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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)

3.76 | 416 ratings
Renaissance
1969
3.13 | 291 ratings
Illusion
1971
3.76 | 503 ratings
Prologue
1972
4.26 | 836 ratings
Ashes Are Burning
1973
4.15 | 714 ratings
Turn of the Cards
1974
4.32 | 1363 ratings
Scheherazade and Other Stories
1975
3.80 | 445 ratings
Novella
1977
3.74 | 415 ratings
A Song for All Seasons
1978
3.06 | 238 ratings
Azure d'Or
1979
2.53 | 143 ratings
Camera Camera
1981
1.59 | 138 ratings
Time-Line
1983
2.09 | 75 ratings
The Other Woman
1994
2.85 | 63 ratings
Ocean Gypsy
1997
3.02 | 117 ratings
Tuscany
2000
3.22 | 148 ratings
Grandine Il Vento [Aka: Symphony Of Light]
2013

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

4.33 | 259 ratings
Live at Carnegie Hall
1976
3.83 | 63 ratings
Live at the Royal Albert Hall with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Part 1
1997
3.73 | 61 ratings
Live at the Royal Albert Hall with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Part 2
1997
3.73 | 30 ratings
BBC Sessions
1999
4.05 | 15 ratings
Day of the Dreamer
2000
2.39 | 14 ratings
Unplugged - Live at The Academy of Music, Philadelphia USA
2000
3.18 | 16 ratings
Can You Hear Me
2001
3.32 | 13 ratings
Mother Russia
2002
3.77 | 13 ratings
Live + Direct
2002
3.57 | 45 ratings
In The Land Of The Rising Sun
2002
3.74 | 15 ratings
British Tour '76
2006
3.15 | 20 ratings
Dreams & Omens
2008
4.14 | 34 ratings
Turn Of The Cards & Scheherazade And Other Stories - Live In Concert
2011
3.86 | 5 ratings
Past Orbits Of Dust: Live 1969/1970
2012
3.19 | 20 ratings
DeLane Lea Studios 1973
2015
3.89 | 17 ratings
Academy Of Music 1974
2015
3.24 | 24 ratings
A Symphonic Journey
2018
4.44 | 9 ratings
50th Anniversary: Ashes Are Burning: An Anthology - Live in Concert
2021

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

2.90 | 23 ratings
Song of Scheherazade
2008
4.00 | 15 ratings
Kings And Queens
2010
4.28 | 15 ratings
Live at the Union Chapel
2016
3.96 | 9 ratings
Live at the BBC Sight & Sound
2016

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

2.85 | 15 ratings
In the Beginning
1978
4.04 | 5 ratings
Rock Galaxy
1980
3.40 | 38 ratings
Tales of 1001 Nights Volume 1
1990
3.21 | 36 ratings
Tales of 1001 Nights Volume 2
1990
3.36 | 19 ratings
Da Capo
1995
2.15 | 63 ratings
Songs from Renaissance Days
1997
2.52 | 6 ratings
Innocence
1998
2.55 | 6 ratings
Trip To The Fair
1998
3.77 | 4 ratings
Songs For All Seasons
2002
3.09 | 4 ratings
Heritage
2003
1.71 | 6 ratings
Midas Man
2003

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

2.14 | 3 ratings
Island
1970
3.17 | 4 ratings
Prologue
1972
4.00 | 3 ratings
Carpet of the Sun
1973
2.14 | 2 ratings
Mother Russia
1974
3.10 | 2 ratings
Back Home Once Again
1977
3.05 | 3 ratings
Midas Man
1977
4.00 | 4 ratings
Northern Lights
1978
5.00 | 1 ratings
Jekyll and Hyde
1979
4.50 | 2 ratings
The Winter Tree / Island of Avalon
1979
1.35 | 9 ratings
Faeries (Living At The Bottom Of My Garden)
1981
3.55 | 20 ratings
The Mystic and the Muse
2010

RENAISSANCE Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Ashes Are Burning by RENAISSANCE album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.26 | 836 ratings

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Ashes Are Burning
Renaissance Symphonic Prog

Review by WJA-K

5 stars I can't believe I haven't rated this album yet. I love it. This is such a great album. I adore the voice of Annie Haslam, the piano from John Tout, and the bass from Jon Camp. But it is all so good.

