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Renaissance - Live at Carnegie Hall CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.33 | 259 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars This is a review that I put together about two years ago when this album really grew on me. Hopefully it will stand up to the cause now that I'm two years more maturer than I was before. But anyway- here we go:

This album is the only Renaissance I can actually get my hands on! For now. One of my best friends parents are lovely Proggers like myself, who actually got to see Annie Haslam and Renaissance live back in the day!...along with many other bands, such as Genesis. (Oh that I had their memories...) So I managed to borrow this album from them.

Prologue: Do-do-do-doooo Sounds very much like 60s lounge-jazz. One is reminded of Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell singing the overtly CUTE 'Dida' actually. Haslam shows her gorgeous vibrating, high-range voice to the audience without falter- This is a good song for that as the melody goes all over the place and that aim seems to be to use the human voice as the main instrument. Watch out for a funky bass reving up before shakers come in. This leads to a Tango-like beat- something very typical of Renaissance. John Tout plays a fast minuet on the piano before we go back to Haslam's soulful voice again.

Ocean Gypsy: John Tout (I believe) introduces the band. Then into the song: the first time I heard this piece, I found it somewhat depressing, in a mystical way, if you listen to the lyrics. But depressing music tends to be good! (I can write a whole essay on that one. Contact me some time if you disagree and we can have a philosophical discussion.) The violins lead to fantastic piano-playing. This song definitely swings in and out of moods: from quiet to a good and moderate beat. A man and woman are singing in harmony and it doesn't sound cheesy at all (as that convention is wont to be, often.) We hear an except from one of Rachmaninov's famous Piano Concertos in the piano. This is, afterall, a classically-inspired prog band. They bring out the best in it. This carries on into the vocal Aaaaah!s so typical of the 70s (Yeah, sorry- I still can't help pointing that out!) After the last verse, the piano ends on an unexpectedly MAJOR chord....I love it when that happens!

Can you Understand: Now this track is my favourite... Before this song, the piano does a bit of fast jumping which is backed up by drum and bass...and shakers! Then a harpsichord-sounding instrument takes over its melody-sounding extremely cool. My lack of vocabulary here is simply the result of there being no other way to describe it IMO. Then back to the piano which builds up to a catharsis... in a very slow way. After a few solem chords, this leads to the song, and the crowd cheers- for Haslam stands up to them again! Annie sings one of the most beautiful melodies I have ever heard the female voice sing. After such a gorgeous start, the guitar plucking turns to blue-grass style. Her voice sings a faster melody: Open up your eyes and make the day shine sunshine now. When she stops, the violins and piano turn the music into what sounds like the soundtrack for a movie with cowboys. Then a few falling chords threaten to turn it into Curved Air's Piece of Mind' (first thing to pop into my head anyway) After Annie sings the most beautiful melody from the beginning again. Purple mist around your hair; Eyes are fading blue. The orchestral ending is very much like Tchaikovsky and one of his Piano Concertos.

Carpets of the Sun: Annie verrry timidly states that this is one of her favourites and acknowledges the orchestra. This isn't the most charismatic of Renaissance's songs but one thing to look out for is how she quickly 'twirls' her voice at the highest notes she sings in the chorus.

Running Hard: The piano introduction of this reminds me of Keith Emerson- it really uses up the whole piano! After the orchestra makes its 'bang', the drums and piano convey the idea of 'running hard' quite well. Annie becomes quite strong-sounding and passionate for this song, probably because of how fast it is. Later- this becomes a very orchestra dominated piece but that doesn't undermine the wonderful complexity of its compostion.

Mother Russia: Annie tells everyone who this song is about: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. (Ooh! Must research more this man who was punished for his fame.) This is one of the songs I've heard the album recording of. I have to say- Live is much more atmospheric. Yes- thank you Little Miss Obvious. I guess, what I'm trying to say is that it sounds so much better this way. The orchestra adds some great percussion to this, though the bass, thumping like a giant towards the start of the singing, is a bit kitsch. The only weakness of this song is that you can *tell* what decade it was written in! And, of course, that in itself cannot really be a bad thing. This is also one that the sudience loves the most- we hear cheering as the flute and clarinet come in. The drums start one of those 'what is to come' beats as the piano slowly works up. Annie does her sweet siren-singing at this point. And the the whole band altogether now!: Red blood; White snow. He knows frozen rivers won't flow. Haslam is greatly affected by this performance- we can just hear her voice breaking a bit before the last long note. Or perhaps I've being too sentimental; perhaps she was only striving to achieve singing-perfection!

We're going to take a short break for a few minutes- See you soon.

Scherazade: Again, we hear the orchestra tuning up and the audience settles down. The reaction of the audience lets us know when the band are back onstage. John Tout explains the outline of the basic story' of this famous epic. He's a good story teller and it's interesting to hear cheering at absurd places. I don't want to start a raid-war or something! You would think Renaissance would just take Rimsky Korsakov's ballet music and turn it into a rock song....but noooo. This is a completely original compsition. The start is so orchestral and farflung that I would be mad to try and analyse it. It eventually drifts into an Aaah-ooh choral introduction to the actual song-part and John sings by himself for the first time. He sounds like a folk-singer in my opinion. I like the way they've made the melody 'orientalised'. The chord-progression turns into an apocalyptic one after Scherazade and the bass-melody has a snippet to play by from Korsakovs original music before the piano starts up. Up into a different melody now. Violins are especially prominent. You would cause the sun to see the light and then be shed... Oh my love. 'The Young Prince and Princess' is what this is referring to. All string instruments at first, guitar...even a harp He vowed to love her for the rest of all his days. Plucking, echoing, violins... then bone percussion as the violins quiver... all very scary, But the happy chords signal a happy ending. Annie's melody sounds rather like the background music to a 60s crime movie (I'm thinking of MAX in 'Get Smart'...the *original* not the god-awful remake!) I love the way they show the change in the Sultan's attitude: insane laughter out of nowhere then a scream of surprise. A flute with an acoustic backing makes for a nice change. This is the Sultan's wedding you see.Scherazade- your life you've won. This eventually leads to the same apocalyptic chord progression and melody that we heard when the charater Scherazade stepped into the epic. Scherazade! Haslam sings at last: impressive siren high-note!

Then they thank the audience tenfold... and Haslam introduces their most popular song. Ashes are Burning: As I said before with Mother Russia, this Live recording is far more atmospheric than the album recording. More drawn-out piano improvising. One thing to look out for is the bass-improv as well. Jon Camp really does take this opportunity to show how he can stand out. Adds a jazz touch to the scene... Bass and tambourine that is.. Yep- it's a very long bass-solo. He even gets the audience clapping in time with the beat. The bass is certainly synthed by an echoing-effect pedal. The audience cheers when they know it's getting back to the song. The piano goes back to the reved-up beat and brings us to the rest of the song. And people call out Annies name. Imagine buring embers...she sings. finally entering into the scene again. She draws the last line out (on Away!) and the emphasis makes her voice all the more gorgeous. which causes the audience to cheer even louder. And then ending goes on forever it seems- Annie wastes no time in flaunting her voice wherever she can- pushing her voice to its' limits. God- the musicians don't want to stop playing! This is afterall, the end of a concert,

Thank you vry much- hope to see you again soon. Thus ends the concert.

Starette | 4/5 |


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