On the Road 1981

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This one might just as well have been called Nude's Return. The third in Camel Productions' series of "official" bootlegs opens with a familiar trio of tunes (in fact, identical to 1978's A Live Record) before undertaking a near-complete retelling of Nude. The performance is an April 1981 show at the Hammersmith Odeon, originally broadcast by the BBC and featuring the lineup that first appeared on 1979's I Can See Your House From Here. The benefit of having two keyboard players, Jan Schelhaas and Kit Watkins, is made plain on the opening "Never Let Go," which also features the energetic rhythm section of Andy Ward and Colin Bass. Two cuts from Moonmadness follow -- "Song Within a Song" and "Lunar Sea" -- which the audience clearly appreciates despite Andrew Latimer's lackluster vocals. The decision to then launch into the "story" of Nude comes as a surprise -- on the surface, the sedate and mostly instrumental work doesn't lend itself to live performance any more than The Snow Goose. However, the shift in strategy places the emphasis on Camel's current strengths: Latimer's expressive guitar and flute playing, the moody keyboard textures, and Ward's intrepid drumming. Those familiar with the studio version of Nude will not be disappointed with the live version presented here: in fact, the impressive succession of "Drafted," "Docks," and "Beached" elicits rousing applause from the audience (and rightly so). Just as the album cover draws heavily from Nude, On the Road 1981 lives or dies by the listener's appreciation for their 1981 concept album. Given that this lineup of Camel was long on talent and short on time together, On the Road 1981 is a good choice from the archives: clean sound, some nice extra touches, and a final curtain call for the talented "other" Andy.

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