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Renaissance - Renaissance CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.75 | 383 ratings

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3 stars It took me quite a while to make the hearing transition from the better known second line-up of Renaissance to the first one. Having been familiar to the classic Annie Haslam era, it didn't take me that much to verify the sharp differences underneath the surface that, in my opinion, justifies the statement the they were two different bands, not only because of the completely changed line-up, but also for the completely changed sound.

Yes, both formation rely heavily on piano, both have guitar as a secondary instrument. But that's it. While the second formation was more symphonic and classically oriented, the first one is jazzy. The piano resembles Ekseption, Trace and ELP instead of John Tout's piano work with the second Renaissance. The first Renaissance certainly may be considered a progressive act, but firmly grounded on a psychedelic basis, not a symphonic one. While the second Renaissance carefully crafted songs that exceed the 10-minute time, the lengthy pieces of the first Renaissance are result of improvisation and experimentation.

That is not to say that the first Renaissance is bad - though evidently not as good as the second one. Only that they should be considered as separate bands - and, as so, evaluated less in comparison with one another and more on the basis of their own achievements.

In that sense, Renaissance, the 1969 album, might be considered a good example of how 1960's psychedelia made way to progressive rock and how those two genres are closely related. If you enjoy the crossing over of psychedelic and prog rock, youl'll probably enjoy this work. The album is jazzy, experimental, dissonant, rythmic, at times haunting. Yet, it is something of a work-in-progress, hit-and-miss album. Its production is flawed, the vocals are less than impressive, the music sometimes lacks fluidity and cohesion, and, some other times, is a bit repetitive.

The highlight is certainly the opener, Kings and Queens, with a piano that is more rythmic than melodic, and transits between jazz and classical influences. Its three parts do not connect so well, though. The following track, Innocence, kind of picks up where the first one ended. Jane Relf surges on track 3, Island, the "hit" of the album, a soul with psychedelic flavour and a sing-along chorus that flows into a more distinctive progressive second section. Her voice adds to the haunting aspect of the album. Track 4, Wanderer, pretty much repeats the pattern of tracks 1 and 2. The closer, Bullet, is gloomier, more experimental and psychedelic, not quite prog. It sounds like the early songs of David Bowie (in Space Oddity or The Man Who Sold the World) with a touch of Interstellar Overdrive (or vice-versa). The wah-wah effect on the harmonica around the fourth minute is interesting but not particulary exciting. Around the eighth minute, though, another parallel comes to mind: it drags endlessly and pointlessly like Moonchild (fortunately, no for as much as long).

This album might be considered one of the first examples of progressive rock. It is contemporary to In The Court of the Crimson King, and, though obviously not as influential, it contains all the elements that make the prog sound. As such, it is also of historical importance. As far as the music is concerned, nevertheless, it is a good but flawed album.

bfmuller | 3/5 |


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