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RENAISSANCE

Symphonic Prog • United Kingdom


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Renaissance picture
Renaissance biography
There were two groups under the banner of RENAISSANCE. The first group included Keith and Jane RELF (vocals) and came from the YARDBIRDS ashes. The second and better known incarnation produced some of the best music that I have ever heard. Annie HASLAM's five octave range fit perfectly with the classical/orchestral rock (lot of piano playing & full symphony orchestra backup) created by the other members. The quick description I usually give is they are sort of like the old MOODY BLUES with a an incredible female vocalist. The soprano voice of Annie and the piano virtuosity of John TOUT allied to the beauty and refreshing melodies, the refinement of the arrangements gave their music its magnificent splendour.

My favorite RENAISSANCE albums are "Ashes Are Burning" and "Turn of the Cards". I also recommend "Novella", "Scheherezade and Other Stories" and "A Song for All Seasons" are must haves. I would add "Live At Carneige Hall" and "King Biscuit Hour Parts 1 and 2" as their 'prime' material. Plenty to fill a day with class, power and ethereal delights. The best introduction to the band would be the "Tales of 1001 Nights" compilation, which together contain of the band's best material from 72 through 80. Also the very first album from '69 is essential. After 1979, the band moved towards a more pop direction, like many other bands did in the late 70's.

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RENAISSANCE "Time-Line" original PROMO LP from 1983 (I.R.S. SP-70033) USD $6.00 Buy It Now 36m 49s
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RENAISSANCE discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

RENAISSANCE top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.72 | 279 ratings
Renaissance
1969
3.01 | 200 ratings
Illusion
1971
3.71 | 360 ratings
Prologue
1972
4.22 | 596 ratings
Ashes Are Burning
1973
4.08 | 523 ratings
Turn Of The Cards
1974
4.30 | 968 ratings
Scheherazade And Other Stories
1975
3.71 | 328 ratings
Novella
1977
3.61 | 293 ratings
A Song For All Seasons
1978
3.00 | 170 ratings
Azure D'Or
1979
2.42 | 110 ratings
Camera Camera
1981
1.63 | 99 ratings
Time-Line
1983
2.12 | 63 ratings
The Other Woman
1995
2.88 | 51 ratings
Ocean Gypsy
1997
2.15 | 56 ratings
Songs From Renaissance Days
1997
3.04 | 93 ratings
Tuscany
2000
3.28 | 110 ratings
Grandine Il Vento (Symphony Of Light)
2013

RENAISSANCE Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.22 | 191 ratings
Live At Carnegie Hall
1976
3.79 | 53 ratings
Live at the Royal Albert Hall with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Part 1
1997
3.67 | 50 ratings
Live at the Royal Albert Hall with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Part 2
1997
3.87 | 23 ratings
BBC Sessions
1999
4.05 | 10 ratings
Day of the Dreamer
2000
2.45 | 12 ratings
Unplugged - Live at The Academy of Music, Philadelphia USA
2000
3.21 | 14 ratings
Can You Hear Me
2001
3.32 | 12 ratings
Mother Russia
2002
4.22 | 9 ratings
Live + Direct
2002
3.49 | 36 ratings
In The Land Of The Rising Sun
2002
3.20 | 11 ratings
British Tour '76
2006
3.19 | 14 ratings
Dreams & Omens
2008
4.17 | 24 ratings
Turn Of The Cards & Scheherazade And Other Stories - Live In Concert
2011
3.91 | 2 ratings
Past Orbits Of Dust: Live 1969/1970
2012
3.26 | 14 ratings
DeLane Lea Studios 1973
2015
4.05 | 9 ratings
Academy Of Music 1974
2015

RENAISSANCE Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

2.89 | 21 ratings
Song of Scheherazade
2008
3.97 | 12 ratings
Kings And Queens
2010
4.91 | 4 ratings
Live at the Union Chapel
2016

