” he observed. “Their standard material was gratefully received and the new funky developments — welcomed by the open mind of an amiable crowd.”

Buy or stream Breathless.

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