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Renaissance - A Song for All Seasons CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.70 | 372 ratings

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5 stars "A song for all our time"

I can just imagine, after being presented with Renaissance's previous album Novella, a Warner Brothers A&R man gesticulating wildly, chomping on a fat cigar and complaining loudly that "I don't hear no hits!" .The band must have realized that by now, nearly ten years of only moderate commercial success they had to make some changes to their music or be forever relegated to the second tier of progressive rock forever.Who better to produce their next album than David Hentschel, the man you had recently helped propel Genesis to global success with "Then There Were Three"The brief from the group would have been along the lines of "Give us a hit album and a hit single". The producer did just that- "A Song For All Seasons" was not only their most commercially successful album, it also provided them with their one and only hit single "Northern Lights"which went as far as number 10 on the charts.

So much for the commercial success of this record.What about the music itself? All four musicians were always exceptionally fine players especially the keyboard player John Tout.As a pianist he could hold his own next to the Keyboard Gods like Emerson and Wakeman. Michael Dunford's 12 string guitar lent their music much of its lushness, Jon Camps's use of the base guitar as a lead instrument is hugely impressive and everything is held together by particularly sensitive percussion work by Terence Sullivan.The real ace in the pack would have to be singer Annie Haslam's extraordinarily powerful five octave ranging vocals. Yet for all their collective talent and beautifully arranged music I have to admit I often come away from listening to even their most revered albums like "Scheherazade and Other Short Stories" feeling slightly underwhelmed.

With "A Song For All Seasons", David Hentschel really pulled out all the stops -employing multi-tracked vocals, bombastic and sophisticated orchestrations and even re-introducing some electric guitar.The end result is quite magnificent overall. Admittedly the album is also home to a few straightforward pop songs like "Back Home Again" their theme to the TV show "The Paper Lads" and "She Is Love" is a particularly weak song sung by John Camp because Annie Haslam was unavailable on the day it had to be finished. That is one song I would have dearly appreciated being left off the album.A couple of the songs have a rather strange structure. The opening track, appropriately titled"Opening Out" starts off with some powerfully dramatic chords and engaging but suddenly fizzles out and ends for no apparent reason."Kindness at The End Of The Day" which closes side one also starts off promisingly with some really engaging playing reminiscent of "Nursery Crime" era before suddenly transforming into a rather mellifluous song. The most successful of the shorter songs is without question "Northern Lights".Lots of jangling 12 string guitars, a prominent base riff, little classically inspired figures after each stanza, glorious vocals of course and a truly memorable and catchy chorus. What I love most about this song is that it was a huge chart success while still being a characteristic Renaissance song so there was no sense of the band "selling out" in order to have a hit.

The two long-form tracks are the real reason to own this record. The albums' second track is a gorgeous shape shifting ten minute plus classic reprising some of the the dramatic musical sections from the opening track.The epic title track is not only the crowning achievement on this album but as far as I am concerned the greatest piece of music the group ever created. Infact I would go one step further and suggest it is one of the finest pieces of music in the entire Progressive Rock Canon.It has absolutely everything I want to hear- an incredibly dramatic complex and sophisticated three minute introduction followed by an a tense vocal section followed by an even more tense slow burning instrumental build up to the dramatic emotionally charged climax.What an absolute stunner.

A solid Five Stars

Lupton | 5/5 |


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