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Renaissance - Scheherazade and Other Stories CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.32 | 1249 ratings

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5 stars And then, comes the masterpiece.

It is almost unquestionable that Scheherazade and Other Stories is the quintessencial work by Renaissance, particularly the 24 minutes long Song of Scheherazade. Here, all the elements that made the identity and reputation of the band came together and matured.

The album opens in an audacious manner with the multi-faceted A Trip to the Fair. They're sending a message: Renaissance is now a more mature, daring and self-confident band. After the opening with a heavy, fast classical passage inspired by Slavic and gypsy music, the song changes completely around the third minute, when Annie begins to sing. Then, it gains a certain medieval flavour, before it changes again in the instrumental interlude, with an unusual jazzy feel. Annie comes back to finish the song. It may take a little for you to get the song but after a while it reveals all its qualities.

The Vultures Fly High follows with the typical short, pop-rock track that every Renaissance album has. It is a good track but nothing special either. It doesn't do harm, but wouldn't make too much of a difference if it wasn't here.

Ocean Gypsy also follows a certain pattern of the band: the romantic ballad. But it's a heartfelt, melancholic song that fits perfectly with Annie's voice, skills and style. A great chorus, a wonderful vocal performance and a great piano solo leave no doubt: this is a small gem.

And then comes the most ambitious song Renaissance ever made, their greatest achievement, the aforementioned side-long Song of Scheherazade, Much praise is fairly put in Annie's soprano voice, but this song is testimony to the great qualities of the whole band: the orchestration, the bass and voice of Jon Camp, that surface and shine in the third part of the song, The Sultan, the virtuoso piano of John Tout and, last but not least, the very much underestimated acoustic guitar of MIcheal Dunsford (that also has the merits of composing most of the melodies of the band). Tout also contributes writing the classical passages of the song.

The song opens with a Fanfare written by Tout. The third part, The Sultan, is a great vehicle to the talent of Jon Camp, with a bass solo and also also the lead vocals, after what the main theme appears, sung by both Camp and Annie. A wonderful piano interlude leads to the must beautiful and tender piano solo plus orchestra on the Love Theme, followed by an equally moving vocal performance by Annie in The Young Prince and Princess, perhaps his most beautiful vocal performance (and let's not forget whose vocalist I'm talking about). Festival Preparations changes things to a fast instrumental passage. The Fugue of the Sultan, written by Tout, follows, and retakes the theme from The Sultan. Annie returns in The Festival and the main theme closes in the Finale. A grandiose piece that could very well fall victim of its own ambition, but the band take the challenge boldly and competently, always avoiding the danger of getting carried away and the carefully providing smooth transitions, to the point that it is sometimes hard to tell when one section ends and the other begins. Everyone contributes to make this the perfect display of the (fantastic) skills and talents of the whole band, and probably the most successful blend between classical, rock and pop ever made.

bfmuller | 5/5 |


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