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Renaissance - Prologue CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.74 | 449 ratings

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4 stars What is this a prologue to, exactly? Oh's a prologue to the GOOD albums.

Renaissance - Prologue (1972)

Overall Rating: a really low 12


It's a rock synthesis of love and freedom, baby. Oh hells, it's just an album! I'm just a man, just a simple man. My thought's and pleasures are...fairly in tune with this album. It's Renaissance's third album after the not so wondrous Illusion, and it's the band in a new reincarnation, one with some honest-to-badness Energy, with a capital G. What's the G stand for other than energy? Good!

Those of you coming in from the band's height at the trio of Ashes, Stories, and Cards might find that this is much less based on folk styling than it is purely rooted in hard, heavy, passionate rock/classical synthesis. The band literally explodes on those first couple tracks, with Annie ooh-ing and ahhh-ing like the friggin' saint she is, even though there's much less emphasis on her singing than I care for. Hell, later on she defined the band, for better or for worse (It's for better, knuckleheads). Thing is, these are some seriously cooking, instrumentally driven rock passages, boys and girls. No, it might not bash my heart in, but it's really entertaining, and the melodies are top notch. Prologue and Keiv are both furious storms, with delicious piano rolls, hammer drumming, and betray them as a sort of heavenly take on ELP's famous persona. That doesn't mean Renaissance are out to rip off other popular acts of the early 1970's progressive scene, mainly because while ELP were only worth a damn for an album or so, Renaissance were consistently good through most of the 1970's.

As usual, the band melds extended progressive suites with concise, lush classical pop tunes, and none of it's filler, in the least. Each song is at its core, entertaining and thrilling on a complex musical level, or on a complex melodic level. See, where these folks could be just as puffed up and pompous as ahem...Yes, at least Renaissance's instrumental jam freak-outs were fleshed out and lusciously arranged, while Yes were just boring. Oh, and miss Haslan makes Mister Anderson look like a useless moon hippie!

Sorry, I got sidetracked. I was too busy listening to Sounds of the Sea, which is the first tune on Prologue to showcase Annie Haslan's delicate, but overpowering singing. The tune, itself, isn't much more than a piano driven classical pop song, but her vocal melodies are executed brilliantly. And when she howls "sounds of the SEAAAAAAAAA-EAaaaaaaa-EEEEE" it sends shivers up and down my back. Wonderful stuff.

Really, the middle half of the album is what rules me hardest, and I feel ashamed to admit it's because of the singing. Even if the instrumentals are engaging, they're still excessive and usually tending to overstay their welcome. It's the biggest flaw of Prologue, as pretty and energetic as the songs are, the extended tracks go overboard with the jamming. It's not a big deal, on account of how competent the band happened to be in their glory days, but they're not exactly Jethro Tull, even if they'd be the heavenly division of that particular group's spirit, next year.

That, and the melodies might be good, they might even be really good, but they're not god's of my heart, not quite yet. So, my favorite moments are the trilogy of lavish pop songs in the middle of the three more progressive songs. Bound For Infinity is just too pretty for words, with the subtle melody lines from guitars and piano running on the swift underside of Annie's soothing crooning. It's possibly my favorite song on here, especially when she hooks her voice around each word. What a gal! But, despite a distinct lack of ruling melodies, this is a very even, very solid album, all the way through.

What most surprised me was the closing epic Rajah Khan, with the ominous, electrified opening, leading into the main rocking base, and everyone's favorite choir girl emoting over an almost classically eastern theme. I just wish that they had cut down the song by a few minutes, because some of the interlude jamming starts to bore me, a trifle. But, the solos in the middle are some fantastical stuff.

It's nothing compared to the sheer musical brilliance of what was to come, but Renaissance were just growing, and had a lot of room to cut out the fat and make a master-work, later. For now, they're just real good, but finding themselves! For now, Prologue is real good, too.


Alitare | 4/5 |


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