Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Renaissance - Azure d'Or CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.03 | 225 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Prog Reviewer
2 stars In these difficult times, speaking from an economic point of view, it occurs to me that I could compare Azure D' or to a so-called 'rightsizing' initiative. It is sonically a far cry from Song for All Seasons which, according to Jon Camp, featured so many musicians there wasn't room in the studio for some of them! After that surge of triumphant defiance of the punk wave, which also delivered their only UK (or otherwise) top 10 hit Northern Lights, Renaissance turned their back on big orchestra and went electric-and-synth. This album also does not feature a single track of 8 minutes or longer. Lean and mean, to put a positive spin on it.

What is 'rightsized' is of course a matter of perspective. Renaissance may have cut down heavily on pomp and ambition but the results can be bland and dull without enough meat to compensate for it, i.e., catchy vocal or instrumental hooks. On this album, it is and more or less wrote the epitaph for Renaissance mk-ii (though they weren't aware of it at the time, obviously).

I am probably a bigot for not liking this because I have always felt that with a singer as talented as Annie Haslam in their lineup, Renaissance would have benefited from writing more short songs than epics. I guess in believing so, I make the assumption that these short songs would also have the infectious appeal of a pop hit. Unfortunately, in trying to make it short and sweet, Renaissance only end up sounding generic and anonymous at best and banal and, yes, dragging at worst.

A case in point is the ballad Golden Key. By this point, Annie is supremely confident in her singing craft. Where, on earlier albums like Ashes are Burning, she might have struggled to infuse drama into this sort of melody, she now unleashes a masterclass in dynamics in her characteristic unobtrusive, subtle style. Unfortunately, just as she beautifully builds up the chorus, the band head into - you guessed it - yet another of their 'time wasting' sections of music. It is hard to fathom what purpose an interlude that consists of re-iterating a dull keyboard motif is supposed to serve but there it is. If you hang on till the very end, Annie conjures up a solid finish. But this track more or less sums up the problems of the album.

Annie is in equally lustrous form on Forever Changing or Kalynda but while these songs might have fairly beautiful tones, the actual notes are, I am afraid, pretty banal and unappetizing. But 'rockers' Secret Mission and Jekyll or Hyde don't even give her the width to emote that the ballads do and they come and go without making much of an impression. Only Winter Tree has something of the appeal of Northern Lights to my mind and is the only unqualified highlight off this album for me.

Neither the band's approach nor that of the producer's helps matters much. There is just not enough energy on the rockers nor, strangely, much feeling in the quieter or more poignant moments. While Flood at Lyons sounds too much like Running Hard initially, it has some potential and is similar to Yes's attempts to write more radio-ready music. But it just sounds rather flat to me and despite some good singing (again) is rather unremarkable.

In interviews of more recent vintage, Annie has said she doesn't really like the album and acknowledges it as the beginning of the decline, as the point where they began to listen to 'others' instead of trusting their instincts. All possibly quite true but it's water under the bridge. Renaissance lost their contract with Warner Bros and John Tout and Terence Sullivan soon after and, until their recent revival through successful tours of the American North East, were more or less a closed chapter.

The lyrics of Golden Key inadvertently capture their predicament after the commercial failure of this album: "Turn off the golden key, company machine/Sell his identity, spin their golden dream". With Azure D' Or, Renaissance lost something more than just the prospect of commercial success: their identity. I give it 2.5 stars but won't round it off to 3 as I cannot really find enough to like here to make a recommendation.

rogerthat | 2/5 |


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Share this RENAISSANCE review

Social review comments () BETA

Review related links

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.