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Renaissance - A Song For All Seasons CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.66 | 331 ratings

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5 stars Just like you're favorite friends, sometimes you're favorite albums have their faults. That doesn't make them any less great or enjoyable, you love them just the same. A Song For All Seasons was both a blessing and a curse for Renaissance in that it help to bring them to a somewhat wider audience, but having thrown out all the stops to do, I feel that it left the band with clear direction forward. More on that at the conclusion of the review.

First off, the music. ASFAS sticks with the band's penchant for orchestra and band epics such as the sublime "Opening Out", "Day Of The Dreamer', and the album's breathtaking title track, along with lesser short songs that are their want such as "Closer Than Yesterday" and "Back Home Once Again' and fiery Kindness (At The End). The epics are all stellar but the lyrics were mostly written by uber bassist Jon Camp, instead of the erstwhile Betty Thatcher for this batch of songs. Thatcher is still in the catbird seat for the album's highlight songs, the UK hit "Northern Lights" and the mystically evocative title track. Now on the production and here is where we run into some faults. To say that the album is overproduced would almost be an understatement as producer David Hentshel throws in everything but the proverbial kitchen sink as well as many sonic tricks like adding long phasing and heavy flanging to the sound mix. This works extremely well for the afore noted epics but absolutely suffocates the quieter more pastoral short songs with Annie Haslam being overdubbed three or more times for "Closer Than Yesterday' and the added 'orchestra on steroids' to "Back Home Once Again". With it's symphonic percussion never out of sight, "Back Home Once Again" closes with tympani blasting out the song's fade out ending.

This was a serious misstep as more stripped down arrangements would have served these less complex songs much better. I can only guess that this heavy production, which worked so well for "Northern Lights" blinded both the producer and the band that more instruments in the sound mix was always better. But the UK hit "Northern Lights" is so magnificent with it's multi tracked vocals, catchy acoustic strumming and driving, almost hypnotic, bass and drums that this goof can really be forgiven them. Even the multi-tracked keys of John Tout shine as he plays fugue like synth notes at the end of the primary verses along with his always gorgeous piano.

Another song that fares well with the album's production is the heavy prog of Camp's "Kindness (At The End)", which really shines as his lyrics, while still dramatic, are more earthy and go over better than his faux poetry of the album's epics. It's one of two songs song by Camp on the album and it gives some much needed variation. And the band does much to carry the weight of the epics and make them immediate and rememberable. Such as Annie's touching and heart rending middle section to "Day Of The Dreamer" as a lesser vocalist would have been drowned out in the the song's thick music mix.

So, where dos that leave us? With a 5 star album (rounded up from 4.5), as any group that can scale the shear granite cliffs of this type of musical overproduction and produce moving, evocative symphonic prog while still turning the spotlight on themselves and their talent truly deserves PA's essential rating. The band is so good that they are almost always served by their orchestral arrangements and rarely the reverse. The only downside I see to A Song For All Seasons is that Renaissance hit a creative climax with this album and it never fails to occur to me that they could not progress musically from this point. I believe that is partially the reason for the band's turn to shorter songs following ASFAS, along with the obvious commercial and business concerns. A Song For All Seasons is Renaissance's grand symphonic farewell and is a monument to both their genius and skill, and is simply a blissful pleasure to listen to.

SteveG | 5/5 |


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