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SCHEHERAZADE AND OTHER STORIES

Renaissance

Symphonic Prog


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Renaissance Scheherazade And Other Stories album cover
4.31 | 798 ratings | 74 reviews | 52% 5 stars

Essential: a masterpiece of
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Studio Album, released in 1975

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Trip To The Fair (10:48)
2. The Vultures Fly High (3:07)
3. Ocean Gypsy (7:05)
4. Song Of Scheherazade: (24:52)
- a) Fanfare (2:37)
- b) The Betrayal (4:55)
- c) The Sultan (2:46)
- d) Love Theme (2:29)
- e) The Young Prince And Princess As Told By Scheherazade (4:04)
- f) Festival Preparations (1:07)
- g) Fugue For The Sultan (2:12)
- h) The Festival (2:12)
- i) Finale (2:30)

Total Time: 45:52

Lyrics

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Music tabs (tablatures)

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Line-up / Musicians

- John Tout / keyboards, vocals
- Annie Haslam / lead vocals
- Jon Camp / bass, bass pedals, vocals
- Terrence Sullivan / drums, percussion, vocals
- Michael Dunford / acoustic guitars, vocals

Releases information

LP Sire SASD-7510 (1975) UK
CD: HTD Records CD 59 (UK 1996)
CD: Repertoire Records REP 4490-WY (Ger 1994)

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RENAISSANCE Scheherazade And Other Stories ratings distribution


4.31
(798 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(52%)
52%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(35%)
35%
Good, but non-essential (10%)
10%
Collectors/fans only (3%)
3%
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)
1%

RENAISSANCE Scheherazade And Other Stories reviews


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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Marcelo
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars An incredible album from an incredible band. Beautiful "unplugged" music. When the piano are introducing you to the first song, "Trip To The Fair", you can start to think that this can be a masterpiece. You'll confirm this after the beautiful "Ocean Gipsy" and, specially, when the suite "Song Of Scheherazade" plays. This 24 minutes epic piece is one of the most impressive suite in the whole progressive genre and, maybe, the most refined. Highly recommended masterpiece!

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Send comments to Marcelo (BETA) | Report this review (#20030) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, December 28, 2003

Review by Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Folk
2 stars 2.5 stars really!! 1001 uneventful nights

Another classic(al) Renaissance album from the classic(al) line-up, and again with relatively nothing new and absolutely no surprises, since the fans already knew the sidelong title track as it was previewed in concert and on the double live At Carnegie Hall album that came out just before this one. Graced with medieval miniature illustration gracing its cover, the back of album carries the story of the 1001 Nights myth and its "terrible" end. How pedantic.

The opening title track is another of these literary classic being put to music and as usual (not just for Renaissance) this is a failure but not quite to Wakeman standards he got us used to. Aside the soporific (and downright cheesy) title track with again plenty of Russian composer influences and orchestral arrangements, the album's flipside is not much of an alarm clock either, but two tracks manage to pull us out of our slumber. Indeed Trip to the Fair (no doubt inspired of the folk pieces) is a charming reinterpretation with its solemn classical adaptation/enhancement treatment. Limit cheesy and overstaying its welcome, even though if it ran throughout the whole album, it would better it. .Ocean Gypsy is another correct track, but it is really hard to find anything exciting, but a cheese fondue big enough for a battalion. It (and other tracks) seems made for escapist people looking to live out virtually their pastoral fantasies while masturbating mentally over Annie.

This is the album "going too far" - as did Yes with Tales, ELP with BSS and JT with Passion Play- the one where they go a tad too far, their formula became completely stale, their quickly melting inspiration and come out either as ridiculous, boring or/and pretentious. This album is barely saved by the bell (unfortunately not by the Gong ;o)), a thing we can't say for the next one. IMHO, best avoided, but as you will read below, I'm definitely in a minority.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#20033) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, February 26, 2004

Review by loserboy
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Without a question "Scheherazade" would be one of my personal favourites of all time from RENAISSANCE. On this release RENAISSANCE wrote 4 incredible songs with their landmark side long 24 min epic "Scheherazade", "Ocean Gypsy" , "Trip To The Fair" and one of my fav of all time "The Vultures Fly High". Musically they were at the height of their mastery with flowing musical themes, Haslam's angelic voice and instrumental creativity. Overall "Scheherazade" is a beautiful album filled with lots of classical piano and vocals and of course instrumental imagination. An essential listen...!

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Send comments to loserboy (BETA) | Report this review (#20034) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, March 20, 2004

Review by lor68
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Great stuff!! I prefer "Turn of the Cards", anyway above all the final suite, inspired by "Tales 1001 Nights" (Arabian Nights), is special as a memorable adaptation from Rimsky/Korsakov's "Scheherazade".

Highly recommended, above all talking about "Trip to the Fair" and the last suite...instead the average concerning the other pop hits is 3-3.5 points!

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Send comments to lor68 (BETA) | Report this review (#20018) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, April 03, 2004

Review by greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars MASTER ALBUM... The baroque style at its best! Classical arrangements in the RENAISSANCE work is really interesting.

The band style is quite made for that! "Song of Scheherazade" song (around 20 minutes) is probably the best prog classical song never recorded! Here, the classical orchestration doesn't act in the background, as it is often the case: it really participates and it is the principal agent of this perfect song. Annie Haslam's voice is perfect for this romantic theme. Her voice is high class in a high class ensemble. The piano parts are absolutely unbelievable: you hear that and really stargaze!! It is the same case for wind instruments bits. Everything is accompanied with tender percussion (xylophones and smnall bells i think)which give a magical touch to the whole. The eponym song is rythm changing and extremely prog classical. The other side of the album is made of excellent songs having more the Renaissance traditional style. Here again, the piano, keyboards, percussions, female lead voice, guitars and bass are really well played and clearly justify the romantic style of the album. The song "Trip To The Fair" gives you the feeling that you are a kid riding a horse on an enchanted merry-go-round!! "Ocean Gypsy" has some orchestral arrangements but the band took more the main place: it gives a really impressive prog song with a piano and arrangements very well played. The melody is always present!!

EXTREMELY RECOMMENDED!!

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Send comments to greenback (BETA) | Report this review (#20019) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Review by Ivan_Melgar_M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Symphonic Prog Specialist
5 stars When somebody asks me about symphonic prog' I always think of Renaissance and specially of this amazing release, the arrangements, chorus and Annie Hasslam's operatic voice are unique in the musical world and represent by own right what the word symphonic should mean.

Renaissance is a piano and vocals dominated band with elaborated arrangements but sometimes a bit light compared to most of the prog' bands from the 70's, not weak but softer and warmer. Using a comparison with sports, if Genesis and ELP are heavyweights that can kill the opponent with the first chord, Renaissance is like a middleweight, who also needs style and elegance to win the fight.

"Song of Sheherezade" a 24 minutes epic based on the 1001 Nights, it's so impressive that people use to forget the rest of the album, something unfair because this release is well balanced and all the tracks have their own merits.

The album begins with a strange song called "Trip to the Fair" that starts with an impressive 3 minutes piano intro with chorus and light percussion that mixes with talent elements of different musical eras, which is suddenly followed by the wonderful voice of Annie. Maybe the problem with this song is that after the strong opening you expect something more powerful, but the band changes the direction of the song towards a softer and dreamy tune with some jazz chords that create a traveling fair atmosphere, but with the sacrifice of the power that the introduction make the listener expect, a good song but a bit uneven.

The second track ("The Vultures Fly High") has a better balance, starts strong and ends stronger, less symphonic and more rock oriented than the rest of the album but powerful and fast, the band members show they are capable of making good short songs.

Side A (in LP format) ends with "Ocean Gypsy" a softer song where again Annie's vocals are the highlight, with evident participation of the rest of the members, this song is more predictable than all the other tracks but stronger than the previous because makes clear that Renaissance is a complete band, not only a piano and vocals duet.

Side B is what makes Renaissance a transcendental band, "Song of Sheherezade", without doubt their most elaborate work, an epic that has everything, solid piano, good orchestra and chorus plus excellent work of all the band, the Arabic atmosphere is perfect and the vocals not exclusively by Annie Hasslam are amazing, if you add the spectacular changes and sudden musical explosions you get an unforgettable masterpiece that must be listened before reading any review.

No progressive collection is complete without this album and "Live in the Carnegie Hall" where you can listen a more solid version of "Song of Sheherezade" (if this is possible).

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Send comments to Ivan_Melgar_M (BETA) | Report this review (#20032) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, April 30, 2004

Review by Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars 1975 was that magical year where we had some excellent albums from a number of great bands.Sheherazade is no exception either, far better IMHO than Turn of the Cards. Side one is made up of 3 wonderful songs ' A trip to the fair'' The vultures fly high' and the eloquent ' Ocean Gypsy'. All three tracks of a very high calibre. Side two is the Sheherazade suite which must rank up there with the best compositions ever written by the band. Tragic story too. I would say this album is a must for anybody wanting more of the Renaissance catalogue.Four and a half stars.

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Send comments to Chris S (BETA) | Report this review (#20035) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, September 06, 2004

Review by Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Elegant, brightly colourful, majestic: "Scheherazade and Other Stories" is Renaissance's top studio achievement, a gem created by the fusion of the light of art folk-rock and the solidness of symphonic prog. The style of the compositions is pretty much alike the one they have been conveying and developing from the "Prologue" album onwards, but you can tell that they have taken their musical voice to another level, a higher one, where the gigantic splendour of Tout's keyboard parts (and occasionally, the orchestra as well) is fluidly combined with the emotional candor portrayed by Haslam's amazing singing and Danford's acoustic guitar: meanwhile, the rhythm duo of Camp and Sullivan manage to keep a subtle labour during the softer parts, and then expand their drive a bit further during the most pompous passages, never getting overtly energetic, just keeping the pace with the same precision and a little more energy. Some Camp's bass parts, specially in track 1 and the suite, are melodically driven in order to complement Tout's keyboards: Camp has always been a most effective lieutenant. Everything here is in its right place, yet this amalgam clearly has not been the product of mere rational calculation, but the result of a sparkling complementation between artistic craft and poetic creativity (in both lyrics and music). The opening 11- track 'Trip to the Fair' is an excellent example of all that I've been saying so far. Tout makes his grand piano shine like a grandiose bonfire, doing his Rachmaninov/Tchaikovsky inspired stuff, with a slight touch of jazz. The following number, 'The Vultures Fly High', is the shortest and poppiest one in the album: the poppiest one, but nos simplistic, since it includes some clever chord shifts on piano and reasonable complex vocal melodies. A pretty number indeed, but it mainly should be enjoyed as a brief, pleasant interlude between the magically captivating 'Trip to the Fair' and the evocative 'Ocean Gypsy'. This one is full of a serene melancholy that seems to flow from the heart of someone doomed to yearn for every place they leave behind in their endless travels along the world. On the other hand, had 'Vultures' been a bit longer and more developed, it could have been twice as interesting, I'm sure, since the main motifs are really attractive. But well, there's no time for complaining since what comes next is the best, IMHO. 'Song of Scheherazade' is the monumental 24+ minute suite that assumes the leading role in this album, and in many ways it is the pinnacle of Renaissance's entire musical career. More than ever Tout is the driving force that leads the creative power of Renaissance to go beyond their boundaries and succeed at generating great music. No doubt that the orchestral arrangements contributed by Tony Cox play the role of the perfect accomplice for the band's outstanding endeavors. Unlike Wakeman's "Journey" or Procol Harum's "Edmonton", things never get too pompous anywhere in the 'Scheherazade' suite - the sense of elegance and clean melodic sensitivity that had consistently characterized Renaissance's musical touch has been translated here into sheer exquisiteness all throughout its 9 sections. Overall mark: 4 ½ to 5 stars.

