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Renaissance - Grandine Il Vento (Symphony Of Light) CD (album) cover

GRANDINE IL VENTO (SYMPHONY OF LIGHT)

Renaissance

 

Symphonic Prog

3.28 | 114 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

kenethlevine
Special Collaborator
Prog-Folk Team
3 stars The "Symphony of Light" album marks the third appearance in about as many years of "The Mystic and the Muse", easily the best RENAISSANCE track since the masterful "A Song for all Seasons" charted on both sides of the Atlantic in 1978. Initially it was the title cut of a 3 song EP, then the ultimate piece of the self produced "Grandine Il Vento" album, and finally on a worldwide release of "Symphony of Light" which compiled everything from both prior recordings and added a tribute to sadly departed guitarist and principal composer Michael Dunford. I mention this partly to update the increasingly confusing history of this seminal band, and partly to underscore the challenge faced by these artists to recapture the old magic or maybe even conjure a new spell. And while bits and pieces from the rest of "Symphony of Light" do sparkle, and every track is good, only "Mystic", with its flourishes reminiscent of the great "Can You Hear Me" from "Novella", consistently attains a level of excellence and distinction that, rightly or wrongly, fans expect all the time from Renaissance.

If I may evoke a snippet of elementary chemistry, the RENAISSANCE sound has always been, oh, say, 3 parts Annie Haslam and 2 parts everything and everyone else. While Annie's voice remains pitch perfect at the limit of the average middle aged eardrum, it doesn't seem to resonate emotionally as much as in the past. An exception is in the denouement of "Grandine Il Vento", when she clenches a crescendo and soars. The thing is, I have no idea what she is singing at that moment and it doesn't matter, while the factual correctness of her lyrics and delivery in "Waterfall" doesn't even inspire me to make a donation to save the rain forest.

It is clear from the formula above that even a perfect Haslam isn't enough on its own; Her lyrics are competent but fall short of the brooding gusto of the late great Betty Thatcher who penned so many of the band's classics. While budget constraints contribute to an overall scantiness of sound, they left no ill effects on "Mystic", which is bold and full as anything from their 1970s work. Conversely, "Air of Drama", a pleasant duet between Annie and bassist David Keyes, plows a quite different furrow - art song meets tango perhaps - which doesn't require symphonic splendor to succeed, even if it's not what most long time fans are looking for.

In spite of Ian Anderson's flute and Michael Dunford's acoustic guitar, "Cry to the World" lacks an intensity that would have elevated its status beyond the merely competent. In fact that is the general theme throughout this disk. What sounds good on paper just doesn't quite pan out, and I often find my mind multitasking during the audition. If I could isolate one missing element from the classic sound, it would be the bass playing, and possibly even the songwriting and arrangements of Jon Camp, who is still in the music business. He was not only adept and melodic but he also tendered much needed muscularity and the only real rock aspect to their sound. It worked brilliantly on "A Song for All Seasons" where it powered the sparkling melodies, but , when the band tried to go new wave in the early 1980s, it was no longer the needed yang to the others' yin. I believe the pieces on "Symphony of Light" are crying for those values.

While this comeback album has received near unanimous critical approval, even among the fussbudgets of the progosphere, it's simply too light, in every sense, to qualify as an essential work. It's also too significant, in every sense, to be relegated to collectors.

kenethlevine | 3/5 |

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