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Renaissance - Live at the Royal Albert Hall with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Part 2 CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.68 | 52 ratings

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2 stars This is the second of a pair of volumes principally derived from a concert performed in October 1977 at the Royal Albert Hall, London, with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Essentially, observations about technical quality apply to both volumes: the recordings are crisp and dynamic, and the orchestra is exceptionally detailed, but they are plagued by a persistant buzz throughout as well as some inevitable hiss and hum, despite being mixed and remastered in 1997. Additionally, John Tout's piano sounds awful, and the mix, at least as regards balance between orchestra and band, is at best variable.

While Volume 2 will prove to be a less satisfactory proposition than its twin, opening track Running Hard is a very fair start though marred by an orchestra that is inaudible for a large part of the time and at others is too recessed. That apart, though, the band perform very well, almost too faithfully to the original studio version. Aside from the technical issues, this track compares well with the standard-setting Carnegie Hall set. Midas Man is played without orchestra, Dunford's 12-string acoustic providing the main motive force backed by a variety of synths. It works well and the layered harmonies are spot on.

Mother Russia begins well, and is another good performance spoiled by an odd disappearance of the orchestra which resurfaces later on. Touching Once is even more bizarre. Even when the orchestra makes a late appearance it can barely be heard until the instrumental interlude when things get a little chaotic during the section with a sax solo. Control is just about maintained but it is a close run thing! It ends on a rousing climax though. Ashes Are Burning closes the main set with a lengthy 27 minute version, ten minutes of which contains mostly unnecessary and tedious unaccompanied solo spots, the sort of over-indulgent nonsense that everybody did in those days. The remainder sounds OK though, especially rocking out in an extended coda with Annie's vocalese.

This volume is augmented by a couple of tracks from other sources to flesh out the running time. The first additional track presents a problem. It should be a version of Prologue recorded in July 1979 without an orchestra, but some early copies were pressed with live rendition of A Song For All Seasons instead before the fault was rectified. Inevitably, my copy has A Song For All Seasons: it's live, it is sonically quite different to the other tracks but source is unknown, it has probably been severely overdubbed. It is OK without being special. Final track - You - is a previously unreleased studio recording from approx 1981. Again, it is OK, but marred by an overuse of synths.

Overall this volume doesn't gel quite as well as Volume 1, due partly to the ten minutes of solo tedium that should have been left on the cutting room floor, and having two alien tracks tagged on at the end as make-weights. Otherwise it is a set of good to excellent performances spoiled by those persistant technical problems. If you can only get one, then get the first volume. Better still, get the 2CD Carnegie Hall set.

Joolz | 2/5 |


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