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Renaissance - Ocean Gypsy CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

2.87 | 56 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars A cover album in all but name

With Michael Dunford now holding custody of the Renaissance name, he discovered vocalist Stephanie Adlington while working on the musical version of "Scheherazade". They recorded and album entitled "The other woman" under the name of Michael Dunford's Renaissance, which consisted mainly of upbeat pop rock and run of the mill ballads. Dunford felt that the album had turned out to be more rock orientated than he had intended, and returned to the studio with Ms Adlington to record second album together.

In the main, "Ocean Gypsy" contains acoustic reworkings of classic Renaissance songs taken from their most creative years. The temptation to compare Adlington's vocals with those of Haslam is all too compelling, to the detriment of this collection. There is no question that Adlington is a fine singer, but when compared to Haslam, her voice is prosaic and uninteresting.

That said, this is actually a very enjoyable album. Dunford chose to revisit these songs as a quasi-unplugged project, most of the instrumentation being acoustic guitar and piano. To this has been added sympathetic orchestration, rendering may of the songs quite different from their originals. The opening (title) track for example has some excellent vocalising and a fine orchestrated acoustic break. On the vocalised opening section to following "Things I don't understand", Adlington hits the high notes well, the accompanying piano being reminiscent of John Tout's work with the band. This version of the track is sub-titled "Part 2" to reflect the editing of the song.

"Carpet of the sun" is one of the less successful interpretations, sounding all too like a Petula Clarke cover (Petula is superb at what she does by the way!). "At the harbour" may not have been an obvious choice from the Renaissance back catalogue, but the interpretation here is excellent. The piano backed choral ending is hauntingly atmospheric, reflecting the anguish and sense of loss of women waiting in vain for their loved ones' boats to return home.

Things take a decided dip for the new song "Star of the show". This is all too clearly designed to display Adlington theatrical talents, but it sounds like it has been lifted straight from a Lloyd Webber/Rice musical, the song only serving to emphasise that she is most at home in that environment.

"A trip to the fair" gets us back on track, and features a whimsical sax solo by Jimmy Hastings (CARAVAN). The version here brings out quite dramatically the menacing reality of the song. The album closes with another new song by Dunford, the lyrics being written by his new writing partner Jude Alderson. "The great highway" is much more in the tradition of classic Renaissance, in fact it would have fitted in well on an album such as "Novella". The track includes fine orchestration, including a "Mocking bird" (BJH) like break. Ironically, the beauty of the song tends to make you want to hear what Annie Haslam could have done with it!

Of the previous line ups which were involved in the original recording of these songs, only Dunford remains, hence the name Michael Dunford's Renaissance. The orchestration was undertaken by Richard Brown (Musical Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company) , who worked with Dunford on his project to make the stage show version of " Scheherazade".

In all, a highly credible album which keeps the Renaissance flag flying. Recommended for this who appreciate their early albums.

Easy Livin | 4/5 |


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