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Renaissance Camera Camera album cover
2.52 | 155 ratings | 22 reviews | 1% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1981

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Camera Camera (6:01)
2. Faeries (Living At The Bottom Of The Garden) (3:45)
3. Remember (4:33)
4. Bonjour Swansong (3:32) *
5. Tyrant-Tula (5:58)
6. Okishi-San (6:00)
7. Jigsaw (5:00)
8. Running Away From You (3:35)
9. Ukraine Ways (6:37)

Total time 45:01

* Not included in the 1981 UK release

Line-up / Musicians

- Annie Haslam / lead & backing vocals
- Michael Dunford / acoustic & electric guitars, backing vocals
- Jon Camp / bass, electric guitar, backing vocals

- Peter Gosling / keyboards, backing vocals
- Peter Barron / drums, percussion, backing vocals

Releases information

Artwork: Chris Dawes (photo)

LP Illegal Records - ILP008 (1981, UK) Initial release w/ only 8 tracks

CD Line Records ‎- LICD 9.00042 (1988, Germany)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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RENAISSANCE Camera Camera ratings distribution

(155 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(1%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(10%)
Good, but non-essential (36%)
Collectors/fans only (35%)
Poor. Only for completionists (18%)

RENAISSANCE Camera Camera reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Peter
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
1 stars AVOID. Found in the deleted bin -- for a very good reason! The track "Faeries" is OK, but it's about, well... faeries. Exposure to the remainder may well cause your brain to liquefy and run out your ears. A formerly good band goes straight down the commercial toilet. Sad, really.
Review by greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars RENAISSANCE meets the New wave style here! It is probably the most sophisticated new wave album ever. The bass is still very present, full of bottom. Drums are honest. Haslam'as voice is still excellent, reaching sometimes very high notes. Couples of catchy songs like "Bonjour Swansong". The only bad thing is keyboards!! Awful! It looks like the new man Gosling looks very insignificant compared to the great John Tout.
Review by Fishy
2 stars two stars and a half, Many changes in the band before recording this album : two longtime members have left the band, a change of record company, in 1979 the band had to replace the sound of the orchestra by the use of keyboards and synthesizers. Also their musical style has changed a lot since the previous album. One can notice this by the 'plastic' keyboardsounds and the bass lines which sometimes are pretty irritating. Most of the tracks are short in length and haven't the complex structure of their seventies recordings. In fact some of the stuff is pure pop and songs like "bonjour swansong" comes close to the sound of ABBA. Please go on reading. But not everything is bad. Annie Haslam still has a great voice and on this album she uses her voice with more creativity than she did before. Fortunately there's also some tracks which are worthwhile checking out. Especially Ukraine ways takes you back to the days of their musical peak. Tyrant-Tula is also an interesting track, maybe not progressive rock as we know it but quite surprising and consistent with a mix of progressive and reggae. Okichi san is more a typical Renaissance track with eastern influences. These tracks make the album still a must have for the die-hard fan. A greater effort than the next album "time-line" which I would recommend to no one.
Review by Joolz
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars A new start, or the beginning of the end? Well, a bit of both really. Tout and Sullivan have gone, and with them many of the elements that had made the old Renaissance so good. While a few remnants remain, this new incarnation is fundamentally an AOR outfit with a worrying tendency to dabble in new-wave pop. Some of it is damn good actually, but it is hard to understand how the melodic genius of Michael Dunford could create an abomination such as the frankly awful Jigsaw which has no redeeming features that I can find.

Most of the album hovers between 'OK' and 'quite good really' in the straightforward, keyboard-dominated muscular AOR vein that a number of old Prog bands would investigate during the 1980s. Only Bonjour Swansong sounds much like the old band while Running Away From You and its squelchy new-wave synths is about as far away as you can get from Mother Russia! Okichi-San is promising with a loping rhythm and inventive vocal arrangement but never really takes off into orbit, while Ukraine Ways is by far the most complex and exciting arrangement spoilt somewhat by a poor melody. That's the rub - there is always a 'but' associated with any description of these songs.

