Renaissance - Tuscany

Year of Release: 2000
Label: GEP
Catalog Number: GEPCD 1030
Format: CD
Total Time: 49:23:00

Renaissance today (© Renaissance)To me Annie Haslam has always been the kind of person who could melt down a complete glacier in a couple of seconds. Her charisma, together with her warm, crystal clear voice, has been a trademark for the band Renaissance since the seventies, creating some of the most stunning music ever to be released in the heydays of prog. The only recent info we received from the Haslam camp regarded her health problems and the collaboration with Steve Howe on his Portraits Of Bob Dylan album. Fact is, a full album between Annie and Steve is in the works, but isn't finished as yet. She also sung "Turn Of The Century" on the Magna Carta Yes-tribute album and "Ripples" on the Genesis-tribute album. So of course it's a nice surprise to see Annie has once again lent her name to the immortal name Renaissance, getting together again with colleagues Michael Dunford and Terence "Terry" Sullivan, plus a guest role for John Tout, in order to deliver ten brand new compositions that still hold the eternal Renaissance flame. All of the sparkling magic is still there and by integrating her friend Roy Wood, the result is like a family album, Roy having been close to Annie's side ever since he collaborated on her solo album Annie In Wonderland way back in 1977.

So what has Annie done with her five octave voice this time around? To be honest Tuscany was released October 2000 in Japan, followed by a tour in March 2001. A European distributor was only found recently in GEP (Giant Electric Pea). Maybe the fact of the label's friendship with John Wetton led them towards Annie and company, because a long, long time ago none other than John Wetton joined Renaissance, albeit for a very short period of time, on bass! Cured from that awful breast cancer, Annie and her classically trained voice are back, becoming, obviously, the focal point around which the arrangements have been built. Whilst the most successful Renaissance period always included an orchestra, these arrangements have now been taken care of by both Mickey Simmonds (Camel, Oldfield, Fish) and Roy Wood (The Move, ELO) by using the best samples. Looking at the Renaissance output, the band steered towards a more compact and contemporary sound with their Camera, Camera and Time Line albums, kicking out the orchestral approach in favour of modern synths. In doing so they lost a lot of loyal fans, yet with this album they go back to what they do best, so Tuscany fits in nicely with Ashes Are Burning, Sheherazade and Azure D'or.

The opening track "Lady From Tuscany" certainly proves the dynamics are all there, plus the will to create some wonderful flowing symphonic gems. At one point Annie's voice even sounds very pastoral. Piano and acoustic guitar blend nicely together in order to form the ideal backbone for Annie's voice during "Pearls Of Wisdom." Although new technologies allow us to reproduce the sounds of practically any instrument, it would nevertheless have been nice to include authentic acoustic instruments such as woodwind, violin and/or cello on this album instead of the synthetic counterpart. In "Eva's Pond," Annie teams up only with Mickey Simmonds in order to deliver an even more fragile composition, illustrating perfectly that a nice song doesn't need a huge arrangement. This is music from the soul which everyone can relate to! The atmosphere for "Dear Landseer" is rather medieval, what with harpsichord being introduced, matching Annie's appropriate way of singing before turning it into a more rhythmic piece with some Bach influences tucked away.

"In My Life" is a stunning piece of music with Annie's voice swimming with the stream, the kind of song that, to me, can go on forever because of it's gentle nature. Not having heard her X-mas album It Snows In Heaven, Too, "Dolphins Prayer" is exactly the kind of solemn music one would expect around that particular time. Having found new hopes and friends in Brazil, "Life In Brazil" contains all of the charm and energy associated with this country. The album closes with the longest track on the album. "One Thousand Roses" almost sounds like an Andrew Lloyd Webber outtake full of expression and orchestral beauty ending in a very powerful way, like the final chapter of an opera. No doubt the sad days of Annie Haslam are well and truly over and you can hear the joy of life inside her voice. Sadly John Tout could only assist for part of the recording process due to other commitments but Mickey Simmonds certainly has done a splendid job. With both Michael Dunford and Terence Sullivan by her side, it's nice that next to all these so called Renaissance versions over the years, we can finally enjoy the real Renaissance all over again. Tuscany has never looked better!

Lady From Tuscany (6:40) / Pearls Of Wisdom (4:25) / Eva's Pond (3:40) / Dear Landseer (5:19) / In The Sunshine (4:25) / In My Life (5:26) / The Race (4:58) / Dolphins Prayer (3:19) / Life In Brazil (3:40) / One Thousand Roses (7:12)

Annie Haslam - all vocals
Michael Dunford - electric and acoustic guitars
Terence Sullivan - drums, percussion
Mickey Simmonds - keyboards, orchestral arrangements


John Tout - piano, harpsichord, keyboards
Roy Wood - bass, keyboards, orchestral arrangements, backing vocals, percussion
Alex Caird - bass

Renaissance (1969)
Illusion (1970)
Prologue (1972)
Ashes Are Burning (1973)
Turn Of The Cards (1974)
Scheherazade (1975)
Live At Carnegie Hall (1976)
Novella (1977)
A Song For All Seasons (1978)
Azure D'Or (1979)
Camera Camera (1981)
Time Line (1983)
Tales Of 1000 Nights - Volume 1 (1990)
Tales Of 1000 Nights - Volume 2 (1990)
Blessing In Disguise (1996, Haslam)
The Other Woman (1996, Dunford)
Live At The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Part 1 (rec 1977, rel 1997)
Live At The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Part 2 (rec 1977, rel 1997)
Songs From Renaissance Days (1997)
BBC Sessions (1999)
Day Of The Dreamer (rec. 70s, rel 2000)
Unplugged Live At The Academy Of Music (rec. 1985, rel 2000)
Tuscany (2000/01)
In The Land Of The Rising Sun - Live In Japan 2001 (2002)
Songs For All Seasons (2002)
Mother Russia (2002)
Live + Direct (2002)
Dreams And Omens: Live At The Tower Theater, Philadelphia, PA 1978 (2008)

Genre: Progressive Folk

Origin UK

Added: November 25th 2001
Reviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

Artist website:
Hits: 691
Language: english


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