Annie HASLAM annotated discography

Read the interviews

Annie In Wonderland
Still Life
Annie Haslam
Blessing In Disguise
Live Under Brazilian Skies
The Dawn Of Ananda
In Snows In Heaven Too
One Enchanted Evening
Live Studio Concert, Philadelphia, 1997
Woman Transcending

 


ANNIE HASLAM –
Woman Transcending

White Dove Records 2006

Rare recordings from the singer’s personal archives with the title meaning “beyond the expected” and the subtitle being “Musical Journey”.

While expectations for Annie Haslam’s new all-original album, the first since 1999’s “The Dawn Of Ananda”, are high, the lady’s making a pit-stop doesn’t result in a pity. As good as it is at its face value, this collection’s target audience are the hardcore fans who, over the years, have been looking for every record the singer appeared on. Now, a couple of these pieces appear here, while the bulk of the CD is comprised of previously unreleased cuts: out-takes and artefacts from the sessions that didn’t result in an LP. A mixed bag, then, with Annie’s voice a common denominator that’s not enough for integrity yet sufficient for having a good time.

And it’s this goal that the running order serves: the songs don’t come chronologically arranged but what was recorded at a certain time is gathered in groups. More detail on each of those would be helpful for understanding as to where, for instance, the opening triplet from 1992 did have to end on, as the vestiges of the echo-laden ’80s production make songs like the tear-jerking “Parachute To You” rather bleak for Haslam’s next outing, “Blessing In Disguise”. Surely destined to be included on this record but omitted in the end, was the BEE GEES’ uplifting “My Eternal Love”, performed with much more conviction, which might explain the coldness of Annie’s delivery of melodies she can’t make her own. That’s why “Lily’s In The Field”, co-written by the songstress with YES’ guitar wiz, Steve Howe, and released as a single for Bosnian relief charity in 1995, stands out emotionally. Ten years earlier, Annie had a go at two covers that hard-hitting Dave Dowle’s drums propel: Mike Rutherford’s dancefloor-filler “Communication” finds Haslam reaching for unusually low register and pulling it with a great passion, that she also shows in disco groove of Warwick Embury’s “Shadows”.

No less unusual can seem two recordings laid down in 1998 with Carl Perkins’ family, “Beyond The Blue” composed by the recently departed master, yet these ballads are neither country nor rockabilly – unlike THE EVERLY BROTHERS’ “So Sad” from 1974’s when Haslam stayed late one night in the studio after the rest of RENAISSANCE went back home to sleep after a long day’s recording. A nice ditty, just as “Hunter Trials” off the Sir John Betjeman’s tribute album, but it doesn’t get under the skin as deep as “Somewhere Out There”, originally a siblings’ song that Annie recorded in 1994 with her brother Michael, a Brian Epstein protege back in the ’60s, or the closing orchestral hymn of “Reaching Out” which harks back to the RENAISSANCE’s halcyon days. A glance back cast, it’s time to move on forward.

Annie’s comments: I felt that with the release of this CD I have come full circle, and now all my work up to this point in my life is available to the public. I am proud of this, it was quite emotional sifting through the songs which in turn brought many memories flooding back from each era…

Annie’s fave tracks: “Communication”, “Lily’s In The Field”, “Shadows” and “Reaching Out”.

***


ANNIE HASLAM –
Live Studio Concert, Philadelphia, 1997

Voiceprint 2006
See the DVD

A companion piece to the DVD, sonically this performance is less intimate but arguably more engaging.

Unlike her Brazilian endeavor of the same year, when Annie Haslam entered a small recording studio in Philadelphia, chosen for the simple fact that the singer lives in the area, she decided to do so with a full band. But piano player Rave Tesar, David Biglin who operates keyboards and guitar here, and drummer Joe Goldberger are more than just accompanists – for Annie, they’re more like a family; so, with the little audience comprising good friends, there was no pressure whatsoever, the presence of cameras notwithtanding. And it feels, as Haslam’s delivery borders with what can be called swagger: that’s the way “What He Seeks” and “Pool Of Tears” are, recorded live for the first time here and sounding nicely different from the “Blessing In Disguise” versions. At the same time, the RENAISSANCE classics – “Captive Heart”, “Carpet Of The Sun” and “The Young Prince And Princess” – are sublime staples of the artist’s stage set and don’t transform much yet come off as delicious as ever.