So, not Renaissance as-we-know-it-Jim and there is little here to interest anyone on a Prog site other than a band devotee. Annie Haslam is, of course, the most obvious connection with past glories, but even she fails to cope satisfactorily with several songs, the purity of her trained voice quite incongruous in some of the settings. Her new-fangled vocal gymnastics are also an acquired taste. Overall, OK for an occasional airing, but, other than the excellent Ukraine Ways, don't expect much movement on the prog-o-meter!

Review by Tom Ozric
4 stars Here goes - I will probably be barred for life from the Archives but I truly love this album, as for the remaining band members' photograph - dig the patchwork jacket, Mick !! Oh, you gotta love the 80's fashions...... Now for some trivia - there was an obsession with cameras around this time : Gentle Giant - 'I am a Camera' from Civilian, Yes - 'Into the Lens' from Drama (and Buggles' rendition, also called 'I am a Camera'), Hammill did a song called 'Polaroid' in 1979 - you get the picture (ho ho - pun intended) The music presented here by the much-loved Annie Haslam and crew is very much of a 'New-Wave' 80's creation, but in all fairness, the music is still firmly prog-rock, (kind of on-par with Camel's 'Nude' album from the same time) - let's see why I would say this ; the production is crisp, with the overall mix well balanced, with emphasis on Jon Camp's busy (and often complicated) bass-lines, the drumming is pretty good, the keyboards are quite dominant and well played (I don't find them to be as cheezy as many say) and Michael Dunford plays more electric guitar this time around. The compositions themselves, in particular the longer tunes - Camera Camera, Tyrant-Tula, Okichi-San (indeed a superb, classic Renaissance piece) and Ukraine Ways maintain the quality of earlier material, maybe with harsher tones, complete with complex instrumental passages and tempo changes, and Annie in exceptionally fine form - stretching her vocal chords as far as they can go, whilst the remaining tracks could be considered prog-pop, and very good, especially the tracks 'Remember' and 'Jigsaw'. 'Running Away from You' and 'Fairies' are quite commercial but pleasant. For me, I play this record as often as their earlier releases, so, if one appreciates good music, go for it - give it a chance.
Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars This is where all start into bleak. As the industry appreciate more on new wave or punk music, the prog band Renaissance tried to respond to the new challenge with new wave influenced music. Nothing wrong at all if a band followed the most recent music trends even though this could have been achieved through creating inventive chords and rhythm section which do note seem so complex. The pressure was quite high where musicians were dominated by label industry to produce top selling position. From the sound and image of this album, it's quite clear that the band wanted to convey a message to the potential buyers of their album that "We are different now! We have evolved (radically) into the new kind of music.". That's okay as long as the basic rhythm or textures of the band's music is still being used. Unlike King Crimson which radically moved into new form of music when Adrian Belew joined the band, in the case of Renaissance, they eliminate all the basic ingredients which made previous albums of Renaissance.

Talking about Renaissance "Camera Camera", I probably can relate to the release of Gentle Giant's "Civilian". Yes, the two have no relationship at all in terms of players as well as musical style. But the share similar evolution into other types of music. Gentle Giant "civilian" was criticized by many prog music lovers. Fortunately, the basic ingredients of Gentle Giant's music was being maintained at its core. The only difference with previous Gentle Giants was that the song became much more accessible and more rocking. While Renaissance "Camera Camera" does not leave legacy of their previous music.

Overall, I consider this as an album for completionist (like me!). For thise of you who have just started to know Renaissance, should disregard this album.

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars Picture imperfect

After a hiatus which appeared to indicate that Renaissance had run their course as a band, in 1981 Michael Dunford, Annie Haslam and Jon Camp decided to give it another go. They brought in keyboard player Peter Gosling and drummer Peter Barron to complete the line up, and set about recording "Camera Camera". The band signed up with IRS records run by Miles Copeland (father of Stewart Copeland, one time of Curved Air, but better know for his work with the Police). Sadly, the results were very disappointing. While the absence of the band's traditional orchestration and the desire to explore a different direction was understandable, the lack of inspiration was not.

