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Renaissance - Ocean Gypsy CD (album) cover

OCEAN GYPSY

Renaissance

Symphonic Prog


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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.

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Send comments to Easy Livin (BETA) | Report this review (#76756)
Posted Sunday, April 30, 2006 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Although the title may give the idea of this CD being a compilation album, this is not such thing as we know it. It is a collection of Renaissance songs done by Michael Dunford´s Renaissance in the late 90´s. After not being well received when they put out an album (The Other Woman), Dunford decided to record a CD of reworked Renaisance songs (most of them classic 70´s tunes). The album, which at first I thought was recorded live, showed that if Stephanie Adlington was not another Annie Haslam (and who could have been anyway?), she´s sure the next best thing. she could reproduce some really difficult parts (Things I Don´t Understand, just to cite one) with such confidence and technique you have to rethink any bad judgement (or just prejudice).

The arrangements are good, mostly doing acoustic versions, and production is ok. Two new songs, The Star Of The Show and The Great Highway were quite promising. Unfortunatly there was no follow up that could have maybe erased the bad impression The Other Woman left in many fans (but not in me. I Liked that album a lot). If you´re open mided about Renaissance I recommend this CD, which has some interesting interpretations of their classics. Nice CD. 3 stars.

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Send comments to Tarcisio Moura (BETA) | Report this review (#173085)
Posted Thursday, June 05, 2008 | Review Permalink
ClemofNazareth
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk Researcher
4 stars Michael Dunford was by all accounts pleased with his choice of singer when he formed his own version of Renaissance in the late nineties and recorded the appropriately-titled 'The Other Woman', but he has said over the years that he was both surprised and a little disappointed by the strong rock vibe the album projected. Not that he should have been given the inclusion of a former Whitesnake drummer (Dave Dowle) and a contemporary blues-rock guitarist (Rory Erickson). But regardless, Dunford decided to take one more shot at rekindling something remotely approaching the magic of the band's headliner days, but preferably folksier and more acoustic the second time around. I have to say he largely succeeded.

Other than himself and singer Stephanie Adlington the entire lineup of musicians was new, and Dunford stacked the deck by including a host of impressive prog-rock icons. Jimmy Hastings of Caravan not only lent his saxophone to the effort but contributed flute and piccolo as well. Touch's Alan Daniels shows off his skill on piano and accordion as well as a variety of synthesized orchestral sounds. And jazz great Rod Brown serves up snare drums and most of the other percussion. The level of musicianship here is considerably more impressive than on Dunford and Adlington's first effort 'The Other Woman', an album that was quite memorable in its own right.

Dunford was also astute enough to know that the original band's early music still had great emotional appeal with fans, and the idea of re-recording some of those classics rather than putting together another collection of original material seems in retrospect to be a stroke of genius. At the time I suppose it could have really backfired considering Annie Haslam was still performing solo and occasionally with her own 'Renaissance' lineup, and certainly her brand-recognition was notably greater than that of Dunford's. Still, I have to admire the pluck of the young American Ms. Adlington in being willing to cover some of the most well-known of that material with Dunford at her side, and often in the same octaves Haslam performed them. With a few small exceptions she pulled it off.

The title track is a simpler yet still elegant version, with Adlington seeming to be a bit hesitant at first but warming to the material quickly. Dunford's acoustic work is precise and carries her voice perfectly, while their version of 'Things I Don't Understand' is quite close to the original and Adlington pretty much hits the high notes although her timbre is a bit wispier than Haslam's. The backing vocals also fail to match the original but overall this is a solid cover.

Dunford seems to be playing with four or five hands at times on 'Young Prince and Princess', and I believe at least some of his playing is on twelve-string given the hint of echoing drone. Adlington's vocals are dead-on and Brown's hard drumming adds a playful folksy touch.

'Carpet of the Sun' goes way back to Dunford's first involvement with the band and the 'Ashes are Burning' release from 1973 as the group demonstrates the early folk influences of the Renaissance sound. Hastings' flute and Brown's piano are true to the original for the most part for what is one of the strongest offerings on the album. Brown carries this mood into 'At the Harbour', another song from 'Ashes' and one where Adlington lays off Haslam's vocal range in favor of a softer sound that evokes a strong nostalgic feeling. The strings here play off the piano in a way that is even more pronounced than the original, and the faint choral backing provides a chilling bridge to the familiar strident classical piano closing.