The intro from Can You Understand alone, is brilliant. But so is the rest of the song. 10/10

Some hate Let It Grow. But I see it as a ten out of ten. Whenever you are down, you only need to listen to this to be up again. What a voice, what a hopeful message. 10/10

On the frontier is another superb track. The flow of this one, the piano, the harmonies, the bass. 10/10

Carpet of the Sun is another gem. Again such a hopeful message and the arrangements are so fine 9/10

At the Harbour is my least favorite track, but I still love it to bits. 8/10

Ashes are Burning is a great closer. Annie Haslam is a goddess. But the guitar and the closing drums are marvelous too. 9.5/10

I am so fond of this album. It is one of the best records I know. So it's easily a 5 out of 5.

 Dreams & Omens  by RENAISSANCE album cover Live, 2008
3.15 | 20 ratings

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Dreams & Omens
Renaissance Symphonic Prog

Review by rogerthat
Prog Reviewer

3 stars OK, let me explain the rating first up.

The point of this review is to alert Renaissance fans and anyone else interested to the terrific Esoteric Records (Cherry Red) remaster of Song for All Seasons. This expanded edition also has two other goodies. The first is the BBC Radio One Session from 1978 (which was released previously on Renaissance Live At The BBC). The second is this here concert at Tower Theater, Philadelphia. But...the full concert.

The story of 2008 (as well as perhaps the period before that) was the story of weirdly truncated Renaissance concert releases! The black and white Song of Scheherazade DVD left out (in the 'infinite wisdom' of the label) the performance of Ashes Are Burning in both shows that were part of the DVD. I only learnt of this much later when Concert Vault made them available on their subscription service. Now...when you know that the black and white video is going to earn the wrath of fans anyway, why would you aggravate them even more by leaving out the one song that was always the piece-de-resistance of Renaissance concerts?

But, it now transpires, they did this on Dreams and Omens as well. This release is taken from their concert at Tower Theater, Philadelphia from 1978. But it does NOT Song for All Seasons, Touching Once and...Ashes Are Burning (again!), all of which were played at the show. It also excludes Opening Out which was played in the run up to Day of the Dreamer.

As a result, the only real reason to own this album was to have live versions of two songs from Song for All Seasons (and even then, if you had the 2000 release Day of the Dreamer, Northern Lights would be the only one you'd be missing and you'd have got the title track instead). As well as Things I Don't Understand which is not on any other official release of a concert performed by the classic line up. Naturally, then, Dreams and Omens is not one of the coveted live album releases of the band (quite apart from lacking the prestige of the Carnegie Hall and Albert Hall shows).

Speaking of, it's also missing the orchestra. Alas, there doesn't seem to be an orchestral version of Song for All Seasons performed by this line up (though the Annie-led incarnation did their best to fill that gap a couple or more years back). But since the band performed all but a select few of their shows without the orchestra anyway, they are habituated to this and more than make up for the lack. There is a good amount of punch in the drum sound on this recording compared to many other live recordings of the band (and even some of the studio recordings!).

Which is where I detour a bit to talk about the Song for All Seasons remaster. It brings the much needed bottom end to the recording. I have the previous CD edition and the one complaint about it was the somewhat trebly sound. Fixing that makes the title track in particular stupendous to hear. Even if the reissue had NOT offered the Tower Theater show as a bonus attraction, it would still be worth purchasing for the quality of the remaster alone.

But to have the full Tower Theater concert, including both Song for All Seasons and Ashes Are Burning, makes it even more special. With its multi layered chorus and spiky dynamics, Song for All Seasons was and is an awkward track to perform the vocals on live for Annie and it tended to show. But this is one of the best I have heard, better than the rendition on the Boardwalk show on the Song of Scheherazade DVD.

As for Ashes Are Burning, there's a good part and a bad part. The bad is this is one of those over-bloated, near-30 min versions where the endless soloing in the middle 10 min really tries my patience. But the good part is this is also from the period when Annie's vocal solo began to become, well, something else. Those in the know need no further elucidation but I am talking about the sort of rapid alternation of notes she would do up in the sixth octave on the Park West 1983 performance. The only other officially available version on which something similar can be heard is the Boardwalk performance. I can now add Tower Theater to that very short list (in reality, I am sure there were many other shows from that late 70s to early 80s period where she did this). If you really need to explain to someone what the fuss is about her range, this or the Park West performance of Ashes...would do the trick while Touching Once at the Tower Theater show has some fantastic gymnastics as well.

To repeat, the rating of 3 is for the Dreams and Omens standalone CD. But the combined Song for All Seasons remaster and full Tower Theater show easily merits 5 stars within the Renaissance catalog. Get it while you can for it's still available.

 Azure d'Or by RENAISSANCE album cover Studio Album, 1979
3.06 | 238 ratings

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Azure d'Or
Renaissance Symphonic Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars This would be the last album from the classic Renaissance lineup; after this John Tout and Terence Sullivan would quit, and the remainder would reconfigure their sound for the much-derided Camera Camera and Time-Line albums.