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Send comments to Cesar Inca (BETA) | Report this review (#20040) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Review by Eetu Pellonpää
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I found this album quite pleasant, but it needs a special state of mind to be enjoyed, as some elements of RENAISSANCE's style may be too sweet. "The Vultures Fly High" is a nice short song with good bass lines and dynamic rhythm driven with a piano. "Ocean Gypsy" is a very beautiful and slow song (could be a quite common description of this band's music), a bit sorrowful and touching, one of my favorites from them. "Song of Scheherazade" is then a longer epic, some kind of mini opera for folk rock instruments and orchestra. The story is the basic traditional Persian tale, and it fits nicely as a libretto. Overall, this album could be recommended for chill-outer after darker prog experiences.

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Send comments to Eetu Pellonpää (BETA) | Report this review (#20044) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, April 03, 2005

Review by Zitro
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars The most proggy album from the band in my opinion, containing two epics, one being about 25 minutes long.

Trip to the Fair is the strongest song on the album. It begins heavily dominated by piano that gives imagery of traveling (with a horse). After that section, the rest of the music is very melodic and beautiful with a few solos and instrumental sections put in. After a short pop song, Ocean Gypsy comes in and gives pleasure and plenty of beauty to the listener. The epic of the album "Song Of Scheherazade" is like Supper's Ready ... a huge song that summarizes the band with a collection of short tracks connected flawlessly.

Highlights : Trip of the Fair

Let Downs : None

My Grade : B

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Send comments to Zitro (BETA) | Report this review (#43470) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, August 19, 2005

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Scheherazade and Other Stories" was one of legendary albums that coloured my teen days and I remember that this was the first album that I knew about the band. At first listen I was not really attracted with the music as it was too light for my ears. Those days Iwas listening to heavier stuffs like YES' "Close To The Edge", "Relayer", "Tales From Topographic Ocean" or Genesis' "Foxtrot", "The Lamb Lies Down". But when I found the album title epic "Song of Scheherazade" with orchestra music, it changed me to listen the band some more.

The album kicks off beautifully with a nice and warm "Trip To The Fair" (10:48) that might give you a trip to happiness and peace of mind. The soprano vocal quality of Annie Haslam characterizes the style of this track as well as overall music style of Renaissance which some have called it as a folky art rock music. I don't blame them saying that as the other two tracks "The Vultures Fly High" (3:07) and "Ocean Gypsy" (7:05) as well as the opening track can be categorized that way. I have to add another quality : "melodic". Yes, almost all tracks featured here are melodic, accompanied with acoustic guitar, piano and orchestra. Wonderful composition.

Probably, the key track featured here is the epic "Song Of Scheherazade" (24:52) which comprises nine parts. This is a story-oriented music that represents the band's interpretation of Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherazade" which was composed with a full orchestra and string. From the intro "Fanfare" with a beautiful combination of brass / woodwind section, nice piano and orchestra in relatively complex arrangement the epic moves to a silent passage "The Betrayal" wonderfully. The segment has become very touchy when Jon Camp gives his vocals augmented by Annie Haslam and Terrence Sullivan. The epic has a powerful lyrics as it tells a story about how Scheherazade was fighting for her life whom she was sentenced to death toll by The Sultan. The Sultan had been killing many beautiful girls (his wives) every night after he found out his wife was unfaithful to him. To delay her death she told story to the Sultan every night for 1000 nights and she remained his wife for the rest of their days. What a heroic story. But most interestingly, every segment of the epic contains wonderfully crafted music. It's a masterpiece epic!

How should I qualify this album? Well, if I look only the epic track, it's definitely a true masterpiece - even the epic itself is worth for you to buy this CD. But, I think other tracks do not deserve masterpiece status even though all of them a good to excellent rating. To make it fair, I give it four stars: an excellent addition to any prog collection that I recommend you to purchase. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

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Send comments to Gatot (BETA) | Report this review (#44294) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, August 25, 2005

Review by Andrea Cortese
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars ".a trip to the fair.but nobody was there!."

Wrong!! There was me!, enjoying this delightful album from Renassaince!

I've never heard Renassaince before, but I hadn't to listen to Scheherazade many times.what a discovery!! The music is a dream! and is played very well from beginning to end with great orchestral structures, lots of remarkable intuitions and passionate classical arrangements! Above all.one of the most beautiful and pure female voices I've ever heard: Annie Haslam. Her marvellous voice...! Surprised when I discovered that the long title track (23.37 mns) starts with a male singer (good yet).fortunately she returns and the vocal duo is amazing!

I love, in particular, that witty piano in the opener track (A Trip To The Fair) as it weaves together with Annie's vocals.I've listened to this one over and over in the last 10 days!

The cover art is inspired by some Arabian scenes. I think there's a link with the story of Scherazade because of the killing of a woman in garden behind the Sultan's palace! Scheherazade is the heroine of The Thousand and One Nights, but here you won't hear to eastern sounds.here you attend to such a beautiful European translation.! Scheherazade, a woman of exceptional intelligence, wisdom and bravery saved not only her life by telling a series of spellbinding tales during the dark of Arabian nights, but the lives of the virgins of her country, and, in so doing, educated a King. He found that his wife had been unfaithful to him and, as punishment to this betrayal, had his wife and three thousand virgins (one each night) put to death. Against her father's protestations, Scheherazade volunteered to spend one night with the King. He listened with awe to the Scheherazade's first story and asked for another, but Scheherazade said there wasn't time because dawn was breaking. So the King kept Scheherazade alive as he eagerly anticipated each new story.after one thousand and one adventurous nights, the King had not only been entertained but wisely educated in morality and kindness by Scheherazade who became his Queen.

A must have in our own collection!

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Send comments to Andrea Cortese (BETA) | Report this review (#47602) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Review by Marc Baum
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars This is a sheer beautiful masterpiece of symphonic prog (at this point a banner in truth kind of word). Renaissance's sixth studio album "Scheherazade And Other Stories" is their most ambitious record to date (and complete discography) and they never could top it later. Another peak record, like ELP's "Brain Salad Surgery". You can compare ELP and RENAISSANCE when you look to the highly classical influeces, but RENAISSANCE never played it rough like ELP, they played it in a masterful folky symphonic style, very sophisticated and artistic, with beautiful piano parts, wonderful vocals by Annie Haslam and haunting choirs and a full orchestra (!) in some parts. There is not a single misplaced moment on here which would disturb me, and that means something, specially when you look at the length of the title track. My fave is the short, but highly intense "The Vultures Fly High", which got an extremely haunting refrain and would be a perfect hit on prog radio, even I love all the masterpieces on here and ranks up to one of my all-time favourite records EVER.

If you like acoustic prog with classic, but still in a rock guide-line, than this is as essential as it can ever get. A masterpiece in it's own right!

Renaissance - "Scheherazade And Other Stories" rating: 9.5/10 points = 96 % on MPV scale = 5/5 stars

point-system: 0 - 3 points = 1 star / 3.5 - 5.5 points = 2 stars / 6 - 7 points = 3 stars / 7.5 - 8.5 points = 4 stars / 9 - 10 points = 5 stars

Essential: a masterpiece of progressive music

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Send comments to Marc Baum (BETA) | Report this review (#47931) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, September 22, 2005

Review by Joolz
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Did You Know .....

..... Jon Camp of Renaissance was directly influenced by, and modelled his playing on, Chris Squire of Yes? And did you know that John Tout, Renaissance's virtuoso pianist, played on John Lennon's song Crippled Inside from his Imagine album?

The early 70s was an exciting time for music as bands explored a new album-centric world, free from the shackles of 3 minute pop singles and over-attentive record companies. I was there, avidly soaking up as much as I could of all the weird and wonderful sounds emanating from these Prog pioneers. In 1974 I was hooked by Renaissance's take on intricate arrangements and classical-like themes on the album 'Turn Of The Cards'. Then in 1975, a good year for Prog, they upped-the-ante with arguably their finest creation, the magnificent epic Song Of Scheherazade, ably supported by 3 shorter songs to become one of the crowning achievements of Prog's golden years. All members pulled together and performed at their best: Annie Haslam's 5 octave voice; John Tout's delectable piano; Michael Dunford's subtle but essential acoustic guitar; Jon Camp's melodic bass; and Terry Sullivan's understated bedrock drumming. This is the sound of a band at their peak.

Actually an original suite constructed around 3 songs, Song Of Scheherazade tells the familiar tale of a cuckolded Sultan of Baghdad taking and killing a virgin bride each day in revenge for his wife's actions. The beautiful Scheherazade bewitched him with exotic tales of eastern mysticism until he falls in love with her. Though it may give a cursory nod to classical composer Rimsky-Korsakov it is not based on his work, being entirely the invention of the band arising from Michael Dunford's fascination with the story. The tale is told by a series of musical interludes, each characterising an element of the story, cleverly conjuring an atmosphere of the Orient without quoting directly from it. The 3 songs are sung in the third person, ie as if by a narrator or story-teller, with Annie Haslam singing the verses about Scheherazade while Jon Camp sings of the Sultan.

Tony Cox has achieved an astonishingly seamless integration of band and orchestra such that all instruments sound natural together. His orchestrations make full use of the many contrasting voices of an orchestra: choir, woodwind, brass and percussion all take their turn in the spotlight alongside John Tout's exquisite piano and Annie's unique voice, adding their own special texture to an intricate and adventurous mix. Sometimes dark and foreboding, at others light and airy, yet the arrangements never become overpowering, fluidly moving from a majestic sweep of the violins to a delicate flute or maybe a strident brass. All play their part to perfection as the story unfolds.

An (imaginary) curtain opens as a brass fanfare [Fanfare] sets the scene before a minor chord progression introduces us to the wife and her lover having a secret tryst [The Betrayal]. Alas, they are soon discovered and 'all hell' breaks out: the king decrees that from now on he will each night take to bed a new bride before executing her at dawn [The Sultan]. Elegant bass and mournful choir figures develop into a beautiful lilting rhythm and instantly recognisable melody as Jon Camp sings of the Sultan's foul deeds. Anticipation builds towards the magnificent grandeur of the 'Scheherazade theme' as Annie tells us how "Scheherazade bewitched him / with songs of jewelled keys ..... a thousand and one nights she sang / to entertain her king" before a swooping bass leads to a soaring climax as "she sings, Scheherazade, Scheherazade ....". Sheer bliss. Love Theme is a gentle piano piece representing the flowering of love, both between the Sultan and Scheherazade, and also the subject of one of her tales which follows, The Young Prince And Princess (As Told By Scheherazade) sung by Annie in sultry mood.

It is daybreak and gradually the city awakens. But today will be different, because the Sultan has renounced his vow - Scheherazade will be his permanent Queen. The city excitedly prepares for a great feast of rejoicing [Festival Preparations] with much hustle and bustle, a busy scene represented by dexterous use of melody and counter-melody, as well as call-and-response vocals, which puts me in mind of a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta! When all is ready, we return to the Sultan [Fugue For The Sultan], introduced by a tender flute melody as he is ensnared by Scheherazade's beauty. So he begins to live again, freed from his mood of black despair, as a jaunty piano theme shows him rejoicing with peace and happiness, a theme developed further with the orchestra. The bass rumbles into action and so begins The Festival, a faster more energetic song which succeeds in building tension towards a climactic reprise of the majestic 'Scheherazade theme', with full orchestra and choir supporting Annie before a key change lifts it onto another plane. Annie hits one of her Really High notes to conclude before a short Finale brings the piece to rest as the curtain closes.

