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Renaissance - BBC Sessions  CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.85 | 26 ratings

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Tarcisio Moura
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Until not so long ago I often found myself asking how Renaissance would sound live without all the orchestration that was a kind of trademark fo the band during their heydey in the 70´s. The only two live CDs I knew until recently were kind of ´special´ occasions recordings (i.e., recorded with the aid of a live orchestra). Obviously no band could afford to have a whole orchestra - or even part of it - to back them on every concert they were performing. So, while I enjoyed both 1976´s Live At The Carnegie Hall and and both parts of 1997´s Live At The Albert Hall, I was quite curious to know how they handled their highly elaborated arrangements without strings, horns and, sometimes, choirs. I wondered if the music could hold my interest and how they would replace those huge orchestral parts.

Thanks to those BBC sessions, my curiosity was satisfied. In fact, I was quite surprised to see they played even the whole 24 minute Scheherazade suite with only the help of John Tout´s synths (and his talent) to replace it all. And they did pretty well, specially if you relember that this was the 70´s, so gimmicks such as samplers were simply unavailable then. He had to do it with the quite primitive string and horn synthesizers they had at the time. But I was amazed how well in fact it all worked! The guy is simply a genius! He had his hands - and brain - quite full most of the time! Not only he was able to reproduce much of the original scores but also did a lot to keep the high profile of his piano and organ playing. Renaissance was always a very keyboard driven band and he doesn´t fail a single moment here.

Ok, the record is far from perfect. Some parts were not exactly very well recorded (the piano sound of Prologue for example is quite low in the mix), but fortunatly those moments are few and far between. Most of the time what you get here is a band full of outstanding musicians playing along with a very extraordinaire singer. Annie haslam never fails to prove that she can indeed sing that well live: what a beautiful, precise and powerful voice!! Needless to say, the rest of the band is not far behind, proving they could play live whatever compliciated songs they recorded on studio, with ou without orchestrations. So even overblown stuff like Touching Once and Can You Hear Me are performed convincely. And the band does it with such passion and precision you won´t miss the orchestral scores at all. Well, no, maybe they pushed it too far with Scheherazade, but still it turned out quite good overall.

On the other tracks, they show they are quite a good prog rock band, and I always thought that songs like Midas Man and The Vultures Fly High would make fine live material for them. Both songs are covered here and their versions even rival the original studio versions, because of the extra punch they injected on them. Even the usually overlong, a bit boring, Ashes Are Burning live track is a little shorter here (´only´ around the 17 minute mark), with a -thank God - reduced bass solo.

Conclusion: Renaissance was not so dearly loved by many progheads for nothing. They were truly special. their chemistry together was impressive and if you have any doubts about it, just listen to this CD. A real prog gem that I´m really happy having found it.

Rating: 4,5 stars. Highly recommended!!

Tarcisio Moura | 5/5 |


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