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Renaissance - A Symphonic Journey CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.18 | 18 ratings

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3 stars The end of 2017 found the reconstituted Renaissance briefly touring with a chamber orchestra and the result is this double CD and DVD of the second ever concert of the two performing together. Annie Haslam's voice is starting to sound more strident than sweet these days, but rest assured that she can still sing in key and sustain those long notes. The band, who now seem to be ever changing aside from keyboard player Rave Tesar, were mostly accomplished aside from some brief timing issues. Tesar was the standout, as usual. Second keyboard player Geoffrey Langley played like measured clockwork until he was allowed to cut lose on synths on the concert's encore song. The rest of band played in workman like fashion except for guitarist Mark Lambert, who resurrected the electric guitar lead (originally played by the great Andy Powell from Wishbone Ash) at the close of "Ashes Are Burning". It should have been more interesting but something was amiss.

To break up the monotony, the band decided to do two odd ball songs, "Kalynda" from Azure D'or and "Island" from the first Renaissance album which featured Jane Relf instead of Annie. While these songs in themselves were not terrible, some of the other songs that the group decided to do, both with and without the orchestra, were not good choices. The now ever present "Prologue" and "Trip To The Fair", played without orchestra, came off poorly. "Prologue", accompanied by faux synth strings would have been better served had the actual orchestra provided real orchestral backing, while "Trip To The Fair" suffered the most from timing issues. Compounding this was the fact that Annie sounded a bit strained at times, like she was still trying to get warmed up. The songs that worked the best with the orchestra were "Carpet of The Sun", "Mother Russia" and "A Song For All Seasons", all of which were recorded with stunning orchestral arrangements on their respective studio albums. One song that was greatly enhanced by the addition of the orchestra was the haunting "At The Harbor" from the Ashes Are Burning album, as the studio cut features only Haslam's lone vocal, piano, acoustic guitar and some brief bass guitar notes. With the orchestra, the song was transformed from a dirge into an emotional lament. What did not work as well with the orchestra were "Grandine Il Vento" and " Symphony Of Light" from the last Renaissance studio album Symphony Of Light. However, these were the exceptions where Annie's voice rose to the occasion as she is quite proud of these two songs. I think the band and the orchestra would have been better served had they focused on songs that incorporated an orchestra in the studio releases like "Can You Here Me?" from Novella. Or a song which substituted the orchestra in place of the synths used for symphonic accompaniment like "The Flood At Lyon" from Azure D'or. The latter would have been especially welcomed and note worthy.

In the liner notes, Annie states that it was her dream to perform again with an orchestra and the occasion filled her with joy. I'm happy for her but now it's time for her and the band to give joy to their long time fans with a new album of studio material. There are enough talented musicians still in the Renaissance fold after the death of songwriter Michael Dunford a few years back. The band just needs to believe that they can make new music without him. 3 stars for A Symphonic Journey.

SteveG | 3/5 |


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