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RENAISSANCE

Symphonic Prog • United Kingdom


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Renaissance picture
Renaissance biography
Founded in 1969 - Disbanded in 1987 - Reformed between 1998-2002 and again since 2009

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.

Photo by Brian Tirpak

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.

See also:
- ILLUSION
- Jim MCCARTY

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RENAISSANCE discography


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

3.75 | 360 ratings
Renaissance
1969
3.09 | 256 ratings
Illusion
1971
3.74 | 446 ratings
Prologue
1972
4.22 | 746 ratings
Ashes Are Burning
1973
4.11 | 638 ratings
Turn of the Cards
1974
4.32 | 1249 ratings
Scheherazade and Other Stories
1975
3.75 | 399 ratings
Novella
1977
3.70 | 370 ratings
A Song for All Seasons
1978
3.02 | 206 ratings
Azure d'Or
1979
2.50 | 128 ratings
Camera Camera
1981
1.61 | 114 ratings
Time-Line
1983
2.11 | 72 ratings
The Other Woman
1995
2.87 | 59 ratings
Ocean Gypsy
1997
2.13 | 61 ratings
Songs From Renaissance Days
1997
3.02 | 105 ratings
Tuscany
2000
3.27 | 134 ratings
Grandine Il Vento [Aka: Symphony Of Light]
2013

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

4.27 | 236 ratings
Live at Carnegie Hall
1976
3.81 | 59 ratings
Live at the Royal Albert Hall with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Part 1
1997
3.70 | 55 ratings
Live at the Royal Albert Hall with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Part 2
1997
3.85 | 27 ratings
BBC Sessions
1999
4.10 | 13 ratings
Day of the Dreamer
2000
2.42 | 12 ratings
Unplugged - Live at The Academy of Music, Philadelphia USA
2000
3.14 | 14 ratings
Can You Hear Me
2001
3.31 | 12 ratings
Mother Russia
2002
3.92 | 12 ratings
Live + Direct
2002
3.57 | 41 ratings
In The Land Of The Rising Sun
2002
3.15 | 13 ratings
British Tour '76
2006
3.21 | 15 ratings
Dreams & Omens
2008
4.15 | 30 ratings
Turn Of The Cards & Scheherazade And Other Stories - Live In Concert
2011
3.92 | 3 ratings
Past Orbits Of Dust: Live 1969/1970
2012
3.21 | 19 ratings
DeLane Lea Studios 1973
2015
3.86 | 14 ratings
Academy Of Music 1974
2015
3.18 | 18 ratings
A Symphonic Journey
2018

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

2.89 | 22 ratings
Song of Scheherazade
2008
3.97 | 13 ratings
Kings And Queens
2010
4.40 | 12 ratings
Live at the Union Chapel
2016
3.96 | 7 ratings
Live at the BBC Sight & Sound
2016

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

2.83 | 14 ratings
In the Beginning
1978
4.00 | 4 ratings
Rock Galaxy
1980
3.39 | 34 ratings
Tales of 1001 Nights Volume 1
1990
3.18 | 32 ratings
Tales of 1001 Nights Volume 2
1990
3.34 | 18 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 | 2 ratings
Heritage
2003
2.00 | 4 ratings
Midas Man
2003

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

2.00 | 2 ratings
Island
1970
3.09 | 3 ratings
Prologue
1972
3.95 | 2 ratings
Carpet of the Sun
1973
2.00 | 1 ratings
Mother Russia
1974
3.00 | 1 ratings
Back Home Once Again
1977
3.00 | 2 ratings
Midas Man
1977
3.67 | 3 ratings
Northern Lights
1978
0.00 | 0 ratings
Jekyll and Hyde
1979
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Winter Tree / Island of Avalon
1979
1.25 | 8 ratings
Faeries (Living At The Bottom Of My Garden)
1981
3.56 | 19 ratings
The Mystic and the Muse
2010

RENAISSANCE Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Back Home Once Again by RENAISSANCE album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1977
3.00 | 1 ratings

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Back Home Once Again
Renaissance Symphonic Prog

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

— First review of this album —
3 stars Symphonic prog band Renaissance started to change their style a bit poppier and more accessible on A Song for All Seasons (1978), which however is a much more rewarding album, also from prog's point of view, than what was to follow. I have always liked it very much, but it contains a couple of songs I'm not that fond of, and the other one is 'Back Home Once Again'. Had I been a child in Britain at the time, I might have a closer and warmer relationship to the song, which after all is pretty nice when judged as a chorus-structured pop song instead of being seen as a weaker song on a good prog album.

