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Renaissance - In the Beginning  CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

2.83 | 14 ratings

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3 stars Seaside laments, Middle Eastern tiger tales, a steely Russian story and assorted psychedelicacies. Not the beginning of Renaissance necessarily, but the beginning of the Annie Haslam era. Capitol simply took two of the band's early, out-of-print albums (Prologue, Ashes Are Burning) and released them together as In The Beginning. (A similar ploy combined The Nice's last two elpees as The Nice Featuring Keith Emerson.) This was my entrée into the musical world of Renaissance, though I've got miles of vinyl to go before I sleep, and I plan on spending plenty of time in their company. Like labelmates Flash, Renaissance's instrumental flights of fancy seem clumsy compared to the graceful soaring of Yes and Gentle Giant. But Renaissance has something those bands don't: Annie Haslam. The band basically has two modes of operation: keyboard-driven classical rock passages and folk/prog centered on Haslam's arresting voice (which is given much to say by lyricist Betty Thatcher). Like Grace Slick, Haslam has a voice that just commands attention; her performances on "Let It Grow" or "Sounds of the Sea" aren't easily forgotten. The keyboard sections from John Tout are also impressive at times ("Prologue," "Kiev"); if he'd taken up the mellotron on occasion, you'd have a female version of Barclay James Harvest on your hands. Renaissance is often called folk/prog (a label that would seem to be at odds with itself) because the male/female harmonies and acoustic guitars owe as much to The Mamas & The Papas as The Moody Blues. On their own, I'm not even sure songs like "On The Frontier," "Let It Grow" or "Carpet of the Sun" would make it out of the psychedelic '60s. Like Flash, however, you can make a meal from the tastier sections, and I wasn't looking for Renaissance to replace Yes, Crimson and the progressive masters, just supplement them. If The Mamas & The Papas met The Nice, they'd probably sound like this, and that may be all the introduction you need to get acquainted with Renaissance.
daveconn | 3/5 |


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