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Renaissance - Turn of the Cards CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.11 | 638 ratings

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3 stars Turn of the Cards marks the definitive shift in the sound of the band. Not that the change was radical, for the classical influence was very distinct right from the start (considering Prologue as the starting point). But here, the pop influences are much smaller and the classical edge takes over. Their unshamed (in the good sense) use of orchestration adds to the effect.

Aside that, the most distinctive characteristic of this album is its "heavier" sound. The piano, orchestration and percussion often sound like unissone. Though the melodies are strong, what stands out are rythm and percussion. This "heaviness" (by Renaissance standards, let us not forget) is perfectly reinforced by the recurrance of crescendos to build up the songs's climaxes.

Only the shorter tracks have a softer sound. I Think of You is the only truly pop song, and a good one, in the vein of Carpet of the Sun. Cold Is Being is actually lyrics put into a classical piece from Albinoni. It sounds a bit odd to those familiar to the original music, so it's not particularly appealing to me.

Things I Don't Understand has also a jazzy feeling. For that matter, it reminds the first line-up of the band. Maybe that's because it is a Dunford-McCarty song, so it might even have been compose in that period. The first section is clearly jazz oriented. Annie and Jon share the vocals. Though a unissone, his voice is less dominant, working as supporting vocal to add a heavier sound. The second section slows down with Annie vocalizations, gaining a more classically edge. It builts up in a crescendo, Annie and Jon returning to close the song. It is strange at first hearing, but in time will grow on you.

Black Flame is better, starting gently till suddenly bursting into a powerful chorus, than softening again. Running Hard is an excellent display of true combination of rock rythm and classical passages, a great track.

But the highlight of the album is probably the closing track, Mother Russia, another song inspired by Russian themes and music. It is dedicated to dissident Russian writer Aleksandr Soljenitsin. Annie's interpretation is the most dramatic, but not overblown (at least for me). It only reflects the anguish and despair they're trying to communicate, that is the same effect that the music has, building into a shivering crescendo. The musical themes are evidently inspired by Russian classical music. Probably their best song up to that point.

Overall, it is really a very good album, their most progressive till then and shows that Renaissance's style was not single sided, exploring different ways of combining pop, rock and classical music. Nevertheless, it has neither the charm of the former albums, nor the flair of the following one. That is why I give it a smaller rating.

After their pop affair and this one heavier approach, then would come their most symphonic piece of work, that would be also, incidentally, their masterpiece.

bfmuller | 3/5 |


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