The signs are not good from the sleeve images, which have an unfortunate resemblance to "Love beach"; mullets, hairspray and all. Interestingly, although the line up lists five band members, only the trio of Haslam, Camp and Dunford appear in the photos, a faulty camera perhaps?

The opening title track could actually have been a decent Renaissance number, had it benefited from the symphonic arrangements of their previous work. Instead we have staccato synthesisers, and Annie doing an impression of Sonja Kirstina doing an impression of Kate Bush, with a splash of Toyah Wilcox-Fripp thrown in for good measure. She certainly demonstrates here though that her extraordinary range has not diminished.

Songs such as "Tyrant-tula" (a pun in case its not obvious) have definite echoes of "Scherezade", but are all the while marred by the jumpy disco type rhythm. It really is a pity, because the potential is there for a decent album.

In fairness, "Jigsaw" does have some of the qualities which long term fans of the band yearn for, with spirited orchestration and a reasonably varied structure. Hopes are however quickly dashed when the track comes to an abrupt halt, to be replaced by a quite awful piece of repetitive euro-pop "Running away from you". Things conclude on a brighter note with "Ukraine ways", which features some decent guitar and piano.

Peter Gosling, who was brought in to replace John Tout on keyboards, should clearly not be blamed for the 80's keyboards sounds which dominate the album, this was now the sound of choice of the band. On occasions, we are teased by echoes of the great songs of the past, and in fairness some tracks are actually decent Renaissance numbers. The problem therefore lies in the overall feel of the album. I do not however wish to completely discourage those who enjoy the music of this fine band from giving "Camera Camera" a listen, but it is wise to approach with some trepidation.

Review by Tarcisio Moura
2 stars Renaissance going from bad to worse. After the already not too good Azur D´or and a two year hiatus, comes the ´new´ Renaissance in form of Annie haslam, Michael Dunford and Jon Camp plus keyboards player John Gosling and drummer Peter Barron. The sound is really awful most of the time: new wave pop totally unsuited for such a great classical voice like Haslam´s. Sometimes you get a decent tune here and there that reminds you, briefly, of how good Renaissance used to be. And even then, they seem to be some leftover from Azzure D´or, or, in the case of Bonjour Swansong a Nothern Lights rip off.

Although the acoustic guitars and bass sounds are good, the keyboards are very annoying: 80´s synth pop full of cliches. I´ll give the record two stars because of some nice melodies that you can find lost in this turkey and Annie Haslam´s atempts to bring some life to those mediocre tracks. Sometimes she succeeds.

Unless you´re a Renaissance hardcore fan, avoid this record. And avoid even more its follow up, Time Line.

Review by kenethlevine
4 stars I guess I need to set the context. It was 1982 and I was in college. I had turned several friends onto Renaissance as much because of Annie's looks as her voice, let alone the music. The still-progressive FM station in Ottawa at the time started playing a new Renaissance album, their first in 3 full years, and the band was coming to town! We rushed to buy our tickets, they blew us away and we all posed with a "Camera Camera" poster in my dorm room. So no I can't be objective. But I must say, as impartially as I can, that this is a far better collection of songs than presented for "Azure D'Or", better composed, played and arranged.

For starters, there is very little of the flailing about instrumentally that we heard on Azure, the synthesizers are in proportion, the music is far less fey. The tunes are more muscular than we might expect from Renaissance, but it's all part of the facelift they were given by the hard edged 1980s image makers. It does not change one iota the depth of some of these tunes, and the catchiness of those that lack depth. The title cut is flashy sure, but also contains a lengthy instrumental section that shows the level of energy brought about, at least in part, by the addition of Peter Gosling on keyboards. Several other fairly long tracks would also be of most interest to people here, like the FM hit (where I came from) "Tyrant Tula", with its excellent guitars and bass. But the two sure winners are "Okichi-San" and "Ukraine Ways" that both bring back that delicious Renaissance air of mystery, not to mention Annie's trademark ohhhh exercises, a heretofore unexplored Asian overtone, and an eastern bloc sensibility.