Annie possesses that rare ability to be warm on rather ethereal compositions such as “Seashell Eyes” and “Summon The Angels”, all because she’s much more involved now in the subject matter of what she’s singing about, and Joe and David’s backing vocals keep her voice firmly grounded. In “After The Oceans Are Gone” she lets herself loose to fly high, still, but is more cautious when it comes for eco-themed light romp of “Sleepless Mother” and jazz-tinged ballad “Goodbye Trees” (the latter’s not on the DVD) which yet have to appear on a studio album. Being a studio concert, this programme is very, very satisfying.

Annie’s comments: A memorable time, very intimate, lots of fun too, with a small earnest crowd, all of us enjoying the experience. This was the ‘smallest’ set up of musicians I had, but they certainly sounded bigger than three!!! Shortly after, the band would grow into a six-piece band which included a backing singer Angel Rittweger, and this added wonderful fullness and color to the songs.

Annie’s fave tracks: All of them, it was a lot of fun!

****1/2


ANNIE HASLAM –
One Enchanted Evening

White Dove Records 2002

A church concert taking the lady on a journey through the songs which shaped her as an artist – and none that she helped shape.

Taking the stage of the Upper Tinicum Lutheran Church in Pennsylvania in the summer of 2001, Annie Haslam was set to surprise the audience who used to hear Christmas perennials from her as well as selections from the body of work the singer had done both with RENAISSANCE and solo. This time Haslam decided to play, along with Rave Tesar on keyboards, a different game and perform compositions that she didn’t have but would like to be doing: covers of the pieces Annie loves dearly – from Rogers and Hammerstein’s “Some Enchanted Evening” through Faure’s haunting melody of “One Day” she recorded with an orchestra to Lennon and McCartney’s “She’s Leaving Home”, all sung rather chamber but sincerely. As one may suspect, there’s not a lot of pop hits – in fact, here’s only Joni Mitchell’s “I Don’t Know Where I Stand” joining the Fabs’ dramatic ballad – but what there is, including Jobim’s classic bossa novas “Corcovado” and “Desafinado”, sits very comfortably with not-purely-operatic aria from Handel’s “Rinaldo” and already familiar coupling of “Nature Boy” and “If I Loved You”. The repertoire illuminates previously unseen facets of Annie’s talent, even though she has a very special timbre and doesn’t go all over the place emotionally. She’s – as usual – being herself, and that’s what makes the lady so adorable.

Haslam’s charmingly frisky on Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Tilt Willow”, solemn in Bernstein’s love anthem, “One Hand, One Heart”, and rather organic in another classic, arioso “Dank Sei Dir, Herr” off Handel’s “Messiah”, as her voice easily lends itself to such a diverse material feeling natural to every musical era she handles. That’s a sign of a real master of the art. Totally unexpected choice of soul-caressing songs is nothing less than magic from the bottom of Annie’s heart.

Annie’s comments: Again Rave and I were able to work closely together on a project. I was asked by the pastor of the Upper Tinicum Lutheran Church, where I had been performing my annual Christmas concerts, to be a part of their anniversary by putting on a benefit show for them to raise funds for a new roof. We did it low key with just myself and Rave, and I took all my lamps from my home to make the atmosphere intimate. I decided to choose songs that I had remembered affecting me in ways that I couldn’t explain, while growing up. I had no idea I would become a singer. When I was six I was taken to see the movie “South Pacific” by my father, and “Bali Hai” stayed with me from that moment on…

Annie’s fave tracks: “Bali Hai”, “One Day”, “Lascia Chio Pianga”, “Dank Sie Dei Dank”, “Quiet Nights Of Quiet Stars”, “I Don’t Know Where I Stand”, “She’s Leaving Home”.

