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




Symphonic Prog

3.70 | 396 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars (Edited in 30th April, 2019: My original review from 2006 needed only slight editing.) In 1978 the downhill of prog had clearly begun. Renaissance made no exception in shifting towards more poppy songs. Despite being poppier and lighter compared to the previous album, and my favourite, Novella, I like also this one a lot. An earlier reviewer hits the nail by saying that David Henschel (who has produced Genesis) "encouraged the band to bring out some of their hidden energy, thus giving this often mellow band a much needed edge". While one can complain about some songs being simple and light, this album has a lovely, fresh and rich sound, and even at its most poppy it's still above the average mainstream pop. A good example is the famous hit 'Northern Lights' -- the only hit they ever had, in fact. It makes the listener shiver with joy. Annie Haslam's superb voice has never sounded better. But there are also many fantastic moments of pure symphonic prog. For example 'Opening Out', with a magnificent contrast between soaring orchestral passages and fragile, sensitive details, is one of the best album openers I know. And when Annie sings "to feel your touch" in the deeply romantic slow movement of 'Day of the Dreamer', it's pure bliss.

There's one song I don't like: 'She Is Love' sung by the bassist Jon Camp who isn't much of a singer. 'Kindness' that ends the happy & romantic first side with sadder emotions is gorgeous and works pretty fine with Camp's lead vocals and Annie's backing vocals. Rather repetitive 'Back Home Once Again' is another unfavourite of mine. The weak start of the second side is compensated by 'Northern Lights' and the majestically progressive title track with all the ingredients of a memorable Renaissance epic. All in all, A Song for All Seasons is a very pleasant, excellently produced 4-star album recommendable to friends of romantic, 'feminine' symphonic prog. Definitely among my favourite albums from 1978.

Spring 2019: Esoteric Recordings just released an expanded 3-disc box set of A Song for All Seasons. The first disc contains the remastered album plus the promotional single edit and "Top of the Pops" version of 'Northern Lights', and three songs of BBC radio One sessions from August 1978 (these have previously appeared on Renaissance's BBC compilation). Discs 2 and 3 contain a concert at the Tower Theater, Philadelphia, 4th December 1978. The 36-page booklet naturally features an interview-based liner notes, plus Tour Programme and press information from 1978, without forgetting song lyrics.

Much of the set's appeal lies on the Philadelphia gig. Four of its ten tracks haven't been released before. As a musical performance per se, it is understandably inferior compared to the classic Carnegie Hall live double album that was recorded with a symphony orchestra; the five-piece band does its best to imitate the orchestral nuances on their own. Haslam adds her vocalise whenever it helps, and John Tout is busy with his piano and synths. The sonic quality is quite good really. The set list has a strong emphasis on the material of Novella and A Song for All Seasons. Two of the older songs, 'Carpet of the Sun' and the perennial closing epic 'Ashes Are Burning', were in the Carnegie Hall set too. The latter is here stretched up to 27 minutes. This maginificent composition never fails to give me goosebumps, but occasionally the over-extended live performance feels slightly too wandering. 'Things I Don't Understand' (from Turn of the Cards) is a great choice amidst Novella / Seasons stuff.

The ER box set is a fine and luxurious example of the label's great work on the expanded re-releases, and this album truly deserved it.

Matti | 4/5 |


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