Trip To The Fair - the story goes that Annie went on a date with Roy Wood (The Move/ELO/Wizard). After a meal they decided to visit a local fair, but on arrival found it was closed. She told Betty Thatcher about it and Betty - Cornish poetess and Renaissance lyricist - wrote these lyrics, turning it into something of a nightmare as "wheels began turning I started to scream". Michael Dunford and John Tout skillfully wove an atmospheric musical picture, full of ghostly fairground rides and the sights and sounds of "voices of yesterday". Two things strike me: a pervading disharmonic tension as ethereal fairground noises swirl around us; and the jazzed-up instrumental central break with xylophone and piano alternating.

The Vultures Fly High originated as a lyric Betty Thatcher wrote for Wishbone Ash but was re-written because Annie felt it was "too dark"! Even so it is an unusually bleak and depressing subject, perversely sung in a snappy up-tempo 3-minute pop song Renaissance-style with a sparser arrangement! They still manage a little Prog twist in the middle with a key change and some lush synth-strings. But, who are The Vultures? Press? Government? Or simply people who always put you down, who make you feel small?

Ocean Gypsy is a stunningly beautiful slow ballad dripping with melancholy and oozing pathos, written by Thatcher after watching the sun-rise and moon-set at dawn over the sea from her home in Cornwall. She imagined them as lovers destined never to meet, hence the "ocean gypsy of the moon" who dies abandoned and alone as the "oceans weep for her". Another wonderful tune plucked out of the air by Michael Dunford, gently sung by Annie with sympathetic orchestral accompaniment swelling into an uplifting chorus.

In Conclusion I have known and loved this album, man and .... younger man (!) for over 30 years and it still sounds as good now as it did all those years ago. The Song Of Scheherazade is Renaissance's only foray into the true Prog epic and what an incredible achievement it was. To think they had reached this level of sophistication just 3 years after their first album together [this line-up] is astonishing. And, when you factor in that the whole album was recorded in less than a month [how long would it have taken today, I wonder?], it really does put it into perspective. I cannot find fault with anything here. It is a masterpiece of modern music and deserves to be in every music lover's collection.

1001 stars ....

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Send comments to Joolz (BETA) | Report this review (#79156) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Review by el böthy
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Renaissance showed potential with previous work's "Ashes are burning" and "Turn of a card" with their mix of symphonic prog, folk acoustic guitars and that great, great voice. If potential is what they showed, here they deliver it in a silver platter and the result could not be better. Without a doubt their best album, a serious contender for album of the year (but the honors would go to Pink Floyd once again) and definitely one of the highlights of its genre. Easily in the top 20 of symphonic prog if you ask me.

As is any great album the first track must be one of the very best of the list, if not the best, if this is not the case, if the first track is not good, then the album already has one foot in the grave. Fortunately this is clearly not the case here. A trip to the fair, with it´s dramatic piano intro sets the mood for the rest of the album, here you are no longer listening to a rock band any more, this is pretty much classical music made pop, and I tell you, the result. magnificent! Of course when Haslam starts her singing well. then you find yourself in prog heaven. The second song, The vultures fly high, is the shortest and also fastest of the album, This one is a more of a rocker than the rest, although remember that this is Renaissance, so don't expect it to rock too hard! It's still a great song with some of Haslam´s exquisite singing. Ocean gipsy follows but it's once again a longer track and softer too, almost a ballad. It´s, again, a very good song, but it´s the one I care the least from the whole album. And, we come to the final song. the epic. THE epic! Renaissance only, which might make it even more special, although it's that good that they could have done a thousand more and this would still shine just the same as it does being alone. I´m talking of course of Song of Scheherazade. A true orchestrated piece of music, this one has everything a hardcore symph fan can ask for. and then some! I won't even get into details, as I fear I would have to analyze every single second. it's really that good, just like the whole album is one of the best of it's genre, this song is also the case, but it might rank even higher!

A true classic of the ´70, a masterpiece. Renaissance would start to go down hill after this one, it seems they could not go any higher, and better that they did with this one. and it's ´cause, it's true, a band could not top themselves after this.

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Send comments to el böthy (BETA) | Report this review (#116525) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Scheherazade has a cunning plan

Renaissance delivered what was arguably their most ambitious, some might say pompous or pretentious album here. The set consists of just four pieces, of which the title suite is the main feature.

Side one has three tracks. The opening "Trip to the fair" is a dark tale of strange happenings at the fairground. Annie Haslam's performance here is not one of her best, but John Tout provides some fine keyboards, collecting his first writing credit for the group in the process. Ironically, the later version by Michael Dunford's Renaissance brings out the menacing nature of the song far more effectively.

"The vultures fly high" is the shortest track on the album, and is something of a throwaway piece of light rock. "Ocean Gypsy" completes the first side with what is for me the best track on the album. This delightful dreamy ballad has emotive lyrics and a supreme melody. Haslam has certainly regained her form for what stands as one of Renaissance finest pieces. Incidentally, Blackmore's Night also delivered an excellent interpretation of this song.

"Song of Scheherazade" which occupies the whole of side two, is of course a concept piece in nine sections. While it clearly among the most adventurous pieces of work they have produced, the sections come across as separate tracks at times, breaking the continuity and making the piece seem fragmented. The story is based around a Sultan who is so distraught at his wife's unfaithfulness that he takes a new virgin each night, then has her executed the next day. Scheherazade is the virgin who manages to survive intact through a cunning plan.

The piece, which is heavily orchestrated, is well composed and performed, but for me it lacks real substance. I do not wish to be over critical however, it is still undoubtedly a notable work in the Renaissance songbook. Perhaps though, their ambitions were just too great this time.

In all, a well performed album with much to commend it, but for me not the best by this band.

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Send comments to Easy Livin (BETA) | Report this review (#117957) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Review by tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover Team
5 stars This is a seminal album from a group of classically trained rock musicians that dared to plunge head first into pure originality (Renaissance remain until today a heavy influence on a myriad of prog bands). Fans of classical music will be equally enthralled by this superlative progressive statement, being such an elegantly refined opus, and featuring the purest cristaline voice (courtesy of Annie Haslam, the female voice of Prog ), elevated to dizzying heights by arrangements under the masterful leadership of the piano (no synths anywhere! How ballsy!). A floating soundscape stretching way beyond the often restrictive parameters of rock this is powerfully intense music that squeezes out the slightest droplets of liquid beauty emanating from its pastoral history-laden themes . The tracks flow ceremoniously like molten gold (Trip to the Fair" ) , the now-classic and religiously covered by other proggers "Ocean Gypsy" , culminating in the main Piece de Resistance: "Song from Scheherazade" , based on one of the characters of the novel "A Thousand and One Knights" (also the inspiration for Russian composer Rimski-Korsakov) . An astonishing suite that lustily scale the loftiest peaks in progressive rock , a delicate cascade driven by a natural symphonic orchestra (not always successful with Deep Purple, Procol Harum, Wakeman and the Moody Blues wimping it out) and a story to boot. Entertainment fused with Knowledge, sounds like good prog to me! This is a timeless virtuoso performance of true splendor , a unique archive and tutorial to the new fan entering the wondrous world of our beloved genre. 5 flying carpets

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Send comments to tszirmay (BETA) | Report this review (#119063) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, April 19, 2007

Review by b_olariu
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Without a question "Scheherazade" would be one of my personal favourites of all time from RENAISSANCE along with Songs for all seasons. John Tout is simply a master of keys.The first track is the best from here, John Tout shows that he is among the best keyboards players ever and among the most inventive one. Musically they were at the height of their mastery with flowing musical themes, Haslam's angelic voice and instrumental creativity. Overall "Scheherazade" is a beautiful album filled with lots of classical piano and vocals and of course instrumental imagination. This is a seminal album from a group of classically trained rock musicians, so i give 5 stars without hesitation, one of the masterpieces from the '70.

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Send comments to b_olariu (BETA) | Report this review (#123930) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Review by Tarcisio Moura
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars A very ambitious undertaken, no doubt about it. And quite successfull, most of the time. Side one of the orginal vynyl LP had 3 songs: Trip To The Fair is a jazzy number that shows how far this band has evolved since Prologue, with some great piano job by the very talented John Tout, and also a fine xylophone solo by drummer Terry Sullivan. Very haunting and interesting. Second tune, The Vultures Fly High is Renaissance´s most rocking moment of their entire career. I really think it´s a great song, and the ARP String Synthesiser solo in the middle is quite memorable. Ocean Gypsy is a classic track, a bit sad, but very well done.

Side two, the Scheherazade suite is many people´s fav Renaissance´s work. Well, to me it never really clicked that way. Too much orchestration, I guess, but that´s just a personal statement, a matter of taste, because the band quite succeeds on the overall concept. Some parts are really good, I must admit. I can hear it all without problem.

Conclusion: very fine album and one of their best. It sounds a little overblown on the second side, what makes this album less endearing to me than the previous two. Still, it is an excellent addition to any prog collection and a must have for any Renaissance´s fan. Solid four stars.

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Send comments to Tarcisio Moura (BETA) | Report this review (#130150) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Review by kenethlevine
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog-Folk Team
4 stars Renaissance was a bit late to the ambitious side long suite table, most contemporaries having tried this once or twice by the mid 70s. Those bands had a lot more complexity in their favour, so Renaissance opted for a slightly different approach. Rather than try to invent a new religion, they took a renowned fairy tale and set it to music, basing the lyrics on the story. More about that later.

Side 1 kicks of with the understated "Trip to the Fair", a rare track in which John Tout's piano totally steals the show from Annie's voice. Not that she fails, but just that his workouts are absolutely riveting. Even the lyrics impose, with their somewhat science fiction influenced story line about a trip to the fair that is more like a deserted city than a place to lose oneself in the crowd. "The Vultures Fly High" is a new style for Renaissance, albeit typically melodic, as it presents a rocking more cynical side, without a trace of the usual romance. It could be aimed at music critics who appear hell bent on destroying "serious" bands. "Ocean Gypsy" is the best known entry here. To compare it to the earlier "Sounds of the Sea" is to clearly see how much this band had matured in just 3 years. The chorus and instrumental break extend the "Mother Russia" ideas and would be revisited later, including on the "Scheherazade" suite.

The "song of Scheherazade" is really a collection of related songs and instrumentals that are sometimes spellbinding but also sometimes mundane and repetitive. The band's reach appears greater than its ability, but, having said that, the mere attempt may be enough to qualify this as compulsory for some prog fans. I nonetheless feel that the album is a minor slip up for Renaissance, and recommend the newcomer start with the two previous albums before entertaining thoughts of the Sultan and his storytelling muse.

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Send comments to kenethlevine (BETA) | Report this review (#162598) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, February 24, 2008

Review by russellk
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars One of the best sugar-sweet prog albums available, this may still be too saccharin for the modern taste, but was perfect for the '70s.

Had this album been released in 1971 or 1972, with its maturity and side-long suite, I have no doubt it would have received global critical acclaim. However, RENAISSANCE were years too late to the station, to find the train had moved on. Sad, because this album is uniformly excellent.

RENAISSANCE have carved out a niche in the prog world by fusing a strongly symphonic flavour - epitomised by the stellar talents of their pianist, JOHN TOUT, with soft-rock sensibilities expressed in the JUDITH DURHAM - or even KAREN CARPENTER - sounding voice of ANNIE HASLAM. This fusion of two kinds of beauty is sometimes too much to take, and I cannot listen to RENAISSANCE albums sequentially, and sometimes can't even make it through one, without needing an (usually metal) antidote.

