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Renaissance - Ashes Are Burning CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.22 | 730 ratings

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5 stars Briefly-popular during the latter half of the 1970s, symphonic folk-rock quintet Renaissance were initially formed by ex-Yardbird Keith Relf during the dying embers of the 1960s, the vocalist having tired with amost a decade worth of playing blues-based rock. Keen to try something new, Renaissance was Relf's ambitious attempt to stretch out musically, yet he would only stay with the group for a single album. That album was 1969's self- titled debut, which also featured Relf's sister Jane(vocals), Jim McCarty(percussion), John Hawken(piano) and Louis Cennamo(bass), none of whom feature on 'Ashes Are Burning'. Issued in 1973, this was the fourth Renaissance album overall, but the first to feature what is now recognised as the 'classic' line-up of Annie Haslam(vocals), Jon Tout(keyboards), Michael Dunford(guitar), Jon Camp(bass) and Terry Sullivan(drums), all of whom featured on previous album 'Prologue' bar Dunford, who replaced the outgoing guitarist Rob Hendry. Augmented by lyricist Betty Thatcher, this line-up would issue a trio of excellent albums from 'Ashes Are Burning' onwards, marrying strong classical influences with folk, rock and pop to create a thrilling brand of symphonic music. Whilst 1975's 'Scheherazade & Other Stories' is often referred to as the group's masterpiece, 'Ashes Are Burning' also deserves special mention for it's sheer power and bravado, showcasing the group's core creative force of Haslam's incredible five-octave vocals and Tout's lush piano-playing. The whole album proves a sumptuous treat, yet it is the two lengthy pieces that book-end the album that show off Renaissance at their very best. Opener 'Can You Understand?' starts a beautifully-judge piano medley that gathers in pace as it spirals towards it's satifyingly grandiose inclusion, whilst the epic title-track literally bursts into after another gorgeously-sung Haslam intro makes way for the booming bass rhythms and churning keyboards of the tracks powerful second half. In between, the pretty and melodic 'On The Frontier' and the anthemic 'Carpet Of The Sun' showcase the usual Renaissance trademarks, once again marrying strong classical tones with elegiac folk touches and the subtle medieval feel that permeates much of their best work. One of the group's trio of classic mid-seventies albums, 'Ashes Are Burning' may just be their most ambitious album, and certainly their darkest. STEFAN TURNER, STOKE NEWINGTON, 2O14
stefro | 5/5 |


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