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3 stars This is for Renaissance Fans from the 1980's period. If you like Camera,Camera and Time Line then this will appeal to you. If you do not know Renaissance this is not for you unless you have heard the 1980's material. There is one track from 1979 "Avalon" that includes John Tout and Terry Sullivan (new album coming out Dec. 2004) and Jon Camp. The rest of the tracks are Michael Dunford/Annie Haslam with other musicians. This album is not from their famous time period (1972-1979). It show a strong influence of Jon Camp and Michael Dunford song collaborations. This also has the first studio release of You, Part I & II.
Report this review (#20137)
Posted Sunday, December 5, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Songs From Renaissance Days is a collection of material that never made it onto a studio album. It was never intended as a mainstream release, and should therefore be approached as a bonus. One track - Island Of Avalon - was recorded in 1979 when John Tout and Terry Sullivan were still in the band. The remainder originated from the early 1980s when the core threesome of Annie Haslam, Michael Dunford and Jon Camp were joined by a variety of assistants.

Considering its genesis this is not a bad album at all. Many of the songs are of the standard of Camera Camera and in many cases are superior to most of Time-Line. There is good and bad though. Africa begins with clichéd African tribal sounds and rhythms before heading off onto an averagely nice song; Dreamaker is a pleasant lullaby-like ballad; Northern Lights is a new-wave version of the old hit single; No Beginning No End is very good Abba-pop; Only When I Laugh enters Diva territory with a slow ballad; The Body Machine is lively new-wave pop; Writer Wronged is a beautiful song with a sublime flute solo; Island Of Avalon jangles along spiritedly with the help of Tout and Sullivan; America is an average rendition of Paul Simon's classic; finally, You is a true mini-mini-epic of old style Renaissance but stuffed full to the gills with wall-to-wall synths.

Clearly, the band were investigating the options at this time, though I don't hear any punk .... ! Not a lot of Prog either really, nor much old piano-and-orchestra-and-acoustic-guitars symphonic Renaissance, but at least Annie is still here trying to make sense of it all without all the silly vocal affectations she adopted on Time-Line, and Dunford's acoustic guitars make their presence felt occasionally amidst predominantly synth based arrangements. Overall, the kind of album that would appeal to someone who enjoys the soft-rock of Camera Camera or pop of Time-Line. Everyone else should beware.

Report this review (#98103)
Posted Friday, November 10, 2006 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars No, not those days

Released in 1997, the title would more accurately be "Songs from Renaissance latter days", for that is precisely what we have here. This album consists of tracks from the 1980's, well after their classic prog era.

That said, this is actually a far better album overall than "Camera camera" and "Time line" from the same period. The songs, while hardly progressive are much closer to what we came to expect from Annie Haslam, Michael Dunford and Jon Camp. Two of the songs, "Africa" and "Writers wronged" had previously appeared on the "De Capo" compilation, while a live version of "You" features on the "King Biscuit" albums. The version of "Northern lights" included in this set is different to that on "A song for all seasons", being slightly slower and more laid back. The sleeve notes report that this version, along with "No beginning, no end" were aired on progressive rock stations in support of Annie Haslam's solo career.

There are a few more notable songs in this set. The ballad "Dreamaker", one of four songs recorded after "Time line", has a wonderful melody, and the brief "Island of Avalon" is the only track to feature former band members John Tout and Terry Sullivan, the song dating from 1979. "America" is an extremely rare cover by the band of the classic Simon and Garfunkel song, also covered by Yes. The song reportedly featured in Renaissance' live set in the 1980's. The final track "You" is a two part 8 minute piece which has a slightly more complex structure but remains firmly linked to the band's 80's materal.

On the down side, "The body machine" and "Only when I laugh", both also from the post "Time line" sessions, and "No beginning, no end" (one of the last collaborations between Dunford and Betty Thatcher-Newsinger), are unashamed ABBA facsimiles.

In all, an interesting collection, which while not essential for Renaissance fans, is a worthy addition to any collection of their recordings.

Report this review (#123917)
Posted Wednesday, May 30, 2007 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
2 stars Definitly this title is very deceiving. With the sole exception fo Isle Of Avalon (a b side recorded around the time of their Azzure D´or album), everything here are leftovers from their 80´s ouput. It is not bad material really: some songs are even better than what made the final cut for Time Line Or Camera Camera, which does not mean they´re up to anything they released in the 70´s (excepet maybe the aforementioned Isle Of Avalon). You, Africa and Dreamaker are also of some interest. They have some niced melodies.