RENAISSANCE Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.57 | 12 ratings
In the Beginning
1978
4.00 | 3 ratings
Rock Galaxy
1980
3.43 | 29 ratings
Tales of 1001 Nights Volume 1
1990
3.20 | 29 ratings
Tales of 1001 Nights Volume 2
1990
3.41 | 14 ratings
Da Capo
1995
2.53 | 5 ratings
Innocence
1998
2.57 | 4 ratings
Trip To The Fair
1998
3.83 | 3 ratings
Songs For All Seasons
2002
4.00 | 1 ratings
Heritage
2003
2.00 | 4 ratings
Midas Man
2003

RENAISSANCE Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Island
1970
0.00 | 0 ratings
Prologue
1972
3.00 | 2 ratings
Northern Lights
1978
1.20 | 7 ratings
Faeries (Living At The Bottom Of My Garden)
1981
3.57 | 16 ratings
The Mystic And The Muse
2010

RENAISSANCE Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Time-Line by RENAISSANCE album cover Studio Album, 1983
1.63 | 99 ratings

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Time-Line
Renaissance Symphonic Prog

Review by ALotOfBottle

1 stars Renaissance, once a renowned and ambitious symphonic prog act took the turn that sadly all too many bands of the genre have taken at one point or another in the late seventies and eighties. Yes produced disco radio-friendly hits, Genesis got to things in the area similar to Yes, Emerson Lake & Palmer produced the pop sell-out Love Beach while Mike Oldfield recorded dance music with techno strains. Renaissance was no exception. Time-Line is probably the worst album in the band's discography. Mike Dunford's guitar solos are not unskillful by any means, but are being put in a scenario that makes me cringe. While listening to the band's previous works, you wouldn't be able to imagine Annie Haslam's voice in such terrible music. All in all, this is a complete junk, I recommend you stay away from this!
 Live at the Union Chapel by RENAISSANCE album cover DVD/Video, 2016
4.91 | 4 ratings

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Live at the Union Chapel
Renaissance Symphonic Prog

Review by rogerthat
Collaborator Crossover Team

5 stars Renaissance has a surprisingly rich treasure trove of live recordings, especially so for a second tier band. Are there some superfluous releases in this humongous catalogue of concert performances? Perhaps, but Live At the Union Chapel is surely not one of them. What follows is a review of the DVD and not the audio only CD.

What makes this DVD special is, aside from all other things, it is one of only two colour DVDs of Renaissance mk ii and the third yet overall. The only DVD representing the 70s classic line up - you know which one - is Song of Scheherazade and that much maligned black and white release is no competition. The main competition then is with the Turn of the Cards/Scheherazade and other Stories DVD from 2011. Yeppers, if you didn't know about that one and don't have it yet in your collection, you should because it has both albums performed in their entirety with a little bonus.

On the face of it then, this DVD, taken from their concert at aforesaid venue in London, is up against the odds when compared with Cards/Scheherazade. But, leaving aside this obvious disadvantage, Renaissance score over the 2011 DVD on two counts. One, the video footage is much better shot here (though I'll leave providing the technical justification for that comment to somebody else!) and the audio too is stunning. The audio is available in two modes - stereo and surround sound. The surround sound set up is incredible. Listening to Annie Haslam's voice on surround can almost lull you into believing it's the 70s. Two, the concert features three tracks from Grandine Il Vento/Symphony of Light. That would perhaps be regarded as a problem by some but, as somebody who is no great fan of that album, I must say these three tracks really come alive in the concert setting. I had already enjoyed Mystic and the Muse on the 2011 DVD and now enjoy Symphony of Light as well as Grandine Il Vento a lot more on the DVD compared to the studio versions. The energy and emotion that was perhaps a touch subdued in the studio recordings really flows in the concert performances and makes them a lot more engaging.