Inasmuch as the shorter cuts are like revved up versions of the Azure fossils, they work very well, even "Running Away from You", and the "Northern Lights" clone "Bonjour Swansong". At least they are accessible. While "Fairies" and "Jigsaw" are both lame, the first being a new wave cacophony (even if it starts great) and the second a hard rock catastrophe, the album is more good than not, and is an excellent example of progressive pop for its time. It is certainly not the same band as the 1970s version, but a revitalized group showing they could look forward without trashing their past. Think of it as a digital version of Renaissance.

Review by ZowieZiggy
2 stars Well, well, well ! What is this ?

Some pseudo electro-pop music? Renaissance? It reminds me the worse of "Earth & Fire" (during the late mid seventies). Even the great Annie is not that great any longer during several songs.

I'm listening hard to discover any outstanding tracks on this album. But it seems that is like searching for the Holy Grail. A difficult quest (especially during the first half). Still, the band must have some sense of humour since one of the songs is called "Bonjour Swansong". Indeed.

The first track deserving a mention is "Okichi-San". Very high-pitched vocals (à la Japanese, but the lyrics are Japanese oriented). It renews a bit with their symphonic sound which I praise so much. But six good minutes is rather short to convert an unbearable album into an average one.

But the band seems to be better inspired towards the end of this album. Again, "Jigsaw" is closer to their earlier repertoire. One can re-discover the great vocalist Annie has always been (except on some earlier tracks from "Camera Camera").

"Ukraine Ways" brightly shines here. Almost a classic "Renaissance" song. Melodic vocals, symphonic backing band, elegant piano play. It is by far the best song from this album (which is an easy task). The light which dominates this work.

I am a bit embarrassed to rate this album. Three out of ten is what comes to my mind. Since it is "Renaissance", I will upgrade it to two stars but be aware that this album is for die-hard fans only. So, be prepared.

Review by b_olariu
3 stars Renaissance first album from the '80's named Camera camera from 1981. Well this album is more popish than previous one Azure D'or from 1979 but also has prog elements. For many this album is a disaster, not to mentioning the next one, but for me is a good album all the way, really. Whjat we have here is very polished pop with prog leanings album, Camera Camera can pleases both sides of listners, the most pop orientated, and keep some parts for prog lovers. Anyway here Renaissance toying with new wave and is clear that the golden years are far behind, now we are in 1981 and almost every band who started in early '70's now palying something in between pop and prog, some of them even turned to be only pop, examples are many. Better this way, like this album than only pop. I must saying that all the pieces are strong, not a single one is a step back from previouses releases, the prog elements are in agood doze combined with pop ones, the voice of haslan is very good again, so what elese than a 3 star for me. Two new members arrived in Rennaissance boat:Peter Gosling / keyboards and Peter Barron / drums. They've done a good job here, but they don't shines as the predecesors. So all in all a good album, realy , nothing boring here and nothing bad, but aswell nothing really special, only a good album , who needs atention if you are a Renaissance fan. 3 stars easely.
Review by octopus-4
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
1 stars I can't forgive one of my favourite bands for having produced a so bad thing. At the beginning of the 80s the three survivors of their golden era tried to renew their sound and they did in the worst possible manner.

"Camera Camera", The title track has still something of the good old times, but the keyboards are really "plastic" as a lot of stuff in the 80s, with Annie Haslam trying to make her impressive voice sound like Kate Bush's (Another impressive vocalist, but why doing so?).

"Faeries" is very trivial. Does anybody remember a french girl called Lio? This is how Aniie's voice sounds on this electronic song. She seems to be influenced by Lene Lovich, too.