Cnclusion: don´t get fooled by the name. This is for hardcore Renaissance fans. If you´re new to the and don´t judge them by this record. Two stars.

Report this review (#146901)
Posted Thursday, October 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars At times, I really wonder what comes to the minds of bands as Renaissance.

Of course, in 1997 (the year of the release of this album), the band doesn't play in the first nor the second division. But to release an album (almost) full of left-over songs from their pop-oriented second career is very daring.

Only one song is a little older. Their hit single "Northern Lights" (1978) which isn't any better here than it was originally (on the contrary).

Now, to be correct, there are some good songs featured as well. The beautiful (but mellow) ballad "Dreamaker" demonstrates, if necessary, all the talent of the marvelous Annie. An excellent melody and a very enjoyable musical moment.

"Island Of Avalon" can also be linked with the good days of the band. A pleasant folkish little tune. Fresh and simple and the cover of "America" (Paul Simon) is not bad either. But don't expect anything such as the magnificent "Yes" one. Almost normally, this version is much more straight forward. Light and subtle music and again a great vocal interpretation from Annie.

But there are also some nightmares: the disgusting "No Beginning, No End", a syrupy "Only When I Laugh", the poppy "The Body Machine" or "Writers Wronged". At the end of the day far too many songs without any texture nor feeling. Better to have remained in the boxes IMHHO.

A version of "You" was already released on the second leg of their "Live At The Royal Albert Hall". Some sections of it are particularly brilliant (the vocal intro) but others are just average. The longest song of this album is also above par.

Still, I wouldn't rate this album with more than two stars.

Report this review (#168170)
Posted Saturday, April 19, 2008 | Review Permalink
Prog Folk Researcher
2 stars This collection of Renaissance outtakes and oddities was released in the U.S. on the Mausoleum label. That seems fitting as for the most part this music sounds like it was dredged up from the grave, which it was. And for the most part it probably should have been left there.

Putting this collection together was an intentional effort involving guitarist Michael Dunford and Annie Haslam, released around the same time former members John Tout and Terry Sullivan were rekindling their relationship with Haslam and Dunford. There were scattered sightings of various combinations of the four of them at each other's live shows and rumblings of a reunion and one of sorts actually happened in the form of the 'Tuscany' recordings, although the supporting tour was brief, held mostly in Japan and did not include Tout who apparently had health problems.

I suppose the thought process here was that this record would fill a gap that existed between the 'Tales of 1001 Nights' compilations which encompassed their best work (1972 to 1979) and the rest of the band's days before they disbanded in 1987. In the end Haslam threw in a couple solo demo pieces as well, but more about that later. Unfortunately 1979-1987 doesn't exactly represent a fertile period for the band given their two studio releases during this timeframe were both pretty bad ('Camera Camera' and 'Time-Line'), and since this is the stuff that didn't even make the cut for those albums one should temper any expectations. Seriously, don't get your hopes up.

Anyone who has heard the two eighties Renaissance albums or even the Nevada compilation Haslam and Dunford recorded with New-Wave keyboardist Peter Gosling knows the band was deeply influenced by Gosling's style and the changing times, and the songs they cranked out then were a weird, awkward and sometimes downright embarrassing blend of catchy guitar hooks, faux-classical electric piano, random synthesized 'woosh' and 'zoom' sounds and Haslam's singing that came across like vocal scale warm-ups. Really bad stuff.

So it's no surprise these songs are even worse, although three of them are at least excusable. The 'Northern Lights' remake is one of the Haslam solo tunes included here, understandable given the band was putting out a compilation and this song was the only commercial hit from those halcyon days. The song and Haslam's beautiful voice are strong enough to survive what sounds like a vapid drum-track and cheesy keyboards, but just barely. So she gets a pass for that one. 'No Beginning/No End' is the other Haslam solo and I personally don't have anything against this song except that nothing about it, not even her voice, sounds like a Renaissance tune. Maybe just a little on the vocal refrains when she shows off her range, but that's it. Once again the MTV-treated keytar sounds and amateur drums don't come anywhere close to anything befitting Haslam's stature as a vocalist.

And the other honorable mention is a very brief 'Island of Avalon' only because it features the pre-breakup Mk II lineup of the band and came from the b-side of 'The Winter Tree' off 'Azure d'Or', the last remotely decent album the band released prior to dismantling themselves.

