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Renaissance - Live at the Royal Albert Hall with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Part 1 CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.81 | 59 ratings

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Honorary Collaborator
3 stars The material on this album was recorded at The Royal Albert Hall, London, for later transmission in USA on the weekly King Biscuit Flower Hour radio show. The concert was the last of three performed in October 1977 with famous Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Harry Rabinowitz. Twenty years later this album was put together, remixed from the original 24-track master tapes by Michael Dunford. There are two volumes deriving from this concert, but the bulk - and best - of it is on this first volume.

Comparisons with the earlier classic Carnegie Hall set are inevitable as four of the five tracks are common to both, but performance issues are outweighed by concerns of a more technical nature. On the positive side, it has to be said the orchestra has been recorded brilliantly, each instrument sounding clear and vibrant, the texture of the cellos especially well presented. Overall the sound is crisp, bright and detailed, presumably a result of digital mastering. But beneath the surface all is far from satisfactory: background hiss and general hum is apparent on the quietest passages, but they pale into insignificance compared to a continuous buzz emanating from one or more equipment jacks or earth loops.

The problems are exacerbated by some indifferent mixing. For example, during Can You Understand the orchestra doesn't come in on its regular cue point but creeps up on you a few bars later, and Annie is faded up a couple of beats too late after a cue during Song Of Scheherazade. Perhaps in themselves not earth shattering [the tracks on Vol 2 are worse], but there are many such niggles that begin to add up after a while. The sound of Tout's piano is another major flaw - it sounds false, synthetic and, well, awful. Which is not good for such an important component of the band's sound.

Performances are, on the whole, very good. Certainly up to scratch with a few reservations. Opener Prologue is rather like those orchestral tribute albums, the entire track played as an 'overture' by the orchestra. While recognisable, it has been arranged, rearranged and twisted into an entirely new and exciting shape quite different from any other version. Can You Undestand, despite a spirited performance from the band, sadly sinks under a barrage of technical faults which conspire to mar what would have been an excellent rendition. Carpet Of The Sun is fine, though the dense string section seems to hold back the energy at times.

Can You Hear Me? begins with a slightly ponderous opening flourish with an overweight arrangement, but picks up nicely when Dunford's 12 string acoustic accompanies Annie into the first verse. At times the band sounds a little soft when they should be forceful, and the central instrumental section is spoiled by some off-key bass work. Later, the song builds to an excellent crescendo, but again there is the suggestion that the orchestra is dragging slightly.

Song Of Scheherazade is good but again not faultless. The opening orchestral introductory passages sound a little uncontrolled, as do Festival Preparations, and there seems to be a vicious mixing edit cutting the orchestra from the background of Love Theme. The final Scheherazade theme is fine but disappointingly Annie fails to build tension towards her final high climax. Add in the already mentioned problems and they all add up to a frustrating experience.

That really sums up this album. In general the band and orchestra play well, as you would expect from a bunch of talented professionals, but there are simply too many technical problems to ignore. The result is clearly no match for the Carnegie Hall set which must be first choice for anyone looking for a Renaissance live album, but can still be enjoyed if you can see past the buzz.

Joolz | 3/5 |


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