"Remember" has a nice opening. If you resisted from throwing the disk out of the window, this could have been a weak filler in a good album. At least they have put some effort in the composing.

"Bonjour Swansong" is not that bad, but I can imagine it played by Caravan of mid 70s instead of by Renaissance.

A good bass line is not enough to save "Tyrant-tula" from being a poor song, even if probably the best until now. The chorus retains something of the old times, but it sounds like a spy B-movie soundtrack.

"Okichi-San" is neither bad or good. A song built for Annie's voice with a chorus that reminds to Novella. Some of the old glory is still present.

Without some screams a-la Nina Hagen "Jigsaw" wouldn't be a bad song. They probably remembered to be the Renaissance. Betty Thatcher is accredited as composer. Too few to save the album and too late, probably to be listened. I'm almost discovering it now as I probably didn't resist so much to this disc.

"Running Away From You" is a good suggestion. A very poor electronic track. It can be compared with Remote Romance, the weakest and most embarassing Camel's track ever.

The last track, "Ukraine Ways" is geographically close to "Mother Russia", but even if they were probably trying to sound like that masterpiece, they failed.

This album doesn't reach 2 stars and I strongly suggest avoiding it. If anybody, listening to it thinks this is Renaissance, they would miss the good things done before and also after this album. This is absolutely their worst moment. I think I can better serve the Renaissance cause by keeping the potential listeners away from it.

Review by ClemofNazareth
2 stars Okay, I've looked into this very thoroughly and am satisfied that this is not in fact a long-lost Martha & the Muffins album, regardless of copious and strong aural evidence to the contrary. Whether it should be considered a true Renaissance record is another story.

Renaissance were really a mess by the time they entered the studio to record this album, and really it's not all that clear why they decided to attach the Renaissance brand name to it since the only part of the music that even remotely resembles anything like the Renaissance sound is Annie Haslam's voice. Longtime keyboardist John Tout was gone after a disastrous tour promoting the band's 1981 album 'Azure D'or' in what Haslam has described as a 'mutual decision' by her, Tout, bassist Jon Camp and guitarist Michael Dunford. Drummer Terence Sullivan whose friendship with Tout predated either of their involvement with Renaissance left with Tout in a symbolic gesture of support, and to add insult to injury the band's label Warner Brothers dropped them. It's unclear whether the band actually broke up at this point, but Dunford and Haslam did briefly form another group (Nevada) along with keyboardist Peter Gosling and recorded a handful of singles and unreleased studio tracks along with a tune for the Eurovision contest. A couple of the singles were released shortly after this album was recorded and a compilation CD managed to find its way into circulation in 2000, so it's no surprise really that Gosling found his way onto this record as well as its follow-up 'Time Line'. Journeyman drummer Peter Barron (aka Pete Baron) and Camp filled out the lineup, and longtime acquaintance Miles Copeland III gave them a shot on I.R.S. Records which was clearly the wrong sort of label for the band considering their marquee acts at the time included R.E.M., the Go-Gos and Oingo Boingo.

Jon Camp continued to expand his role as songwriter, something he began with 'Azure D'or' and would once again write or co-write half the songs on the album as his did with the prior release. And once again the tenor of the album is decidedly more New-Wavey and commercial than any of the band's earlier work. In fact, the group takes things even further down the commercial track here with rhythms that are both poppish and danceable. Also the change in keyboardist leads to an immense shift for the band as Gosling almost completely avoids the piano passages that Tout made such an integral part of the band's sound in favor of highly synthesized keyboards that more often than not sound more like laser beams and cheesy sound effects than the piano, organ and synthesized orchestral music Tout provided for the band. At times Gosling's playing sounds quite harsh; I'm not sure if this is by design or simply due to the differences in instruments. This is especially true early on in the album on the title track, 'Faeries (Living at the Bottom of the Garden)' and 'Remember'. 'Running Away From You' in particular has an almost appalling one-two dance beat, fingernails-on-chalkboard synths and insipid lyrics that are far beneath the dignity of someone of Haslam's musical stature.