That's because it was the signature tune for "The Paper Lads", a children's television series broadcast in the U.K. from 1977 to 1979. The series was set in the northern industrial city of Newcastle upon Tyne and recounted the adventures of a group of newspaper delivery boys and a girl. There were two series made, each of seven episodes. William Corlett's four scripts won him the Writer's Guild Award for Best Children's Writer. Personally I knew absolutely nothing about the series (Wikipedia did) or if I would have enjoyed it as a kid or not, but I believe that at least I would have liked the song, at the age of ten or so. Even today I can't think of many TV series theme songs as good and refreshing as this one. The mere idea of hearing the lovely voice of Annie Haslam from the telly is charming.

Since the album in which the song would appear the following year didn't yet exist, it was quite natural to choose a B- side song from Renaissance's previous album Novella (1977), which by the way is my personal favourite -- even though it is generally regarded slightly weaker than the seminal classic albums before it. 'The Captive Heart' is a beautiful short song from that orchestral and highly symphonic album, and it concentrates on John Tout's classically oriented piano and Annie's double layered vocals, featuring also bassist Jon Camp's backing vocals.

Both songs on this single were composed by Jon Camp and Michael Dunford. Renaissance were definitely an album oriented band at the time, and a single with two album tracks is thus quite unnecessary. But rarely a single contains as good music as this one, and an extra point for making it to the TV!

 Live at Carnegie Hall by RENAISSANCE album cover Live, 1976
4.27 | 236 ratings

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Live at Carnegie Hall
Renaissance Symphonic Prog

Review by Squire Jaco

5 stars For 40 years, this has been one of my "top 5" albums.

Even though there were many other great (usually shorter) songs from their first few albums that didn't even make it to this album, "Live at Carnegie Hall" is still pretty much a "best of" for Renaissance up to their 1976 output. They grandly showcase their unique brand of classical rock (complete with orchestra!), which was often heavily influenced by Russian romantic and impressionist composers of classical music. Annie Haslam's voice is as beautiful as ever here, and she hits a high note at the end of "Scheherazade" that still astounds me. I love the between-songs dialogue between her, John Camp and the very appreciative audience. Camp's bass solo on "Ashes are Burning" - simply sublime! In fact, the whole band sounds tight.

This is an absolute treasure for progressive rock lovers.

 Mother Russia by RENAISSANCE album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1974
2.00 | 1 ratings

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Mother Russia
Renaissance Symphonic Prog

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

— First review of this album —
2 stars One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

Unbeknownst to the band members themselves, Sire Records put out an edited version of Renaissance's Mother Russia as a single. The single was released only in America to promote the band's 1974 album Turn of the Cards. The b-side of the single is I Think of You taken from the same album.

Inspired by the Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn novel One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich from 1962, Betty Thatcher's lyrics for Mother Russia is about the horrors of the Gulag labour camps in the Soviet Union. The song has become one of the best known pieces by Renaissance, very often played live.

Whilst the album version of Mother Russia runs to nine and a half minutes, the edited single version is cut down to only three and a half minutes. The single edit now appears on CD for the first time ever as a bonus track on the recent four-disc re-issue of Turn of the Cards by Esoteric Recordings. As is often the case, the longer album version is the definitive version and the only version you really need. The edit will be of interest mainly to curious fans and collectors.