I have minor quibbles here and there of the band's playing (like the way Mark Lambert performs the opening guitar riff of Northern Lights...just compare it to the way Dunford played it and you'll see my point) but overall they are splendid. Annie Haslam continues to amaze, as ever. It's not that her instrument is completely untouched by the demands of touring for so many years and a purely vocal acrobatics-oriented track like Prologue spotlights what's changed. But on the other tracks (which have lyrics) her phrasing seems to have gotten even better as compared in 2011 (which was already - dare I say it - better than the 70s). As I mentioned earlier, the surround sound set up adds that little bit of 'beef' to her voice which was missing in the 2011 recording, closing the gap even more on the 70s. These are nitpicky considerations of a long time fan (or not so long time by Ren fan standards!); suffice it to say that those who are less demanding will have nary a complaint of any hue to make.

Time for the rating, then. From a Renaissance fan perspective, this is five star material. I am not comparing this with DVDs of other bands and wouldn't advise a casual listener (of Renaissance) to start here. But if you already like this band, then this is a must have for sure.

 Songs From Renaissance Days by RENAISSANCE album cover Studio Album, 1997
2.15 | 56 ratings

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Songs From Renaissance Days
Renaissance Symphonic Prog

Review by SteveG

2 stars Songs From Renaissance Days is a compilation of unreleased outtakes and demos that the band had recorded around the time of the Camera Camera and Time Line album sessions. Except for a couple of songs, there was good reason not include these songs on the afore noted albums. They simply are not up to snuff as either new wave prog or straight pop songs. But this compilation does give one the ability to see clearly the two diametrically opposed musical avenues the group was deciding in the wake of poor sales of the Camera Camera album that was just released in 1981.

Dream Maker is a gorgeous emotive song that features some of Jon Camp's best lyrics that were placed together with Michael Dunford's hypnotic melody. Annie Haslam shines on this track but it would be only one the few where she does.

Africa and You are outtakes and demos, respectively, from the Camera Camera sessions and are good for a look at other musical ideas the band were playing with at that time. Unfortunately, these are failed experiments that involved tribal rhythms and chanting in a faux tribal language in the case of Africa, and long almost repetitive musical passages in the case of You.

This compilation also features two solo demos from Annie that are a stiffy electric slowed down version of the band's UK hit Northern Lights ,and the last song ever co-written by lyricist Betty Thatcher and Dunford for the band to record as a Renaissance album track titled No Beginning No End. No Beginning No End features another gorgeous Dunford melody and it is surprising that the song was not resurrected during any of the band's recent re-incarnations.

Only When I Laugh and The Body Machine are slick synth pop songs that are pleasant mostly due to Haslam's emotive vocals. Writer's Wronged is a song that doesn't know if it wants to be prog, pop or jazz and probably illustrates the confusion in musical direction that the band were experiencing at that of its recording.

The band's cover of Paul Simon's America seems redundant in that it was Yes' encore piece during their many US concerts, and the band do little to better Yes' version.

All in all, Songs From Renaissance Days was a postcard to old Renaissance fans that should have never been sent. 2 stars.

 Camera Camera by RENAISSANCE album cover Studio Album, 1981
2.42 | 110 ratings

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Camera Camera
Renaissance Symphonic Prog

Review by SteveG

5 stars Eight rapid fire old time camera shutters clicking open and closed signal the invisible metronome of Camera Camera's opening title track and we're off. Jon Camp's bass takes over the beat with five identical propulsive bass notes that climax in a quick four note melody, while long time acoustic guitarist Michael Dunford shadows Camp's leading bass with surprise stabbing stereo electric guitar chords that are actually rhythmic notes that cascade around the soundstage. New drummer Peter Baron adds electrifying drum fills and briefly detours to hit his snare on the offbeat before rejoining the song in conventional rock band style. Briefly, images of Bill Bruford and Chris Squire fill my head before Peter Gosling's distinctive synth notes fill the sound stage joined by Annie Haslam's distinctive vocals. But Haslam herself surprises and climaxes her multi tracked choruses with some never before heard high octave vocal hijinks.

This is how I first remember hearing the formally symphonic progressive rock band Renaissance back in 1981 and I was thrilled. I recently played a near mint copy of the original vinyl album of Camera Camera and the initial rush is still the same.

