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Renaissance - Live At Carnegie Hall CD (album) cover

LIVE AT CARNEGIE HALL

Renaissance

 

Symphonic Prog

4.26 | 211 ratings

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VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Review Nš 114

"Live At Carnegie Hall" is the debut live album of Renaissance and was released in 1976. It features songs from all their studio albums that were attended by the new Renaissance's line up, until then, which corresponds too, to their musical golden era. The release of this live album was taken from a live show recorded at Carnegie Hall in New York in 1975, which was performed with the backing of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.

Carnegie Hall is a famous New York theatre better known for its classical performances than for rock concerts. Curiously, or maybe not, this was the local chosen by Renaissance to present this live performance. Sincerely, I'm convinced that this local was purposeful and not by chance, because their sound is so close to the classical music that made a complete sense to play this live show in that place.

However, Renaissance was for some unknown reasons always more popular in the USA than in Europe. So, it was quite natural to record their classic live album over there. "Live At Carnegie Hall" featured songs from their four previous studio albums, and proved that the band could pull off their complex and orchestral compositions and arrangements very well on stage, too. When I say "their four previous studio albums", I mean the first four studio albums from their second line up, "Prologue", "Ashes Are Burning", "Turn Of The Cards" and "Scheherazade And Other Stories". So, it not includes "Renaissance" and "Illusion", the two debut studio albums that belong to their first and completely different line up. Anyway, these four albums are in general considered their four best studio albums, at least three of them, "Scheherazade And Other Stories", "Turn Of The Cards" and "Ashes Are Burning", for this precise order.

About the performance of the line up on this album, Annie Haslam is the obvious starting point with her pure five octave range that she uses so well. To the keyboardist John Tout lacks, perhaps, the stage presence of Rick Wakeman, but his playing is a key part of Renaissance's instrumental sections. The acoustic guitarist Michael Dunford is equally retiring. He composes the bulk of the material with the non playing lyricist Betty Thatcher. The bassist Jon Camp is all over the play and often his runs are more like lead than part of the rhythm section making a perfect interplay with the energetic drumming of Terence Sullivan. It's the interplay between both that gives the band such a vibrant energy.

The tracks performed on this live set were "Prologue" from "Prologue", "Can You Understand", "Carpet On The Sun" and "Ashes Are Burning" from "Ashes Are Burning", "Running Hard" and "Mother Russia" from "Turn Of The Cards" and "Ocean Gypsy" and "Song Of Scheherazade" from "Scheherazade And Other Stories". About the live performance of them, the title track from "Prologue" kicks it all off, and is followed by strong versions of "Ocean Gypsy", "Can You Understand", "Carpet Of The Sun", "Running Hard" and "Mother Russia". All these versions may not add anything that the studio recordings didn't have, but it's still great to listen to them in a live setting. The band also talks and comments a lot between the songs, adding a very interesting and familiar magic live atmosphere that far too many live albums lack. These are all tracks included on the first record. The second record in the set is taken up by only two tracks. First we have, of course, their great suite "Song Of Scheherazade". What is really very interesting about this track is that the album itself was actually still not released when the band played it here. So, you can imagine that the audience must have gotten some quite enormous expectations for it after listen to this track for the first time, that night. But the real highlight of the album is the fantastic 23 minute version of "Ashes Are Burning". This is one of the best performances the band ever caught on vinyl, and Camp delivers some of the most beautiful bass playing I've ever heard from him. In reality, "Live At Carnegie Hall" remains as one of the best live albums from a progressive rock band in the 70's.

Conclusion: There are some bands that are equally good performing on studio or live and Renaissance is one of those cases. "Live At Carnegie Hall" has great live performances, the repertoire chosen is magnificent and the live sound quality is excellent. All of these factors contribute that "Live At Carnegie Hall" be one of the best live albums ever made. This album is simply amazing and it has true fantastic musical live moments and basically it represents some of the best material from their golden era. All their musical performance is absolutely irreproachable, but the live performance of the second part of the concert is completely unforgettable. The 30 minutes of the "Scheherazade" suite is absolutely amazing and particularly the live version of "Ashes Are Burning" is, for me, even better than the original studio version. It's the highest musical moment of this live set. "Live At Carnegie Hall" is, perhaps, the best way to describe Renaissance's music for those who aren't yet familiarized with the typical sound of the band. This is one of the best postcards of the group and subsequently, one of the best musical works that can introduce anyone into their music.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

VianaProghead | 5/5 |

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