Other than that everything else is pretty much forgettable and therefore not worth much more attention. The cover of Simon & Garfunkel's 'America' would be noteworthy had the band made even a little effort to own their rendition, but such is not the case and musically the thing comes off sounding like bored noodling between recording takes (I can't bring myself to criticize Haslam's singing so castigating the supporting cast will have to do).

So in the end I'd have to say don't bother with this album. It represents the floor scraps of the band at a time when their bar for acceptable music wasn't particularly high anyway, so unless you are a hopeless 'ber-fan it doesn't belong in your collection. There's a reason why you can buy this thing on-line for about $2 USD. Two stars and a fadeout'


Report this review (#523580)
Posted Wednesday, September 14, 2011 | Review Permalink
Prog-Folk Team
1 stars If there is any comfort to be gleaned from this collection of outtakes from the early 1980s, it's that RENAISSANCE didn't pass up much in the way of superior material when they compiled their two studio recordings that decade. Here we are truly at the bottom of the proverbial barrel and it's nighttime. The disk is consistent in its general lack of inspiration and enthusiasm. Annie Haslam in particular sounds profoundly despondent, like her voice is present but would rather be elsewhere, as if she is being forced to sing beneath her station. The rest of the band are equally detached, and the flaw is as much in the arrangements as the compositions themselves.

I can only find a few bright spots - "Dreamaker" is the earliest recorded version of a track that would become "Love Lies Love Dies" in the 1990s under both Annie Haslam and Michael Dunford's Renaissance, and it's just as haunting here with Jon Camp's lyrics as it became under Betty Thatcher's.spell. Apart from its dramatics and dynamics, it has a lovely melody which transcends the period instrumentation. "Only When I laugh" is actually carried by Annie's voice and is pleasing in a detached new romantic meets ABBA sort of way. There seems little point to the poor arrangement of "Northern Lights" and the cover of "America" other than offering a semblance of familiarity to an otherwise anonymous collection, but they just make this listener sadder. Even the much touted "Island of Avalon" is as disappointing as the album from which it was omitted - anyway they already had a much better tune about an island on "Azure D'Or" called "Kalynda",

I suppose fans of "Time Line" might find some enjoyment here, and these tracks do elicit a certain morbid fascination. Renaissance certainly weren't the only prog group to falter clumsily in the 1980s, but somehow their demise seems sadder because they had so epitomized class in their glory days. This is the very definition of a nadir.

Report this review (#1475455)
Posted Monday, October 12, 2015 | Review Permalink
2 stars Songs From Renaissance Days is a compilation of unreleased outtakes and demos that the band had recorded around the time of the Camera Camera and Time Line album sessions. Except for a couple of songs, there was good reason not include these songs on the afore noted albums. They simply are not up to snuff as either new wave prog or straight pop songs. But this compilation does give one the ability to see clearly the two diametrically opposed musical avenues the group was deciding in the wake of poor sales of the Camera Camera album that was just released in 1981.

Dream Maker is a gorgeous emotive song that features some of Jon Camp's best lyrics that were placed together with Michael Dunford's hypnotic melody. Annie Haslam shines on this track but it would be only one the few where she does.

Africa and You are outtakes and demos, respectively, from the Camera Camera sessions and are good for a look at other musical ideas the band were playing with at that time. Unfortunately, these are failed experiments that involved tribal rhythms and chanting in a faux tribal language in the case of Africa, and long almost repetitive musical passages in the case of You.

This compilation also features two solo demos from Annie that are a stiffy electric slowed down version of the band's UK hit Northern Lights ,and the last song ever co-written by lyricist Betty Thatcher and Dunford for the band to record as a Renaissance album track titled No Beginning No End. No Beginning No End features another gorgeous Dunford melody and it is surprising that the song was not resurrected during any of the band's recent re-incarnations.

Only When I Laugh and The Body Machine are slick synth pop songs that are pleasant mostly due to Haslam's emotive vocals. Writer's Wronged is a song that doesn't know if it wants to be prog, pop or jazz and probably illustrates the confusion in musical direction that the band were experiencing at that of its recording.

The band's cover of Paul Simon's America seems redundant in that it was Yes' encore piece during their many US concerts, and the band do little to better Yes' version.

All in all, Songs From Renaissance Days was a postcard to old Renaissance fans that should have never been sent. 2 stars.

Report this review (#1478979)
Posted Friday, October 23, 2015 | Review Permalink

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