For very good reasons. After the departure of long time members John Tout and Terry Sullivan following the release of the more 'radio friendly' Azure D'dor album in 1979, the remaining group members, Annie Haslam, Michael Dunford and Jon Camp found themselves without a record contract while facing a wholesale change that invaded the pop music scene of the early eighties when New Wave ruled the pop radio waves. And frankly, the band's longtime orchestral sound was sounding long in the tooth ever since the release of the Novella album in 1977.

Realigning themselves with former manager Miles Copeland, who now owned IRS Records' subsidy label Illegal, the group recruited keyboardist Gosling from their offshoot band Nevada and added crack studio drummer Baron. With full financial backing from Illegal, the band produced a terrific electric prog album while still maintaining elements of their classical sound. Gosling settled on a distinctively thick synth sound that incorporated elements of dissonant sound, space age whooshes and buzzing into his melodic tones. Baron brought a more prog style of drumming with solid beats backed up with lightning tom fills and deft cymbal work. Aside from Dunford taking up rhythmic electric guitar in place of his previous percussive acoustic, Camp forsook his trebly bass sound for a fat grubby tone that was still the melodic anchor of each and every song.

Camera Camera revealed the new band's penchant for dynamic instrumental sections that were based around Baron's rapid hi hat and encircling tom tom fills that bring to mind Phil Collins without being outright derivative. A rich thick sound mix that gives a prog fan a lot to sink his musical teeth into. Other standout tracks include Tarant-tula, with its creepy electric guitar arpeggios that are chased with a menacing bassline from Camp, and the moving acoustic guitar based Okishi-san, which conjures up images of ancient Japan with the story of a lovelorn Geisha taken away to another village far from the gentleman caller she has fallen for.

Long time lyricist Betty Thatcher shines in her stories of lost love on this song as well as in the heart rending Bonjour Swansong (only available on the CD version.) I once read that a critic stated that Bonjour Swansong was Northern Lights recast in waltz time. While the song does have a strong resemblance to Northern Lights in it's slow but not quite waltz time chorus,and execution could not render the song more different. Less complex and presented as a pop song, Bonjour Swansong displays the return of Dunford's beautiful acoustic strums that supports Haslam's multi tracked vocals for the choruses before Haslam stops the show with one of her ethereal moments in the song's middle eight section. Camp's bass is confined to simple scales in the song's catchy choruses instead of his complex melodies that were displayed in the more prog tinged Northern Lights, and this the main reason why the song succeeds and sounds original.

Jigsaw is Thatcher's mirror of the band's fortune and interpersonal relationships which were fractured after the release of Azure D'or, and the band does another incredible job of transferring the chaotic feelings into dramatic time signature changing music.

Ukraine Ways is another of the band's neo-classical prog pieces that conjures up images of the cold former Soviet Union, Cossacks, and Russian men dancing. The song goes through several changes from dynamic prog to dramatic vocal yearning with Gosling playing cascading classical piano around Camp's melodic bass lines in the chorures. The song's musical climax is Camp's pounding bass notes in the instrumental section that's supported with more rapid fire drum fills from Baron before a very distorted guitar lead, almost reminiscent of a garage rock tone, briefly teases before returning in full force for the songs climactic lasts moments. Great waves of whooshing synths slowly die off as this great album draws to a close.

Camera Camera is not without its faults. Fairies (living at the bottom of the garden) and Running Away From You are bland pop songs that evoke feelings of the band having gone New Wave as synths are used for the quirky rhythms, and Gosling's sometimes noisy synth tones can be off putting to some people. But in a time when Yes and Genesis were devolving into pop acts and King Crimson actually embraced New Wave, Renaissance still put quality into their music.

Camera Camera was a brave album that Renaissance bet their professional future on. Too complex in some instances and too fey in others, the music would never be appreciated by anyone other than a diehard electric and symphonic prog fan. Camera Camera manages to encompass both of those subgenres easily. Thirty plus years after it was first released, it's time for diehard fans of the band's older sound to drop their prejudices and gave this album a deservedly fresh listen.