 A Song for All Seasons by RENAISSANCE album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.70 | 370 ratings

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A Song for All Seasons
Renaissance Symphonic Prog

Review by Lupton

5 stars "A song for all our time"

I can just imagine, after being presented with Renaissance's previous album Novella, a Warner Brothers A&R man gesticulating wildly, chomping on a fat cigar and complaining loudly that "I don't hear no hits!" .The band must have realized that by now, nearly ten years of only moderate commercial success they had to make some changes to their music or be forever relegated to the second tier of progressive rock forever.Who better to produce their next album than David Hentschel, the man you had recently helped propel Genesis to global success with "Then There Were Three"The brief from the group would have been along the lines of "Give us a hit album and a hit single". The producer did just that- "A Song For All Seasons" was not only their most commercially successful album, it also provided them with their one and only hit single "Northern Lights"which went as far as number 10 on the charts.

So much for the commercial success of this record.What about the music itself? All four musicians were always exceptionally fine players especially the keyboard player John Tout.As a pianist he could hold his own next to the Keyboard Gods like Emerson and Wakeman. Michael Dunford's 12 string guitar lent their music much of its lushness, Jon Camps's use of the base guitar as a lead instrument is hugely impressive and everything is held together by particularly sensitive percussion work by Terence Sullivan.The real ace in the pack would have to be singer Annie Haslam's extraordinarily powerful five octave ranging vocals. Yet for all their collective talent and beautifully arranged music I have to admit I often come away from listening to even their most revered albums like "Scheherazade and Other Short Stories" feeling slightly underwhelmed.

With "A Song For All Seasons", David Hentschel really pulled out all the stops -employing multi-tracked vocals, bombastic and sophisticated orchestrations and even re-introducing some electric guitar.The end result is quite magnificent overall. Admittedly the album is also home to a few straightforward pop songs like "Back Home Again" their theme to the TV show "The Paper Lads" and "She Is Love" is a particularly weak song sung by John Camp because Annie Haslam was unavailable on the day it had to be finished. That is one song I would have dearly appreciated being left off the album.A couple of the songs have a rather strange structure. The opening track, appropriately titled"Opening Out" starts off with some powerfully dramatic chords and engaging but suddenly fizzles out and ends for no apparent reason."Kindness at The End Of The Day" which closes side one also starts off promisingly with some really engaging playing reminiscent of "Nursery Crime" era before suddenly transforming into a rather mellifluous song. The most successful of the shorter songs is without question "Northern Lights".Lots of jangling 12 string guitars, a prominent base riff, little classically inspired figures after each stanza, glorious vocals of course and a truly memorable and catchy chorus. What I love most about this song is that it was a huge chart success while still being a characteristic Renaissance song so there was no sense of the band "selling out" in order to have a hit.

The two long-form tracks are the real reason to own this record. The albums' second track is a gorgeous shape shifting ten minute plus classic reprising some of the the dramatic musical sections from the opening track.The epic title track is not only the crowning achievement on this album but as far as I am concerned the greatest piece of music the group ever created. Infact I would go one step further and suggest it is one of the finest pieces of music in the entire Progressive Rock Canon.It has absolutely everything I want to hear- an incredibly dramatic complex and sophisticated three minute introduction followed by an a tense vocal section followed by an even more tense slow burning instrumental build up to the dramatic emotionally charged climax.What an absolute stunner.

A solid Five Stars

 Live at Carnegie Hall by RENAISSANCE album cover Live, 1976
4.27 | 236 ratings

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Live at Carnegie Hall
Renaissance Symphonic Prog

Review by iluvmarillion

4 stars Renaissance were one of those second-tier bands that were highly popular in their day. Like many others I was spellbound by Annie Haslam's voice and would lie in my university dorm room playing this Carnegie Hall album endlessly. Nirvana to me was listening to Annie Haslam singing in a rock band with an orchestra backing. The band's love affair with orchestra continued with the Song For All Seasons album when they had a big singles hit with Northern Lights. With the emergence of Punk and New Wave the band changed direction for the Azure D'Or album in 1979 relying on synths rather than piano and orchestra. When that album failed to ignite attention they changed direction again in 1981 for Camera Camera, ditching their keyboard player and drummer, going for a more New Wave sound. Camera Camera has it's admirers. I'm not one of them. This Carnegie Hall concert represents Renaissance at their peak and captures their most creative period between 1972 and 1975.