Having said that, it's hard to remain unmoved by the beauty and drama with which RENAISSANCE package their simple songs. 'Ocean Gypsy' would in the CARPENTERS' hands be a three-minute pop song, but the intricate orchestration gives the (somewhat trite) sentiments room to breathe, and the song has a genuine build after four minutes. 'The Vultures Fly High' is wisely left unadorned, a short break between the two substantial songs of the first side of the album.

I've left out 'Trip to the Fair' because it's a strange beast. After a glorious introduction the main theme - that of a fair, naturally, jars with what has gone before. HASLAM slides many of her notes, which to me is like running her nails down a chalk board. Not a favourite, but I can understand why other reviewers enjoy this song.

The album follows a well-worn progressive template of having one side consisting of shorter songs, and another made up of one epic of many parts. The side-long title track is the highlight for me, a collection of disparate moments welded together by piano and mellotron, and the haunting chorus sung for all it's worth. The subject is somewhat gruesome, again at odds with the style - catch THE SEEKERS singing about the slaughter of virgins! - but after a listen to the splendid music it's hard to care. The aural equivalent of mouthwash after a heavy meal, RENAISSANCE are a band you play seldom but enjoy afresh each time, as they cleanse your musical palette.

I missed this album, and this group, in the 1970s. However, I'm enjoying them now.

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Send comments to russellk (BETA) | Report this review (#165522) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Review by ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars I am almost sorry (just kidding) to review this album. It is another one of those classic ones than fully deserves plenty of your attention. Such album that reminds my youth.

This work is full of fantastic prog / classical moments and some might call it superfluous / pompous. I just love it. The intro of the opening number is such a beauty. as the great vocal work of course. But this is just a constant from the band. To be able to rely on Annie is so easy.

Great melodies and sumptuous piano playing is such a pleasure to listen to. Every second of this great album is of course such a wonderful travel in time, such a great remembering. A song as "Trip To The Fair" is just a jewel. No other band could have released this one. Grandeur, classical approach, melody and more than all : superb, passionate (you know how keen I am on this topic.) Annie's vocals. A highlight of their whole work.

The band is even flirting with a more commercial sound with "The Vultures Fly High". But who could blame them? Such a great melody and upbeat approach is so appealing. Such a great introduction to the last song of the first side of this album which I really love.

I have been so in love with this album for over than thirty years and it is difficult to mention anything bad about it. "Ocean Gypsy" is such a pleasant and bombastic number. The band is again at its glory. No need to say that Annie adds so much feeling to the song.

Now comes the epic. On the original album, you could read the story of Sheherazade. I can tell you that it was quite a discovery for a sixteen years old boy. These thousands and one nights stories were quite amazing. Some might call it pompous, but my feeling has never changed since I first listened to this great song. A masterpiece of prog music? Yes, IMHHO it fully deserves this rating.

I won't describe each inch of this great song. It is full of sublime moments. Not boring for an instant. At least this is how I have felt for over thirty years. I don't know how I could have coped with these classical moments; but so it is.

Magnified music, perfect and powerful vocals, grandiose interpretation, great theme. Genuine prog music, my friends. No other words. I have never felt any weak parts in this great song. And believe me, I am rather an old folk to convince. But the complexity, the diversity, the sweetness of such a great epic is so simple to listen to.

Twenty five minutes of pleasure. What else do you need ?

This is a great album. Five star rating is not a common habit of mine. Five per cent of my reviews, maybe. But no doubt, this album is one of them. A gem. But lots of you have rated this great album as such. Do listen to this fantastic work. Their best album IMHHO.

Five stars of course.

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Send comments to ZowieZiggy (BETA) | Report this review (#165836) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, April 06, 2008

Review by Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars A gem of storytelling and classical music in prog rock

As much as I personally enjoy the first Renaissance line-up and their two albums there is no denying that the second line-up with Annie Haslam and company were the more successful to most fans. I'm not sure I agree with that but Scheherazade remains a beloved symphonic classic to many. It's very easy to understand why: gorgeous classical melodies, stunning arrangements, great instrumental performances, Annie's vocals, and a 24-minute epic of great ambition. The writer and guitarist Michael Dunford noted in 1997 that "Scheherazade meant something because it was one side of an album, like a suite and to be involved in something like that and recording it fully orchestrally with the LSO was wonderful, as was Carnegie Hall of course. To perform in such a glorious venue, with the New York Philharmonic, for 3 sold out nights was absolutely fantastic."

The album features Renaissance at their elegant and dramatic best. "Trip to the Fair" pulls you into the material with masterful storytelling and sound effects creating the imagery. The second and only short track "The Vultures Fly High" sounds like it was intended for radio but it is a swooping, dramatic piece of writing anyway. A brisk pace with crisp, distinct instrumentation and lovely vocals. "Ocean Gypsy" is a very slow and pretty track that is letter perfect in the aesthetic respect but is missing something, just haven't figured out what. No worry, the money shot here is the 9-part side long title track that is one of the finest examples of classical progressive. Sure it had been done before by this time but Renaissance really took it to their own level with a clarity and perfection deserving of the attention. It was the group's interpretation of Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade and features full orchestration and grandiosity on a scale few bands could have pulled off. The story is about a betrayed Sultan who exacts revenge by sacrificing a young woman every day until Scheherazade concocted a clever plan to derail the Sultan's horrible actions. This is definitely an album (and band) that will be too precious and delicate for some prog-heads who love heavy rock. However if you're into classical music, female fronted bands, or lighter symphonic groups with good piano, this is an album you'll need to check out. In many respects, this album owes a debt to "Days of Future Passed." Think about the sounds and arrangements-there are many similarities, though the Moodies were about 8 years ahead of Renaissance on the "breaking new ground" index. 7/10

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Posted Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Review by TGM: Orb
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Review 50, Scheherazade And Other Stories, Renaissance, 1974

StarStarStarStarStar StarStar

There are only rare occasions when an album captures my imagination on the very first listen then keeps it after weeks of listening. My first (and fairly recent) listen of Scheherazade And Other Stories was just such an occasion. The album is entirely enchanting, beautiful and dark, with a spacious depth that makes it consistently rewarding and enjoyable. Flawless musicianship throughout, a cohesive feel (probably created by the folk-based lyrics and dominant piano, even though they aren't that themed) and a great sense of individuality. Lastly, no opening paragraph would be worthy without a mention of the angelic voice of Annie Haslam. It's wonderful *heart *

The band's sound (at least on this album) should be noted. John Tout's keys are refreshingly piano-based, by which I'm not referring either to the Canterbury chordage parallel to a main theme or standard 'piano in a rock group' but lush full classical-styled piano pieces, jazzy breakouts and brilliant repeated motifs. In addition, he handles organ, Mellotron, synthy things and harpsichord aptly, using both the classic lush mellotron backing chord as well as more mobile organ. John Camp's bass is certainly styled after Chris Squire, but he is no less capable and original for that. High notes are touched on with regularity, and a careful control of note lengths and feel is on display throughout, and without an electric, the bass and keys get a much greater opportunity to shine.

Terence Sullivan's drums and percussion match up to the above elements, including both more usual drumming and odd percussion, used both to create a rhythm and weirder atmospheric ideas. Annie Haslam's vocals are simply perfect. Stunningly beautiful and high, but with the ability to put a much darker edge on the songs, well-used both in harmony and lead vocals. The multiple male vocal harmonies are also well used, and the brief lead male vocal on The Sultan is refreshing and alright, if accented in the Richard Sinclair style. A word for Michael Dunford, the main songwriter, is in order. Though his acoustics are not of the Fripp order and jaunting off at odd angles, they provide an extra layer for the song, a background and are a substantial fraction of the folk feel possessed by the album. Finally, Betty Thatcher's very folk lyrics are interesting, have a certain mystique and do create part of the album's feel. She's not Peter Hammill, but nonetheless I can listen to and enjoy the lyrics as well as the music. I'll touch upon the orchestra when we get to them. The compositions, though I'll list them in more detail later, are intricate and wonderful, and have a very individual sound.

Basically, if you don't have this album now, I suggest that you stop reading and head to your nearest online retailer of compact discs or vinyls and buy the album. It can speak for itself much more eloquently than I can speak on its behalf.

A Trip To The Fair opens the album. Its mood is haunting, confused, tense and claustrophobic, with an extended low-end based piano intro supplemented by flickering bass and percussion. Maddened laughter, ghost shrieks and shimmering keys add to the feel of entrapment and being surrounded. A haunting, even mocking glockenspiel introduces Annie Haslam's high, haunting and individual vocal, which seems to create (with additions from the piano, especially) a feeling of a sort of eye of the storm, lost within an empty and taunting fairground, surrounded by an accordion-esque organ theme, xylophone and various other implements. Even in the more uplifting moments (including an interesting jazzy burst replete with matching piano), the happiness feels illusory. Whispers and mass harmonies accompany various vocal sections for additional effect. The piece slowly winds down from this nightmare theme, creating a sort of taunting, mechanical clown feel with the obligatory 'it's the last verse, the drums crash a bit more' thing. A brilliant opener, with a very involving feel.

The Vultures Fly High is one of my all-time favourite songs. Incredibly catchy, with harpsichord and bass hooks and a gorgeous clean performance from Annie Haslam. Lyrically solid and simple, and supplemented by the edgy piano and percussion (Sullivan and Camp are stunning throughout this song). The use of keys effectively and densely in (what is basically) a shorter, pop-structured song is wonderful and all too rare, and the final fade doesn't leave me feeling like it needed any more space. Concise, mobile and perfect. Unmissable.

Another of Orb's all-time favourites follows this, the beautiful Ocean gypsy. The texture, liquid, the feel, majestic, the emotion, slightly tragic, perhaps nostalgic. Camp's bass takes much of the piece's basic movement, while rich piano and keys fit in less dominantly, but still very significant, creating the more 'world' rather than personal atmosphere. Drum-rolling without blunt crescendos features heavily. Annie's vocal is, as in the preceding pieces, pure pleasure for the ears, and the lyrical material matches it, contributing the piece's basic emotions and ideas. Dunford's acoustic is of more importance in this one, taking a couple of non-strummed notes and also contributing another significant layer to the texture (as he usually does). It fades out with the wonderful piano echo. A masterpiece of composition. Wonderful.

After three such bits of wow, we are treated to an ambitious side-long suite, based partly around Rimsky-Korsakov's 'Scheherazade' and with the accompaniment of a full orchestra. The end result is stunning. A very Arabian Nights feel pervades the entire piece, and the interesting lyrical content and complimentary material and occasional recurring motifs give the piece a more coherent feel.

Fanfare features a fairly 'typical' (I don't know how else to describe it. Not bad, but not really oddball), fast-paced orchestra backing over solid rock performances from Camp and Sullivan. The segment concludes softly, with the gradual development of tension in The Betrayal (featuring a beautiful oboe (I think)). The Sultan initiates the lyrical material, with a haunting set of keys, male lead vocals (no idea who?) reminiscent of Richard Sinclair, which are gorgeously supplemented by Annie, harp and cello flourishes and an odd form of double-drumming, with classical percussion contrasting to Sullivan's rock stuff. The Young Prince And Princess As Told By Scheherazade is perhaps a conclusion to the suite's first 'part', with lilting harmonies, tubular bells and wonderful flute melodies. A careful, clear piano solo rounds off this half, creating the idea of the story being told. The band comes in with Dunford strumming, bass and drums. This leads carefully onto an angelic vocal and a very stripped back piano-acoustic-oboe sound. An acoustic bass from John Camp features. Gradually more things are included until the piece shimmers out to leave birdsong.

