(20 Mar 2011) Annie Haslam's debut solo album Annie In Wonderland (Sire Records (USA), 1977; Friday Music (USA) FRM6046, 2010) was originally recorded during a break between her work on Renaissance's Scheherazade and other Stories and Novella studio albums. The break came following the band's Scheherazade tour. Originally the Annie In Wonderland album was released as a lovely gatefold LP featuring a large center picture of Haslam in a white gown. Although we don't have a trace of it with our LP, we clearly recall a poster of the singer being included in the original Sire Records package.
The Annie In Wonderland album was subsequently released on cassette and at least three times on CD from 1991 to 1997 by Warner Brothers in jewel box format in Japanese, European and American territories with little or no change to the audio tracks. Most recently, a mini-LP cardboard-sleeved HDCD gatefold edition was released by Warner Brothers Japan in 2001. Again, little change to the audio was apparent to listeners purchasing the album. In contrast, Friday Music's 2011 release includes tracks that were remastered in April 2010 by Rave Tesar at his New Jersey Studio X facility.
The eight songs on the original Annie In Wonderland feature lead and backing vocals by Annie Haslam who is supported on this recording by several musicians who have influenced her career. These included: Roy Wood (electric, acoustic and bass guitars, cello, balalaika, saxophones, drums, bass clarinet, trumpet, african drums, percussion, string ensemble, mook, piano, clavinet, backing vocals); Jon Camp (Renaissance) (bass guitar on "I Never Believed in Love," "Nature Boy" and "Inside My Life" together with bass pedals and acoustic guitar on "If I Were Made of Music" and backing voals on "Inside My Life"; Dave Donovon (drums on "Nature Boy" and "If I Were Made of Music"); and Louis Clark (Polymoog on "Rockalise," flute on "Going Home" also string arrangements "Rockalise" and bass arrangements and choir arrangements on "Going Home"). Louis Clark (ELO) is credited for the orchestral arrangements for Annie's classical album Still Life with lyrics by Betty Thatcher (Renaissance).
The Friday Music release also includes Tesar's remastering of the the Annie Haslam/Roy Wood bonus track "Flowers in the Rain." The bonus track was also released as a digital single. Annie Haslam said, "To celebrate this re-release, Roy and I decided to record a special bonus track of his hit song for the Move 'Flowers in the Rain'."
Unlike the earlier Friday Music Renaissance remasters that explicitly reference use of the original master tapes, the artwork is silent on the source used for this project. In contrast to the original muddy-sounding Warner Brothers compact discs, Rave Tesar's remaster in the Friday Music release of Annie In Wonderland reveals depth lost since the vinyl LP. The imaging of the original arrangements and backing harmonies have both been significantly enhanced. Annie's vocals glide effortlessly above them.
In the liner notes accompanying the release Annie writes, "Annie In Wonderland is my favourite of my solo albums to date. It was pivotal in my growth as a singer. I learned such a lot about musicand singing from Roy, he stretched my vocal boundaries as well as my sense of humor." Annie In Wonderland includes a range of popular songs, now legendary covers of "If I Loved You" (from the Rogers and Hammerstein musical Carousel).
The album includes Annie's cover of "Nature Boy." The first two measures of the latter song's melody parallel the melody of the second movement in Antonín Dvořák's Piano Quintet No. 2 in A, Op. 81 (1887). The song was sung in 1948 by Nat King Cole. The melody is claimed to be taken from Yiddush musical theater. The album also includes Annie's tremendous rendition of the Dvořák classic hymn "Going Home." Haslam's notes continue, "To me this represents a wide area of musical genres that I may not otherwise have discoveried."
The latest reissue of Annie In Wonderland is the first to deliver a notable improvement over the original CDs released by Warner Brothers including the 2001 Japanese
HDCD edition. Rave Tesar and Annie have produced an outstanding memoir of her debut recording.