Annie Haslam shares vocal duties with Jon Camp, but her voice dominates the concert. John Tout shines on the piano and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra are in good form. Prologue opens the concert. I don't think it's one of their best songs. To me it's mostly musical scales on the piano. However, it gets the concert going. I much prefer Kiev off the Prologue album and as a treat we get that song included in the 2019 remastered version of the concert here. Ocean Gypsy is a beautiful folk ballad from the Scheherazade album. Can You Understand is a bit overlong and repetitive but it leads into the two best songs from the Turn Of The Cards album, it's opener, Running Hard and the mini-epic Mother Russia, which ties neatly into the Russian flavor of Kiev.

Renaissance's grand epic Scheherazade is a beautifully crafted song with a number of sections that perfectly knit together. The song is inspired by the story of the virgin bride who is condemned to die at the hands of the Sultan in 1001 Arabian Nights. Michael Dunford provides a short narration to the song before the band starts playing and it follows much the same pattern as the song they released on the studio version of the Scheherazade and Other Stories album about a year later.

The finale of the concert is the Ashes Are Burning title track. If you listen to the studio version of the song, Ashes are Burning, there is a brilliant base line about a third way into the song. This is followed by piano and harpsichord before the song concludes with the blistering electric guitar of Andy Powell. Not having anyone like Andy Powell to perform at the Carnegie Hall concert, Jon Camp stretches out the base line of the song in an extended version of the song. It doesn't work as well, for you miss the electric guitar part. For this reason, I don't think this was a good place to finish off the concert. The brilliant Scheherazade with the full effect of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra should have been the place to end the concert. Then maybe a short encore piece without the orchestra, like Black Flame.

While this isn't a perfect concert, if you like female singers this concert is for you. If you prefer virtuoso guitarists playing in front of a large orchestra then Dave Gilmour (Gdansk) or Steve Hackett (Genesis Revisited) would be your concert of choice. Alternatively if you like bands working with smaller orchestras then I'd recommend the Caravan & the New Symphonia, or one of the present day bands, Big Big Train (Merchants Of Light).

 Da Capo by RENAISSANCE album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1995
3.34 | 18 ratings

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Da Capo
Renaissance Symphonic Prog

Review by VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Review Nš 316

"Da Capo" is a compilation of Renaissance and was released in 1995. This is an excellent introduction to Renaissance's music and it's also probably the most ambitious compilation made by the band until that date. This compilation was put together by Annie Haslam and covers the musical career of the band from their debut studio album "Renaissance", released in 1969 to their eleventh studio album "Time-Line", released in 1983. What is really interesting is that Haslam decided to include some tracks that belong to the first incarnation of the band with a completely different line up and when she wasn't part of it as well. All tracks chosen to be part of this compilation were put into the chronological order, with one, two or three tracks from each studio album of Renaissance. It has also two original studio unreleased tracks.

"Da Capo" has twenty five tracks. So, of all those tracks, from "Renaissance" we have "Kings And Queens" and "Island". From "Illusion" we have "Love Goes On" and "Love Is All". From "Prologue" we have "Prologue" and "Bound For Infinity". From "Ashes Are Burning" we have "Carpet Of The Sun" and "Ashes Are Burning". From "Turn Of The Cards" we have "Black Flame", "Running Hard" and "Mother Russia". From "Scheherazade And Other Stories" we have "Trip To The Fair", "Ocean Gypsy" and "The Young Prince And Princess As Told By Scheherazade", which is one of the parts of the original extended musical suite "Song Of Scheherazade". From "Novella" we have "Midas Man" and "The Captive Heart". From "A Song For All Seasons" we have "Northern Lights" and "A Song For All Seasons". From "Azure D'Or" we have "Forever Changing" and "The Flood At Lyons". From "Camere Camera" we have "Bonjour Swansong" and "Ukraine Ways". Finally, from "Time-Line" we have de final track of this compilation, "The Entertainer".

Besides these twenty three tracks which were released on their several studio albums, we have also two more tracks previously unreleased. So we have "Africa", which is an original and previous unreleased song that date from 1980 and we have also "Writers Wronged", which is also another original and previous unreleased song also dated from 1980.

