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Renaissance - Turn Of The Cards & Scheherazade And Other Stories - Live In Concert CD (album) cover

TURN OF THE CARDS & SCHEHERAZADE AND OTHER STORIES - LIVE IN CONCERT

Renaissance

 

Symphonic Prog

4.15 | 28 ratings

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rogerthat
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Nearly four years back, Renaissance released a DVD with two concerts from the 70s, the one from 1976 being especially spectacular. But it was compiled from near bootleg class videos and didn't get a great response. There were complaints that the 'product' was not 'world class' (whatever that is supposed to mean). I was not born in the 70s and have never watched the band live and only considered it a generous gift. I also thought that it would be possible for Renaissance to shoot a world class video today to satiate the more demanding fans but the performances may not be so alluring.

Well, I was wrong about that! As Annie Haslam and Michael Dunford have said in interviews, the new band set up is terrific. And it is certainly evident on this new DVD, which captures the band performing the full albums Turn of the Cards and Scheherazade and other Stories in a concert in 2011.

The rhythm section especially has gained some crunch. Terence Sullivan was a good drummer but at times inordinately wont to use the cymbals. New drummer Frank Pagano packs a fatter thump and is yet sensitive to the band's graceful, melodious sound and careful not to overpower it. He as well as bassist David Keyes improvise a few spots every now and then quite well, where the old band veered between strict interpretations and really long workouts.

A very significant change to the set up is the presence of two keyboardists, Rave Tesar and John Hart. And with the help of modern technology, they recreate the orchestral layers of the studio recordings much better than John Tout could with the synthesizers of his day. Modern technology is sometimes bashed for making music sterile but the new Renaissance lineup is an example of how a band from back in the day has benefited from technology.

Hart tends to bring out those layers while it's up to Rave to play Tout's piano parts. Some moments, like when he didn't pull off Tout's fluent ascending run in Things I Don't Understand, suggest to me that he is not as skilled as Tout and he doesn't have his touch on the instrument either. But he improvises with more confidence, again a striking feature of this lineup. This is particularly noticeable in the wonderful interlude of Trip to the Fair.

But if it's Renaissance, then it's singer Annie Haslam who basically makes or breaks the deal. Back in the day, the band, or so it appears to me, was often projected as a five piece and a 'balanced' lineup but this concert demonstrates again why the only truly indispensable element of Renaissance is Annie's vocals. Dunford is the only one of the instrumentalists present from the 70s lineup but if Annie has changed, it's not such that would hurt the band's sound.

She still fetches THAT Eb6 from Song of Scheherazade, belts out Black Flame and Vultures Fly High heartily and generally gets through a demanding repertoire with barely any fuss. She also manages to improve upon the emotional interpretation of Ocean Gypsy, which should scarcely be possible for her to achieve now. On the minus side, she has more moments of iffy intonation than before, some timing issues and doesn't finish lines with quite the same punch as before. But she has aged so gracefully that I can hardly complain about that. Her voice continues to endure and continues to respond to the demands made of it day in and day out.

To conclude, a well recorded and well packaged DVD that is world class both in terms of video quality and performance. Renaissance continue their remarkable resurgence, riding on Annie's ageless voice and with the concert closing with a performance of new track The Mystic and the Muse, there is a promise of more to come.

rogerthat | 5/5 |

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