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Renaissance - Turn Of The Cards CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.08 | 571 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars After Renaissance achieved their own musical maturity in their "Ashes are burning" album, they reached their first pinnacle with "Turn of the Cards", a most accomplished work of symphonic rock at its most refined. The performative cohesion betwen all musicians, led by John Tout's keyboard inputs and enriched by the usual interventions of the orchestra, is perfect in so many ways... and don't get me started with Annie Haslam's vocal deliveries, since my never ending praises would make this review infinite. Suffice it to say here thata she appropriates the songs written by others and fills them with her own spirit using her technique and emotion as adequate vehicles. Michael Dansford's ideas provide a solid basis for the whole ensemble to expand upon during the longest songs. Meanwhile, John Camp's bass playing remains a very solid bridge between the melodic and rhythm sections, in a way closely related to the role that Chris Squire has in Yes. 'Running hard' is the opener, and it also is an undisputed Renaissance classic. Its flaming epic tone provides a solid strength for the colorful motifs that fill the song's nucleus. 'I Think of You', in contrast, is a simple yet evocative bucolic ballad that proves, once more, that this band could instill an appealling exquisiteness into the least complex acoustic guitar driven ballads. The pompous side of the band returns with a vengeance for 'Things I Don't Understand', another classic. Bearing a more intimate aura than 'Running Hard', it equals its majesty and eve ntakes it to a more solemn dimension. Haslam shines like the sun itself, at times explicitly, at times in a more subtlem manner, depending on the specific demands inherent to each passage. 'Black Flame' is a semi-ballad pletoric of sober melodic lines and evocative textures, a pure musical gem that has been hisotrically overshadowed by the three epics of the album. Cases like these abound in many great albums of prog's history: greats songs that for no apparent reason become eclipsed by other great songs. To put other Renaissance examples, think of 'The Sisters' from "Novella" or 'Ocean Gypsy' from "Scheherazade". The best qualities of 'Black Flame' lie on the interaction between keyboards and bass guitar, with the guitar arpeggios soon entering the spectrum, and ultimately, Haslam filling the sonic pallet properly. 'Cold is Being', a sung reworking of Alabaloni's Adagio, finds the band exploring "Procol Harum territory", so to speak. This beautiful song is mostly a prelude that serves a pretext for a relaxing rest for the listener before the epic momentum of the closer 'Mother Russia' comes around and fills the air with enthusiastic splendour. Yes, the album's final 9 minutes are magnificent, a pure display of explosive sounds joint together in an organic kaleidoscope of art-rock and chamber music. This anti-Soviet lament in favor of freedom and real justice stands out as a magical chant agains oppression and a musical statement about the drama of human life trapped in the maze of political machinery. This is the pompous side of Renaissance at its most moving so far, that is, until the follow-up was released one year later... but that's a matter for another review. I'll end this one by simply regarding "Turn of the Cards" as an excellent item in any good prog collection. Renaissance gave so much to the prog genre, and this album certainly is one of their major acomplishments.
Cesar Inca | 4/5 |


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