And speaking of lyrics the late Betty Thatcher would be the next to sign off from the group following this album after several years filling the role of lyricist for the group. She does provide words for four tunes including a rather somber and nostalgic 'Bonjour Swansong' which was clearly meant to be a farewell to Haslam, Dunford, Camp and the band's fans.

The group seems to attempt at least a casual nod to their earlier and more progressive sound with laconic tracks like 'Okichi-San' and 'Tyrant-Tula' as well as the jerky, awkward tempo and acoustic guitar on 'Jigsaw' but in every case the songs seem unnecessarily long and lack the sort of determinate focus of the band's more seminal works.

The album does close with the seven-minute 'Ukraine Ways' that features a hopeful opening piano volley and the inkling of a synthesized orchestral movement, but too soon the thumpy bass line and 'Scandal featuring Patti Smyth' petty vocals/lyrics destroy what could have been the only decent tune on the album.

I'm sad to say that this is not a good Renaissance album, but it is what it is. Surprisingly despite the weak material and weak critical response to it the band still enjoyed a strong following and managed to crank out a few financially and critically successful tours following this release, during which the group dug deep in their vast archives for concert- worthy material. Serious fans of the band no doubt have this one in their collection so I suppose it deserves two stars, but musically it does absolutely nothing to advance the Renaissance sound or legacy and therefore rates nothing more than that, including a recommendation (and to be clear I don't recommend this one for anyone).


Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
2 stars Oh my!

Losing keyboadist John Tout and drummer Terrence Sullivan, Renaissance seemed to bow to the brilliant record company executives, and throw their successful style out the window.

On the surface, the opening track, Camera Camera seems to be a compromise between the symphonic style of the old Renaissance and the eletro new wave of the execs wet dreams. Annie Haslam sounds a bit like she is imitating Kate Bush, with some high pitched trills, and bassist Jon Camp plays some decent bass lines. The music attempts a litlle bit of symphonic overtones, but it doesn't go very far.

And that is the best part of the album. After that, there are only vague hints of what the band once was, with slight references to the prog past, and too much emphasis on nauseatingly simplistic synthesizers.

At least they haven't stooped to posing for a cover with a close-up photo of the band sporting embarrassing a980's hairdos.

Barely two stars.

Review by Lewian
4 stars Not sure whether it's a wise move making my debut here with writing something positive about this record, but I think it's big fun actually and one of the most underrated albums. Much has been written about them trying to become commercial and even "new wave", but the truth is that if they tried this they failed miserably, at the same time pissing off much of their old fan base. It was probably the wrong album at the wrong time, but my take on it is very different.

I appreciate that they tried out something new and that they took a risk here. I even like the photo, which probably proves my bad taste. I find the album very fresh actually, and it's full of surprises. True, some of the material is pretty straightforward and can't really be called "prog", and one couldn't accuse them of following any consistent direction here, but I actually like the fact that every song is quite different from every other. There are some really excellent and at times extreme vocals here (Annie does other things than "beautiful & epic" here, which may have shocked some), good and dominant bass playing, some good melodies, some of rather mellow and some of rather determined character, some more Eastern influence. The rhythm section in several songs is harder and more "driving" than on other Renaissance albums. My favourite is Tyrant-tula, which is started off by a good guitar riff, has some quite "physical" parts, a quite exciting keyboard solo and some unexpected turns (leading into something of a dead end but that's part of the fun).

I don't mind the 80s keyboards, by the way, and quite a range of sounds and styles is used there, too (including some old school Renaissance piano). Actually, the whole "70s prog band goes 80s commercial" thing fascinates me to some extent; trying to make things a bit slimmer and straighter wasn't too wrong for some. In some cases there are interesting results like here, where the band keeps up their creativity (I think there's more creativity in this one than in a number of their predecessors actually) and it turns out that they put too many ideas in an album to be really commercial.

