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



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4 stars Each song is almost a symphony. The voice of Annie is both sweet and powerful, and the music with the arrangements for orchestra is to be heared like classical music. A lesson for the followers of "chill out". One step beyond -or more than one- the prog folk.
Report this review (#20133)
Posted Wednesday, July 21, 2004 | Review Permalink
2 stars I agree with Manuel Florenciano Jara's review for the work of Renaissance in general, but this album in particular shows nothing that you can not find better in the previous ones were the original recordings of the themes are presented or even previous live presentations with much more vibration on the interpretation. Its is ok but just collectors will want to have it instead of the classics.
Report this review (#20134)
Posted Wednesday, March 30, 2005 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Lovely biscuits

The "King biscuit flower hour" sponsored live concerts by many fine bands, most of whom put on excellent performances. Thankfully many of these were captured on tape at the time. It is however in only relatively recent times that the performances have been made available commercially.

This performance by Renaissance took place in the Royal Albert Hall in London, and dates from October 1977. It was never actually broadcast in full, and lay unreleased for many years. The album features a full rendition of the "Song of Scheherazade" suite, complete with accompaniment by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

"Prologue" is a great opener, which while effectively an instrumental, originally contained some superb vocals by Annie Haslam. Here it is performed by the orchestra alone as an overture, prior to the band taking the stage. The orchestration was done by Louis Clark, who had previously performed the same task for the Electric Light Orchestra (among others). The rendition is superb, vibrant and symphonic, giving the piece a whole new dimension.

The orchestrated versions of "Can you understand", "Carpet of the sun", and "Can you hear me" are all pretty faithful to the original renditions on "Ashes are burning" and "Novella", but they benefit from the orchestration, which fills the sound out superbly.

"Scheherazade" certainly benefits from the live performance with orchestra, the majesty and power of the track being brought out well. John Camp and John Tout both made their first compositional contributions to the band on this suite, but it's very much a band effort. The length of piece allow all the band members, including Annie Haslam whose five octave range is given a full work out, to spread themselves out a bit more. That said, in my opinion this is not one of Renaissance's masterpieces, being enjoyable but unexceptional.

In all, an excellent performance by both the band and the orchestra, a highly recommended purchase for those who enjoy the symphonic prog of Renaissance.

The recordings on this album only represent about half of the concert (it was far longer than a "Flower hour"). The remaining tracks are available on the "Part 2" release, and also on a budget album entitled "Mother Russia".

Report this review (#49641)
Posted Saturday, October 1, 2005 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#98209)
Posted Friday, November 10, 2006 | Review Permalink
2 stars I just listened to Parts 1 and 2 and I have to tell you there's something wrong with these recordings. They do not sound like they are mastered from the original tapes recorded during the concerts but from a recording of the BROADCASTS of these concerts. There is a constant buzz that goes on throughout the recordings. I'm not an engineer or a radio technician, but I've listened to enough radio to know interference when I hear it and this is something you don't get when recording direct.

The performances are of course stellar all around, but my gut tells me that King Biscuit were unable to come up with the actual tapes and just settled on an amatuer recording of the broadcast off a radio. Sounds like we're being duped a bit.

Still, if you're a die-hard fan, go for it but I'll pass. Nuff said, 2 stars for just the performances.

Report this review (#114007)
Posted Thursday, March 1, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is the first leg of a dual album. It should have been wise to combine them into a more affordable double album. Anyway.

This concert at the Royal Albert Hall is another occasion for the band to play lots of their great classic songs in combination with an orchestra. They already had done this experience a year earlier in New York (Carnegie Hall).

After the fully orchestrated and dull "Prologue", the band joins the orchestra for a more convincing "Can You Understand" one of their best song in their whole career.

This album seems a bit superfluous since four out of the five songs available were already released in their New York album.

On top of this, the interpretation is pretty much similar. But it is of course always a pleasure to listen to these marvelous symphonic pieces of music. Die-hard fans are probably interested in both recordings (as I am) but more casual ones, are probably more inclined to chose either one or the other.

Annie's voice always sounds as nice as ever and the orchestra has a good backing role throughout the different songs available on this first CD.

The most rewarding track is "Can You Hear Me" from their album "Novella" (just released a couple of weeks prior to this concert as Annie introduces it). Since the original already had the benefit of the addition of an orchestra, little difference can be noticed. A pretty faithful rendition of this great track.

The third highlight is of course the "Song Of Sheherazade". A brilliant composition and a fantastic live version. Probably superior to the Carnegie Hall one. But in the meantime (a year or so), the band has practiced and polished this excellent prog epic in front of an audience. Splendid.

I am still wondering why it took so long to release this work. It might have been wiser to have brought this to the public during the bright period of the band and not some twenty years after the representation.

