THE ASSOCIATION: RENAISSANCE (1967)
1) I'm The One; 2) Memories Of You; 3) All Is Mine; 4) Pandora's Golden Heebie Jeebies; 5) Angeline; 6) Songs In The Wind; 7) You May Think; 8) Looking Glass; 9) Come To Me; 10) No Fair At All; 11) You Hear Me Call Your Name.
A small drop-off in quality here, since, in a haze of rashly taken decisions, the band has lost two advantages: the exquisite perfectionist production of Curt Boettcher and the presence of even a single truly outstanding single of 'Mary's quality. New producer Jerry Yester, soon-to-work with Tim Buckley, does a decent job at preserving the band's face value, but it is way above him to bring out the hidden magic in their songs that Boettcher occasionally perceived.
The choice of lead single was quite surprising: the most «notable» aspect of 'Pandora's Golden Heebie Jeebies' is probably its mock-psychedelic title, as well as the use of Japanese koto — unfortunately, the latter could hardly be on the same level as Harrison's sitar on 'Norwegian Wood': Alexander simply plucks a few notes, occasionally, for atmospheric reasons, instead of contributing anything even remotely resembling a memorable riff. If they thought this gimmick could be enough to make it chart... well, it did chart, but got no higher than No. 35. Lesson learned — for their next attempt at a hit single, they'd actually write a real melody rather than simply riding the psychedelic wagon without a ticket.
Other things that do not work include going for a tender/stern Scott Walker-ish approach on the ballad 'Angeline' and attempting to do something Byrds-style, shards of guitar jangle and vocal harmonies included, in shakey waltz tempo ('All Is Mine'). Neither is really bad, but the level of competition is simply way too high.
Still, some of the faster pop-rock numbers are quite delightful: 'You Hear Me Call Your Name' is just as derivative of the Birds as 'All Is Mine', of course, but since the Byrds were just as wimpy at the art of rock'n'roll themselves as the Association, the song does not immediately click as lame plagiarism, and, with time, reveals a really nice, inspiring build-up from start to finish, ending almost as an anthem. The harmonies are near-perfect on 'Come To Me' (think Hollies this time), and nothing beats the simple, but intriguing bassline of 'You May Think', especially when the whole band starts harmonizing to it — in falsetto!
Thus, if you orgasm easily at the very mention of «sunshine pop», Renaissance is one of those records that may, given time, reveal itself to you as an unjustly overlooked masterpiece of the genre (a great starting point for building up your own identity on Amazon or RateYourMusic). I can, however, only reiterate the rather common opinion that the album is Association-by-the-numbers, which is never disgusting — I do not regret one minute of the five or six times I sat through it, waiting for lightning to strike — but, given the fact that even top-notch Association rarely displays any genius, is certainly enough to make this No. One-Hundred-and-smth. on your purchase list for the great year of 1967.
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