Camel packed up their bags and moved to California, with the dust of a seven-years span of quiet on their backs, and the dream of creative freedom through their own label, Camel Productions, ahead of them. Inspired by the John Steinbeck novel "The Grapes of Wrath" (and one can only hope that Camel's westward move went smoother), Dust and Dreams is exactly the sort of labor of love that makes a private label worth having. Elegiac, literate, largely instrumental in spots, this stuff would make most label executives' eyes glaze over. It's also the sort of finely wrought music that will delight Camel fans who still fondly imagine their band in the Nude. Despite the long absence since Stationary Traveller, many familiar faces return to Camel's ranks: Susan Hoover, Ton Scherpenzeel, Colin Bass, David Paton, and Paul Burgess. Andy Latimer, of course, remains the pivotal figure, writing the songs, taking the vocal leads (his sleepy, deep delivery suggesting a Watersed-down version of Pink Floyd), driving the music with his masterful guitar work. This last point is worth resting at a moment, since Latimer's guitar has grown audibly since we last heard him. While some of the guitar passages are classic Camel (e.g., "Cotton Camp"), Latimer is just as likely to invoke the image of David Gilmour ("End of the Line") and Steve Hackett ("Broken Banks," "Hopeless Anger"). Like Nude, Dust and Dreams initially divides its time between songs and instrumentals before ceding halfway through to purely instrumental music. The 18 tracks are interconnected, separated only by a four-second delay before "End of the Line," effectively marking a first and second act. The introductory "Dust Bowl" is a quiet overture reminiscent of Brian Eno, the closing "Whispers in the Rain" is actually an epilogue (the real curtain comes crashing down on "Hopeless Anger"). If it all sounds like a structured play, that's because Dust and Dreams is. The disc exists as a single work broken into two sections, inextricably bound together in the composer's mind (themes return, specific points of action take place). In retrospect, it's probably a wonder that Nude ever got off the ground, and few studios would have taken a flyer on the equally ambitious Dust and Dreams. Thank goodness Andy Latimer had the fortitude to see this through to completion; it is the mature work of an indomitable dreamer, if a little downbeat. It lacks the immediate melodies of Nude (which many would concede is the better album), but the victories here are harder won and thus to be prized by fans who were still scanning the horizon for the shadow of Camel's tall spirit.
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AllMusic Review by Dave Connolly