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Renaissance - Ashes Are Burning CD (album) cover

ASHES ARE BURNING

Renaissance

 

Symphonic Prog

4.22 | 700 ratings

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VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Review Nš 273

'Ashes Are Burning' is the fourth studio album of Renaissance and was released in 1973. It was the first of several Renaissance's albums to feature an orchestra. It's notable for being Renaissance the first band to bring an orchestra with the group, a characteristic that was extended by several works of the band in the 70's. This was also the album that turned Renaissance in one of the most famous and best symphonic progressive rock bands in the 70's. 'Ashes Are Burning' is considered one of Renaissance's better works. It makes part of what is usually called their baroque/folk era. It belongs to their golden era that began in 1972 with 'Prologue' and ended in 1978 with 'A Song For All Seasons'.

The line up of Renaissance on this album suffered a small change from their third previous studio album 'Prologue'. On 'Ashes Are Burning', the guitarist Rob Hendry was substituted by Michael Dunford. Michael Dunford, who had been working with the group only as a composer, had joined the band by the time that 'Ashes Are Burning' was released. So, the line up on this album is Annie Haslam (lead and backing vocals), Michael Dunford (acoustic guitars), John Tout (backing vocals and keyboards), Jon Camp (vocals, and bass) and Terry Sullivan (backing vocals, drums and percussion). The album has also the participation of Andy Powel (electric guitar), as a guest musician.

'Ashes Are Burning' has six tracks. All songs were written by Betty Thatcher and Michael Dunford except 'On The Frontier' written by Betty Thatcher and Jim McCarty. The first track 'Can You Understand' is one of the best songs ever composed by the band and is simply brilliant. The song begins with a fantastic and incredible classical piano solo and the rest of the song is performed in a magnificent symphonic folk/rock style. The vocal performance of Annie Haslam is also absolutely brilliant. This song has a rare and superb electric guitar solo performed by the guitarist of Wishbone Ash, Andy Powell. This is clearly one of the highlights of the album. The second track 'Let It Grow' is a simple, beautiful and relaxing ballad with another incredible vocal performance by Annie Haslam. Again, we can notice the melodic and beautiful piano performed by John Tout. This isn't a very emotional song, but it's, for sure and for everybody, very pleasant, because its musical structure is very simple, making of it a very accessible song to listen to. The third track 'On The Frontier' is for sure the weakest song on the album and is also my less favourite song too. However, it's far of being a bad song and it has also some pretty and good musical moments. In reality, it has the same beautiful and pretty voice and the same nice vocal harmonies. But, in fact, it's very vulgar and it doesn't have anything really new and remarkable to show. The fourth track 'Carpet On The Sun' is a simple and beautiful song that is perfect and a nice orchestral musical work. This is the shortest song on the album that remains with its very particular style a very nice song. It's a very melodic piece of music where again Annie Haslam offers to us her great vocal talents and where she can brings to the song a nice and peaceful ambient. It's a very catchy song but it isn't one of the highlights of the album. The fifth track 'At The Harbour' is a return to a more complex and ambitious musical compositions than the previous three songs. The song is a classic dark ballad and is also one of the darkest pieces of music that Renaissance would recorded. But, it's in reality, a fantastic piece of music with brilliant musical arrangements and fine melodies, which provide to the song a real and truly dramatic effect. The sixth and last track is the title track 'Ashes Are Burning'. This is the magnum opus of the album, and fortunately, it was chosen to close brilliantly this excellent musical work. This can be considered probably the greatest epic of Renaissance but this can't only be attributed to the long duration of the song. We all know that it isn't in reality the duration of a song which makes of it an epic. 'Ashes Are Burning' has everything what an epic must have. It has a very complex musical structure, blending nice melody, excellent individual musical performance, by all members, and the beautiful voice of Annie Haslam. This is in reality a memorable piece of music. It can be considered without any doubt as one of the greatest progressive songs ever made.

Conclusion: In my humble opinion, I think 'Prologue', 'Ashes Are Burning', 'Turn Of The Cards' and 'Scheherazade And Other Stories' are the four best studio albums from Renaissance and constitute the best musical period of the band, their famous musical golden era. However, and after all these years that I know very well these musical works, I still consider 'Scheherazade And Other Stories' their best studio album and the only masterpiece of the group. Despite 'Ashes Are Burning' be one of their best pieces of music, it isn't, in my opinion, a masterpiece and I even doubt if it's better than 'Prologue'. As 'Prologue', 'Ashes Are Burning' has only three songs that can be considered truly masterpieces, 'Can You Understand', 'At The Harbour' and especially 'Ashes Are Burning'. Unfortunately, the other three songs aren't as good as the others and 'On The Frontier' is, in my humble opinion, even inferior to all the others.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

VianaProghead | 4/5 |

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