The bird-song initiates a brief moment of pure orchestra, before the band again settle in to a lesser extent, with a bustling feel. The following Fugue For The Sultan is a dramatic, graduated opening for The Festival, which really is the crux of the piece. More angelic vocals, strumming, rather syrupy (but likable) lyrics relating the story in cliff notes format, and one of the best bass-drum grooves outside Close To The Edge that I've heard. Especially excellent percussion from Sullivan and a set of the hulking choral vocals (while it might be considered pompous outside of the context of the orchestral piece, it does fit here) lead us out in the finale.

(Apologies for such a disconnected description. I find it difficult to describe this piece. One of those ones I need a better musical knowledge to really relay the ideas behind)

Anyway, get the album. Absolute masterpiece. Five doses of musical anti-depressant. Very interesting, very original, aptly described as "everything fusion".

Favourite Track: The Vultures Fly High Rating: 5 Stars.

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Posted Sunday, June 22, 2008

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Scheherazade and Other Stories is the sixth studio album from female led symphonic prog rock band Renaissance. Renaissance is at the peak of their career on this album and had been building towards this climax with the two albums that came before Scheherazade and Other Stories. Both Ashes are Burning and Turn of the Cards are excellent symphonic prog rock albums that belong in every prog rock collection. Scheherazade and Other Stories is Renaissance masterpiece from their second era.

The album consists of four songs: Trip To The Fair, The Vultures Fly High, Ocean Gypsy and Song Of Scheherazade. All four tracks are excellent songs. It´s been a while since I reviewed Turn of the Cards and I must admit that I had forgotten how beautiful Renaissance music can be, but here on Scheherazade and Other Stories I am reminded of that multible times.

Trip to the Fair have to be my new favorite Renaissance song. It´s 10:48 minutes long but not a moment is out of place. This is one of John Tout´s finest performances on the piano and he even plays a bit of synth in the song which is something Renaissance seldom do. Annie Haslam sings beautifully and with a conviction seldom heard in any form of music. Also note the almost coctail jazzy part shortly after the drums kick in. It could have been a disaster but fits the music very well.

The Vultures Fly High was probably the single from Scheherazade and Other Stories as it is the shortest song here with it´s 3:07 minutes. Many reviewers complain that this isn´t much more than a vers chorus radio friendly song, but listen again people. Lots of intriguing instrumental playing is heard throughout this song and even though it is a vers chorus song it´s still challenging enough for me to enjoy. Great song.

Ocean Gypsy is a ballad type song which also has majestic parts. It´s a very beautiful song where Annie Haslam really shines. Ballads are not my prefered song type but when Annie sings my heart melts and I just can´t help loving this song. Beautiful just beautiful. Note the very Genesis like middle section. It could have been done by Tony Banks.

Song Of Scheherazade which filled out the whole of side 2 of the original LP is a 24:52 minutes long epic track. There is a classical orchestra playing on this song and it works perfectly. I´m not usually a fan of merging rock music with a classical orchestra as it usually sounds like the rock band is playing in one room and the orchestra is playing in another, but on Song Of Scheherazade this unholy alliance works well. The two styles compliment each other instead of overruling each other as it happens in the worst cases. Of course a song that lasts nearly 25 minutes has lots of sections and the song includes both male and female singing. This is the ultimate climax of Renaissance career. Very beautiful and symphonic.

The musicianship is outstanding and the production is dynamic and well sounding.

So is this a 5 star masterpiece ? Not quite IMO. I really like this album very much, but there are still moments in Renaissance music that I think is a bit too romantic for my taste. This is a very big 4 star album for me. Almost a 5 star rating from me. If you´re new to Renaissance start with this album. You´ll be amazed.

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Posted Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Symphonic Team
3 stars Is it Classical music or Rock?

I have mixed feelings about Renaissance. On the one hand, it is impossible to deny that this band contained lots of talent in both the song writing department and in the instrumental and vocal departments. The voice of Annie Haslam is characteristic and distinctive. Overall, I find this music mostly pleasant and enjoyable, but as with most other albums by this band, it somehow fails to impress me. I think that this might be primarily because of its strongly Classical nature. To my ears, this is closer to Classical music than it is to (progressive) Rock. Classical grand piano and acoustic guitars remained the core of the Renaissance sound, with drums and electric bass being the only typical Rock elements still present. This creates an overly bombastic sound and I often get the feeling that they are just playing along with sheet music. There is very little room for any of the instruments to breathe. There is no spontaneity and no surprises. All this together with the pure and untypical (for Rock) female lead vocals somehow makes the music of Renaissance less than fully satisfying for me.

Good, but (like almost all other albums by this band) not essential

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Posted Monday, July 21, 2008

Review by Queen By-Tor
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Stories told and forgotten

Considered one of the best progressive albums to be released, this one is something of a let down. While the album still has some very impressive moment and is very 'good' overall it simply doesn't live up to the rest of the material being released in its day. What we have is a very low-energy couple of tunes and a couple of over-the-top songs that come at you from all angles, but still somehow fails to impress. Even though the album only has four tracks and one of them is a side-long epic it's hard to recall any of them to mind, even after repeated listens. While the female vocals of Annie Haslam are quite refreshing it's not quite enough to turn this effort from a good one to an astounding one.

One of the biggest problems is that this album really doesn't have an identity. Any progressive band at the time could have released an album with these sounds, with the exception of maybe the vocals. It all sounds like a sort of proto-Nightwish when the band actually gets a little more energetic and on the down times they just sound like musicians with no distinct style. A Trip To The Fair is a slow moving piece that outstays its welcome by a good number of minutes. Good vocal melodies don't really save the track, and the instrumental playing simply exists without demanding too much of the audience. Ocean Gypsy is the other slower track and while this one is a little more emotional it still fails to really grab with some sort of flair.

Luckily there are some better parts. The Vultures Fly High is an amazing track where the band actually sounds like they have their own sound and Annie's vocals are very well used during the shouting sections. The side-long Song Of Scheherazade comes at a bit of a disappointment, although it does still have its moments. The sections of instrumental bombast and orchestral elegance are highly impressive, although between each song segment the sound goes all the way down to nil making you think that the song has ended and throwing off the momentum of the piece entirely.

A short review for an album that has been reviewed pretty much to death already. Renaissance fans clearly find something more to this album, but fans of lush symphonic rock may be a little let down by the album. 2-stars for an album that gets a lot of positive hype but ultimately falls flat when compared to the other major acts of the day.

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Posted Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Review by Chicapah
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Renaissance is one of those progressive groups that is respected and admired by many the world over but flew under my radar even in their heyday mainly due to a dearth of airplay and/or publicity in my neck of the woods. So when I came across "Scheherazade and other stories" whilst perusing the bins of used vinyl at a local vendor of recycled books & records recently and found myself enticed by the bargain price tag glued on said album, I realized that my time had come to delve in to Renaissance. After all, prog bands that include females are as rare as Caucasians in Somalia and I find that the feminine touch in our beloved genre is way, way underrated.

One thing that has remained consistent throughout my mounting decades of existence on this mortal coil is the childlike suspense and anticipation I get to enjoy as I sit back and listen to a band's offerings for the first time. Whether the experience turns out to be good, so-so or downright pitiful it's still something I look forward to every time. In this case I was rather pleased with what I heard. For certain it reinforces my opinion that music-wise the 70s were the most unfettered and free decade ever. There were so many sides and facets of progressive rock (and music in general) presented to the buying public simply because there were so few boundaries and restrictions shackling the artists in that era. Sure, fads came and went and the record moguls tended to be bullies but there wasn't a strictly- enforced or pervasive definition of "normal" to be found. Otherwise an eclectic approach like this group's would've never seen the light of day. I hope some generation in the future finds a way to bring that unconstrained spirit back into vogue.

"Trip to the Fair" opens with beautiful, classical-style grand piano and it totally caught me off guard. I'm not sure what I was expecting to hear, exactly, but John Tout's virtuosity on the instrument is stunning. Soon Terence Sullivan's drums and Jon Camp's bass join in along with what sounds like operatic witch howls and cackles reverberating in the background. You'd expect this combo to sound like early ELP but they bear no resemblance to that fabled trio at all. They produce a unique atmosphere. The number fades down into a music-box air for a madrigal mood that eventually grows into a sort of calliope-driven thing. Annie Haslam's crystal-clear voice rings effortlessly as she floats above the music and she's a treat to hear. After the bridge the group dives into a fun, jazzy jam in ¾ where a set of vibes and the piano try to one-up each other. They build to a lofty crescendo before returning to base and indulging in a semi-psychedelic fade out. The only drag comes by way of the banal lyrics by poetess Betty Thatcher and the occasional condescending demeanor that Haslam delivers them in.

A tense, pulsating tempo gives "The Vultures Fly High" an aura of nervous urgency that is offset nicely by Annie's soothing voice that keeps it from becoming frantic. This short but brilliantly-executed, thinly-veiled hate song about blood-thirsty record executives, unscrupulous publishers and basically anyone in authority keeps the ball rolling along without a hitch. While the London Symphony Orchestra has been kept pretty much in check so far, they become part of the overall fabric starting with the entertaining "Ocean Gypsy." Here the band lays down a grandiose backdrop for Haslam's singing with the symphony adding terrific depth of field. Camp's deft bass work is exceptional throughout but when the musical interlude arrives led by Tout's piano (he paints colorfully with big, broad strokes) the whole tune blossoms exponentially and the massive chorale triumphantly places the cherry on top. It ends simply with a subtle verse and chorus but it still gets high marks for its sheer scope.

As admirable as those three tunes are, the album's namesake and showcase side-long epic is better and quite impressive. Divided into nine interwoven segments that all but the drummer had a hand in composing, "Song of Scheherazade" is an excellent exercise in blending orchestra with rock, a feat many have tried but few have succeeded in doing well. Tout's "Fanfare" sounds like something befitting an over-the-top stage entrance by Aladdin astride a flying carpet but it quickly morphs into "The Betrayal," an energetic meshing of the group and symphony that's tight and sprightly without cutting any prog corners. They then turn down the intensity a notch or two for "The Sultan," a melodic duet that features Annie and one of the guys singing about a vengeful monarch so despicable he makes Vlad the Impaler, in comparison, seem about as evil as the Snuffleupagus on Sesame Street. There's a nifty blend of Mellotron with the real string section going on here and the repeating "Scheherazade" chorus is very Moody Blues-ish in a cool way. Camp's "Love Theme" is next and it starts out as a gorgeous solo piano piece that, for some inane reason, is muted so low you can barely hear it but broadens considerably once the orchestra jumps in. "The Young Prince and the Young Princess as told by Scheherazade" follows and, as the descriptive title indicates, it's a recital in song of just one of the 1001 tales that our quick-thinking heroine rattles off for the sinister sultan in order to save her neck. The too-flowery words don't detract from the maturity of Haslam's vocal and the writing skills of guitarist Mick Dunford. They work great together.