One can find things to criticise about this, not every idea works well (I don't like "Running Away From You" much but as all the others it's something unique on this record so it at least contributes to the overall number of styles). Considering the warning I just got from the system I should probably refrain from giving it all five stars but still I love this and it's a pretty pretty strong 4.

Review by rogerthat
3 stars It's safe to say that this is the least favoured phase of Renaissance's long journey. In the album notes, the late Betty Thatcher was vocal in expressing her displeasure with the direction the band took on Camera Camera. She said and I quote, "I'd become disenchanted with the outlook of the group when I wrote this (Bonjour Swansong). They were looking for a follow up single and said things like, 'We should be more like Genesis.' I thought the whole motivation of classical rock had been abandoned." Annie Haslam too has disowned this album and its follow up, Time Line. She has said that had she been as strong a person as she is now, she wouldn't have stood for it. A pretty big hint, if you will, as to why Jon Camp isn't with the band anymore (though much of this album is still written by Michael Dunford). Nevertheless, at the time, Camera Camera at least fared better than its predecessor Azure D'Or (the album that nuked their Warner Bros contract). And Bonjour Swansong is one of its better tracks. That kind of sums up Camera Camera.

You THINK Renaissance attempting new wave is going to be an outright disaster. Instead, it works really well in patches with a few misses that aren't grotesque either. Just as the 80s outfits and hairstyle Annie sported in the Camera Camera tour weren't particularly gross though not as graceful as in the 70s (but certainly more adventurous). A band that hadn't taken risks for a long time was bound to misfire here and there. But when they get it right, the payoff is twice as awesome.

The album gets off to a flying start with the opener (and title track), reminding me of Michael Schumacher at the Sao Paulo GP back in 2000 when he jumped two places into the outright lead right at the start. Whatever you may have expected from Renaissance going New Wave, the title track isn't it. It starts off with a guitar riff interplaying with keyboard. Holy moly, is that even a Renaissance album at all? It gets into another proggy keyboard motif (which will make another appearance at the end of the first verse/chorus) before launching into the main keyboard/guitar new wave riff. It's a somewhat foreboding riff and doesn't prepare you for Annie chirping in an ultra thin tone high up in the fifth octave, flexing it in impossible ways, again like Schumacher redlining bends in jawdropping ways. This ultra thin tone is accompanied by a cool and almost cynical expression, not something you'd dream of hearing from Annie, again (and I used that word again!). In the chorus, she switches to a more chesty, bossy tone. But in the middle, "I am pleasant and kind..." reverts to a soft, faux-operatic tone, the expression continuing to be disdainful. She goes back to the chesty voice and finishes the chorus with a long sustained note. An even longer version of said note will appear in the second chorus. If that's not enough, she goes off into high vocalise. Did I mention the production yet? It's crisp in a way no Renaissance album has ever sounded. The sound isn't thin and compressed either the way Song for All Seasons was. It's also yet to be infected by the robotomania of the 80s. Early 80s truly saw some great productions like Mob Rules or Moving Pictures and Camera Camera, it has to be said, is one of them. And the title track is my joint favourite.

The other favourite couldn't be more different. Okichi San. Where Camera Camera is urgent and full of brash confidence, Okichi San is leisurely and languid and also calculated down to the last note. If Camera Camera rocks out, Okichi San is jazzy lounge. The similarity is both use Annie's versatility as well as her ability to do high vocalise beautifully, as if it were an instrument all by itself. This is one of their more progressive tracks in general (and not just on the album). It manages to borrow from New Wave without dumbing down the songwriting.

That, unfortunately, cannot be said for some of the other tracks like Fairies, Jigsaw or Running Away With You. Something about the playfulness of Fairies perhaps appealed to Annie and she runs with it but I don't find her delivery particularly convincing on Jigsaw (barring that shriek :P) or Running Away with You. particular is a jarring precursor to the terrible Missing Persons (both written by Camp, incidentally). If Dunford wanted to keep some prog going amidst the New Wave embrace, Camp was more eager to go all out New Wave and grab that hit (which never came, as it transpired).

