(27 December 2006) Woman Transcending (White Dove Records (USA) WD-000-05, 2006) includes sixteen rare recordings by Annie Haslam spanning the period from 1974 to 1998. Many of the songs make their debut on this album, and Annie has thoughtfully included extensive credits in the gorgeous sleeve notes adorned with her own artwork. The cover features an extract from her acrylic on canvas "Leonardo da Vinci," painted earlier this year. The album spans much of the artist's vocal career to date, not only chronologically, but also in singing style and perhaps even in her personal outlook.
Annie Haslam is the five-octave soprano singer that fronted the 'classic lineup' of the progressive rock band Renaissance (website) from 1971 until 1986. Her first solo outing was Annie In Wonderland, an album recorded with Roy Wood during a Renaissance hiatus in 1975. She continued her solo career with a series of albums including, for example, the classical standards with Betty Thatcher lyrics featured on Still Life (1985), a range of original material on Annie Haslam (1987) and the highly acclaimed Blessing in Disguise (1994).
Originally from Lancashire, England, Annie has amassed a strong and extremely loyal following worldwide. Based near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania today, she has performed all over the Northeast, Europe and as far abroad as Brazil and Japan in the last decade. With Mike Dunford, Terry Sullivan and others, including Rave Tesar and David Keyes of her own band, she re-ignited Renaissance during 2000-2001, contributing to Renaissance's final album, Tuscany and their Japanese tour that produced a double live album as well. In addition to a series of successful solo albums that followed her earlier solo work, the artist also contributed to a wide variety of albums by other artists, charity benefits and today is a well-established painter.
The Woman Transcending album opens with three previously undisclosed tracks that, based on the date and location, would have been recorded in the run up to Blessing in Disguise. The first track and album opener is an upbeat track and is entitled "Circular Motion." Annie's powerful soprano vocals soar above instrumentals provided by Rave Tesar (keyboards), Mark Lambert (guitar), David Keyes (bass), Larry Fast (synthesizers and production) and Joe Goldberger (drums). "Parachute to You" is a much slower and lighter ballad but is followed by "Echo," a song that reveals the inner dynamic of the 1992 Annie Haslam Band that consistently drew fans to Annie's Northeast tours.
The album continues with two recordings produced by Rod Edwards made in London in 1985. Edwards provides keyboards and bass while David Dowle contributes drums to support Annie's lush vocal work. The lovely ballad "You Don't Know a Good Thing" is sung atop arrangements of gentle keyboards and light percussion. The track features the vocal reverb and choruses full of lush orchestration, an occasional guitar solo, and Edwards' backing vocals. The sound is aligned with material recorded at the time. "Communication" is a stunning and upbeat progressive rock track that was revealed with several others on radio broadcasts in the mid-1980s. The refined version included on this album is a treasure because of the tremendous vocal work as well as the powerful arrangement.
Annie's work with Carl Perkins' family, Debbie, Stand and Greg, includes two short and tender ballads recorded in Jackson, Tennessee during 1998 that make, as far as we know, their debut appearance on this album. Annie spoke fondly of her work with the Perkins clan in several interviews. "Beyond The Blue" includes stunning lead vocals, lush layering effects and rich Country & Western-style arrangements that certainly demonstrate Annie's versatility. Annie's emotional performance singing the easy listening style of "One Last Time" is certain to take listeners' breath away.
"So Sad" (Don Everly) is the oldest recording on the album, dating to 1974. An emotional and short ballad, labelled by Annie as a 'rough mix,' features her stunning lead and harmony vocals. It was recorded with Dick Plant playing guitar and is reminscent vocally of Annie in Wonderland. The silliness of Sir John Betjeman's poem "Hunter Trials," is delivered in a tune produced by Rod Edwards and the legendary UK disc jockey Mike Read for the Poetry In Motion various artists collection in 1990.
Originally released only as limited edition single for charity benefit in 1995, the progressive-styled "Lily's In The Field" makes its debut album appearance on Woman Transcending. David Biglin created the outstanding arrangement and production of this song. A stunning number vocally as well as instrumentally, it was the first song Annie released alongside Steve Howe's acoustic guitar work. Although Annie did further work further with Steve, the only other track released was a cover of the complex track "Turn Of The Century" on Tales From Yesterday that she has performed in concert many times since.
Annie performed and recorded several songs with Raphael Rudd before his untimely death in April 2002. Originally introduced to Raphael by Pete Townsend, Annie's beautifully arranged harp-based ballad "Willow Song" from 1979 was originally released on his 1996 double album The Awakening. Annie's crystalline vocals are reminiscent of "The Sisters" and "The Captive Heart" from Novella. Annie's version of "My Eternal Love" from 1994 produced by Tony Visconti includes the lush arrangements and layered harmonies of Blessing In Disguise.
Annie included two tracks from her work with Warwick Embury in 1986. "Decisions" is a rock-oriented 'rough mix' with instrumental arrangements and multi-tracked vocals comfortably fit alongside the sounds of Nevada and the early-1980s Renaissance recordings. "Shadows" is even more upbeat but is similarly arranged and, recorded in 1986, will be reminscent to long-standing enthusiasts of tracks on Renaissance's Camera Camera and Time-Line.
The album concludes with the absolutely stunning ballad "Reaching Out" from The Intergalactic Touring Band (LP 1976, CD 2003). The track was written and produced by Wil Malone and features Anthony Phillips on guitar with a supporting cast that includes the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Harry Rabinowitz. Annie's vocals soar and echo above lush string-based orchestral arrangements and her own harmony vocals in this evocative song that originally concluded the first side of the star-studded progressive rock LP.
Woman Transcending is an incredible collection of recordings and great tribute to Annie Haslam's vocal work. While four of the tracks have been released elsewhere and one has leaked into the fan community, the remainder of the recordings have likely never been heard by even the most ardent fans. Read another review here. The album illlustrates Annie's artistic development with recordings that span from early in her solo singing career into the mid-1990s and surely shares her innermost reflections. Woman Transcending is only available through Annie Haslam's website. Visit her at this URL: www.anniehaslam.com. We can't wait for another installment!