The '90s found Andy Latimer releasing compact discs on his own label, Camel Productions, which included a new work (Dust and Dreams), a reissue of Camel's first album, and here a live recording of Camel in its earliest stages. On the Road 1972 features Camel in its original quartet form -- Peter Bardens, Doug Ferguson, Andy Latimer, and Andy Ward -- playing music that would appear on the band's first and second albums, plus a track from Bardens' 1970 solo album, The Answer. It's a little limited at only four tracks, and the stingy liner notes shed little historical light on the music, but longtime fans of Camel will delight in hearing from this incarnation of the band one more time. "Six Ate," which appeared on the group's eponymous debut, is little more than an excuse to jam, sounding at times like Jethro Tull circa A Passion Play. Likewise, Bardens' "God of Light Revisited" -- which appeared originally as "Homage to the God of Light" and later, on the Greasy Truckers Live at Dingwall's Dance compilation, as "Lord of Light Revisited" -- is an instrumental piece that allows the band to indulge in the kind of spacy jams that marked (some would say "marred") the early '70s. The two tracks that would subsequently appear on Mirage, "Lady Fantasy" and "White Rider" (which would be divided into the two-part "Nimrodel" for that album), are most likely to please fans. They match the studio versions nearly note for note and, as such, reveal a band that was making calculated art; the solos may veer off the path a bit, but these renditions are clearly the template for the subsequent studio versions. The recording is surprisingly good -- maybe a hiccup or two on "White Rider," but otherwise better than expected (although Ward's bass drum is undermiked). The playing is tight, with Ferguson anchoring the pieces with his mesmerizing basslines, Ward using his superlative drum skills to optimal effect, Latimer engaging in some creative guitar distortion, and Bardens evoking all manner of sound from his keyboards. And, best of all, the profits don't go to some evil corporation.
AllMusic Review by Dave Connolly