The band are also attempting to change and evolve their sound here - but to my ears they do so more successfully. Yes, it's a departure from the sound which had largely served them well from Prologue to A Song For All Seasons, but they'd been ploughing that particular furrow to exhaustion; it was time to evolve or die, and though the classic line-up would ultimately take the latter route after this, they do make an honest bid at the former.

Synths are a bit more prominent, songs are shorter and tighter, and in general a lot of the features which had crept into the music on A Song For All Seasons are dialled up significantly. Another factor is that Michael Dunford is no longer so omnipresent when it comes to the songwriting; from Turn of the Cards he'd at least a co-writing credit on all of Renaissance's songs to Novella; and the only songs on Prologue and Ashes Are Burning which didn't have a Dunford credit on them were old Jim McCarty pieces left over from his tenure in the band, and the only song on A Song For All Seasons which didn't was a Jon Camp piece.

From Novella onwards, Camp had been contributing more intensively to the songwriting, but usually in collaboration with Dunford; here, however, the Camp/Dunford writing partnership is more or less dissolved, save for The Flood At Lyons where Dunford provides music and Camp does the lyrics. For the rest of the album, aside from Sullivan's Forever Changing, it's either Jon Camp pieces (with lyrics by Camp himself) or new Dunford/Thatcher numbers.

Camp even takes on lead vocals on Only Angels Have Wings; by this point it had become rare for Renaissance to feature male lead vocals, since they'd realised what an absolute gift they had in the form of Annie Haslam and, quite sensibly, didn't want to mess with that. Aside from that departure, though, the material here doesn't feel as disjointed as one might expect, with all the songs fitting into the general atmosphere of the album and the album itself representing an entirely acceptable development of the band's sound, adapting to a new era without dispensing with their spirit.

One can imagine Renaissance continuing into the 1980s developing this particular musical strand further and further - but the departure of Tout and Sullivan and the end of their old record deal put paid to that, and perhaps made the more radical changes heralded by Camera Camera seem necessary for the sake of survival. Yes, it's less orchestral, but with this Renaissance proved that they didn't need the orchestra to hand to work their magic - and there's ample evidence here that their prog chops remained sharp even in the context of shorter-form compositions. (Just listen to the brisk instrumental The Discovery if you don't believe me.) Azure d'Or is often left out of the classic run of Renaissance albums, and I feel like that's an injustice - it's at least as solid as A Song For All Seasons, which I'd consider it a companion piece two since it's the other album did in that general style.

 Scheherazade and Other Stories by RENAISSANCE album cover Studio Album, 1975
4.32 | 1363 ratings

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Scheherazade and Other Stories
Renaissance Symphonic Prog

Review by WJA-K

4 stars I love this album. The main highlights for me are the two longer tracks of the album.

Trip to the fair - I love how the opens the song and adore the accompanying bass, backing vocals and drumming of the intro. A bit more than 3 minutes in, the song starts properly. I love the dreamy atmosphere of it. 6 minutes in, the tempo changes and brings excellent keyboard soloing. Then we are back at the core part of the song with a superb outro. 9/10

The vultures fly high - I love superb bass and the instrumentation in general. I have some issues with the lyrics and especially the corny chorus. 7/10

Ocean Gypsy - great craftsmanship. But somehow, the song doesn't do it for me 6.5/10

Song of Scheherazade - Grand epic. A great combination of ebbs and flows, great instrumentation from the band and the orchestra, the singing, and the story. 9.5/10

Granted, the shorter songs aren't my thing. But the songs that bookend the album are superb. 4 stars

 Renaissance by RENAISSANCE album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.76 | 416 ratings

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Renaissance
Renaissance Symphonic Prog

Review by CosmeFulanito

4 stars Great Debut album, highly recomended.

This is my First serious Review (or something like that), i listened the first album from a random band, that band was Renaissance. I knew what Renaissance are, but i've never heard a song from this album. Lets go to the first song.

