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PSIKE Team & Band Submissions
3 stars This was recorded and filmed in 2017 at Keswick Theatre, Philadelphia, finally put together to a DVD/2CD set. 'A Symphonic Journey' marks a highly professional performance by Annie Haslam & Co., which here also includes the Renaissance Chamber Orchestra. This will feature additional strings, woodwind, brass and percussion. A real advantage concering all the songs which already included orchestral instruments on the original studio recordings. Burden or benefit, as I'm in the position to compare? For some reason it's not exactly the same feeling anymore. Have seen the band live decades ago, reminding me of some really really special magic, with Annie visually and vocally appearing like an impressive angel.

Now, when speaking of the most successfull mid 1970s line up, also including Michael Dunford, Jon Camp, John Trout and Terrence Sullivan, she's the sole remaining member on the stage on this occasion. Her voice is still exceptional, not that crystal clear anymore, but who seriously should wonder or even complain about that? And it may not be a surprise, that the majority of the played songs originally has been recorded by those aforementioned band members. Ashes Are Burning and the orchestrated Mother Russia are still outstanding here. Very good performance, while considering that I do not have the DVD at hand. Not necessarily essential for me, for others though it may be so. 3.5 stars.

Report this review (#2046520)
Posted Sunday, October 21, 2018 | Review Permalink
3 stars The end of 2017 found the reconstituted Renaissance briefly touring with a chamber orchestra and the result is this double CD and DVD of the second ever concert of the two performing together. Annie Haslam's voice is starting to sound more strident than sweet these days, but rest assured that she can still sing in key and sustain those long notes. The band, who now seem to be ever changing aside from keyboard player Rave Tesar, were mostly accomplished aside from some brief timing issues. Tesar was the standout, as usual. Second keyboard player Geoffrey Langley played like measured clockwork until he was allowed to cut lose on synths on the concert's encore song. The rest of band played in workman like fashion except for guitarist Mark Lambert, who resurrected the electric guitar lead (originally played by the great Andy Powell from Wishbone Ash) at the close of "Ashes Are Burning". It should have been more interesting but something was amiss.

To break up the monotony, the band decided to do two odd ball songs, "Kalynda" from Azure D'or and "Island" from the first Renaissance album which featured Jane Relf instead of Annie. While these songs in themselves were not terrible, some of the other songs that the group decided to do, both with and without the orchestra, were not good choices. The now ever present "Prologue" and "Trip To The Fair", played without orchestra, came off poorly. "Prologue", accompanied by faux synth strings would have been better served had the actual orchestra provided real orchestral backing, while "Trip To The Fair" suffered the most from timing issues. Compounding this was the fact that Annie sounded a bit strained at times, like she was still trying to get warmed up. The songs that worked the best with the orchestra were "Carpet of The Sun", "Mother Russia" and "A Song For All Seasons", all of which were recorded with stunning orchestral arrangements on their respective studio albums. One song that was greatly enhanced by the addition of the orchestra was the haunting "At The Harbor" from the Ashes Are Burning album, as the studio cut features only Haslam's lone vocal, piano, acoustic guitar and some brief bass guitar notes. With the orchestra, the song was transformed from a dirge into an emotional lament. What did not work as well with the orchestra were "Grandine Il Vento" and " Symphony Of Light" from the last Renaissance studio album Symphony Of Light. However, these were the exceptions where Annie's voice rose to the occasion as she is quite proud of these two songs. I think the band and the orchestra would have been better served had they focused on songs that incorporated an orchestra in the studio releases like "Can You Here Me?" from Novella. Or a song which substituted the orchestra in place of the synths used for symphonic accompaniment like "The Flood At Lyon" from Azure D'or. The latter would have been especially welcomed and note worthy.

In the liner notes, Annie states that it was her dream to perform again with an orchestra and the occasion filled her with joy. I'm happy for her but now it's time for her and the band to give joy to their long time fans with a new album of studio material. There are enough talented musicians still in the Renaissance fold after the death of songwriter Michael Dunford a few years back. The band just needs to believe that they can make new music without him. 3 stars for A Symphonic Journey.

Report this review (#2079423)
Posted Thursday, November 29, 2018 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
3 stars A fair trip

A Symphonic Journey is a brand new live release, celebrating nearly five decades of Renaissance's music. A DVD video of the performance is included, but I am only familiar with the audio content. The band is performing together with a 10-piece chamber orchestra on this occasion, in contrast to the more intimate band setting evidenced on the band's previous live release Live At Union Chapel. Personally, I prefer Live At Union Chapel, and think that the orchestra adds little of value to the proceedings - but it is a matter of taste.

As is to be expected, there is some overlap between these two releases with about half of the songs being present on both. But there are also some surprises to be found here. One of these is Island, the oldest inclusion, originally from the band's self-titled 1969 album. I could be wrong, but I believe this is the first time Annie Haslam has sung a song from the Jane Relf-era. Another surprise inclusion is Kalynda from 1979's Azure d'Or. With the exception of Illusion and Novella all of the band's 70's albums are represented in the set list.

Highlights for me include A Song For All Seasons, Trip To The Fair, and Symphony Of Light. From a vocal perspective, the latter is especially great - as it was also on Live At Union Chapel. The closer Ashes Are Burning re-introduces the electric guitar solo from the original album version.

Overall, A Symphonic Journey is a nice release, and a good addition to Renaissance's live catalogue.

Report this review (#2112791)
Posted Monday, December 31, 2018 | Review Permalink

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