Painting © Annie Haslam 2008
Image © Friday Music 2008
Image © Annie Haslam 2008
(13 November 2008) There have been several live Renaissance releases in recent years which have all been warmly received by fans worldwide. Dreams and Omens - Renaissance Live At The Tower Theatre Philadelphia PA 1978 (Friday Music (USA), 2008) is very special. I have come to the conclusion that the band must have been quite difficult to mix at concerts. Due mainly to the use of acoustic guitar instead of electric and the importance of keyboards and bass guitar to the compositions, if one or more instruments were out, this could spoil the way the band sounded live. This has happened on previous live releases, mainly on radio concerts, but I am delighted to say on this new release the mix is almost perfect giving the listener the next best thing to actually being there. The one exception is that sometimes Jon Campís bass could have been a bit louder.
The band were on fire at this concert and John Tout in particular, comes across very strong, all his keyboard orchestrations are clearly audible and as a result the band sounds fuller and atmospheric. My only other criticisms of this CD is the fading out of the in between song banter which could be such an entertaining and humorous part of a Renaissance show and this is a shame. And why release only part of such a special concert; Iím sure we wouldnít have minded paying more for a double CD of the complete show.
"Can You Hear Me?" kicks off the CD and is the best live version I have heard. As I previously mentioned, the keyboards are very prominent adding lots of atmosphere and Annie, as always, is singing brilliantly. The bass and drums and acoustic guitar are all clear, what more could you want? You can really sense the atmosphere as the audience responds vocally just before the final verse kicks in. "Carpet of the Sun" follows and again is a good solid rendition, with John Toutís simulated strings very prominent. The next epic is "Day of the Dreamer," which is a tighter version than the one on the CD of the same name, with the band really cooking by now and Terry's drum fills cutting through. The usual rearranged live version of Midas Man has some wonderful vocals from Annie. A great version of "Northern Lights" follows which I think is the first time a classic line up live version has been released.
The final track on this CD is a surprise. I was lucky enough to see the band six times in the 70s and I don't recall them ever playing this song, so to discover that "Things I Don't Understand" was on the CD was fantastic. There are a couple of changes to the original arrangement here. Firstly someone--not Terry who is playing drum kit--is playing the Tympani roll on the intro. I'm fairly sure it is Jon Camp as the bass guitar drops out until later in the intro section. Also there is backing vocals on Annie's first voice solo and the male vocals after it are missing. There follows a driving bass riff with a short piano solo, before the song returns to the original arrangement.
This is a great live CD. Recorded from a live radio broadcast, it's not perfect, but it features some fantastic playing and a great choice of songs. The first ever official Renaissance DVD is due out shortly, so that is an exciting
prospect to look forward to. Right at the end of 2008, it's proving to be a great year for Renaissance releases.--Dave Owen, Near Truro, England