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3 stars This is a great compilation album from their early days with Sire records, probably their strongest period. It features some of their best music from Turn of the Cards, Scheherazade and Other Stories, and Live at Carnegie Hall. The only bad thing is that it is missing their best song of all, The Song of Scheherazade. They try to make up for this by putting in "The Young Prince and Princess", one of the movements of said track, but it hardly makes up for its absence.

There are also no albums from before they signed with Sire, but they make up for this by including the live versions of the songs from Prologue and Ashes are Burning. Unfortunately there are also no songs from the first two Renaissance albums.

Still, this is a good album to start with if you just want to hear what Renaissance is all about, and how they sounded during their best period. It's also easy to find, which is helpful because most Renaissance albums are not. Pick it up to test the waters, but, if you're already a fan, you're better off tracking down the albums themselves.

Report this review (#20126)
Posted Wednesday, December 22, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars In 1990, Renaissance's 1970s albums were not available on CD so this compilation was a godsend for those of us who wished to upgrade, the first volume of a pair covering the band's career from the dawn of the classic 'Annie Haslam' era to its end in 1980. Volume 1 covers material originating on Prologue [1], Ashes Are Burning [2], Turn Of The Cards [4] and Scheherazade And Other Stories [3˝] though the Prologue and Ashes Are Burning songs are taken from the Live At Carnegie Hall album, presumably due to licensing issues.

As compilations go it is a fair stab and reasonably representative. The song Ashes Are Burning is sorely missed [included on Volume 2 due to lack of space] but otherwise its parent album is adequately represented by excellent live versions of Can You Understand and concert favourite Carpet Of The Sun. Prologue is under-represented, only a live version of its title track is used - Kiev and/or Rajah Khan should also have been included but no live version would have been available to the compiler. The standout tracks from Turn Of The Cards are here - Mother Russia and Running Hard - as are all three 'short' songs from Scheherazade And Other Stories. The real issue is why the extraordinary Song Of Scheherazade was cut to an unsatisfactory four minute excerpt instead of omitting three marginal inclusions [I Think Of You, Black Flame and The Vultures Fly High], a change that would have made this a much more attractive proposition.

Fans will always take issue with track lists of compilations as some favourite or other is left out, but in reality most of the essential songs are present here or on Volume 2. Thanks to the internet, CD editions of the source albums are now more readily available, thus reducing the desirability of this set. However, it still appears in the record racks of major retailers so for anyone curious about Renaissance's detailed orchestrations and melodic Prog songs, and would like an overview of some of their best work, this would be an excellent place to start.

Report this review (#97759)
Posted Thursday, November 9, 2006 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
2 stars In the early 90´s it was not easy to find Renaissance´s discography on CD, so a friend bough this compliation (along with volume II). I remember I did not have enough money to do the same, borrow them and recorded those on tape. For years this was the only way to hear those classics with a better sound than my quite wore out vinyl copies could provide. But are they still worth now?

Well, the song selection is quite good, but due to some contractual issues at the time, it seems that only the Sire original releases could be used. So, it meant that some of their most well known songs were only available for this CD in the form of live recordings (taken from 1975´s Live At The Carnegie Hall). although I like that double album, those tracks are not up to their studio recordings, specially Prologue. Well, I guesss that was the best they could do then. There are some great stuff, but Scheherazade´s suite is only represented here with a small piece.

Renaissance is one of those bands that are much better appreciated when you hear the whole album (at least their classic foursome: Prologue, Ashes Are Burning, Turn Of Cards and Scheherazade). With the new remastered CDs available, this two volumes look a bit odd. If they had the studio versions of the aforementioned songs I´d recommend to a newbie who wanted to know this great group without having to buy all their albums. The way it is, it is still good, but missing something. You better get their original works anyway, even if you´re new to Renaissance. They´re worth it. 2,5 stars.