The beginning of "Festival Preparations" drops down in volume so much that one has to strain one's eardrums to perceive it, then the symphony creeps in piece by piece to eventually bring the music back up to an audible level. "Fugue for the Sultan" is a delightful, piano-led instrumental where Tony Cox's fine orchestral score shines brightly as he employs invigorating dynamics to electrify the movement. "The Festival" starts with sweet, fluid flute that precedes yet another impressionable piano solo (I can't say enough about Tout's talent). Some light interplay with an oboe is next, leading to more of the tasteful cooperative mingling of the symphony with a rock attitude that so characterizes this album. They then step down to a not-so-simple acoustic guitar with vocal segment where we learn that Ms. S has so successfully charmed the chauvinistic slime bag with her fascinating stories that he's had a change of heart and has decided to stop murdering all the virgins of his realm the morning after he deflowers them. His poor subjects are so ecstatic that they stage a huge throw-down party in the streets and Scheherazade gets to marry the psychopathic sultan. Lucky her. The aptly named "Finale" delivers in spades as they bring into Abbey Road Studios what sounds like half of London to join in the magnificent, towering chorale propped up expertly by the full orchestra, capped off with a graceful ending.

If I didn't place such a high premium on inventive lyric content in prog music this might have attained masterpiece status. Alas, the outdated words weaken the impact because far too often they're of the vanilla "moon in June" variety and venture perilously close to nursery rhyme territory. There are times when it comes off like Annie is singing to pre-schoolers at naptime. (Not her fault, she didn't pen the lyrics.) Having said that, the group's music and performance is superb from beginning to end and more than makes up for that blemish. The classically-trained members of the orchestra weren't required to lower their high-brow standards for this project and it shows in the quality of their ensemble playing. A worthy addition to anyone's symphonic progressive rock collection. 3.9 stars.

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Posted Saturday, July 11, 2009

Review by Marty McFly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Errors and Omissions Team
5 stars My first encounter (with Renaissance), my first love (with Annie's voice), my first enchantment (with this wonderful symphonic music). From the first track to the last, this is showcase of her beautiful vocal (how many, five-octave vocal range ?), which undoubtedly is one of the best in prog rock. Being same, or even more symphonic than Yes, without being inaccessible for some (either by sometimes strange compositions, or by Jon's voice, which won't fit to everyone). This is music for everyone (who have 7-24 minutes to listen each track, assuming that I overlook short filler Vultures). Oh, by the way, Ocean Gypsy is by far the best version of this song (I saw one for free download on last.fm and also there's Blackmore's Night cover, which, not necessarily bad, lacks something for me). These Vultures, I first hated them, skipped them all the time and tried not to think about this particular song. But soon I realized that instead of fighting it, I can surrender and try to negotiate common way. Which I did, successfully. And final oriental suite is pure fantasy, which is somehow ironic pun (as it's about imagining stories and myths from arabic lands).

5(+), oh, by the way, there's first track, Trip to the Fair, also very special one. Even there's repeated line, quite a lot of repeats it get, it doesn't feel bad, or as lack of ideas, it fits perfectly to dreamy landscape it provides. Howg.

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Posted Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Review by Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Eclectic Prog Team
4 stars While not quite my favorite offering from Renaissance, I have to concede that contained in this four-opus affair are some of my most cherished moments from the group. The shortest three songs (one of which is still quite lengthy) are quite enjoyable, full of memorable melodies, bright piano, dutiful bass, competent drumming, and soaring vocals from one of progressive rock's most talent female vocalists. The titular epic has excellent moments but also yields a few dull ones, as though the wearisome piece is meandering through the Persian desert in search of the next oasis.

"Trip to the Fair" I tend to consider John Tout as one of the great overlooked progressive rock pianists of the 1970s. One thing that's always impressed me is how compatible his classically-inspired piano is with Jon Camp's dynamic bass playing. Annie Haslam's rendering of the melody and lyrics of this whimsical, wandering song is such that I can't imagine it any other way. After the first vocal segment, the band delights with a jazzy excursion.

"The Vultures Fly High" While relatively brief, I think this hastily-paced song is one of my favorite from Renaissance, because the melody and performance of the chorus is excellent.

"Ocean Gypsy" Renaissance offers a hauntingly beautiful melody, again backed up by light piano and acoustic guitar. The piano is graceful as ever, with some light organ, chunky bass, and inspired drumming adding to the work.

"Song of Scheherazade" The side-long centerpiece of this album is in nine-parts and is based on Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's 1888 symphonic suite, which in turn is based on the Arabic Kitāb 'alf layla wa-layla, or One Thousand and One Nights. It opens majestically, bolstered by numerous flourishes from the London Symphony Orchestra. A gentle masculine voice offers the lyrics, providing a pleasant contrast to Haslam's soprano soaring the background. Delicate piano allows a soothing respite to the mellow yet more forceful vocal sections. The rest of the piece is very orchestral, moving quite suddenly between loud and soft passages. As a whole, it is a nomadic piece and my least favorite on the album to be quite honest, yet it still radiates grandeur.

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Posted Sunday, December 27, 2009

Review by stefro
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars British art-rock exponents Renaissance have a fairly complicated history. Kick-started by former-Yardbird front-man Keith Relf in 1969 after he had tired of a lifetime of the blues, the group have since undergone several line-up shifts, resulting in a completely different set of musicians for 'Scheherazade And Other Tales', an album widely-considered the group's magnus opus. After Relf's departure(to join hard-rock group Armageddon), keyboardist John Tout and guitarist Michael Dunford took over the group's reigns and brought in the talented and classically-trained singer Annie Haslam, a move which proved to be the real masterstroke. However, despite these changes in personel, Tout, Dunford and Haslam stayed true to Keith Relf's original ideal of translating classical styles into a modern rock setting and creating music that was complex and sumptuous. Joined by Terrence Sullivan(drums) and Jon Camp(bass), the first Renaissance album produced by this line-up was 'Prologue'. This, in turn, was followed by 'Ashes Are Burning' and the superb 'Turn Of The Cards' before 'Scheherazade..'. was released following a highly-successful US tour in 1975. Featuring just four songs, including the eponymously-titled and rather epic 24-minute closer, the album proved a big success in both Europe and the USA, and showed the group performing at the peak of their formidable powers. The album starts with the beautifully-judged 'Trip To The Fair', a song which allows both Tout and Haslam to excel; Tout with some gorgeous neo-classical piano and Haslam showing off the full five octaves her voice is capable of. The shorter, sharper 'The Vultures Fly High' is probably the closest thing on the album to a rock-song, with Dunford's guitar flourishes embellishing Tout's dominant keyboards with slightly more aggressive lilt, whilst the ethereal-balladry of 'Ocean Gypsy' again showcases Haslam's unique and operatic vocals. The album's raison d'etre, however, is the powerful, epic and intricate odyssey 'Scheherazade'. In this ambitious re-telling of the old 1001 Arabian Nights tale, Renaissance throw off any shackles that may have checked their artistic ambitions and head full-throttle down concept avenue, in the process creating one of Progressive Rock's enduring musical suites. The song is split into 8 sections and takes the listener down all kinds of art-rock alley-ways, running the gamut from darkly-introspective piano-solo's, glistening orchestrations and haunting, Haslam-sung melodies. After this, and partly because of their success, the group would start to take a more commercial turn, eschewing the long, winding compositions in favour of simplier material and, during the 1980's, slimming down to a pop three-piece. Despite their move away from 'classical prog', Renaissance are fondly remembered for a clutch of wonderful albums that culminated in this radical masterpiece. Haslam's voice is genuinely stunning, and backed by the musical ambitions of her musical cohorts, has created an endearing art-rock classic. STEFAN TURNER, LONDON, 2010

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Posted Thursday, April 15, 2010

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Symphonic Team
4 stars "Scheherazade and Other Stories" is Renaissance who were at the peak of their powers in the 70s golden era of prog.

A male dominated universe of prog was infiltrated by the likes of Annie Haslam's enchanting vocal prowess. What a voice she has on this album, a voice of authority and tranquillity with a huge octave range that has spellbinding power.

'Trip To The Fair' starts things off with a lengthy piano interlude played with grand finesse by John Tout. An orchestrated approach of classical proportions follows with some manic laughter and ethereal vocal harmonies. It builds till at 3:40 there is a musical box chime and Annie begins to tell the story with her inimitable voice. The story concerns a fair where "nobody was there" and the feeling of childhood innocence turning to fear as the realisation is the fair is creepily devoid of people; "A creak as the dodgems came onto the scene, Wheels began turning I started to scream, A carousel swung around, My head spun and hit the ground..." The melody is pretty but the lyrics give it a dark tinge of paranoia and sadness; "I close my eyes to disguise the fear from inside, Trembling within my own mind I find no place to hide, Stars of tomorrow shine through the grey mist that has gone, I wish that this trip to the fair had never begun..." The instrumental break is dominated by glockenspiel or childish toy piano sounds. There are passages that sound like a carousel as the people appear in the fair and "Everyone seemed to be staring at me, Clowns laughed in the penny arcade, What was this game my mind played?" Quite a chilling opening track. Next is the short 3 minute 'The Vultures Fly High', a fairly standard moderate uptempo tack. The lyrics are dark again but Annie is able to lift it to a soaring level with her lovely vocals. I find this as more of a throwaway track than a classic but it is sandwiched between two excellent tracks.

Next is a superb track, the 7 minute 'Ocean Gypsy'. It begins very quietly that builds to a chorus with evocative lyrics; "Gold and silver rings and stones, Dances slowly of the moon, No-one else can know, She stands alone, Sleeping dreams will reach for her, She cannot say the words they need, She knows she's alone, And she is free, Ocean gypsy of the moon, The sun has made a thousand nights, For you to hold..." The gentle piano and clarinet are complimented by strings and gentle vocals. A very emotionally charged atmosphere is the result and it is a terrific Renaissance work.

The epic that makes this an excellent album is the 25 minute treasure, 'Song Of Scheherazade'. It is broken into 9 sections but moves along seamlessly as an orchestrated suite. It takes some getting used to with the hyper orchestration and classical singing. Annie holds back for most of this but is still a gem. It is difficult to pinpoint any particular section but the lyrics are as evocative as ever coming in on 'The Sultan'; "And so for many days with the dawn, The sultan had his way, Wives were put to death, His name on their dying breath, Then one day as the evening came, Sultan sends for him a wife, Choose her well charms I wish to see, Bring her, send her in to me, Then came Scheherazade to his side, And her beauty shone, Like a flower grown, Gentle as he'd ever known, Scheherazade bewitched him, With songs of jewelled keys, Princes and of heroes, And eastern fantasies..." The epic is based on the folklore of the tyrant sultan, the young prince and princess as told by Scheherazade, including the Festival preparations leading to the grand Finale. Scheherazade was given a death sentence by the Sultan who had murdered princesses, his wives each night duly to the fact his wife betrayed him. The story of Scherezade is told by the princess to delay her death sentence who relayed the story for 1000 nights; she was never executed as The Sultan decided such a faithful princess should remain his wife.

The music captures the heroism and has a decidedly Arabic flavour to enhance the atmosphere. I am not a huge fan of this epic as it is a slog to get through with severe repetition and painstaking patient music, but I still recognise this as one of the best pieces of Renaissance. This is a flawed album, difficult to get into, but in the right frame of mind this can be a very pleasant listening experience.

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Send comments to AtomicCrimsonRush (BETA) | Report this review (#284142) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, May 30, 2010

Review by Flucktrot
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars I try to be stingy with my 5 star ratings. To earn that rating, an album has to be musically excellent nearly throughout, creative, energetic, and have a largely cohesive flow throughout.

Oh, and it also has to represent something unique that I can't find elsewhere in my collection.

That last one's often the standard that cuts off many potential masterpieces for me, but Renaissance's Scheherezade is so alternatingly energetic and achingly beautiful that I can't find the will to nitpick (at least not much!) or to resist.

I only have two potential flaws: I'm not sure that Vultures Fly High fits, and the epic final track does drag a bit in a couple spots toward the middle, but other than that, Scheherezade is a wonderful ride.

