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Renaissance - Scheherazade And Other Stories CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.32 | 1222 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars British art-rock exponents Renaissance have a fairly complicated history. Kick-started by former-Yardbird front-man Keith Relf in 1969 after he had tired of a lifetime of the blues, the group have since undergone several line-up shifts, resulting in a completely different set of musicians for 'Scheherazade And Other Tales', an album widely-considered the group's magnus opus. After Relf's departure(to join hard-rock group Armageddon), keyboardist John Tout and guitarist Michael Dunford took over the group's reigns and brought in the talented and classically-trained singer Annie Haslam, a move which proved to be the real masterstroke. However, despite these changes in personel, Tout, Dunford and Haslam stayed true to Keith Relf's original ideal of translating classical styles into a modern rock setting and creating music that was complex and sumptuous. Joined by Terrence Sullivan(drums) and Jon Camp(bass), the first Renaissance album produced by this line-up was 'Prologue'. This, in turn, was followed by 'Ashes Are Burning' and the superb 'Turn Of The Cards' before 'Scheherazade..'. was released following a highly-successful US tour in 1975. Featuring just four songs, including the eponymously-titled and rather epic 24-minute closer, the album proved a big success in both Europe and the USA, and showed the group performing at the peak of their formidable powers. The album starts with the beautifully-judged 'Trip To The Fair', a song which allows both Tout and Haslam to excel; Tout with some gorgeous neo-classical piano and Haslam showing off the full five octaves her voice is capable of. The shorter, sharper 'The Vultures Fly High' is probably the closest thing on the album to a rock-song, with Dunford's guitar flourishes embellishing Tout's dominant keyboards with slightly more aggressive lilt, whilst the ethereal-balladry of 'Ocean Gypsy' again showcases Haslam's unique and operatic vocals. The album's raison d'etre, however, is the powerful, epic and intricate odyssey 'Scheherazade'. In this ambitious re-telling of the old 1001 Arabian Nights tale, Renaissance throw off any shackles that may have checked their artistic ambitions and head full-throttle down concept avenue, in the process creating one of Progressive Rock's enduring musical suites. The song is split into 8 sections and takes the listener down all kinds of art-rock alley-ways, running the gamut from darkly-introspective piano-solo's, glistening orchestrations and haunting, Haslam-sung melodies. After this, and partly because of their success, the group would start to take a more commercial turn, eschewing the long, winding compositions in favour of simplier material and, during the 1980's, slimming down to a pop three-piece. Despite their move away from 'classical prog', Renaissance are fondly remembered for a clutch of wonderful albums that culminated in this radical masterpiece. Haslam's voice is genuinely stunning, and backed by the musical ambitions of her musical cohorts, has created an endearing art-rock classic. STEFAN TURNER, LONDON, 2010

stefro | 5/5 |


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