*****


ANNIE HASLAM –
It Snows In Heaven Too

White Dove Records 2000

A winter song for all seasons, a wordly message full of light, an earthly ode to soulful living.

It’s a longtime trend putting out a Christmas album once the Yuletide is in sight, but mostly that’s a sign of creative well running dry. It takes a true master to take the well-known seasonal fodder way up high where the songs belong yet keep them firmly rooted emotionally for all to relate. And that is exactly what Annie Haslam achieves with this record which can be enjoyed at any time of the year.

Accompanied by Rave Tesar’s piano, the singer delicately pulls the heart-strings from the opening “O Holy Night” to the closing “White Christmas”, filling the space between the jazzy and the traditional with rich stylistic spectrum while retaining her own musical indentity and adding a titular ballad to the canon. Annie feels equally free here in the chorale of “Away In A Manger”, rendered a cappella, the majestic children’s ditty that is “Walking In The Air”, re-christened “The Snowman” after the animated movie it was written for, or the swing of Mel Torme’s “The Christmas Song” – though sometimes she multi-tracks the vocals for a greater effect. But it’s in the Hollywood drama of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” and the folksy domain of “We Three Kings” that Haslam sounds impeccably natural. A diverse yet whole work which grows on and on with every new spin.

Annie’s comments: This is one of my favourite CDs I have recorded. To work with Rave Tesar is always an honour and a joy! A very gifted musician, he arranged the Christmas songs perfectly for my voice, no one could have done this better.

Annie’s fave tracks: ALL OF THEM…

****1/3


ANNIE HASLAM –
The Dawn Of Ananda

White Dove Records 1999

Out of the vision the songstress had, come inspirational angels whose wings spread the happy creative maturity.

You may or may not believe in heaven high but for an artist humble enough the winged creatures sent down to earth are a great metaphor. Annie Haslam’s angels, or the one she designed for her fan club and called Ananda which means “bliss” in Hindu, signalled a new beginning. The singer launched a label of her own, White Dove, and matured as a solid writer penning the lyrics for the nine out of ten tracks on the album where, again, all cuts bar one mention the angels. There’s a genuine spirituality on display, dissolving one’s self in the sea of love.

It’s ebbing serenely with “Precious One”, subtle yet moving song co-written with RENAISSANCE leader, Michael Dunford, who fondles his former bandmate’s crystal voice in Rave Tesar’s gentle keyboards, and rippling in the raga of “Ananda” that, save for the chorus, seems rather bleak. The problem is Tesar, the principal player on this record, comes up with interesting arrangements, while as a composer treats the vocals as another new age instrument rather than leading force, which is not bad in itself but takes Haslam’s emotions somewhere out of here; thus, “Summon The Angels”, arranged and composed by David Biglin and performed live before taken to the studio, and celestial “‘Michael’ Prince Of Angels” stand out. They just breathe, and air is filling the chorale-big pop of “This Is Destiny” which again sees the singer in the company of Tony Visconti, going – a rare occasion on the album – for the “verse-chorus” structure.

Another example of classical structure is “A Thousand Angels”, written by Mickey Simmonds: a Bach-like baroque descending an allegory of the subject matter. On the contrary, “Running River Runs” comes on rousing, and alliteration is worked cleverly here. Laid down in America, “The Dawn In Ananda” feels a very English concept album, the melodies following the lyrics and the narrative inextricably intertwined with the tunes. That’s freedom and a true angelic dawn.

Annie’s comments: This is my CD dedicated to Angels earth and heaven bound. I was fortunate to write and record with some of my favourite people in the world.

Annie’s fave tracks: “Precious One”, “Twig”, “A Thousand Angels” and “Angel Blue”.

****


ANNIE HASLAM –
Live Under Brazilian Skies

White Dove Records 1998

Emotionally naked and musically stripped, the angels fly high in the sun.