Still, I rate this live work with four stars. Thanks to three long tracks.

Report this review (#167973)
Posted Friday, April 18, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Well it seems that Renaissance is considered some sort of second league prog from the 70's. They're the exquisite band with that lady with fine vocals and that developed an acoustic, classical-sounding prog music, well-constructed but far from spectacular.

Not in my ears. Not in my heart.

I admit that my first contact with Renaissance was marked by the impression mentioned above. Some years later and with more experience I listened to the band again and now everything worked just fine! The responsible for this radical change was John Tout's performance in "Can you understand" and his work together with Jon Camp's in "Kiev". Haslam's was an obvious "choice" for paying atention to Renaissance's sound but actually she came after these two wonderful musicians.

But after getting captured by their magical sound it was impossible to resist to them. Only "Ashes are burning" was available in the Brazilian market (third world sucks) but with web friends' help I was able to listen to the magical output that comes from "Prologue" to "A song for all seasons", and even their real "last" album "Azure D'or" has value for me (in its side one). After looking for them in the local version of eBay I'm now the happy owner of all their classic albums in their CD versions (nothing against peer to peer trade but I really love the sensation of owning the real thing - so 20th century I am...). And one of (really two) the crown gems are their King Biscuit shows.

Although I love "Novella" from its cover to its musical concept I can't stand to its "masterpiece", "Can you hear me". In good days I can even tap my fingers but usually I hate that vocal introduction and the endless repetition of the song title. But the rest of the album is superb and its tour should be just great. This RAH concert proves it.

I'm used to bootlegs so the technical problems of this album and its twin aren't anything to me. But there are two minor flaws on part one: the first is the orchestral version of Prologue that prives me from listening to Tout's piano; the second is Can you hear me. But these aren't reasons strong enough to diminish the power of Renaissance live with their classic line-up and an orchestra. So part 1 is a very good album, a solid 4 stars but not so good as part two. Obvious high points: Can you understand, Carpet of the sun and a whole lotta stronger than Carnegie's Song of Scheherazade. Carnegie Hall as a whole still beats this first chapter, although this album is a fine acquisition to anyone that loves real music, specially the one under the prog umbrella. Excellent addition to any music collection.

Report this review (#237846)
Posted Sunday, September 6, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is the original album which I bought and reviewed as Can You Hear Me one year ago.

An explanation is required, I guess. A Dutch label called Disky took this album and the part two album (which they re-released as Mother Russia), changed the songs around and re- released this mid-price album in a cheap packaging and bad sound. Fools like myself bought it. I have no regrets, actually, although what Disky did is nothing but a rip-off. But the original album Live at the Royal Albert Hall with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Part 1 (this album) is rather expensive and very difficult to get hold off.

Live at the Royal Albert Hall with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Part 1 is a lot better album than Disky's Can You Hear Me. The songs flows better into each other. The album starts with the orchestral piece Prologue. This is performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The band is then invited onto the stage by the conductor and goes straight into pretty studio-true versions of Can you understand, Carpet of the sun, Can you hear me and Song of Scheherazade. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra adds more depth to the songs, but also wipes out some of their lives. But on balance, the songs gets added value with the help of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. In particular Song of Scheherazade.

You know what you get with Renaissance. Lush symphonic prog somewhere between rock and classic music. I rate Renaissance very highly indeed. They are my kind of music.

So, what's my gripes with this album ? I think it is a rip-off when one concert is being released as two full price albums. This makes me angry because we, their fans, deserve a bit of respect from the record label and the band. So that's one star of the score. I am more fond of the songs on part 2 than this album. The songs are great, but not excellent. That's why I am only giving it three stars. Make that 3.5 stars.

3 stars

Report this review (#258795)
Posted Friday, January 1, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Beautifully crafted orhestra live performance

Renaissance has always been in my special attention especially when talking about classic progressive music as the band is quite legendary, as legendary as King Crimson, because the originally made their first debut the same year as In the Court of the Krimson King in 1969. I have to admit that I knew the band quite late, i.e. when they released "Scheherazade" album. I have reviewed most of their albums here and only recently I realized that I have this CD but got no chance yet to write something about it here.

Following the release of their next studio album, Novella in 1977, the band embarked on a brief three-city English tour with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Harry Rabinowitz. After performance in Birmingham and Manchester, the final show at London's prestigious Royal Albert Hall took place on October 14, 1977 and was recorded by the Island Mobile studio for the King Biscuit Flower Hour.

As the basic music of Renaissance is basically orchestra in nature, I actually did not expect much on how different with the studio album. But as I played the album over and over I finally found some different subtleties of the music with this live orchestra. First of all, of course it sounds much grandiose than the studio; but not only that. There are may segments with nice string section.