Kings and Queens: Interesing intro, piano sounds really good, the way that it sounds with the bass and percussion is great, then starts a section, here vocals start. The vocals are fine, but think it should be better. The rest of song has more instrumental sections and a vocal part. The entire song has a great instrumental and a good bass. 8.5

Innocence: Good intro, here is a noticeable improvement of the vocals, when it finish for the first time ,a very good instrumental section begins, this part ends with a piano section and then a small vocal part, when it ends, another instrumental section begins and the song ends after that. 8.5

Island: A song with guitar intro who in it first minutes, is more pop than previus songs, really good, all instruments here are fine. When this part ends, begins a instrumental section with a piano as a lead instrument, being more like the previus songs, here is a great combination of piano, bass and drums, then a vocal choruses sucesed by a intrumental section based on Beethoven's Pathetique, after this section, the song ends. 8.5

Wanderer: The shortest song on the album, has a good intro, then a instrumental section begins, here a harpichord is included, after this, another section begins, here vocals apears. This song has a great vocal interpretation by Jane Relf. After the last section, the song ends. 8

Bullet: The song begins with a bass and piano intro, then drums and guitar appears, starting a section with vocals,. This part has a incredible instrumental where the most of the instruments stands out. After this section, a instrumental with bass, drums, guitar, piano and a lead harmonica. When this part ends, begins an interlude with piano, percussion and bass. Then a solo/section bass, this part is a little weird, but has very interesting moments, this part concludes with a vocal chorus which can become a bit strange or disturbing, on this part, little by little ambient sounds appear with which the song ends. This song is the more avant-garde song from this album. 8

Conclusion: On a scale of 1 to 10, this album deserves 8.3/10, so I'll give it four stars ****

I'll rate the bonus tracks too, but not today because it's a bit late :P, so they'll be rated another day.

 Dreams & Omens  by RENAISSANCE album cover Live, 2008
3.15 | 20 ratings

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Dreams & Omens
Renaissance Symphonic Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Dreams and Omens captures a December 1978 concert from Philadelphia. With the band on the tour for A Song For All Seasons, one can see this live release as a capstone of the most acclaimed period of the band; with 1979's Azure d'Or having a mixed reception among fans and the band largely losing interest in prog after that, A Song For All Seasons was the end of an era, and here we get to see material from it and preceding albums as far back as Ashes Are Burning together in concert.

The band didn't have an orchestra to hand this time around, but do a fine job using synthesisers to stand in, and they sound find. So why the mediocre score? Simply for this: this is a great concert, but they've hacked away over half of it! That's right, comfortably over 55 minutes of material has been trimmed, leaving less than 48 minutes. Whilst the desire to keep the release to a single CD might be understandable, the cuts include Opening Out and A Song For All Seasons, two of the best songs from the Song For All Seasons album - having live performances of those songs from the classic Renaissance lineup on an official release would be wonderful, and this was a golden time to do that, but Friday dropped the ball with these misguided editing choices.

If you are interested in this Renaissance show, I would say you are much better served by seeking out the Esoteric reissue of A Song For All Seasons, which includes the entire performance - with the cut songs restored and the correct running order reassembled - as bonus discs. The full concert is four and a half stars, but with these brutal cuts I have to give this release only 3 stars.

 Live at the Royal Albert Hall with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Part 2 by RENAISSANCE album cover Live, 1997
3.73 | 61 ratings

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Live at the Royal Albert Hall with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Part 2
Renaissance Symphonic Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Buyer beware: for some unaccountable reason, the good folks at the King Biscuit Flower Hour decided that rather than putting the Royal Albert Hall show out as a 2CD package (outside of a release in Japan where they did just that), they'd split it into two distinct releases, with the latter one completely pointlessly padded out with extra material. (Namely, a performance of Prologue from a 1979 concert - redundant because an all-orchestral version of Prologue begins the proceedings in the Royal Albert Hall concert itself - and a 10 minute studio track from 1983, You, from when the band was close to running out of steam entirely and needing to go into hibernation.)

It should also be noted that Esoteric, as part of their excellent series of Renaissance reissues, has included the whole Royal Albert Show as bonus discs on their release of Novella. As such, there is little need to get the separate release of the show if you have that or are planning to get it.

So, with that point understood, how is it? Well, essentially it's Renaissance working with a top-tier orchestra, so you know it's going to be good - with much of their material already optimised for performance with an orchestra anyway, they can get out there and do what they do best and trust the Royal Philharmonic to back them up to perfection. Unfortunately, the recording quality is not what it could be, with some sections having a sort of fuzzy sound quality to them, and at points there's a background hum which doesn't seem to have been tackled. In essence, it's a five-star performance let down by three-star technology - call it four stars as a compromise.

I'm going to set aside the performance of Prologue and You here because they are essentially bonus tracks unrelated to the original performance. This half of the concert has somewhat more in the way of new tracks not represented on previous Renaissance live releases, with Midas Man and Touching Once (Is So Hard To Keep) from Novella sitting comfortably alongside better-established material.