She might be singing very English music, but maybe her restraint is the reason Annie Haslam has a steady following in hot Brazil. It was a bit adventurous to tour there in 1997 yet everything turned out very well, as documented on the album recorded in Rio de Janeiro and Petropolis. With David Biglin as her sole stage cohort handling keyboards and guitar and using some backing tracks to bolster the voice, the performance is as intimate as it gets, from the opening “Come along with me” of “Carpets Of The Sun” to the “Spare Some Love” universal finale. Starting with a brace of RENAISSANCE classics, the singer seems to have never been as vulnerable as in the sparest of accompaniments on “The Captive Heart”, before introducing her solo repertoire to the enchanted audience. A special treat, indeed: bookended by familiar melodies of playful “Moonlight Shadow” and the heart-wrenching pairing of “Nature Boy” and “If I Loved You” are “Blessing In Disguise”, splashed with acoustic guitar, and two new songs, sensually transparent “Seashell Eyes” and “Summon The Angels”, the latter yet to be recorded for Haslam’s next album and the former’s studio cut still unreleased.

It’s a seamless flow of the feelings, where the specially-fashioned “Brazilian Skies” gets filled from the same fantasy spring as the airy YES cover, “Turn Of The Century”, and “The Young Prince And Princess”, unsung for quite a time. There’s an immense joie de vivre in Annie’s singing, with “Let It Grow” a hearty call for togetherness that’s already there, and breezy “Northern Lights” echoing the place’s atmosphere. Annie Haslam’s first live outing is a quietly uplifting delight highly recommended to everybody.

The fans are advised to search for the Japanese edition of the CD: an inclusion of “Ocean Gypsy” is worth shelling out some extra money.

Annie’s comments: I went down to Brazil in 1997 to do some shows in Rio, Petropolis and Sao Paulo with David Biglin who was one of my keyboard players. It was the first time I had performed in Brazil and as RENAISSANCE was very popular, I was given an incredible welcome and turn out for the shows. So I had decided to record them, and this CD is the result. David’s performance was flawless. We had taken a few backing tracks with us which worked very well… A wonderful experience and the beginning of my ‘love affair’ with Brazil.

Annie’s fave tracks: “Captive Heart”, “Seashell Eyes”, “Let it Grow”, “Turn Of The Century”, “Spare Some Love”.

*****

has2

ANNIE HASLAM’S RENAISSANCE –
Blessing In Disguise

One Way Records 1994

The illness’s defeated, Annie re-emerges as a wonderful firebird glittering in the hands of glamorous master.

Allowing a five-year gap between the records is not the best way to launch a career, yet for Ms Haslam it was down to suffering from which she re-appeared on the scene stronger than ever before – at least, from creative point of view. A reason good enough for the singer to call her new project RENAISSANCE, although that might be done in order to distinguish it from Annie’s former bandmate, Michael Dunford’s endeavor under the same name. The two obviously missed their old ensemble, as both decided to revive its then-unreleased ballad “Dreamaker”, given new lyrics and re-christened “Love Lies, Love Dies”. But Haslam’s new foil became no other than Tony Visconti; mostly known for his production work with David Bowie and Marc Bolan, Visconti’s a fine composer in his own right and his music serves the singer the best on this fantastic, if a bit too long record.

It’s almost genial to usher a listener in with the a cappella title song wrapping Annie’s pure voice in Tony’s warm vocals before showering the comer with the hushed but lively “Pool Of Tears” rainbow drops that dance in Jordan Rudess’ liquid keyboard strains. Emotions are all around here, and coupling the slower tracks such as “Raindrops & Leaves” and “In Another Life” doesn’t sound maudlin; with a good sprinkling of guitars and the DIXIE DREGS’ man’s piano, it is solid fare for the FLEETWOOD MAC and ABBA fans alike for enjoy. The secret very often lies in the minimalist approach applied to a great effect to “A Whisper From Marseilles” which sets Haslam’s vocals against a little more than Visconti’s sparse ivory tinkling and then baroque harpsichord of “I Light This Candle” or “The Children (Of Medellin)” dedicated to the good charity cause but too lachrymose to like. Yet if this – and “The Sweetest Kiss”, Annie’s second take on Faure’s “Pavane” – is what can be expected from the lady, the sparkling Moroccan groove of “What He Seeks” isn’t, but she glides on it with a rare elegance and reaches for the jovial hopefulness in “After The Oceans Are Gone”. A timeless work which anyone who has a heart can relate to.

