In the last years of the 1970s, Terry Riley seemed to be everywhere; it would not have been unusual for a Riley fan in 1979, through only a moderate amount of travel, to catch him in two different cities in different months of the year. At this point, Riley was delivering hours-long concerts, no two the same, playing from the advertised start time until the hall was no longer available for the evening. Riley was utilizing a Yamaha Organ, modified to accommodate two outputs, and a secret weapon, "The Shadow," a box built by Chester Wood that was an early digital delay. It was used in addition to the ancient Revox tape delay that Riley had employed for more than a decade in concerts that, by this time, invariably began with Riley stating, "I do have a tape recorder up here, but there is nothing on the tape. I use it to create some of the loop effects that you will hear tonight. Everything you will hear me play will be live."
Elision Fields' The Last Camel in Paris captures Riley near the start of this phase of his concertizing, yet it also provides the last word, and sort of a postscript, on a project that he had done earlier in 1978, Shri Camel, the last and most elaborate of Riley's albums for CBS. This concert, given at the Thèâtre Edouard VII in Paris on November 10, 1978, derives from the same family of modal rhythm from which Shri Camel sprung, although it seems to relate most specifically to the sections titled "Celestial Valley" and "Desert of Ice." The recording, made by Radio France, is of near-studio quality and equally captures the brighter sonorities of "The Shadow" and the somewhat murkier ones of the Revox. Although The Last Camel in Paris is a continuous 54-minute performance, the disc is usefully divided into 10 access points; tracks 5 and 7 are especially interesting. While like Shri Camel before it, The Last Camel in Paris may not be the place to start with Terry Riley; however, for established fans it will be very welcome, and for those who caught him in that long series of concert appearances he made circa 1980, it may offer a highly satisfying bit of nostalgia.