It is also distinguished by a nearly half-hour version of Ashes Are Burning, which includes an extensive improvisational section which strays into being a bit overly self-indulgent - improvised jams were never Renaissance's strong suit and whilst it is interesting to hear them stretch themselves in this manner, it's perhaps for the best they saved it for the album closer; I mind the improv section far less considering that it's spicing up a track which had been such a staple of their live show, and the way the band emerge from the depths of improv limbo to bring about a cataclysmic ten minute finale to the song raises goosebumps.

 Live at the Royal Albert Hall with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Part 1 by RENAISSANCE album cover Live, 1997
3.83 | 63 ratings

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Live at the Royal Albert Hall with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Part 1
Renaissance Symphonic Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Buyer beware: for some unaccountable reason, the good folks at the King Biscuit Flower Hour decided that rather than putting the Royal Albert Hall show out as a 2CD package (outside of a release in Japan where they did just that), they'd split it into two distinct releases, with the latter one completely pointlessly padded out with extra material. (Namely, a performance of Prologue from a 1979 concert - redundant because an all-orchestral version of Prologue begins the proceedings in the Royal Albert Hall concert itself - and a 10 minute studio track from 1983, You, from when the band was close to running out of steam entirely and needing to go into hibernation.)

It should also be noted that Esoteric, as part of their excellent series of Renaissance reissues, has included the whole Royal Albert Show as bonus discs on their release of Novella. As such, there is little need to get the separate release of the show if you have that or are planning to get it.

So, with that point understood, how is it? Well, essentially it's Renaissance working with a top-tier orchestra, so you know it's going to be good - with much of their material already optimised for performance with an orchestra anyway, they can get out there and do what they do best and trust the Royal Philharmonic to back them up to perfection. Unfortunately, the recording quality is not what it could be, with some sections having a sort of fuzzy sound quality to them, and at points there's a background hum which doesn't seem to have been tackled. In essence, it's a five-star performance let down by three-star technology - call it four stars as a compromise.

The first half of the concert consists of a fully orchestral rendition of Prologue - which as a result sounds refreshingly different from its band performances on most live releases - and then three epics (Can You Understand, Can You Hear Me?, and Song of Scheherazade) sandwiching the short breather Carpet of the Sun. The main standout here is how well Can You Hear Me? sits alongside the other Renaissance epics which had become well-worn parts of their repertoire. The performance of Scheherazade is good, though its quieter sections are especially badly affected by that nagging background hum.

 BBC Sessions  by RENAISSANCE album cover Live, 1999
3.73 | 30 ratings

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BBC Sessions
Renaissance Symphonic Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars This is a release which was a bit doomed to become redundant. Whilst at the time of release there weren't legitimate options for hearing the various BBC sessions these tracks were taken from, now they are more accessible: the 1976 set is available in full on Esoteric's Live From Cadigan Hall release, the 1978 session appears as bonus tracks on Esoteric's reissue of A Song For All Seasons, and the 2016 Live At the BBC Sight & Sound 3CD set contains all the BBC sessions this disc was compiled from.

It's the latter release which renders this truly inessential, because it provides the complete sessions, whereas this only offers some selected tracks from each. If you are keen on exploring live Renaissance releases beyond the Live At Cadogan Hall release, you'll probably be far more interested in the more easily available and more complete recent set than this release. Worth it only if a) you haven't already got the Esoteric reissues and/or the Sight & Sound 3CD set and b) you are very keen to collect live Renaissance but you want to do it on a very tight budget, and you don't care if the selections are a pick-and-mix from a bunch of different concerts rather than a single live set.

 British Tour '76 by RENAISSANCE album cover Live, 2006
3.74 | 15 ratings

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British Tour '76
Renaissance Symphonic Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Buyer advisory: though I think this is a great Renaissance live release, you should be aware that this is the same live show which is included as a bonus disc on the Esoteric reissue of Scheherazade - so if you already have that one (or if you were intending to get it), there is no need to get this separately.

Renaissance's British Tour '76 catches a January 1976 show from Nottingham on the tour supporting Scheherazade. This is, of course, the same general era of the band that is captured on the Live At Carnegie Hall album, and if you're interested in live Renaissance at all you're probably heard that one already - and all the songs performed here are on there.

So is this one worth it? I'd say so - if nothing else, it's a high-quality run-through of the material in question which is distinguished from the Carnegie Hall rendition (and the somewhat later and also highly-regarded Royal Albert Hall concert captured by the King Biscuit Flower Hour) by the fact that they didn't have the orchestra along this time.

This means you get to hear Renaissance at the very top of their game test themselves on material which on both their studio versions and their most famous live versions have orchestral backing - but they nail it, making capable use of synthesisers to fill the gap and giving the songs a bit of a different spin whilst still retaining their dramatic power.

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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