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Renaissance - Scheherazade And Other Stories CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.31 | 1122 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars One of the best sugar-sweet prog albums available, this may still be too saccharin for the modern taste, but was perfect for the '70s.

Had this album been released in 1971 or 1972, with its maturity and side-long suite, I have no doubt it would have received global critical acclaim. However, RENAISSANCE were years too late to the station, to find the train had moved on. Sad, because this album is uniformly excellent.

RENAISSANCE have carved out a niche in the prog world by fusing a strongly symphonic flavour - epitomised by the stellar talents of their pianist, JOHN TOUT, with soft-rock sensibilities expressed in the JUDITH DURHAM - or even KAREN CARPENTER - sounding voice of ANNIE HASLAM. This fusion of two kinds of beauty is sometimes too much to take, and I cannot listen to RENAISSANCE albums sequentially, and sometimes can't even make it through one, without needing an (usually metal) antidote.

Having said that, it's hard to remain unmoved by the beauty and drama with which RENAISSANCE package their simple songs. 'Ocean Gypsy' would in the CARPENTERS' hands be a three-minute pop song, but the intricate orchestration gives the (somewhat trite) sentiments room to breathe, and the song has a genuine build after four minutes. 'The Vultures Fly High' is wisely left unadorned, a short break between the two substantial songs of the first side of the album.

I've left out 'Trip to the Fair' because it's a strange beast. After a glorious introduction the main theme - that of a fair, naturally, jars with what has gone before. HASLAM slides many of her notes, which to me is like running her nails down a chalk board. Not a favourite, but I can understand why other reviewers enjoy this song.

The album follows a well-worn progressive template of having one side consisting of shorter songs, and another made up of one epic of many parts. The side-long title track is the highlight for me, a collection of disparate moments welded together by piano and mellotron, and the haunting chorus sung for all it's worth. The subject is somewhat gruesome, again at odds with the style - catch THE SEEKERS singing about the slaughter of virgins! - but after a listen to the splendid music it's hard to care. The aural equivalent of mouthwash after a heavy meal, RENAISSANCE are a band you play seldom but enjoy afresh each time, as they cleanse your musical palette.

I missed this album, and this group, in the 1970s. However, I'm enjoying them now.

russellk | 4/5 |


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