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Renaissance

Camera Camera

Review by Gary Hill

Old time Renaissance fans have often slagged this disc. That’s a shame because it’s a great album. Sure, the orchestral arrangements that the group had been fond of earlier are replaced by a more prominent keyboard role. The songs are more in the five minute range than epic proportions, but anyone who thinks this is “pop” music has little idea what that means. They were on a label that’s known for punk rock, but if anyone thought this was punk they really were clueless. This is a different kind of Renaissance prog, but it is prog and it is strong. I like this album a lot.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Camera Camera
Starting, appropriately, with the sounds of a camera this track feels perhaps more like Nektar with its keyboard and guitar heavy arrangement than Renaissance. Once Annie Haslam’s suitably cherub-like vocals enter, though we know who this is. OK, so it’s not the acoustic instrument driven sound of the 1970’s version of the band, but this is still prog (albeit in a short capsule) and Renaissance. There’s a chorus that’s closer to the group’s older sounds and some tasty dramatic movements.
Faeries (Living at the Bottom of the Garden)
Perhaps this one is more deserving of the old time fans’ wrath than the opener was. It’s definitely more pop oriented, but Haslam’s vocals keep this from fitting into the mainstream category. I’d consider this one to be a “throw away” number, though.
Remember
A short percussion section starts this off. Then they bring it up with an almost Genesis-like texture. Haslam’s vocals are more understated here. There’s an almost 1950’s doo wop feeling to some of the music here. The chorus is quite catchy. The vocals on this seem very much in keeping with the older sound of the band. In fact, so do some of the musical changes. Still, there’s a more modern edge to the track. I like this one a lot, actually. It works through some dramatic movements. 
Bonjour Swansong
There’s a rather playful nature to this. I think this sounds a lot like something from Azure d’Or. Of course, a lot of Renaissance fans have less than favorable things to say about that disc, but I personally like it a lot. I’d consider this track to be quite similar and one of my favorites on show here. 
Tyrant-Tula
I would send those who think of this disc as “not prog” to listen to this. Sure, there’s a catchy riff and it’s a shorter number, but this is really incredibly prog. I would say this is one of the highlights of the disc. It’s got some interesting changes and alterations and is quite strong. I love the rubbery bass line and at over five minutes in length this isn’t really short – although it’s shorter than the group’s earlier outings. I’d say Haslam’s vocals are among the best of the disc and I love the killer extensive and dynamic instrumental section. The closing percussion based segment is a bit odd, but also cool. 
Okichi-San
There’s an almost blues, jazzy texture to this. Yet, it’s one of the most decidedly prog numbers on show here. I like this one a lot. It’s another that features some great vocal work from Haslam and the arrangement here is quite different from the rest of the disc, making this a great piece of variety. There are even a lot of changes within the course of the number. At times this even has a bit of Pink Floyd like edge. 
Jigsaw
This dramatic track reminds me at least as much of Yes as it does vintage Renaissance. The opening segment is quite classical in nature. It shifts out to a fast paced song proper and they move through this number with a catchy chorus. It also turns more orchestral for a time. This is another highlight of the disc. 
Running Away From You
OK, perhaps this one is deserving of some of the fan’s ire. It’s quite pop-oriented and in many ways reminds me of The Buggles. It has its moments, but is one of the weaker pieces here. 
Ukraine Ways
A dramatic and classical piano line opens this up. They launch from there into one of the most trademark Renaissance passages of the disc in the form of a potent instrumental introduction. A bouncy world music styled verse enters and we’re off into the song proper. They take this through a number of changes and variants, many of which feel like classic Renaissance. There’s a false ending and they rework it into a killer world music tinged instrumental segment after that. This is one of the highlights of the disc and a great closing salvo. It actually resembles ELP at times.
 
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