(it'll be over soon - I promise)
As Pop music began splintering in the million different directions, one of the genres to emerge in the late 1960's through the mid-1970's (or still going in some circles) became known as Progressive or Prog-Rock. Some of the bands were commercial successes (like Yes, eventually Genesis and Emerson, Lake & Palmer among others), but a lot of them achieved moderate success but a bigger influence on other bands. One of those was certainly Camel who, like Caravan and Soft Machine, came out of the Canterbury area of the UK. Camel had been around in various forms since 1964, but it wasn't until 1971 that they achieved their sound (and their name) and their audience came along with them. Even though they influenced a lot of bands from the period, they themselves were greatly influenced by bands like Supersister, the Dutch Prog band who utilized pretty much the same instrumental lineup.
Initially, their first album didn't register with audiences and it wasn't until they changed record labels (from MCA to Deram) and released Mirage in 1974 that they finally clicked. And it's a track off that album we're featuring tonight. Nimrodel is a nine minute opus that, in classic Prog form, weaves in and out of various settings and extended solos. It became a staple of FM Underground programming for a few years and established Camel as a popular band in the U.S. and they spent several months touring from coast to coast and back again in order to achieve that goal (following ELO's lead of non-stop touring, and see where it got them!). They have had a steady popularity ever since, despite several personnel changes and various hiatuses over the years, they are still together.
In retrospect, listening to Camel today I can see why some people initially dismissed the Prog movement as a lot of pretense. There was that "Demons and Wizards" element to much of the subject matter which was a little bit much and lyrics were not a lot of these bands strong points. Primarily, they were instrumental bands that played tight and proficient and there was a lot of virtuosity to go around.
Camel were a great band and were wonderful to see live, and Mirage was a breakthrough album for them. Their musical abilities overshadowed whatever shortcomings they had in their song writing skills during a time when listening to music was, on occasion, an out of body experience.