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Renaissance - Ashes Are Burning CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.22 | 674 ratings

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5 stars Renaissance, more than any other band in my opinion, is the essence of symphonic prog. Renaissance relied almost primarily on acoustic guitars, acoustic piano, bass, and operatic female vocals for their sound. Add to this their classical structure, direct classical quotations and a healthy dose of English, Russian and Indian folk. This gave them a romantic classical sound that no other symphonic prog band could duplicate. By 1973, Renaissance Mark II was firmly set in and ready to go. After their debut with 1972's so-so Prologue, the new lineup of Dunford/Haslam/Camp/Sullivan set to work on Ashes are Burning. This album, more than any other displays all the influences rolled into one that made Renaissance great.

The album begins in mighty fashion with the ultra-symphonic "Can You Understand". Driven by Jon Touts regal and classical piano work, this Russian tinged classical-rock blend is a pure delight to listen to. Like many Renaissance tracks, this one is driven by Tout, as well as Jon Camp's thunderous bass, (in the Renaissance setting a lead instrument), and one of the few electric aspects to their work. After a gorgeous melodic classical three minute piano intro, the song turns very folksy, with Annie Haslam's ever pleasant vocals. Unlike many of their contemporaries though, Renaissance drew much of their influence from Russian as well as Indian folk, not just English. "Can You Understand" is a really beautiful blending of the aforementioned Russian folk and classical music. The song also features a gorgeous string arrangement, characteristic of their work. Renaissance, unlike many of their progressive peers, never gets bogged down in the arrangement, and never loses sight of the great melody, which ultimately drives the song. After that tour-de-force comes "Let it Grow" an extremely pleasant excursion into folk. Once again, Annie's vocals are stunning in this romantic song, which is extremely melodic. The lyric-less vocal harmonies at the end of the track with the underlying piano drive are sheer beauty. Another folksy ballad comes with "On the Frontier", but this one is much more developed, and features some impressive acoustic guitar from Michael Dunford, who like Peter Hammill, rarely actually plays the guitar. This song is similar to "Let it Grow" but has a much more complex underlying rhythm and arrangement, with some excellent drum work as well.

The next song, "Carpet of the Sun", is a bit poppy, but is a pure vocal showcase for Annie Haslam. Once again, one feels blown away by the pure beauty of her voice. This song was a popular concert piece, and features a rock solid melody. "At the Harbour" is a classic dark ballad. It begins with some dramatic piano courtesy of Tout. The first few minutes are actually an adaptation of a Debussy piece, and the foreboding mood fits perfectly. The song tells the tale of a ship lost at sea, and the women waiting at the harbor for it's return. This is one of the darkest pieces the usually up-beat Renaissance would record, and it is haunting to the max. A true classic. The ending, which features only sparse piano and some haunting vocals from Annie is perfect. The album ends in with Renaissance's concert classic, "Ashes are Burning". Beginning with the sound of the wind, Annie eventually goes on to give one of her best vocal performances with some excellent lyrics in this eastern tinged symphonic epic. (For all those metal singers, this is the track to show them what a real soprano should sound like.) The song's begging is rather normal, with an extremely beautiful piano and guitar melody, before shifting into one of their most energetic instrumental workouts, in which each member is given adequate room to show his talent. One important thing in Renaissance song structure is that showing off isn't important, unless it benefits the song, so their solos are extremely melodic and pleasant, while not uber-complex. This song flows along effortlessly for twelve minutes before returning to its initial theme with Annie on Vocals. After this Dunford (or Andy Powell who sat in on the track) gives one of the best guitar solos of his career. The song just sort of spirals out into the distance, on of the few examples where a fade out is truly majestic. I sincerely urge you to download this track here.

it is one of Prog's greatest achievements.

Along with 1975's stunning Scheherazade, Ashes are Burning stands as Renaissance's classic work. A true masterpiece on the strength of "At the Harbour", "Can You Understand", and "Ashes are Burning"

Recommended to fans of ultra melodic and beautiful acoustic prog, with strong classical and folk influences. (They share more in common with Italian than English symphonic, if that helps). Enjoy. I sure do --- 5 Stars

NetsNJFan | 5/5 |


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