This double CD set managed to sneak onto the market in the mid of the 90's, below the radar of the most diligent fans of the band and in the best record stores. Across their history, through two different original line ups, and the variants and offshoots of the more enduring second incarnation, as well as its splintering into at least two groups sharing some of the same repertoire, and releases on more than half a dozen labels, Renaissance piled up a significant body of music. Astonishingly, this double CD was the first serious attempt of Renaissance, in a quarter century, to compile the best parts of the output of both versions of the group, covering a period of thirteen years, from 1969 until the dissolution of the second line up in 1982. And it succeeds despite the vast changes in sound and personnel represented on the band.

The selection of the material here is very fair and is in general very good too. The studio versions of the songs are well produced and the sound is excellent. The four early songs from the pre-Haslam albums are interesting and grow on you with repeated listenings. Those albums are better than many people think. Obviously, the latter tunes on the second CD get a little cheesy as the band grew more pop oriented on the later albums. But, they're all very well written, intelligent and listenable as rock music. Besides, all their albums are represented until that moment, and where some of their best compositions are present too. On the other hand, there are a pair of previously unissued tracks, "Africa" and "Writers Wronged". The former sounds unlike anything the group ever did elsewhere, emphasizing percussion, while the latter is a very pretty acoustic guitar dominated track. But, above all, I just can't seem to get enough bored of Haslam's voice.

Conclusion: There are different kinds of compilations. Usually, a real genuine compilation is released to represent the best songs recorded by a band and normally include their entire musical career. The responsibility of the selection of the repertoire included on the compilation is made by the members of the band in connection with their record label. But with this compilation from Renaissance, this isn't entirely true. This compilation was released in 1995 and the main concern of Annie Haslam was to choose songs that represent the entire musical career of the group, including the two first studio albums when the line up of the band was all completely different, and therefore, this compilation doesn't represent necessarily all the best Renaissance's music works. However, "Da Capo" is a good compilation and where all songs are good, very good or even excellent. The first CD is excellent and includes some of their best songs included on some of their best studio works. The second CD, despite isn't as good as the first CD, includes also great songs and it has also some excellent musical moments with special emphasis to the songs taken from their album "Scheherazade And Other Stories" and also to "A Song For All Seasons" which is a fantastic song. I really think that "Da Capo" and "Live At Carnegie Hall" are perhaps the best introductions into Renaissance's music. If you're a newbie enjoy it. Still, and as is usual, a prog compilation can never substitutes the original albums. So, this is the reason why of my 3 stars.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

 A Song for All Seasons by RENAISSANCE album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.70 | 370 ratings

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A Song for All Seasons
Renaissance Symphonic Prog

Review by Progfan97402
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Novella was an underrated album, as it contained the wonderful "Can You Hear Me", while the rest of the album couldn't reach that height, it's still a pretty darn good album and worth getting (and in fact, you only need to hear their awful 1980s offerings of Camera, Camera and Time Line to see that Novella is miles better). Of course the moderate popularity of the band in the US was starting to slip, which I guess had to do with disco (punk never really had much of an impact in the US) not to mention the transformation of FM rock radio from underground progressive to commercial AOR had a lot to do with it. So it's no surprise that A Song for All Seasons pretty much was the end of the road for American success. Strangely they were starting to get a small amount of UK success with "Back Home Once Again", smack in the middle of the punk era. How did that happen? I understood The Enid was able to withstand the punk-era releasing albums well into the 1980s due to the punks taking a liking to their music, and Steve Hackett also weathering out this era probably due to dissatisfied Genesis fans who disliked where the band was headed without him. Anyways, it's clearly a transitional album as they still continue with lengthy pieces, but with shorter pop songs designed for radio airplay. "Opening Out" demonstrates they can still make great material, and not too different from what they've done before. "Day of the Dreamer" and the title track demonstrates how they can still make epic material in 1978 despite being smack in the middle of the punk-era, while "Northern Lights" and "Back Home Once Again" were obviously short, pop- oriented tunes. As obviously Renaissance never bought in to the punk movement, much like Genesis, recording more pop- oriented material was the way to go. At least here they hadn't completely abandoned prog. I was surprised to see much of the album is actually quite good, even the more pop-oriented moments. It's no Scheherezade or Turn of the Cards, that's for sure, but nowhere as bad as Camera, Camera or Time Line. Still A Song for All Seasons has good material worth hearing.
 Novella by RENAISSANCE album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.75 | 399 ratings