How fortunate are the fans who got the message the first time around. Five stars for this essential album in the Renaissance canon.

 In The Land Of The Rising Sun by RENAISSANCE album cover Live, 2002
3.49 | 36 ratings

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In The Land Of The Rising Sun
Renaissance Symphonic Prog

Review by SteveG

3 stars The Tuscany reunion tour yielded this fine album that's probably a bit less precious to fans now in light of the band's 2011 reunion, subsequent live CD/DVD and the new Grandine Il Vento album.

Live in Japan 2001 does not feature the old ever familiar band members and it shows in their sometimes metered but still accomplished performances. What is immediately apparent is how much better sounding the four songs from the Tuscany album, Lady From Tuscany, Dear Landseer, Pearls Of Wisdom, and One Thousand Roses, sound live with two keyboardists filling out and adding the more immediate and dynamic sound to these live versions.

This would be the first time Renaissance utilized two keyboard players, the incredible Mickey Simmonds and the equally talented Rave Tesar, who stunningly bring this material to another level.

Other notable songs are the evergreen Northern Lights, and text book covers of Mother Russia and a very full and dense sounding Trip To The Fair. Annie is in good but measured voice throught.

The highlight of this live collection, all recorded in one night in Tokyo, is a brilliant extended encore of Ashes Are Burning. This song features Simmonds and Tesar in a wonderful dueling piano jam before touring bassist David Keyes performs a very Jon Camp sounding bass solo before Simmonds goes ballistic on synth leads that mimic distorted lead guitar. Annie concludes the piece with a 'primal' sounding wordless vocal that closes out the song.

In The Land Of the Raising Sun is far the more immediate sounding and orchestrated Carnegie Hall and King Biscuit concert albums. However, a good time is guaranteed if you're one of the few that's particularly partial to owning the myriad of live Renaissance recordings. 3 stars.

 Tuscany by RENAISSANCE album cover Studio Album, 2000
3.04 | 93 ratings

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Tuscany
Renaissance Symphonic Prog

Review by SteveG

4 stars A wise record producer once said that an album's interesting backstory cannot be played on a turntable.

I agree with him. But a compelling backstory might help one to better appreciate a record. As with the case of the 2001 studio 'reunion' album by Renaissance titled Tuscany.

After the band's third incarnation lost their recording contract in 1983, both of the remaining mark II founding members, Annie Haslam and Michael Dunford, went the solo route. Both with albums baring the Renaissance name and containing little in the way of past glory and, more importantly, quality.

Haslam's solo ventures were based on her esoteric lyrical collaborations with numerous local musicians that was far from the Renaissance sound, and Dunford's casting of 'another woman' in Annie's lead vocal role in his new mark IV Renaissance venture titled The Other Woman was a dismal exercise that left fans feeling even worse by it's release in conjunction with the mark II lineup's long term absence. Complicating the hard feelings between Haslam and Dunford was the late Dunford ending up with the trademarked Renaissance band name and copyrights to extant but unreleased mark ll demos and completed songs.

Long time poetess/lyricist Betty Thatcher had endured a failed marriage and, by her admission, could only write bitter or regretful lyrics at the end of the nineties, and any idea of a reunion with past members seemed remote at best. The long departed, but ever controlling, bassist Jon Camp was not even a remote option, and former keyboard great John Tout was working for a British IT firm and had little interest or free time to entertain such an undertaking.

Luckily, Dunford decided to let Haslam have both creative input and partial business control over a rebooted Renaissance, with Annie writing lyrics in place of Thatcher. Mark Il drummer Terry Sullivan was still an active musician and stayed in touch with former keyboardist John Tout, and was receptive to the idea of a reunion, even if it was only partial.