This record starts with a an excellent instrumental "Prologue" (8:14) by The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The opening orchestra really sets the overall tones of the whole concert. Right after the long instrumental, a gentleman narrated to welcome Renaissance to play "Can you understand" (11:17) from Ashes are Burning album followed nicely with "Carpet of the sun" (3:48) from the same album. "Can you understand" demonstrated a great opening through the sounds of piano followed with floating music in medium tempo, augmented by tight and dynamic bass lines. The music flow sounds really natural and it brings you to the end of the song without getting noticed about it since the arrangements are good. During the vocal line, the main rhythm is an acoustic guitar. It's really nice, especially when Annie Haslam delivers her excellent voice.

Only then Annie Haslam introduced the song from the next album Novella " Can you hear me" (13:58). "Can you hear me?" was written by Jon Camp, Michael Dunford and Thatcher. It starts bombastically with an beautiful orchestra which remarks the grandiose side of this song. As far as taste concern, this is one of may favorite tracks by Renaissance for couple of reasons. First, I like the structure of the song where I can see some changes, even though not dramatic, in moods and styles to accentuate the story behind the lyrics. Second, I like its melody which flows beautifully from start to end. Third, I like Annie Haslam voice which turns very high (register notes) at interlude section when the music turns slow. Fourth, the music is very suitable for contemplation in search of God - the Almighty, the merciful. "Fly like a song, fly while you're singing. A song without you, is a bird without winging. Some city flights leave in the morning. Some city nights end without warning. Can you hear me call?". What a great lyrical chorus line.

The record was concluded with the epic "Song of Scheherazade": (25:17) which comprises 9 chapters. You may find this live version is a bit shorter than those live at Charnegie Hall, but it still a great epic to perform live.

Overall, this is an excellent live performance of great legendary band Renaissance> You must have this collection to complete all albums of Renaissance. It's really worth it. The only annoying thing is the technical glitches / storing that appears throughout the record. Keep on proggin' ..!!!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Report this review (#289983)
Posted Monday, July 12, 2010 | Review Permalink
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
5 stars After having rated the "Live at Carnegie Hall" with five stars, and having said that it's in my top 5 albums, how could I rate less this one?

Respect to the Carnegie Hall, this has "Can You Hear Me" from Novella, but I wouldn't call it a masterpiece if it was alone.

The fact is that taken alone it doesn't contain a masterpiece like Ashes are Burning, but this is only the Part 1 of the concert. Open you pocket and buy the Part 2, too. The two albums together are the best possible compilation of the renaissance's golden age.

This one is opened by an orchestral version of "Prologue". Interesting but non-essential, it seems to have been arranged to demonstrate that the Renaissance's songs can work well even in a classic-symphonic environment. It's followed by "Can You Understand?" that's one of my favorite songs. I remember to have heard the intro used as base by a rapper: a crime! Somebody should forbid things like this.

"Can You Hear Me?" Is presented in a version that could be better than the studio one on Novella if it wasn't for Dunford's guitar that's a little untuned repsect to the orchestra. It doesn't sound too bad, I think it gives the idea of a live, a little imperfection that adds a touch of reality.

The album is closed by the absolute masterpiece "Song of Sheherazade". There's not the long spoken intro of Carnegie Hall. The production seems a little better than on Carnegie Hall and the execution is excellent the same.

As I said, taken alone it's a 4.5 stars but if you make the pair with Part 2 you0ll have one of the best symphonic live albums ever released, one on which the orchestra is an integrated component of the band, not just something added to the arrangement as others like Caravan or Deep Purple were doing at the same time.

This album is the first half of a masterpiece.

Report this review (#518437)
Posted Friday, September 9, 2011 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars I remember those old days. A bunch of friends gathered in a smoke filled room, listening to a fantastic band on The King Biscuit Flower Hour. Often, one of us would be taping the radio broadcast, so we could all listen to it over and over. And the artists that they featured.... King Crimson, ELP, Yes, Gentle Giant, even Frank Zappa.

This CD features the first half of the better of the two Renaissance concerts I heard on The Biscuit back then (the other was from the "Song For All Seasons" tour). The concert featured a full orchestra, and unlike many orchestrated concerts back then, the arrangements actually enhanced the music.

Prologue, featuring only the orchestra, and serving as a prelude to Renaissance's appearance is the only dip in the show. The orchestration is good, but we want to hear the prog band.

The rest of the album is superb. Renaissance was known for stretching out the live versions of the songs with fine keyboard and bass work, and this recording is indicative of that. the orchestra and taping for the broadcast limited the group a bit, but it seems to make the songs more concise. And this was a very spirited performance, a very good document of the band at it's peak.

Report this review (#747389)
Posted Tuesday, May 1, 2012 | Review Permalink

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