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Novella
Renaissance Symphonic Prog

Review by Progfan97402
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Aside from the 1969 debut which was essentially a totally different band bearing the Renaissance name, Novella, was, for all practical purposes, the first Renaissance album I ever bought, in 1996, for $1 (it was the true original US Sire pressing with ABC distribution). What I didn't realize was this album was never thought of in a high of a light as previous one, but after getting familiar with those albums as well, I really can't see why this is not as highly regarded. Try listening to Camera, Camera (a later offering from them, from 1981, never a good year for prog), that's pretty awful. Novella pretty much sticks to the same 1970s formula they did before, but to my ears it may have not offered anything new to the table that you hadn't already heard on previous albums. The opening song, "Can You Hear Me" simply blew me away. It starts off orchestral, but then the acoustic guitars kick in and Annie Haslam sings and it's pure heaven. The strange thing is I swore up and down I've heard this song years before I ever bought this album or even heard of Renaissance (or Annie Haslam, for that matter). At that time, me and my family were living in rural Oregon some 20 miles outside Eugene, Oregon (living like hippies complete with split-window VW microbus minus the Grateful Dead stickers) and getting their local FM rock station KZEL 96.1 (which is still around to this day) and there's a chance they had played "Can You Hear Me". Maybe that's why I swore I've heard that song before, but KZEL, like just about all the progressive underground FM rock stations after 1975, too succumbed to the commercial AOR format (you're far more likely to hear "Carry On Wayward Son" by Kansas in early 1977 on that station than you would "Can You Hear Me" by Renaissance).

OK, on to other songs, the rest of the album never reaches the mighty heights of "Can You Hear Me", on the other hand they are still very good songs, particularly "Midas Man" and "Touching Once (Is So Hard to Keep)". In fact nothing on this album makes me want to move the tonearm of my turntable, which is great. Remember: try listening to one of their albums of the 1980s, which are far worse, then come back to Novella. It's miles better. Renaissance newbies probably should try Scheherezade or Turn of the Cards as they're generally regarded higher, but Novella is still worth having, and oh, by the way, "Can You Hear Me" is by far my very favorite Renaissance songs.

 Rock Galaxy by RENAISSANCE album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1980
4.00 | 4 ratings

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Rock Galaxy
Renaissance Symphonic Prog

Review by VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Review Nš 291

'Rock Galaxy' is a very special compilation of Renaissance. It's a very economic package that includes their fith studio album 'Turn Of The Cards', released in 1974 and their sixth studio album 'Scheherazade And Other Stories' released in 1975, on only one package. This is a very interesting compilation because it includes two absolutely indispensable musical works of the band at a cheap price, which would be a very worth purchase, at the time, for those who didn't have both studio albums individually. It follows the same pattern of their previous compilation 'In The Beginning', released in 1978. 'In The Beginning' includes the first two albums of the second Renaissances' incarnation, their third studio album 'Prologue', released in 1972 and their fourth studio album 'Ashes Are Burning', released in 1973.

'Turn Of The Cards' and 'Scheherazade And Other Stories' are two absolute indispensable musical works of the band. They're also, in my humble opinion, the two best albums released by Renaissance. We can even say that all those four albums, 'Prologue', 'Ashes Are Burning', 'Turn Of The Cards' and 'Scheherazade And Other Stories' are the four best works from the second Renaissance's incarnation. However, they're also better than the two debut studio albums released by Renaissance's first incarnation, 'Renaissance' and 'Illusion', released in 1969 and 1971, respectively.