Annie’s comments: Tony Visconti was great to work with on many levels. The BIG connection I had with him is that the first song I ever sang ‘live’, “Those Were The Days”, was a big hit for Tony’s ex-wife, Mary Hopkin. Tony and I got on very well and writing songs together came easily, I felt he wrote music that fit my voice and range perfectly.

Annie’s fave tracks: “Pool Of Tears”, “Whisper From Marseilles”, “After The Oceans Are Gone”.

****4/5

has-has

ANNIE HASLAM –
Annie Haslam

Epic 1989

Time to come into her own, the songstress makes a low start to the wuthering heights.

By the end of the ’80s it was clear RENAISSANCE were no more, and Annie Haslam had to figure out her own futher way which hadn’t been so much mapped out by her two previous albums. If she planned a sort of a creative family situation, Haslam did it right: gathering a tight circle of friends such as Larry Fast and Raphael Rudd around her and fledging as a songwriter, Annie came up with a solid collection of original tunes sprinkled with a smattering of covers – perhaps, to beckon the listening bees to her blossoming flower.

This might be an explanation for kicking in with “Moonlight Shadow” which hardly improves on the Mike Oldfield original, especially with a four-to-the-floor beat and an unexpected fade-out, but there’s no denying the song suits the voice perfectly. Just like “Wishin’ On A Star”, a Rose Royce soul classic stripped here of its sexual tones and thrown back into romantic skies – the place where the singer feels in her element. Annie shoots high with majestic, if upbeat, “The Angels Cry” that THE MOODY BLUES’ Justin Hayward brought in and helps singing, but Haslam almost loses the celestial streak in bleak pop of “Further From Fantasy” and the synthetic sound of “When A Heart Finds Another” saved not by the harmonies but by the short burst of top-notch vocalise. There is good FM fare, such as “One More Arrow”, and soulful she can be too, like “Let It Be Me”, bronzed with Mel Collins’ sax, and “Wildest Dreams” show. Still, Annie’s too humble handling her own little creations, and quiet “Celestine” isn’t what solemn vignette “She’s The Light” promises to grow into. But it’s the closing “One Love” where the light really shines showing the singer her bright future.

Annie’s comments: My friend Larry Fast was chosen by Epic Records to produce this album, and I think he did a great job. The highlight of this album was singing backing vocals with Justin Heywood on “The Angels Cry”…

Annie’s fave tracks: “The Angels Cry”, “She’s The Light”, “Celestine” and “Wildest Dreams”.

***


ANNIE HASLAM –
Still Life

Eaton 1985

Rather ambitious project pulled off only by the purity of the intent and the voice.

1985 signalled the end of the RENAISSANCE, and where could the band’s vocalist go to in the plastic age if not for the safe harbor of classical world. But Annie has never positioned herself as an operatic singer and pretending has never been the white horse for her to ride on. That’s why Ms Haslam teamed up with Louis Clark, an experienced conductor who effectively helped out both her previous band and ELO, and Betty Thatcher, whose lyrics she’d been singing for decade and a half, to create a song cycle based on the classical pieces and deliver it with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and The Royal Choral Society. Quite a bold move: with the music well-established, the stress was on the reading. And here, all tentative signs of rock mannerism thrown away, Annie excels and exceeds all the wary expectations.

Where others would blow it all up, Haslam, once the bombastic introduction of “Forever Bound” abates, soars serenely in Tchaikovsky’s melody amidst the clouds of choir counterpoint and then, in the sunrise delight, goes along with it. Elsewhere, she joins the other singers in Mozart’s “Ave Verum”, still in original Latin. Bach’s “Air”, transformed into the album’s title track, borders in its simplicity and joyful baroque vocalising with radio-friendly pop music yet never crosses the line to the cheesy. Dangerously close to the Broadway come two Faure’s ballads, but they also manage to stay on this side of banal – unlike “Bitter Sweet”, that’s Saint Saens’ “The Swan”, or “Glitter And Dust” from “The Swan Lake”, supplied with Barry De Souza’s drums.

