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Renaissance - Ashes Are Burning CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.22 | 650 ratings

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Prog-Folk Team
5 stars Finally the lineup for which Renaissance would become best known is in place, a lineup with as much synergy as you could find in 1970s rock. As a result, "Ashes are Burning" is the first truly classic Renaissance album, and one of their best ever. The blend of rock, romantic classical and folk elements was never really challenged by any band before or since. Annie's voice is properly employed for the first time, and the balance of guitars, keys and orchestral effects is achieved on instinct.

The album opens with the most fully formed and realized Renaissance epic up to that point, "Can You Understand". It is a symmetrical piece, beginning and ending with a divine theme on piano, supported heavily by acoustic guitar, bass and drums. This really rocks! Within is an elegantly orchestrated section sandwiched by Annie to sparse guitar accompaniment. "Let it Grow" is a gentle almost poppy song that is elevated several storeys by Annie's vocal gymnastics. "On the Frontier" is yet another vestige of the early Renaissance era, with the music by McCarthy. It is like a sequel to "Spare some Love" off Prologue, also featuring Annie and her male cohorts providing brilliant harmonies and some fine breaks showing off Mr Camp's pedigree. Like that earlier track, it crams so much into so short a space that it almost comes off like an epic.

"Carpet of the Sun" is another lovely track but with a bit more substance than "Let it Grow". "At the Harbour" features a classically inspired folk song surrounded by very classical intro and outros. What is amazing is that an early compilation featuring this album and its predecessor dropped both of those parts, essentially eviscerating the song. "Ashes are Burning" is a fine rendition although it's hard to evaluate fairly in light of the vastly superior 24 minute version from "Live at Carnegie Hall" which appeared several years later. Even Andy Powell's guitars at the end somehow don't match the mood, although it must be said that they are more suited to the Renaissance sound than what we heard in "Rahan Khan". They are really no substitute for Annie's histrionics on the live version. Nonetheless, considered on its own merits, it is still a powerful piece.

4.5 stars, and only because the Live Ashes essentially supplants the studio version. Still, not enough to stop me from rounding up. This is where to begin your exploration of the unique Renaissance sound.

kenethlevine | 5/5 |


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