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Renaissance - Songs From Renaissance Days CD (album) cover

SONGS FROM RENAISSANCE DAYS

Renaissance

 

Symphonic Prog

2.13 | 60 ratings

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ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator
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'

peace

ClemofNazareth | 2/5 |

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