As for “Shine”, or Satie’s “Gymnopedie No 2”, Annie wasn’t the first non-classical artist to tackle the piece – BLOOD SWEAT & TEARS were at it much earlier – but Haslam turns it, as well as Delius’ “Skaila”, into a delicate piece of operetta. Very fine, even though all the compositions hail from different genres and epochs anyway, yet turning instrumental passages or pure piano tune – such as Chopin’s etude, for “Careless Love” – into vocal lines astounds. Not so with Albinoni’s “Adagio”, previously done by RENAISSANCE with Haslam’s voice and organ only and as “So Cold” more expressive than here, as “Save Us All”, not so much reworked from the composer’s version and, therefore, a bit pointless. What makes sense is downscaling of Wagner’s march for “Chains And Threads”, a genuine, rousing woman’s theme. Never the valkyrie, Annie Haslam emerges all valorous on her own.

Annie’s comments: I would say this album is one of the major highlights of my singing career. I was made to feel at home working with the Royal Philharmonic and the Royal Chorale Society. It was very comfortable… felt so natural to me and was a dream come true…

Annie’s fave tracks: “One Day”, “Skaila” and “Chains And Threads”.

****4/5


ANNIE HASLAM –
Annie In Wonderland

Sire 1977

With her main band taken too serious, the RENAISSANCE lady follows the girlish desire to be frivolous.

It’s hard to say as to what extent Annie Haslam was content with the way RENAISSANCE had been steered towards the grandiose concepts when the general public wanted something lighter. What with the self-respect, the changes were to come in the form of “Northern Lights”, but one year before the ensemble’s sole hit, Ms Haslam went solo – in order to let her hair down and be the real self, fairly-like yet down-to-earth. With her bandmate Jon Camp on bass and her then-fiance Roy Wood playing almost everything else, producing and submitting a great Carroll-goes-rock cover illustration, Annie re-invents herself as a faux vaudeville vocalist here, on the fine selection of originals and well-known songs.

The start is camp, with multi-tracked voice of “Introlise” breaking into a tremulous transparency of “If I Were Made Of Music”, a tuneful calling card and an aromatic essence of the singer’s nature, where drama may bring a smile and tears are brought by pure joy of the fantastic ability to make a sound. It’s a world full of surprises, like in brass-sunny “Inside My Life” and the morning wide-eyed vision of “I Never Believed In Love”, in which Annie’s crystal-clear warble comes offset by Wood-sung choruses and underpinned with his sax solo. But in this world, another kind of acoustic romance is never far away, and Haslam scales the heights of sensuality in Rogers and Hammerstein’s staple “If I Loved You” that is emotionally linked to the other side of the original LP which peaks with another perennial, “Nature Boy”, delivered in an upbeat way that arguably makes this version a definitive one.

There’s harmony in the album and there’s a contrast, too, between pure ABBA-esque pop of “Hunioco” with its African chant and the closing solemn take on Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 that is “Going Home” – sure, the RENAISSANCE lady wouldn’t be herself without an injection of classical music. Still, all of these facets come together in “Rockalise”: pure wordless singing over gentle backdrop that gets speared by the rock beat to a great effect – very glam, with Louis Clark’s string arrangement drawing in the Wonderworld sense of absurd. A masterpiece for all seasons and for all ages.

Annie’s comments: This was a big departure for me away from my safety net with RENAISSANCE. Roy was instrumental in my exploring different singing techniques. He is a great musician to work with, very innovative and lots of laughing was heard from ‘our’ studio! Exciting time!

Annie’s fave tracks: “Rockalise”, “Nature Boy”, “If I Were Made Of Music”.

*****

 
To the reviews index

Top
 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.