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Renaissance - Academy Of Music 1974 CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.86 | 14 ratings

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Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars Despite the sad loss of long-time members Michael Dunford and John Tout, there has been a lot of activity and releases keeping symphonic progressive legends Renaissance in the spotlight over the recent years. Live concert DVD's of the band performing some of their classic Seventies albums in their entirety, Annie Haslam's vivid and imaginative art works, a new studio album from a reworked version of the band with `Grandine il Vento' in 2013, and archived recordings from the group in their prime being dusted off for a fresh release like this album. `Academy of Music 1974' is a double CD that showcases the band performing alongside a 24 piece orchestra from the 17th of May of that year, and they deliver a set of favourite tracks from the first three albums that featured Annie as the leading lady of the group.

Thankfully the orchestra only enhances the performances during this concert, never leading the way, overwhelming the band or stealing the attention away from the main musicians. Although the compositions don't differ too much from the studio versions, there's an added urgency to the playing and a livelier energy that long-time fans of the band will appreciate. Annie's voice is vibrant yet more relaxed and perfectly controlled, there's an added warmth to the acoustic guitars, and Jon Camp's thrashing upfront bass mixed thick and upfront is especially satisfying. Superior versions of `Ashes are Burning' (showcasing some wilder guitar soloing in the extended instrumental middle from guest Andy Powell of Wishbone Ash), `Can You Understand?', `Carpet of the Sun' and the classic opener `Prologue' all feature.

But the band most seem to relish playing the new material from their just released `Turn of the Cards' album (they even mention between tracks that it "just came out a few days ago"). The orchestra rises to the occasion for grand interpretations of `Running Hard' and `Mother Russia', Annie's voice is full of wounded purity on the darkly regal majesty of `Black Flame', `Cold is Being' is even more of a chilly mournful dirge than the studio version, and there's a snapping driving heaviness to Terrence Sullivan's drumming on `Things I Don't Understand.'

Always an enjoyable aspect of Renaissance live shows is the cheerful, charming onstage banter between the group members. Considering their music was mostly always serious and dramatic, the band members are light-hearted, amusing and genuine in their interaction with the audience, and the occasionally rowdy crowd in between songs seem to be loving every minute of the show. And why wouldn't they? They're witnessing an amazingly talented band at the peak of their abilities delivering an impeccable performance!

This is a companion release to the `DeLane Lea Studios 1973' CD released earlier this year, and like that one, despite some audio imperfections popping up here and there throughout the recording, this set is certainly fancier than some mere `official bootleg'. After overdosing on the studio versions for so many years, it's a welcome and refreshing change to hear a different kind of life breathed into these classic works, and `Academy of Music 1974' is highly recommended for all fans of this defining and important symphonic prog band.

Four stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |


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