As I've already reviewed these two albums previously on Progarchives, in a more extensive way, I'm not going to do it again. So, if you are interested to know, in more detail, what I wrote about them before, I invite you to read those my both reviews. However, in here I'm going to write something about them in a more short way. So, of course, I'm not going to analyze them track by track, as I did before, but I'm only going to make a global appreciation of both albums.

'Turn Of The Cards': As 'Prologue' and 'Ashes Are Burning', 'Turn Of The Cards' is also a great Renaissance's album. In a certain way, 'Turn Of The Cards' is a kind of the second part of 'Ashes Are Burning'. In reality, there was little development from 'Ashes Are Burning' to 'Turn Of The Cards', and musically both albums are very close. For me, a darker version of Renaissance emerged on 'Turn Of The Cards' and so, I think this album is the darker and heavier version of 'Ashes Are Burning'. When I reviewed 'Prologue' and 'Ashes Are Burning', I wrote that 'Spare Some Love' from 'Prologue' and 'On The Frontier' from 'Ashes Are Burning' are the weakest points of those albums. Sincerely, on 'Turn Of The Cards' I can't see any weak points on this album, while it's true that 'I Think Of You' and 'Cold Is Being' aren't as good as the other four tracks, but, in my opinion, they're better than the other two tracks of those albums. So, although not as good and bright as 'Scheherazade And Other Stories', 'Turn Of The Cards' is, in my humble opinion, a much more mature, uniform and balanced album than both previous studio albums, 'Prologue' and 'Ashes Are Burning'. Still, I can't feel on it the same force, quality and originality of 'Sheherazade And Other Stories'.

'Scheherazade And Other Stories': I have a vinyl copy of 'Sheherazade And Other Stories' since it was released, and during many years, it was the only album from the band that I possessed. Still, it's nevertheless true that this wasn't the only album that I knew from them, in those times. In reality, I also knew very well their third and fourth studio albums 'Prologue' and 'Ashes Are Burning'. However, 'Scheherazade And Other Stories' always was my favourite work from the band, and it always had a very special place into my heart. Even now, that I own almost all of their musical works, it still remains so. Sincerely, I'm perfectly convinced that 'Scheherazade And Other Stories' is, in reality, an extraordinary album and it's also one of the most representative progressive rock albums from the 70's. I'm even also convinced that Renaissance is probably the most symphonic classic progressive rock band that ever existed and one of their best representatives. I think it has a very special place into the progressive rock. 'Scheherazade And Other Stories' is, for sure, one of the best progressive albums ever released and 'Song Of Scheherazade' is certainly one of the best classic progressive rock suites ever recorded. Concluding, no progressive rock collection is complete without this album.

Conclusion: 'Prologue', 'Ashes Are Burning' and 'Scheherazade And Other Stories' were my first contacts with Renaissance's music and 'Prologue', 'Ashes Are Burning', 'Turn Of The Cards' and 'Scheherazade And Other Stories' are the four best studio albums from Renaissance. They belong to the best period of the band, their golden era. However, I still consider 'Scheherazade And Other Stories' their best studio album and their only studio masterpiece and 'Turn Of The Cards' their second best release. If you have both albums already, you don't need this compilation, unless you have a collector vinyl spirit. In this case it will be a great addition to your collection, if you can find a lost copy. Still, if you don't have both albums yet and you own this compilation, it substitutes perfectly well the two original albums. But, if you don't have yet, these two albums, you must buy both, urgently. So, I'm going to rate it with 4 stars.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

 Tales of 1001 Nights Volume 2 by RENAISSANCE album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1990
3.18 | 32 ratings

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Tales of 1001 Nights Volume 2
Renaissance Symphonic Prog

Review by VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Review Nš 288

"Tales Of 1001 Nights Volume 2" is a compilation of Renaissance and was released in 1990. It represents the second part of "Tales Of 1001 Nights Volume 1". As happened with that compilation, it includes tracks from four studio albums of Renaissance too. It has one track from their sixth studio album "Scheherazade And Other Storis", released in 1975, three tracks from their seventh studio album "Novella", released in 1977, two tracks from their eighth studio album "A Song For All Seasons", released in 1978 and two tracks from their ninth studio album "Azure D'Or", released in 1979.

