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Renaissance - Live At Carnegie Hall CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.26 | 225 ratings

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5 stars Probably the best introduction to the band's music, especially if you're like me and appreciate this particular period of their music the most. Annie Haslam is an absolutely stunning vocalist; her tremendous range and operatic vocals get the most press, but she's equally strong singing more understated, "folky" tunes like "Carpet of the Sun." The other members sometimes are not as acknowledged as they should be, but everyone gets a chance to shine somewhere in this album. Jon Camp plays a powerful, muscular, yet very lyrical bass, often as more of a lead instrument than a "mere" rhythm player. (He joined the band after a brief stint by John Wetton, among others; Camp plays in somewhat the same style as Wetton.) His long solo in "Ashes are Burning" has gotten a lot of attention, but he steps to the forefront in just about every song. His bass gives the band a strong bottom end that adds power and punch that balances the other members' contributions. Terry Sullivan, the drummer, joins Camp in providing a powerful, yet understated, rhythmic backing; though he never takes the forefront in any of the material here, his drumming joins Camp's bass to give a strong platform for the others to shine. John Tout is a magnificently talented pianist and keyboard player in the same vein as Genesis's Tony Banks, adding a lovely, classically flavored sound, but without some of the pretentious flourishes of, say, Rick Wakeman. Like Banks, he plays beautifully, yet always manages to remain a bit understated even when he is taking the fore in the music. Michael Dunford's acoustic guitar is probably the least appreciated contribution to Renaissance's music; to the casual listener, he does little besides strum rhythmic chords behind the other, more flamboyant musical offerings, but when you listen more carefully, you realize how critical Dunford's guitar is to the overall sound of the band. The New York Philharmonic blends beautifully with the band itself. I believe Dunford is the one who primarily interacts with the audience, adding witty commentary on some of the songs; the only example of this in the album is his rather long spoken intro to "Scheherazade," but it was worth including. You get an idea of how unpretentious and friendly the band could be with its audience through Dunford's chatty preface to the piece.

The sound is gorgeous. You realize how sumptuously produced -- some say overproduced -- the album is when you hear the more raw recordings from concerts at the Albert Hall and the Capital Theater, among others. The music is perfectly balanced, each instrument carefully mixed with each other to provide a beautiful blending of sound and voice, and whatever mistakes or missteps the band made in the original recordings have been carefully edited out except for an annoying amplifier whine in "Ocean Gypsy." While the recordings may not be as representative as the other recordings, the results are absolutely beautiful, and very, very polished. (It's worth comparing this album to the rawer live recordings from the same period -- they balance each other nicely.)

The song selections tend towards the more ornate and lengthy, with only one song, "Carpet of the Sun," coming in under 5 minutes. The version of "Prologue" that opens the album is far superior to the original studio version, eschewing the out-of- place electric guitar that runs through the original. The other pieces are beautifully done, and the two songs that make up the entire second album, "Scheherazade" and "Ashes are Burning," are magnificent. Again, the cheesy electric guitar that mars the original version of "Ashes" is nowhere to be found; instead, Camp takes a long, expertly rendered bass solo that, unlike so many self-indulgent solos in other progressive epics, works well; it leads into one of the most soaring and transcendant musical moments of the entire concert.

I wasn't fortunate enough to be at any of the three concerts this album was drawn from, but had I been, I would have left absolutely drained. The stellar musicianship and the powerful emotion of the music comes through in fabulous form.

Probably one of the finest live albums ever done. If you don't own it, go find it.

| 5/5 |


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