A Trip to the Fair starts with an extended piano/bass overture that grips me from the start with its energy, and effectively building the tension before we first hear Haslem in full. The song then moves seamlessly through the mysterious waltzy verse to a pleasant jazzy piano/xylophone back-and-forth section.

Ocean Gypsy is a simpler tune, but the buildup to the climax toward the end is wonderfully done, and achingly beautiful to boot. Also, this piece fits very nicely as a segue into the following epic...

...Song of Scheherezade. One of my top 25 epics of all time, Scheherezade is of mostly high quality throughout, but the absolute highlights are in the opening overture and the closing 6 minute build-up and finale. Here fantastic songwriting--particularly the integration with the orchestra, with quite effective tympani hits, horn accents and string flourishes--combine with passionate playing to deliver prog nirvana, aflutter with texture, countermelody and harmony. Simply wonderful.

As you can tell, I love this album, and I love talking about why. The combination of Annie's voice and the orchestra, coupled with a tight bass/drum rhythm section, with some captivating piano interludes scattered throughout, create a rich and beautiful sound that I have yet to hear elsewhere.

One of my prog treasures to cherish eternal!

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Send comments to Flucktrot (BETA) | Report this review (#316183) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, November 12, 2010

Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Metal Team
3 stars As I previously mentioned in my two other Renaissance review, Scheherazade And Other Stories was not the album I was expecting it to be. My initial experience with this album was so damaging that it took me a long time to even get the notion of continuing exploring Renaissance. Luckily I eventually did just that and was rewarded by quite an extraordinary new experience.

Eventually I started to enjoy Scheherazade And Other Stories a bit more but still to this day it's nowhere near a favorite of mine. The main reason for my discontent is that this release just doesn't grab me. Songs like the overlong Trip To The Fair and commercially oriented The Vultures Fly High are nowhere near the level of the excellent performances from Ashes Are Burning or Turn Of The Cards. Ocean Gypsy is the only true ray of sunlight on this album which temporarily makes me forget much grudge whenever I listen to it, but ultimately it's not enough for me to forgive the album for its shortcomings.

The lengthy Song Of Scheherazade, which occupies the entire side two, is really not the masterpiece that so many seem to make it out to be. To me, this is a very underdeveloped epic that never can hold my attention all throughout the performance. There are definitely a few very strong sections but they are not expanded upon and instead it sounds like a mishmash of a medley. I think that Uriah Heep's Salisbury is pretty much on the same level and ultimately sounds like a stab at the popular progressive music genre of the time. Although unlike that Heavy Prog band, Renaissance was a fully-fledged Symphonic Prog act that should have had enough knowledge of how to comprise this type of lengthy material.

No matter how I twist and turn this album it just never seems to make sense to me. It might not be a complete flop, but based on my own experience I would not recommend it as an introductory album into the magical realm of Renaissance.

***** star songs: Ocean Gypsy (7:05)

**** star songs: Song Of Scheherazade (24:52)

*** star songs: Trip To The Fair (10:48) The Vultures Fly High (3:07)

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Send comments to Rune2000 (BETA) | Report this review (#317443) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, November 13, 2010

Review by octopus-4
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
5 stars The follow-up to a masterpiece like "Turn of the Cards" is even better and after it they released one of the best live albums of the history of prog....

It begins with "A Trip to the Fair", a long track of an unusual kind for Renaissance. The instrumental parts are evocative and sometimes spacey for the first half of the track, then comes the second half with its jazzy instrumental parts alternated to Annie's clean voice telling us a weird story. A great opener, just to have an idea of what is about to come.

"The Vultures Fly High" starts with a rhythmic piano. If it wasn't for the heavy bass and Annie's voice that comes soon, it could make me think to Supertramp. But it's for few seconds only. This is another great song and the sound is "Renaissance at their best". Unusually rock. (not hard, just less symphonic than usual).

After those two tracks what remains are two masterpieces. "Ocean Gipsy" is the first of the two. An excellent melody underlined as usual by bass and piano with Annie's voice on pitches less high than usual. It's incredible how Michael Dunford can write songs like this keeping for himself only rhythmic guitar parts. The coda is the only thing that was probably better in the live version on Carnegie Hall.

Now the epic side-long track. Very few words about the concept, as Jon Camp tells almost the whole story to the public on its opening on Carnegie Hall. It's a revisitation of the classical suite "Sheherazade" of the russian composer Rimsky-Korsakov. A piece in general considered "easy". I have listened to it (the classical) when I was a schoolboy during a music lesson. What Renaissance did was not just rearranging the classical piece, something that was usual in the 70s for mainstream artists. The drummer Deodato is an example. No, they have written something different. Rimsky-Korsakov's original theme is reprised at the beginning of the suite, the structure is similar, but that's all. It's more like Renaissance being inspired by the same concept, the story of 1001 nights, which inspired the russian composer. What else? Together with Pink Floyd's Echoes and Caravan's Nine Feet Underground this is my favourite "over 20 minutes" song. At least from the 70s. It's also one of the best vocal performances of Annie Haslam where she shows all her talent. A masterpiece of symphonic prog.

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Send comments to octopus-4 (BETA) | Report this review (#379202) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, January 13, 2011

Review by colorofmoney91
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Scheherazade and Other Stories is the most epic album in the Renaissance catalog, and has always had a darker impression on me. As always with Renaissance, the music here is utterly beautiful and masterly crafted with all folky and classical elements intact and in full frontal mode.

Right away, "Trip to the Fair", starts out the album in an interesting way. A very dark sounding introduction played on the lower register of a piano eventually gives way to a music box type melody that plays starkly behind Annie Haslams terrific voice. Thumping bass serves as an introduction to a much unexpected post-bop jazz passage with a solo on xylophone and piano both.

"Vultures Fly High" is an energetic rocker that still maintains the Renaissance sound and is built upon a fantastic vocal melody. Short, but sweet.

"Ocean Gypsy" is a classic in the Renaissance catalog, and is a very dark and beautiful tune full of folky elements. This song always gave me the impression of floating on a boat in the ocean in the morning when the fog is still rising off of the water. This track progressively gets more epic without deviating much from the initial theme and the structure definitely sounds like something of a pseudo-church-choir song.

The epic title track runs at around 23 minutes in length, and is too epic for me to venture into a detailed explanation, but is very beautiful and flows flawlessly through each of the individual passages. It manages to sound like a rock symphony without being cheesy.

Anyone interested in folky symphonic prog should definitely check out this amazing album.

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Send comments to colorofmoney91 (BETA) | Report this review (#431170) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, April 11, 2011

Review by ClemofNazareth
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Folk Researcher
4 stars I'm playing catch-up with Renaissance since I wasn't really familiar with the band back in the seventies. I gather though that this is considered the pinnacle of their career by many longtime fans. For the most part I would agree, although the birth of symphonic folk portrayed on their debut record way back in 1969 is still quite impressive today, and for excellence sustained across an entire album 'Turn of the Cards' edges this one out just slightly. I have this record along with 'Novella' and 'Turn of the Cards' on original vinyl courtesy of a visit to a small used record shop in New England a few years ago. The artwork on all of them is beautiful, but this one is possibly the best suited to the music contained within its folds as it clearly demonstrates the far-reaching folk and classical influences of the band during those years.

There are two notable differences over the group's previous work with the music on this album. First, original member Jim McCarty was completely gone from the fold by 1975, leaving Michael Dunford and John Tout to compose just about everything on the album, although bassist Jon Camp is credited with a handful of sections on the title track and the late Betty Thatcher wrote pretty much all the lyrics as she had with 'Turn of the Cards'. The second difference is more subtle but important, as the band for the first time didn't rely on any external classical pieces to enhance their songs. There are certainly plenty of obvious influences though as the album delivers the most ambitious and grandiose classical composition of Renaissance's long career with the massive twenty-four minute, nine-part "Song of Scheherazade". Tout's eloquent piano forays are plentiful throughout the album but they especially drive this song piece, along with Terry Cox' orchestral arrangements. Pretty much every individual section of the song holds up well as the Haslam relates the familiar tale of 1001 Arabian Nights, but by splicing them together the band was able to create an epic-length work with built-in tempo shifts and highlighted individual performances as the various songwriting contributors change with each section, along with the instrumental focus. The opening fanfare (appropriately titled "Fanfare") shows Tout capable of an energetic opening that combines piano, xylophone and symphonic (string, horn) arrangements set to rolling rock drums and bass peddle. The faint and wordless choral backing sets the mood for Annie Haslam's duet telling (I believe with Dunford) of 1001's back-story, the history of betrayal by the Sultan's first wife and the Sultan's resulting decree that he would take a lover each night only to have her executed the following morning. Haslam, Tout, and percussionist Terence Sullivan dominate the first half of the song with lush orchestral accompaniment and the occasional emergence of Camp's thudding bass, while Dunford takes a bit of a back seat providing vocals but only an understated acoustic guitar presence. As the song wears on Haslam's role becomes the dominant one as she relates both Scheherazade's seduction and Sultan's growing enhancement. This makes sense as far as the storyline goes, but if I had a criticism of the work it would be that the band deferred a bit too much to Haslam and Cox's arrangements to fill the middle parts of the song. The 'Festival Preparations' and 'Fugue' portions are rich with instrumental layers though, and serve to almost make up for the dimensional earlier parts. I also wonder if the "Festival" stanza is a bit too overdone as well, since it tends to distract from, rather than naturally lead to, the swirling "Finale" with it soaring vocals ahead of lush symphonic layers and what turns out to be an anticlimactic ending (pretty much everyone knows this story so the ending is no surprise). "Scheherazade" is an impressive achievement for what was basically a rock band, but given the capabilities of its various members I have to wonder what they might have been capable of had they not played it quite so safe on the arrangement, especially from "The Young Prince and Princess" and forward.

It's easy to lose the other three songs on the album in the limelight of "Scheherazade", but at least one of them ("Ocean Gypsy") ranks as a seminal Mk III Renaissance tune with its own lavish orchestral arrangement and a particularly endearing bass line to augment Haslam's continually improving vocals. "The Vultures Fly High" sounds more like what the band would record starting with 'Novella', shorter and tighter, more pop-oriented and simple tunes that seems to be aimed at creating commercial appeal in the U.S.

And while "Trip to the Fair" became an instantly-recognizable Renaissance song from the time it was released and on, I for one would have preferred not to know it was inspired by a date-night trip to a closed fairground by Haslam and then-boyfriend Roy Wood. The lyrics seem a bit trite and pretentiously contrived in that light, and would have likely stood up better on their own if Haslam had chosen to keep the inspirational event to herself all these years.

This really is an outstanding symphonic album with great attention to detail in the orchestral and band arrangements, and certainly anyone who has become accustomed to the band's sound will find the slightly mystic and fanciful Thatcher lyrics to be familiar. This is definitely a four star affair, but in the end many listeners will inevitably come to feel it doesn't grow the band's sound much from 'Turn of the Cards', so the 'masterpiece' label once again eludes the band. Very highly recommended though to progressive symphonic, folk, eclectic and 'art rock' fans as a virtuoso example of the sort of folk/classical melding the band's original members envisioned some six years before.

peace

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Send comments to ClemofNazareth (BETA) | Report this review (#514828) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, September 04, 2011

Review by Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Jim McCarty's compositions are finally gone, as are the quotations from pre-existing classical works, but beyond this Scheherazade and Other Stories is simply one more Renaissance album in the much-loved style they hit upon on Ashes are Burning. How highly you value it probably depends on just how many albums in that particular mode you really want; personally, whilst I loved Ashes are Burning, I thought Turn of the Cards was a bit of an unnecessary retread of it, and whilst the stab at a sidelong epic represents an admirable willingness to experiment I'm not wholly convinced it actually works.

