Peter Bardens was born on June 19, 1945 and passed away on January 22, 2002. In between that too short a period of time he became a well-known keyboard player who released quite a number of albums. Bardens either was one of the two founding members of the famous British progressive rock group Camel. He played organ, piano, synthesizers and Mellotron on Camel's first six albums. Besides he wrote songs with guitarist Andy Latimer, the other founding member. But before Bardens joined Camel he already had worked with celebrities as Rod Stewart, Mick Fleetwood, Peter Green and Van Morrison.
Bardens recorded two solo albums before he joined Camel. After leaving Camel in 1978, he released eight solo albums. I've got most of them in my collection, so I'm familiar with his music. However, I never got the chance to listen to both albums he recorded before he joined Camel in 1972. Thanks to the reissues of The Answer and Peter Bardens I finally can express my opinion about these two. While listening to them I realized that prog rock was definitely not the music Peter Bardens created in those days.
In 1970 Bardens formed The Village that recorded The Answer in the same year. It featured Peter Green on guitar, although he was credited as Andy Gee. Together with Bardens Green was responsible for the sound on the album. When you listen critically you'll certainly hear the same kind of music Fleetwood Mac made on their first releases. The Answer is dominated by the guitar which must be the influence of Peter Green who was Fleetwood Mac's guitar hero at the time, but Peter Barden's organ also has an important role, especially on the instrumental piece Homage To The God Of Light that Camel played in their early days as well. It features excellent Hammond-organ parts. On the two bonus tracks he recorded with The Village, the organ again has a prominent role. These tracks, Man In The Moon and Long Time Coming, were both released as singles. On the first one Bardens does the lead vocals too and on the second one you almost get the idea that you're listening to Keith Emerson & The Nice. Maybe that's not so strange, because The Village's line-up consisted of organ, piano, bass and drums, just like The Nice. Surprisingly Bardens only played the piano in the song Let's Get It On. His lead vocals sounded much better than on the albums he made with Camel, but the music has hardly any relation with prog rock music. I already mentioned Fleetwood Mac, but I also heard influences of The Rolling Stones, Them and Eric Burdon & The Animals. Most pieces have been linked with blues the way it was performed in the sixties.
In 1971, Bardens recorded an eponymous album which was released in the US as Write My Name In The Dust. On this release Peter Green only contributed on Feeling High and Blueser, but still under the name of Andy Gee. This time Vic Linton played most guitar parts. The additional violin player Victor Brox was also recruited for the recordings, but he barely got any solo spots; the Hammond-organ still ruled on Barden's compositions. However, on the first track North End Road you can hear that in those days Bardens was also an excellent honky-tonk piano player, but he also played the piano 'decently' as demonstrated on Sweet Honey Wine. Blues is still present on this second release; you can hear blues influences in most of the songs. Homage To The God Of Light contained the most progressive rock elements on The Answer. On this eponymous successor the song My House moved a lot in the direction of the musical style he made with Camel. Again his organ gets all the room to show off.
It's a pity that Peter Bardens didn't show his love for prog rock music on his first two solo albums, although he appeared to be born to play prog rock in Camel. If these albums wouldn't have been released under his own name they would probably never have been reviewed by Background Magazine. Yet for the evolution of progressive rock in the seventies, Bardens was too big a name to be ignored. I think he was an underrated musician compared to keyboard wizards like Rick Wakeman, Tony Banks and Keith Emerson. I'm glad that I once had the opportunity to talk to this musical genius myself only a few years before he died from lung cancer at the age of 56. All that's left are the albums Peter Bardens made with Camel, his solo releases and the memories.
** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
Where to buy?
All Rights Reserved Background Magazine 2013