Sound and Darkness

Camel the band (as opposed to the animal and the cigarette) were for several years during the 1970s on the periphery of progressive rock. Much like their fellow countrymen Gentle Giant, while the band enjoyed a certain level of success, it was never the stuff of chart-topping records and sold out arenas. Whereas Gentle Giant was too complex for pop stardom, Camel’s music was too quiet and introspective for mass junk food music consumption.

Andrew Latimer, the band’s guitarist/majority songwriter/leader, has kept the band name alive through multiple personnel changes. Somewhat like the Grateful Dead, the band’s keyboard position has been the hot seat, with Pete Bardens who was with the band during its most popular phase and Guy LeBlanc, who was with the band for fifteen years starting in 2000, having passed away from cancer. The position is presently filled by Pete Jones. As a side note, Latimer himself is no stranger to life-threatening issues, having survived a bout with myelofibrosis.

Last year, the band played the Royal Albert Hall, recording the event for a DVD to be released as soon as some unspecified technical issues are resolved. There is one track from the concert presently available on YouTube, it being “End of the Line” from the band’s 1991 release Dust and Dreams which was based on John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. Rather than watch the video, close your eyes and listen without prejudice:

It’s beautiful, isn’t it.

Now, imagine you are keyboardist Pete Jones, not only playing the music of a band you were utterly enraptured with growing up but actually playing in the same band alongside your heroes. Imagine the emotions of being part of the band playing in a revered venue such as the Royal Albert Hall. Imagine being able to look out across the stage and out at the crowd during all this.

Actually, Pete Jones has to imagine the last part as well.

He’s been blind since the age of fifteen months.

One might say Pete Jones lives in darkness. Yet where there is sound like this, there is no darkness.