The first track ''Can You Hear Me?'' was originally released on ''Novella''. This is an excellent track to open that album. It's a mini epic track very well performed especially by John Tout's piano and Michael Dunford's acoustic guitar. The beautiful voice of Annie Haslam is perfect, as usual. The arrangements, mostly of instrumental parts, are great, and the addition of orchestral arrangements is fantastic and complete very well this piece. The final result is a great progressive track. The second track ''Touching Once (Is So Hard To Keep)'' was originally released on ''Novella''. It's the epic track on that album. It keeps the same style of the opening track. This is a long symphonic suite, very classical and with great orchestration. It's another excellent track with another fantastique vocal performance of Annie Haslam. This is a very progressive track with several changes and where we can listen to, the sound of a saxophone. The main beauty of this track is its nice melody and its superb orchestral arrangements. This is another great progressive track. The third track ''Midas Man'' was originally released on ''Novella''. This is a beautiful classical track with a folky touch. It's mostly an acoustic track very well performed and with a nice final result. This is essentially a track performed by the acoustic 12 string guitar of Michael Dunford and where we can hear, in some parts, the sound of the tubular bells. Because it's a repetitive track it's considered by many somehow boring. However, I think that is perfectly unfair because it has very good arrangements that can be perfectly audible on any good audio system. The fourth track ''Nothern Lights'' was originally released on ''A Song For All Seasons''. This is a beautiful and catchy track on that album. It's true that it's a more pop oriented track but it's very beautiful and nice to hear. I think it represents a very good pop song, composed with enough quality to can give to us some pleasure when we hear it. The fifth track ''A Song For All Seasons'' was originally released on ''A Song For All Seasons''. This is the epic and pompous track on that album, but unfortunately, it represents the last great Renaissance's symphonic progressive epic. The title track is a truly progressive track and is full of pure joy, melody, sweetness and grandiosity. Again, the vocal performance of Annie Haslam is absolutely irreproachable. This track proves the grandiosity of this great band and closes that album with a golden key. The sixth track ''Jekill And Hyde'' was originally released on ''Azure D'Or''. This is a good track to open that album. Annie Haslam's voice sounds as good as ever. Despite the rhythm of the track be more pop than it was usual, it remains an unmistakable Renaissance's song, as fresh and cool, as always they were. The seventh track ''The Winter Tree'' was originally released on ''Azure D'Or''. This is a great example of a good pop track with excellent musical composition. It combines a nice acoustic guitar work with a beautiful keyboard working. It isn't as good as some of the previous tracks on that album, but it's still is a good track. The eighth track ''Ashes Are Burning'' was originally released on ''Ashes Are Burning''. It's the magnum opus of that album and fortunately it was chosen to close brilliantly this compilation album. This can be considered certainly the lengthiest epic of Renaissance but this can't only be attributed to the length of the track. We all know that it isn't, in reality, the duration of a track that makes of it an epic. "Ashes Are Burning" has everything that an epic must have. It has a very complex musical structure, blending nice melody, excellent individual musical performance by all members and the beautiful voice of Annie Haslam. This is, in reality, a memorable piece of music. It can be considered without any type of doubt as one of the greatest progressive rock tracks ever made, really.

Conclusion: With "Tales Of 1001 Nights Volume 2", Renaissance completed what they began with their previous compilation "Tales Of 1001 Nights Volume 1". Both compilations represent a great introduction to Renaissance's music catalogue, covering their career from 1972 to 1979. With both compilations, Renaissance covered what is considered their golden era and all the albums that are really essential to check their greatest musical career. Of course I'm talking about Renaissance's second incarnation. Who are used to the story of this great band knows that there were two different Renaissance's bands, with two completely distinctive lines up. The original line up, between 1969 and 1971, released two great studio albums, "Renaissance" and "Illusion" that must be checked too. But, in this case, we are only talking about the second Renaissance's incarnation. And in this case, in my humble opinion, all their albums that deserve to be checked are covered. So, as happened with the previous compilation, I'm going to rate it with 3 stars too.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

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