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Renaissance - Turn Of The Cards CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.08 | 569 ratings

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RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
4 stars Renaissance are one of those bands usually liked by women - unlike the more complex, convoluted, brainy King Crimson, VDGG or Gentle Giant. However, though I cannot deny being a woman , my tastes actually run more towards these latter bands than the mellow, laid-back, unabashedly romantic Renaissance. Talk about being unconventional... That said, I cannot deny that Renaissance are the perfect listen for those times in which something more intellectually engaging would just not be the thing - not exactly easy listening, but certainly relaxing, almost soothing to senses which are sometimes overexposed to intricate, demanding musical feats.

Like most women, I like listening to female vocalists, though in this case too my tastes run to the unconventional: as a rule, I prefer singers with powerful, low-pitched, almost masculine voices to angelic sopranos. However, there are notable exceptions to this rule, one of them being the crystal-clear, pitch-perfect voice of the inimitable Annie Haslam. Her spectacular vocals add interest and beauty to Renaissance's sweeping, romantic soundscapes, and "Turn of the Cards" features some of her best-ever performances, by turns commanding and soothing, never descending into the cheesiness of the band's later output. The band's musicians are no slouches either (though hardly anyone seems to remember them when it comes to those endlessly boring "best X" polls), with a particular mention for keyboardist John Tout, whose piano parts perfectly complement Annie's singing.

All the tracks are very strong, though ballad "I Think of You" is my least favourite song on this album - unconventional as I am, I don't really go much for traditional, romantic love songs, especially those interpreted by a female vocalist. On the other hand, the majestic, dramatic "Black Flame", masterfully sung by Annie, is to these ears the record's standout track, together with the almost operatic album closer "Mother Russia", a 9-minute-plus epic with great performances by all band members. Other personal favourites are "Running Hard" and "Things I Don't Understand", both over 9 minutes long, both fine examples of symphonic prog at its best - though considerably easier on the ear than most compositions of such greats of the genre as Yes or ELP.

All in all, "Turn of the Cards" is an excellent addition to any self-respecting progger's collection - though not a masterpiece, without any doubt a more than pleasant listen for those moments when you really couldn't take on Magma or Mahavishnu Orchestra. Definitely recommended, unless you need your music to thoroughly engage your brain in each and every occasion.

Raff | 4/5 |


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