Report this review (#146572)
Posted Tuesday, October 23, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Great compilation from the albums "Turn Of The Cards", "Scheherazade" and "Live At Carnegie Hall". I'd always found the aforementioned albums uneven, but certainly the best tracks have been pulled from them and inserted within the contents of this compilation(with the exception of "I Think Of You", which is a sappy love ballad that belongs on Heart's "Dreamboat Annie", not a respectable Renaissance prog.rock compilation). For that reason, it gets docked 1 star. Harumph!
Report this review (#153028)
Posted Wednesday, November 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
Prog-Folk Team
3 stars In general, including live material on a compilation is not a good idea, unless, as in the case of the title cut of "Ashes are Burning" by Renaissance, it is so extended and superior as to be a different song. Here on the first of two compilations released when most Renaissance albums had not yet seen CD release, the first 3 cuts are all from "Live at Carnegie Hall". Two of them, "Prologue" and "Carpet of the Sun", simply lack the sharpness of the studio versions. "Can You Understand" is a pretty good version, however. But there was simply too much outstanding material from both albums left out of the compilation, and too much from "Scheherazade" included. Luckily, the bulk of the groundbreaking "Turn of the Cards" is here, especially "Black Flame" and "Mother Russia". It's a decent compilation for those on a budget or who just want a taste, but ultimately you'll want to spring at least for the reissue of their second album, "Ashes are Burning".
Report this review (#162893)
Posted Thursday, February 28, 2008 | Review Permalink
Eclectic Prog Team
4 stars Here is a great starting point for people unfamiliar with Renaissance, although for fans, this will likely prove unnecessary. There is a fuse of jazz and classical elements, as the piano is by far the leading instrument throughout- yet it is Annie Haslam's far-reaching voice that takes the spotlight. After a lengthy and stellar introduction to "Can You Understand," Haslam begins to sing one of the groups best songs. Her voice is exquisite throughout all of the music, and the players are incredible in their respective roles. Another favorite of mine is "Carpet of the Sun," which sounds phenomenal, as Hasalm's voice just wavers and bends in ways I never thought possible. There is amazing piano and bass work throughout, and the drums a great job of complimenting the music in a tasteful. A few of the tracks are live, but most are studio. This is not a perfect compilation, of course, but it is rather close. The bottom line is this: For those unfamiliar with the musical group Renaissance or desiring to for once hear the amazing lead vocals, this is a fantastic starting point. Given the amount of music that is present, it is for sure a worthy initiation.
Report this review (#218605)
Posted Wednesday, May 27, 2009 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars it says a lot about the way record company executives thought about their once popular progressive rock acts that, as late as 1990, a group like Renaissance, who once filled major arenas around the world, had nothing available on compact disk. This, the first of two volumes, helped to fill that void.

I must say that Annie Haslam has one of the purest, and most beautiful voices in all of progressive rock. This collection underscores that position. From song to song, the clarity and power of her vocals is just wonderful.

The collection covers the early years of Renaissance's career. Since the first few albyums were released on Capitol Records, this set, on Sire, uses the live versions from "Live At Carnegie Hall" instead of the studio recordings. That's really the only flaw, as that album, at least the mix used here, was not all that well recorded.

Otherwise, the album shows the band at it's peak, and contains a good mix of their most popular as well as some of their best songs.

This, and volume 2 are a good starting point for a Renaissance exploration.

Report this review (#393571)
Posted Thursday, February 3, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars From 1990, this is Part 1 of a two volume package of Greatest Hits by Renaissance. And, a fine selection it is! Classics such as "Running Hard", "Can You Understand", "Black Flame", "Mother Russia", and "Ocean Gypsy" are here, some regular versions, some shortened, some even live. Not a bad tune in the bunch. It is hard to select greatest hits from a band with such a long career as Renaissance, but this, along with it's companion, which I actually like a little more, do a decent job. Can't complain much except for minor song nitpicking whcih I will not bother to do.
Report this review (#733614)
Posted Friday, April 20, 2012 | Review Permalink

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