All were finally reunited for the Tuscany sessions, but with Tout only able to participate on just few songs due to work commitments. Ex Camel and Mike Oldfield keyboardist Mickey Simmonds took over for Tout on the remaining songs and provided stunning orchestral keys and deft piano work. Camp was replaced by Sullivan's friend Alex Cord on bass, and the band were off to it after Haslam and Dunford had co written a dozen songs. Haslam raised her game and concentrated on the joys and tribulations of past love affairs and found a niche in her lyric writing that resembled early Renaissance numbers such as Bound For Infinity and I Think Of You, Haslam's personal favorites from the mark II song canon.

An interesting back story is only good if it goes along with interesting music and so it is with Tuscany. The intro to Pearls of Wisdom is instantly recognizable as a John Tout piano piece in that is both complicated and delicate and demonstrates that he had not lost his great touch. Dear Landseer features both Tout and Simmonds with Tout's piano and harpsichord giving the song a dose of the old Renaissance class. Indeed, Tout even seemed to have made peace with synthesizers and plays moving chords to backup Annie's heartfelt plea for the plight of beached dolphins on Dolphins Prayer. The song is made even more moving by it's real life story of thousands of unexplained beached dolphins that had occurred a few years prior to this albums recording, and guest backup vocalist Roy Wood (ex Move) actually reaches notes high enough to shadow Haslam's multi octaves. It's a beautiful song that's matched by the stark and stunningly emotive Eva's Pond and the sublime In My Life. Both are endearing stripped down piano, synth and percussion pieces. Lady From Tuscany and One Thousand Roses are classic sounding full blown symphonic prog with Simmonds rising to the challenge. The Race is a nifty pop like song with a propulsive rhythm that tells the story of a man's rush through life without enjoying it.

Tuscany has a couple of clunkers like In The Sunshine and the dreadful Life In Brazil, but considering all of this band's hurdles, it's a surprising return to form that would have naturally fit the mark ll band's recorded out put following the 1979 Azure D'or album. All considered, a reunion album like this, coming an incredible 18 years after their last studio album, 1983's Time Line, is even a bit of a minor miracle. And truth be told, I prefer it over the recent and more celebrated Grandine Il Vento material. Very close to 4 stars for this offering.

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 Grandine Il Vento (Symphony Of Light) by RENAISSANCE album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.28 | 110 ratings

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Grandine Il Vento (Symphony Of Light)
Renaissance Symphonic Prog

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

3 stars The "Symphony of Light" album marks the third appearance in about as many years of "The Mystic and the Muse", easily the best RENAISSANCE track since the masterful "A Song for all Seasons" charted on both sides of the Atlantic in 1978. Initially it was the title cut of a 3 song EP, then the ultimate piece of the self produced "Grandine Il Vento" album, and finally on a worldwide release of "Symphony of Light" which compiled everything from both prior recordings and added a tribute to sadly departed guitarist and principal composer Michael Dunford. I mention this partly to update the increasingly confusing history of this seminal band, and partly to underscore the challenge faced by these artists to recapture the old magic or maybe even conjure a new spell. And while bits and pieces from the rest of "Symphony of Light" do sparkle, and every track is good, only "Mystic", with its flourishes reminiscent of the great "Can You Hear Me" from "Novella", consistently attains a level of excellence and distinction that, rightly or wrongly, fans expect all the time from Renaissance.

If I may evoke a snippet of elementary chemistry, the RENAISSANCE sound has always been, oh, say, 3 parts Annie Haslam and 2 parts everything and everyone else. While Annie's voice remains pitch perfect at the limit of the average middle aged eardrum, it doesn't seem to resonate emotionally as much as in the past. An exception is in the denouement of "Grandine Il Vento", when she clenches a crescendo and soars. The thing is, I have no idea what she is singing at that moment and it doesn't matter, while the factual correctness of her lyrics and delivery in "Waterfall" doesn't even inspire me to make a donation to save the rain forest.

It is clear from the formula above that even a perfect Haslam isn't enough on its own; Her lyrics are competent but fall short of the brooding gusto of the late great Betty Thatcher who penned so many of the band's classics. While budget constraints contribute to an overall scantiness of sound, they left no ill effects on "Mystic", which is bold and full as anything from their 1970s work. Conversely, "Air of Drama", a pleasant duet between Annie and bassist David Keyes, plows a quite different furrow - art song meets tango perhaps - which doesn't require symphonic splendor to succeed, even if it's not what most long time fans are looking for.

