Never Let Go

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Progressive rock bands like Camel have to be creative in their touring schedules, often traveling to Europe in order to find a substantial concentration of fans in a single place. So it was that Camel arrived with their 20th anniversary tour at Enschede, Holland. After their tenth anniversary tour (which found them promoting The Single Factor), few would have predicted a 20th, but the release of Dust and Dreams in 1991 suggested the band had found a second creative wind (or at least tapped into the original breeze last felt on Nude). Never Let Go confirms the point that Camel has plenty of life left in it. Spread out across two discs (the untangling of which is like disassembling a child's toy, a problem common to two-disc sets), this live show features two distinct sets. The first is a remarkable retelling of their earlier travels, recounting highlights from each of their releases up to Nude, in chronological order no less. It starts out deceptively simple, with Andrew Latimer strumming a slow version of "Never Let Go," which soon explodes into a spot-on rendition. With keyboardist Mickey Simmonds joining a returning Colin Bass and Paul Burgess, the new quartet does a marvelous job of capturing Camel in its various guises: from the instrumentals "Ice" and "Earthrise" to familiar songs like "Spirit of the Water" (sung by Bass) and "City Life." The second set is devoted to a pristine presentation of their recent opus, Dust and Dreams, in its entirety. Amazingly, the live performance concedes nothing in clarity to its studio counterpart, so no harm done if you bypass the original and hear it here instead. As a bonus, Camel closes with the instrumental "Sasquatch" (one of the few bright spots from The Single Factor) and a beloved mirage from the past, "Lady Fantasy." Among their live releases (which number more than a few), Never Let Go may be the one worth holding onto. Latimer's voice has grown a little thinner over the years (and it was pretty thin to begin with), but his guitar work gets sharper with age. Critically speaking, this gets two humps up.

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