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Renaissance - Prologue CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.74 | 446 ratings

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4 stars The second Renaissance is a completely different enterprise than the first one, though it carries some influences brought by Jim McCarty and Michael Dunford, the only ones who were involved with both formations. Annie Haslam, John Tout, Jon Camp and co. are, with permission of the play of words, a renaissance of the former band and its former sound.

This might be a controversial statement, but the second formation of Renaissance is probably the band that best epitomizes the mix between rock/pop and classical music. Certainly more than other paradigmatic and better known progressive rock bands, like Yes, Genesis, Gentle Giant, that presented a wider range of influences and musical directions. Its closest rival might be ELP, but the bands have completely different backgrounds and approaches, Renaissance being mostly an acoustic band with prominent piano and orchestration instead of synthesizers (not to mention the angelical voice of Annie Haslam), which, in my opinion, adds a more "classical" feel to the band. Renaissance very often presented reworks of classical pieces mixed or adapted to rock/pop music. If you know well of classical music, you might instantly recognize sections "borrowed" from classical pieces (strangely and unfortunately seldom credited in the liner notes). Another argument in favour of this band is that apart from the first two albums (starting with this one), it is almost entirely devoted, in the seventies, to this musical enterprise, whereas ELP always embraced and explored other possibilities (Greg's pop songs, jazz influences, etc). This is not to say that Renaissance was a dull or uninspired band. I'd prefer to say that they had a vision they dedicated to it and explored to its full - with evident success.

Concerning the trajectory of Renaissance alone, even though the band would certainly mature and perfect its style, Prologue is probably my favorite album by the band (certainly the one I play more often). Like I always say, the key to understand and appreciate the work from a certain band is recognize its origins and purposes at the time they are made, and not only by comparing them with other works by the same band. Don't expect to hear something like Scheherazade, their most progressive album according to the well established criteria. Renaissance would evolve into a more complex, classically oriented band. But this doesn't mean that their first album is less well-crafted and powerful in its own way. There is plenty of beauty in it, some more straight forward rock and roll (title track, Spare Some Love) intermingled with lighter pieces (Kiev, Sounds of the Sea, Bound for Infinity) and an Indian-flavoured instrumental track (Rajah Khan).

The main reason why I appreciate this album more is the same reason why the members of the band didn't do it: the presence of electric guitar, that they felt didn't fit the style of the band. Still, it gives Prologue a different identity than the following albums (the next album would still feature electric guitar, but to a much lesser extent). Yet, the electric guitar appears prominently in just in a few tracks (Prologue, Spare Some Love, Rajah Khan), being quite discreet or absent from the others. So, this is not the the only reason. The fact is that melodies are captivating. Jon Camp's vocals in Kiev add to this particular identity (it is also the most classical tune and my favorite track from the album). Kiev also is the first example of another distinguished character of the band: the Russian influence in lyrics and classical themes.

There are some wonderful piano work and vocals that would be the trademark of the band. The combination stands out in Sounds of the Sea and Bound for Infinity, that are almost only piano-and-vocal songs, a bit melancholic and just beautiful.

Then, the really surprising track here is Rajah Khan, being quite heavy (at least in comparison with the rest of the album) and with long electric guitar and synthesizer sections.

The one reason why it might not appeal to the regular prog fan is that the mix here tend to add some 60s pop/psychedelic sounds to the mix (basically on Prologue and Spare Some Love). Nevertheless, I'd use the next album, Ashes Are Burning, as the true examples were the "pop" component gets out of control (for some tracks, naturally). Anyway, the classical influence is too evident and prominent not to call it a progressive rock album. And, if you listen to it open-minded you'll be able to catch its beauty and interesting uniqueness in the band's catalogue.

bfmuller | 4/5 |


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