In spite of Ian Anderson's flute and Michael Dunford's acoustic guitar, "Cry to the World" lacks an intensity that would have elevated its status beyond the merely competent. In fact that is the general theme throughout this disk. What sounds good on paper just doesn't quite pan out, and I often find my mind multitasking during the audition. If I could isolate one missing element from the classic sound, it would be the bass playing, and possibly even the songwriting and arrangements of Jon Camp, who is still in the music business. He was not only adept and melodic but he also tendered much needed muscularity and the only real rock aspect to their sound. It worked brilliantly on "A Song for All Seasons" where it powered the sparkling melodies, but , when the band tried to go new wave in the early 1980s, it was no longer the needed yang to the others' yin. I believe the pieces on "Symphony of Light" are crying for those values.

While this comeback album has received near unanimous critical approval, even among the fussbudgets of the progosphere, it's simply too light, in every sense, to qualify as an essential work. It's also too significant, in every sense, to be relegated to collectors.

 Songs From Renaissance Days by RENAISSANCE album cover Studio Album, 1997
2.15 | 56 ratings

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Songs From Renaissance Days
Renaissance Symphonic Prog

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

1 stars If there is any comfort to be gleaned from this collection of outtakes from the early 1980s, it's that RENAISSANCE didn't pass up much in the way of superior material when they compiled their two studio recordings that decade. Here we are truly at the bottom of the proverbial barrel and it's nighttime. The disk is consistent in its general lack of inspiration and enthusiasm. Annie Haslam in particular sounds profoundly despondent, like her voice is present but would rather be elsewhere, as if she is being forced to sing beneath her station. The rest of the band are equally detached, and the flaw is as much in the arrangements as the compositions themselves.

I can only find a few bright spots - "Dreamaker" is the earliest recorded version of a track that would become "Love Lies Love Dies" in the 1990s under both Annie Haslam and Michael Dunford's Renaissance, and it's just as haunting here with Jon Camp's lyrics as it became under Betty Thatcher's.spell. Apart from its dramatics and dynamics, it has a lovely melody which transcends the period instrumentation. "Only When I laugh" is actually carried by Annie's voice and is pleasing in a detached new romantic meets ABBA sort of way. There seems little point to the poor arrangement of "Northern Lights" and the cover of "America" other than offering a semblance of familiarity to an otherwise anonymous collection, but they just make this listener sadder. Even the much touted "Island of Avalon" is as disappointing as the album from which it was omitted - anyway they already had a much better tune about an island on "Azure D'Or" called "Kalynda",

I suppose fans of "Time Line" might find some enjoyment here, and these tracks do elicit a certain morbid fascination. Renaissance certainly weren't the only prog group to falter clumsily in the 1980s, but somehow their demise seems sadder because they had so epitomized class in their glory days. This is the very definition of a nadir.

 The Other Woman by RENAISSANCE album cover Studio Album, 1995
2.12 | 63 ratings

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The Other Woman
Renaissance Symphonic Prog

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

3 stars In familiarizing oneself with the turbulent history of RENAISSANCE, one has to come to terms with a complete changeover in personnel over a 2 year period in the early 1970s, a lyricist who never sang or played an instrument tenuously linking the two lineups, a return of the original incarnation under a new name, a few offshoots with similar names and, here, in the mid 1990s, two simultaneous dueling RENAISSANCE's, one basically an Annie Haslam solo project, and the other, Michael Dunford's Renaissance, in which a young talented American named Stephanie Adlington tackles lead vocals. To her credit, she does not sound like a deer in the headlights, whatever that is, but instead boldly tackles a set that resides somewhere between the HASLAM led "Time Line" and the more rocking aspects of a band that found a lot of favor with prog fans in the lean early 1990s, "The October project".