'I Think of You' from 'Turn of the Cards' is a well-considered choice as the vocals are well within Adlington's range, giving her the freedom to focus on an emotional delivery rather than trying to stretch for octaves that were probably at the limits of her ability. Dunford's guitar plucking is a bit more forced here than the original but still the delivery is both respectful of and complementary to the original.

'Star of the Show' is a song Dunford co-wrote with Peter Gosling, the keyboardist on the last two Renaissance studio albums. This is an interesting piece in that it sounds far more like the classic Renaissance sound than most of the stuff the real Mk II Renaissance recorded on their own 'Camera Camera' and 'Time-Line' releases. Sonically the sound is a lot like 'I Think of You' except that Adlington reaches further in both range and volume, demonstrating for any doubters that she could indeed deliver a powerful vocal performance that rivaled much of Haslam's later work.

On the flip side I would have left 'Trip to the Fair' alone considering that song's personal connection to Haslam's own past. The song recounts an evening Haslam spent with her former lover Roy Wood and I have a hard time listening to it without visualizing Haslam singing to John Tout's piano, which takes a bit off this version. Hastings cuts in midway with some sweet saxophone though for an entirely new feel for an old favorite, and the layered backing vocals offset Dunford's careful acoustic picking quite well. Once again the band's early folk influences are strongly demonstrated, something the eighties version of the group unfortunately distanced themselves from toward the end of their existence so props should be given to this lineup for their unique interpretation.

The album closes with perhaps the only song that deserves consideration for a Renaissance hits or anthology album, the melancholy and lush 'The Great Highway'. Synthesized strings and piano drown out most of the guitar playing but given the opulent instrumental arrangements in the song I think the group did a masterful job of creating their own memorable classic with the album's final tune.

I was more than pleasantly surprised to discover this version of Renaissance featuring Ms. Adlington, and while I enjoyed their first record 'The Other Woman' I have to say this one makes that effort pale in comparison. Even though these recordings feature only one true Renaissance member, the presence of so many classic and memorable band tunes echo the group's glorious past in a way that pays tribute while at the same time celebrates a comfortable pairing of Michael Dunford and Stephanie Adlington that I for one wish had carried on for at least a couple more albums. This was not to be though, as the seventies version of the band would reform briefly following the release and create their own new music with the studio album 'Tuscany'. But I don't have any problem giving 'Ocean Gypsy' four stars and a hearty recommendation in its own right. A fine swan song for a mostly forgotten version of the Renaissance enigma.

peace

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Send comments to ClemofNazareth (BETA) | Report this review (#524220)
Posted Thursday, September 15, 2011 | Review Permalink
2 stars Ever wondered why so few has ever covered Annie Haslam's songs from Renaissance ? This album may be the answer.

This is nothing but a cover album where Stephanie Adlington is doing Annie Haslams songs. The album include some of her greatests songs.

I am in no doubts that Stephanie Adlington is a great vocalist in her own right. She has a great career on her own and he activities are well documented at her own self titled homepage. But letting her loose on Annie Haslam's songs are like sending a lamb into a lion's den. They are two very different vocalists. And when Michael Dunford, the man responsible for this album and Renaissance at that time, also use the same sound and arrangements as used in the originals, you get the feeling that a great injustice has been done to Stephanie Adlington. I really feel sorry for her because her voice just feels so wrong in these songs.

Listening to this album just makes me cringe and it will probably never be played again by me. A plus for the music and a big minus for a great voice on the wrong place.

2 stars

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Send comments to toroddfuglesteg (BETA) | Report this review (#562612)
Posted Saturday, November 05, 2011 | Review Permalink
SouthSideoftheSky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
2 stars The other album by the other Renaissance

Ocean Gypsy features re-recorded, acoustic versions of classic Renaissance songs by Michael Dunford's Renaissance, plus a couple of new songs in the same style. One could almost say that this is classic Renaissance de-Prog'd, as the arrangements have been simplified and the Rock elements (the drums and the electric bass) are absent from these versions. I have always thought that even the classic, 70's Renaissance sound was too "naked" often lacking a much needed Rock edge. Thus, I would have preferred that, instead of removing elements, they would have done the very opposite and added further elements such as electric guitars and synthesisers. This all-acoustic Renaissance is pleasant enough, but is rather tame. It further lacks the distinctive voice of Annie Haslam and features mostly tunes that we've all heard before. The new songs do not stand out.

These facts together make the present album unnecessary for all but the most ardent Renaissance fan.

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Send comments to SouthSideoftheSky (BETA) | Report this review (#944971)
Posted Tuesday, April 16, 2013 | Review Permalink

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