As mentioned earlier, Bonjour Swansong has a lot of heart and works just because. There's nothing unusual or amazing about it, just a simple but nice melody sung really well (as usual). Also worth mentioning is Remember, one of Renaissance's most beautiful melodies. Again, where earlier their melodies were written so Annie would make them come alive, here at last they show the potential to write melodies that were truly interesting just standalone. Remember in particular has a beautiful progression. It is marred a little by whatever it is that Peter Gosling does at the end. Elsewhere, Gosling and Barron's considerable chops do give a much needed fillip to the band's energy levels, something also noticeable in their live set during this period. The stately sounding Tyrant Tula and Ukraine Ways don't work so well for me, but they also don't annoy me. Ukraine Ways in particular is an attempt to fit the symphonic approach of Renaissance in 80s sounds. But these tracks needed the light touch of Sullivan; Barron's energetic thumping combined with electric guitar and 80s keyboards makes it altogether a little oppressive (for me).

All in all, Camera Camera is very much a mixed bag. But to evoke the "life is a box of chocolates" metaphor from Forrest Grump ( I know, I heard you groan), why miss out on the ones that taste delicious just because some of the other chocolates suck? The parts of Camera Camera that work, work so well you will be amazed Renaissance could pull this off. For a long time, fans have been unhappy that these albums derailed the band into liquidation back in the 80s. But it's all water under the bridge. Annie has ably led the band into new frontiers since the 2009 reunion. So the time is ripe to relax and enjoy those tracks from Camera Camera that still hold up after all these years. For the intent to take risks and for pulling it off well at least in parts, I give this one three stars, placing it above Azure D'Or and Grandine Il Vento.

Latest members reviews

2 stars Things Get Dicey... Under strong pressure to produce a hit, Renaissance, now reduced to only three members, gave in and went full-hog into the early 80s new wave sound with an eye on radio play. The result is, shall we say, less than flattering. Unlike Azure D'Or, which kept its dignity and class ... (read more)

Report this review (#1706959) | Posted by Walkscore | Friday, March 31, 2017 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Eight rapid fire old time camera shutters clicking open and closed signal the invisible metronome of Camera Camera's opening title track and we're off. Jon Camp's bass takes over the beat with five identical propulsive bass notes that climax in a quick four note melody, while long time acoustic ... (read more)

Report this review (#1478221) | Posted by SteveG | Wednesday, October 21, 2015 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Well, after Azure d'Or (one of my favorites) Renaissance took things commercial (they made a Rainbow move)... Anyway, Camera Camera is an album misunderstood and very "it's time". But it's still pretty catchy. My favorite, being "Running Away From You" is very commercial sounding but Annie sti ... (read more)

Report this review (#101486) | Posted by rainbow111 | Sunday, December 3, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Very strong album IF you are a Renaissance fan. Powerful sounding intrumentals. Keyboards are quite domonant. Annie is Awesome. No doubt more 80's ish. If you listen closely, enough, and you love NOVELLA, you will like this. Musically loud and solid effort. ... (read more)

Report this review (#64267) | Posted by | Wednesday, January 11, 2006 | Review Permanlink

3 stars I personally think this album gets a lot of unfair press. For many of the big prog bands of the 70's the 80's proved a challenge. Renaissance were no exception and "Camera, Camera" was like Gentle Giant's "Civilian" and Jethro Tull's "A" a failed attempt to move with the times. In terms ... (read more)

Report this review (#40043) | Posted by Dave Preston | Saturday, July 23, 2005 | Review Permanlink

3 stars If you're looking for "Old Renaissance", stay away. There's just a few progressive hints here and Peter Gosling is miles away from John Tout. If you are open-minded and like well played songs, catchy pop tunes and an awesome voice, this album have its qualities, especially when compared with the ... (read more)

Report this review (#20119) | Posted by Ingsoc Karamat | Saturday, December 11, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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