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Renaissance - Live at Carnegie Hall CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.27 | 236 ratings

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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).

iluvmarillion | 4/5 |


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