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Renaissance - Scheherazade and Other Stories CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.31 | 1304 ratings

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5 stars In music, of any genre, we often run into groups and records that are placed in an intermediate position between different labels, making classification complex; this is not the case of the Renaissance that perfectly embody that perhaps the most successful branch of progressive of the 70s, called symphonic prog, a sub-genre in which nineties such as Genesis and Yes are cataloged, just to name two of the most popular groups. Perhaps the Renaissance are the group that by far best embodies this genre, leaving very large spaces for the orchestral parts, which in the suite are performed by the London Symphony Orchestra. What we are about to talk about is perhaps their best work or, if nothing else, the one that has found more support among fans. Scheherazade and Other Stories is a soft and melodious record with romantic and fairytale atmospheres. The production, as in almost all the records of the time, is very dry and "flat", in the sense that the master is very balanced on the various frequencies. The sound is however well defined, as much as possible in those years. The artwork evokes, with medieval pictorial images, what the concept of the disc is based on, namely the famous collection of oriental fairy tales and short stories entitled "The Thousand and One Nights". Born as a folk-symphonic formation in the late sixties from a nucleus that was the Yardbirds (Relf and McCarty), this band broke up as soon as possible, during the making of the second album, "Illusion" of 1970. Next, the band is renewed- completely. The new line-up, however, does not take final shape until a pretty girl with long hair appears at an audition. She is Annie Haslam: in a short time she will probably become the most important woman of the whole progressive scene (at the limit "contrasted" by the only Sonja Kristina of Curved Air). Her very personal, melodic and extended voice is the embroidery on the sinuous textures woven by Michael Dunford's guitar and John Tout's keyboards. The rise of the group does not leave fans indifferent: the particular music of the Renaissance, a symphonic trail suspended between baroque and exotic, is completed in a handful of notable ellepis, before falling into its own grandiloquence and rising towards a more easily renewable and representable song form, moreover with notable economic results.

The album has four songs, and it is based on the closing suite and on the initial "Trip To The Fair": this is an excellent song, opened by shrill keyboard chords and supported by the beautiful voice of Haslam in a market climate in the reign of Prince Aladdin; from here, a beautiful progressive opening takes place where a very pleasant choir rises majestically. "The Vultures Fly High" is a short interlude, perhaps forerunner of the sound that will characterize them in the near future, but no less intense. Instead, it touches the seven minutes "Ocean Gypsy", a hypnotic melody for voice and keyboards that flares up in an airy ballad, highlighting the beautiful bass game by Jonathan Camp and the incisive drums by Terence Sullivan. But now the time has come: "Song Of Scheherazade" stands out majestically and redundantly in its sonorities, the bass is a beating heart, the male voices rise to welcome the warm voice of Scheherazade, before it takes flight on the flying carpet of the keyboards towards the progressive realm, where symphonism will create castles of unsustainable intensity.

Scheherazade and Other Stories is a very particular record, something almost unique, in which the lyricism and the emotional factor are much more prominent than the individual technique of the musicians. The symphonic component is extremely extreme, supplanting even the rock one in many places. Wanting to be picky, this is more of an opera than a progressive record, as the experimental factor is practically absent and there is no clear and defined progression within the songs. Renaissance have managed to create one of those works that cannot in any way leave the listener indifferent. If you were predisposed to this kind of emotion, this record would reserve you some wonderful moments; on the contrary, if you were looking for a prog disc in the strict sense of the term, Scheherazade and Other Stories would probably not be for you. However, the compositional and arrangement value remains indisputable, which does not drop for the entire duration of the album, maintaining a very high quality standard. So, summing up, we can say that it is a gem, but reserved for those who can understand its value.

prog_traveller!! | 5/5 |


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