It doesn't help, of course, that "let's do a sidelong epic" is the cry of the prog band that wants to expand its horizons but doesn't have any particularly original ideas for doing so, but on top of that I personally find the composition - along with the other songs on this track - to be rather kitsch. The rousing crescendo at the climax of the piece is meant to be stirring and moving, but I just couldn't muster enthusiasm for it, any more than I could get excited about Mother Russia's crescendo - both come across to me as attempts to recapture the spine-tingling end of Ashes are Burning, but the fact is that Renaissance simply couldn't consistently pull that particular compositional trick off. Or maybe it's just that that compositional gambit suffers badly from diminishing returns.

I don't want to be too harsh on Scheherazade - it's ably performed and major fans of the classic Renaissance sound will probably get a lot out of it. It's just that personally I find it to be rather calculated and cold, faking emotional depth as opposed to expressing it. Three stars.

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Send comments to Warthur (BETA) | Report this review (#542388) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams
5 stars This album marked the peak of Renaissance's 1970's output, and what a peak it is.

Here the band has completely eliminated any of the previous folk and psychedelic tendencies, and focused on pure symphonic prog for this gem. And in my not so humble opinion, it succeeds spectaculary. The three shorter songs, originally the first side of the LP, serve as a warm up to the final epic. And the epic piece is one of the all time great symphonic prog songs. I would place it second, behind Close To The Edge.

The classical arrangement is tight and complex, serving as the perfect backdrop for Annie Haslam's always splendid vocals. And Michael Dunford outdoes himself with his compositions, creating a work that sounds like the old masters and new prog at the same time.

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Send comments to Evolver (BETA) | Report this review (#701930) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, March 31, 2012

Review by Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars This is considered by most Prog fans to be a classic. Considering as I write this review it sits at number 60 on our all-time top album's list I guess that goes without saying. I've tried a couple of other records by this band including the live album from the tour of "Scheherazade And Other Stories" and was left unimpressed. It's the marriage of Progressive Rock and Classical music that just doesn't appeal to me. Now having said that I can see why this is so loved, and I actually enjoyed the first half of this album.

"Trip To The Fair" is the perfect song to show-case Annie's vocals. She sounds so clear as she carefully pronounces each word. This is my favourite song on here. It's actually somewhat jazzy for a while after 6 1/2 minutes. "The Vultures Fly High" is an uptempo track with vocals. I like it. "Ocean Gypsy" has strings to start as the vocals join in. This is quite beautiful at times. I like the bass 4 minutes in. "Song Of Scheherazade" is the closing side long suite and my least favourite. It's just too orchestral although if you like this style i'm sure you'd love how it twists and turns as the story is told out.

Just not my style of music really, but I certainly enjoyed a lot of the album.

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Posted Saturday, April 28, 2012

Review by siLLy puPPy
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars At this point it's no secret that RENAISSANCE was a one-trick pony who developed a specific niche in the symphonic progressive rock arena and are actually often cited as progressive pop. It had been a long and arduous trip that began with a completely different lineup as that which is on this album. Somehow and i'm still not sure how it happened, every member from the beginning stages of this band exited stage left and the management took control of this band's destiny. Album by album they slogged through the trials and tribulations of reinventing themselves with only meager improvements over the previous album. At this stage I would have to say that all the work payed off as SCHEHERAZADE AND OTHER STORIES is the pinnacle of this sound of classically inspired progressive pop tinged music that is complete with Anne Haslam's beautifully bellowed vocals accompanied by John Tout's classically inspired piano riffing.

I can see both sides of the story with this one. This is not a substantial difference from the previous albums but I feel this album just flows more cohesively from beginning to end and I like the sound so I am rating this on a personal level only. It must be remembered that this is pretty much a manufactured band and that they were directed to perform a specific task of creating a specific symphonic prog sound that I think they did quite well for what this band is. Perhaps it is indeed a little predictable and I would very much prefer a little spontaneity that would lend to a surprise or two but that was not to be in the mix but taken as the progressive pop it is, I think it is a very pleasant album that never fails to entertain me from the beginning predictable piano run of "A Trip To The Fair" to the finale 9-part title track which in my opinion is one of the most sophisticated the band had ever done and remains one of my favorites from them.

An excellent album that takes the symphonic sophistication of classical music and merges it with the melodic pop and progressive folk to create a unique album that is based on a beautiful tale of the legendary Persian queen who was the proficient storyteller of "One Thousand And One Nights" who kept herself alive with elaborate storytelling to a king who was way too fond of ritualistic beheadings.

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Posted Sunday, February 09, 2014

Latest members reviews

4 stars Thousand and one words could not describe this beauty. This album represents a sort of cornerstone in the career of Renaissance because with this record, on one side, the band released the sublimation of his progressive style (through one of the most successful fusion between rock and symphon ... (read more)

Report this review (#1274319) | Posted by Dark Nazgul | Wednesday, September 10, 2014 | Review Permanlink

5 stars 10/10 Honestly, how could I ignore this band so far? I heard all the great 70s and I heed not to me what I was missing with Renaissance. Glad it was not too late! each album has been a more amazing experience than the other, and I think they peaked with what is considered his magnum opus, S ... (read more)

Report this review (#1085654) | Posted by voliveira | Wednesday, December 04, 2013 | Review Permanlink

4 stars No, this album is not based on Rimsky-Korsakov's 'Scheherazade', but the intent to mirror and draw inspiration from it are evident on the intro to "A Trip to the Fair". Like Fairport Convention 's Sandy Denny, Renaissance's Annie Haslam is, unfortunately, a nightingale in shadow, obscured by t ... (read more)

Report this review (#988754) | Posted by Lord Anon | Saturday, June 29, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Renaissance reached their creative peak with the symphonic-bathed Scheherazade and Stories. The past few albums have been known to incorporate plenty of symphonic moments, including heavy use of the piano, but Scheherazade and Stories takes it to a new level with lush environments based on ful ... (read more)

Report this review (#964466) | Posted by Mr. Mustard | Thursday, May 23, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars The Scheherazade has always been a 5-star masterpiece to me, but I noticed that I had never written a review to give myself a chance to explain this rating in more detail. I guess my method of rating is subtractive .. Unlike many people I do not add X points for each of the Y categories, but rath ... (read more)

Report this review (#933361) | Posted by Argonaught | Wednesday, March 20, 2013 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Maybe the best Rennaissance album, and one of the best in Prog-Rock in my opinion. Side 1 contains 3 songs only, but they are all top class! My favourite here is 'Trip to the fair'. Side 2 contains the 24-minute long epic 'The song of Scheherazade'. The story from '1001 nights' 'dressed' with ver ... (read more)

Report this review (#803883) | Posted by The Jester | Monday, August 13, 2012 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This album is divided in two, the first part contain three songs. They are are very nice, with the exception of Ocean Gypsy(#3), which is a great song with cool singing from Annie Haslam. But the real diamond here is Scheherazade, which is a multi-part suite. Long, complex and heavily influenced f ... (read more)

Report this review (#346194) | Posted by BlindGuard | Tuesday, December 07, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I have such a soft spot for Renaissance and Annie Haslem--and I truly count the haunting and majestic "Trip to the Fair" as one of the 50 greatest songs ever recorded--but the rest of Sheherezade fails to live up to the same standard, IMO. Excellent music, from outstanding musician/performers, but j ... (read more)

Report this review (#330971) | Posted by BrufordFreak | Tuesday, November 23, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I have always thought of this album as being in the shadows of great albums from other symphonic prog bands. But nonetheless, "Scheherazade and Other Stories" is a strong output from Renaissance. This is the only album I have from Annie Haslam and Co. but it sure made me notice that there are ... (read more)

Report this review (#294299) | Posted by Lark the Starless | Thursday, August 12, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I have heard of Renaissance, but this was my first experience listening to the band. The whole album is well done, but My two favorites are "Trip to the Fair" and "Scheherazade." In fact those two tunes are the only ones I listen to on a regular basis. I thought "The Vultures Fly High" was a ... (read more)

Report this review (#282494) | Posted by Keetian | Tuesday, May 18, 2010 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Renaissance really focuses on the "symphonic" side of the equation, much more than the "rock" side- I would not classify this album as rock at all, but that is not a problem, of course- what matters is the sound and the emotion of the work, and Scheherazade succeeds in those areas. Each song is a ... (read more)

Report this review (#277571) | Posted by Neurotarkus | Sunday, April 11, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This is the only Reniassance album I own so far, but I plan to get more of their work soon because this is a darn good album! It starts off with "Trip to the Fair", which is in my opinion the best track on the album. The first three minutes are very well done with that make me feel like i'm in ... (read more)

Report this review (#246921) | Posted by CH1390 | Wednesday, October 28, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars And then, comes the masterpiece. It is almost unquestionable that Scheherazade and Other Stories is the quintessencial work by Renaissance, particularly the 24 minutes long Song of Scheherazade. Here, all the elements that made the identity and reputation of the band came together and matured. ... (read more)

Report this review (#234248) | Posted by bfmuller | Saturday, August 22, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars First of all, I only became interested in this album because I was wanting to buy music from artists who record the longer 20 minute plus stuff. I had only heard this band one time, and I didn't pay much attention to it at the time. I finally purchased Scheherazade after trying for 2 years to ge ... (read more)

Report this review (#195412) | Posted by KEITH | Sunday, December 28, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars One thousand and one nights in forty-five minutes. Finding this album was one of the biggest revelations of my many years long exploration of the progressive rock scene. It was worthy all the hassle with Ebay and Google. The album kicks off with an incredible good piano part before the voc ... (read more)

Report this review (#188732) | Posted by toroddfuglesteg | Monday, November 10, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Supposedly their magnum opus. It is at least the second favourite, if not THE, for most fans. A small minority think it's heavily overrated. I kind of fall in between the extremes. This album really is about two stories. The story of Scheherazade and then that of the "Other Stories". I am rath ... (read more)

Report this review (#184356) | Posted by rogerthat | Wednesday, October 01, 2008 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Scheherazade and Other Stories is also very good music. from the begining I don't like Renaissance for I only knew their song ocean gypsy in this album and I don't like the song which was played on the radio often at that time of about 20 years age or so. At that time I didn't hear Renaissance's ... (read more)

Report this review (#175882) | Posted by bspark | Wednesday, July 02, 2008 | Review Permanlink

5 stars 9.0/10 Incredible Let me start off on this album by stating that Song of Scheherazade is my favorite Renaissance song. This song is epic, adventurous, extremely melodic and just all together brilliant! This album is worth listening to alone because of this single, 25 minute long track. The ... (read more)

Report this review (#174671) | Posted by The Lost Chord | Saturday, June 21, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Scheherazade and Other Stories, along with Turn of the Cards is my 'Renaissance most played' and probably is the group at the top of their game. Side One consists of three great tracks, of which Vultures Fly High is the most dramatic and most-likely in the radio playlist stakes (it also comes ... (read more)

Report this review (#161458) | Posted by malcra | Sunday, February 10, 2008 | Review Permanlink

5 stars A masterful piano, a stunning orchestra, and a beautiful story to be remembered: these are the components of "Scheherazade and Other Stories". I. "Trip to the Fair": One of Renaissance's most triumphant albums (and songs) pulls into full gear with amazing grand piano work by John Tout. The infl ... (read more)

Report this review (#116336) | Posted by Penumbra | Sunday, March 25, 2007 | Review Permanlink

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