Apart from its surprisingly uptempo nature, the album benefits from lyrics of long time Renaissance unofficial poet-laureat Betty Thatcher, who seems to have contributed content that suits Adlington's emotional range. However, this may have been a fortuitous accident, as apparently the writer had been through a bad breakup which may have more to do with the themes of deceit in love prevalent throughout, and the double entendre of the title itself. Right off, the key to enjoyment of "The Other Woman" is to forget whom she is replacing, and, even better, forget the name of the band. Within those confines, this is actually a competent pop rock album with occasional progressive touches. Apart from Adlington's throaty croon, the lead guitar solos of Stuart Bradbury on the catchy opener "Deja Vu" and the even more infectious "Don't Talk" banish the banal. Both "Love Lies, Love Dies" and the title cut are more dramatic ballads that could be signature pieces in a musical, and the latter offers up a haunting keyboard accompaniment. One doesn't hear a lot of Dunford on "The Other Woman", as he relegates himself to acoustic guitar, often absent other than in the decent version of the brilliant "Northern Lights", as well as composing and arranging.

Only one track really emanates in any fashion from the mother ship, that being the closer "Somewhere West of Here", which would fit well on almost any 1970s Renaissance disk, perhaps even more so under JANE RELF's tutelage. That Andy Spillar's powerful keyboard arrangements do not drown out Adlington is testament to her power. It's full of tempo shifts and flourishes that recall chestnuts like "Candles are Burning" or "Day of the Dreamer". The coda subtly revisits the "Love Lies" theme as it gracefully exits.

I may not make many friends with this comment, but I much prefer "The Other Woman" to the Dunford-Haslam reunion that bore fruit in 2001 in the form of the "Tuscany" album. It doesn't sound as much like Renaissance, but that allows one to assess it on its own merits rather than as a dim flicker of a once shining beacon. Since when does musical fidelity have to be monogamous?

 Tuscany by RENAISSANCE album cover Studio Album, 2000
3.04 | 93 ratings

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Tuscany
Renaissance Symphonic Prog

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

2 stars While Annie Haslam's solo career proved that her voice alone cannot carry the day, the version of RENAISSANCE including original guitarist and composer Michael Dunford and vocalist Stephanie Adlington established that he didn't hold the trump cards either. What about bringing Haslam, the voice, and Dunford, the sound, together? And while we're at it, let's inject two other members from the classic period of RENAISSANCE MK 2, drummer Terence Sullivan and keyboardist John Tout, albeit the latter for only two tracks. In fact, only poetess Betty Thatcher and bassist Jon Camp are missing and, rightly or wrongly, they are sorely missed. Not that they would have necessarily helped, for among reunions of these classical prog pioneers, "Tuscany" is a bore to rival the most barren stretches of 1979's "Azure D'Or", and that takes some doing

I was much more welcoming of the energetic "Camera Camera" and "Time Line" in the early 1980s, wherein the band at least sounded engaged and the grooves exploded with hummable, sometimes even danceable melodies. Alas, "Tuscany" includes only 3 tracks worthy of the band's majestic legacy - "Pearls of Wisdom", which could have been one of the better cuts on the aforementioned "Azure D'Or"; "Dear Landseer" which evokes the sweep of a "Can You Understand" or "Ukraine Ways" at least thematically; and the poppy but satisfying "In the Sunshine". Interestingly, Tout only graces 2 tracks, both of which are in this short list. For the rest, we're abandoned to (naturally) well sung art songs that, as lyrics, compositions and performances, profoundly, even shockingly, cry for inspiration. Even Annie's voice is rarely challenged and seem both timid and emotionless in the main.

Perhaps my opinion might have been different if I had heard this at the time of release, the joy of the reunion and promise of future progress shading the overexposed inadequacies, much like a long lost friend with whom one once had an intimate connection. But from where I stand now, Tuscany bequeaths as much satisfaction as a Walmart print of Tuscany from a paint by numbers artist who has never been.

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition.

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