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3 stars Seaside laments, Middle Eastern tiger tales, a steely Russian story and assorted psychedelicacies. Not the beginning of Renaissance necessarily, but the beginning of the Annie Haslam era. Capitol simply took two of the band's early, out-of-print albums (Prologue, Ashes Are Burning) and released them together as In The Beginning. (A similar ploy combined The Nice's last two elpees as The Nice Featuring Keith Emerson.) This was my entrée into the musical world of Renaissance, though I've got miles of vinyl to go before I sleep, and I plan on spending plenty of time in their company. Like labelmates Flash, Renaissance's instrumental flights of fancy seem clumsy compared to the graceful soaring of Yes and Gentle Giant. But Renaissance has something those bands don't: Annie Haslam. The band basically has two modes of operation: keyboard-driven classical rock passages and folk/prog centered on Haslam's arresting voice (which is given much to say by lyricist Betty Thatcher). Like Grace Slick, Haslam has a voice that just commands attention; her performances on "Let It Grow" or "Sounds of the Sea" aren't easily forgotten. The keyboard sections from John Tout are also impressive at times ("Prologue," "Kiev"); if he'd taken up the mellotron on occasion, you'd have a female version of Barclay James Harvest on your hands. Renaissance is often called folk/prog (a label that would seem to be at odds with itself) because the male/female harmonies and acoustic guitars owe as much to The Mamas & The Papas as The Moody Blues. On their own, I'm not even sure songs like "On The Frontier," "Let It Grow" or "Carpet of the Sun" would make it out of the psychedelic '60s. Like Flash, however, you can make a meal from the tastier sections, and I wasn't looking for Renaissance to replace Yes, Crimson and the progressive masters, just supplement them. If The Mamas & The Papas met The Nice, they'd probably sound like this, and that may be all the introduction you need to get acquainted with Renaissance.
Report this review (#47584)
Posted Tuesday, September 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars Worthless for real fans, but could provide a good entryway to RENAISSANCE if available. These classic albums are near or full masterpieces of symphonic prog, beautifully fusing folk, soft rock, and classical. This compilation set truncates a few of the songs (for no apparent reasons). Stick to the originals, "Prologue" and "Ashes are Burning". The material here is VERY good, but much better on the original albums, due to length and sound quality.

I don't even know if this is still in print, I have it on LP though, sucky.

Report this review (#60849)
Posted Monday, December 19, 2005 | Review Permalink
Prog-Folk Team
3 stars Even if you are a vinyl fanatic, there is not much reason to actively seek this one out, unless you find the cover art to be agreeably sultry. It's basically the first two LPs by the Renaissance Mach 2, repackaged into a double LP. The sound quality is not great, and the song "At the Harbour" is relieved of both its approach and its departure, rendering it a simple folk song instead of the classical piece it should be. If you do come across it cheaply and have no prior Renaissance exposure, you could give it a whirl, and for that I give it 3 stars, but otherwise, you can get both on CD, or even just "Ashes are Burning" to start with.
Report this review (#162589)
Posted Sunday, February 24, 2008 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
2 stars I remember this one. It seems that when Renaissance went on to work with the Sire label, their former one, Capitol, decided to cash in releasing a double LP simply putting together their first two Annie Haslam-era Renaissance albums. Therefore, the title was very misleading. I thought at the time that it might be a collection of Renaissance MK I stuff (something rare and hard to get at the time - imagine my disappointment!).

However, it would be a great buy for the newbie if three of the songs included were not edited. I guess as they were they wouldn´t fit in the 80 minute single CD time. So the only reason to get this record is ruined by that small detail. Of course the records themselves are brilliant (the second, Ashes Are Burning is definitly a 5 star affair - a classic - and one of my all time favorite prog records). But you better get them separately anyway, for it´s better to have the full version of those 3 songs.

So be warned: this is not either the real thing nor it is a colection of Jane Relf-era tunes. It is not even a ´proper´ compilation. I can´t give it a one star rating because of the very high quality of the material involved, but unless you like the cover, no reason at all to buy this one.

Report this review (#479604)
Posted Saturday, July 9, 2011 | Review Permalink

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