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Renaissance - In the Beginning  CD (album) cover

IN THE BEGINNING

Renaissance

Symphonic Prog


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daveconn
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Seaside laments, Middle Eastern tiger tales, a steely Russian story and assorted psychedelicacies. Not the beginning of Renaissance necessarily, but the beginning of the Annie Haslam era. Capitol simply took two of the band's early, out-of-print albums (Prologue, Ashes Are Burning) and released them together as In The Beginning. (A similar ploy combined The Nice's last two elpees as The Nice Featuring Keith Emerson.) This was my entrée into the musical world of Renaissance, though I've got miles of vinyl to go before I sleep, and I plan on spending plenty of time in their company. Like labelmates Flash, Renaissance's instrumental flights of fancy seem clumsy compared to the graceful soaring of Yes and Gentle Giant. But Renaissance has something those bands don't: Annie Haslam. The band basically has two modes of operation: keyboard-driven classical rock passages and folk/prog centered on Haslam's arresting voice (which is given much to say by lyricist Betty Thatcher). Like Grace Slick, Haslam has a voice that just commands attention; her performances on "Let It Grow" or "Sounds of the Sea" aren't easily forgotten. The keyboard sections from John Tout are also impressive at times ("Prologue," "Kiev"); if he'd taken up the mellotron on occasion, you'd have a female version of Barclay James Harvest on your hands. Renaissance is often called folk/prog (a label that would seem to be at odds with itself) because the male/female harmonies and acoustic guitars owe as much to The Mamas & The Papas as The Moody Blues. On their own, I'm not even sure songs like "On The Frontier," "Let It Grow" or "Carpet of the Sun" would make it out of the psychedelic '60s. Like Flash, however, you can make a meal from the tastier sections, and I wasn't looking for Renaissance to replace Yes, Crimson and the progressive masters, just supplement them. If The Mamas & The Papas met The Nice, they'd probably sound like this, and that may be all the introduction you need to get acquainted with Renaissance.
Report this review (#47584)
Posted Tuesday, September 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
NetsNJFan
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Worthless for real fans, but could provide a good entryway to RENAISSANCE if available. These classic albums are near or full masterpieces of symphonic prog, beautifully fusing folk, soft rock, and classical. This compilation set truncates a few of the songs (for no apparent reasons). Stick to the originals, "Prologue" and "Ashes are Burning". The material here is VERY good, but much better on the original albums, due to length and sound quality.

I don't even know if this is still in print, I have it on LP though, sucky.

Report this review (#60849)
Posted Monday, December 19, 2005 | Review Permalink
kenethlevine
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog-Folk Team
3 stars Even if you are a vinyl fanatic, there is not much reason to actively seek this one out, unless you find the cover art to be agreeably sultry. It's basically the first two LPs by the Renaissance Mach 2, repackaged into a double LP. The sound quality is not great, and the song "At the Harbour" is relieved of both its approach and its departure, rendering it a simple folk song instead of the classical piece it should be. If you do come across it cheaply and have no prior Renaissance exposure, you could give it a whirl, and for that I give it 3 stars, but otherwise, you can get both on CD, or even just "Ashes are Burning" to start with.
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Posted Sunday, February 24, 2008 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars I remember this one. It seems that when Renaissance went on to work with the Sire label, their former one, Capitol, decided to cash in releasing a double LP simply putting together their first two Annie Haslam-era Renaissance albums. Therefore, the title was very misleading. I thought at the time that it might be a collection of Renaissance MK I stuff (something rare and hard to get at the time - imagine my disappointment!).

However, it would be a great buy for the newbie if three of the songs included were not edited. I guess as they were they wouldn´t fit in the 80 minute single CD time. So the only reason to get this record is ruined by that small detail. Of course the records themselves are brilliant (the second, Ashes Are Burning is definitly a 5 star affair - a classic - and one of my all time favorite prog records). But you better get them separately anyway, for it´s better to have the full version of those 3 songs.

So be warned: this is not either the real thing nor it is a colection of Jane Relf-era tunes. It is not even a ´proper´ compilation. I can´t give it a one star rating because of the very high quality of the material involved, but unless you like the cover, no reason at all to buy this one.

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Posted Saturday, July 9, 2011 | Review Permalink
VianaProghead
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Review Nº 268

"In The Beginning" is a very special compilation of Renaissance. This is a very economic package that includes their third studio album "Prologue", released in 1972 and their fourth studio album "Ashes Are Burning" released in 1973, on only one package. It's a very interesting compilation because it includes two absolutely indispensable musical works of the band at a cheap price, which would be a very worth purchase, at the time, for those who didn't have both albums.

Those albums are two absolute indispensable musical works of the band that represent the two previous studio albums released by the reborn line up of the group, the second Renaissance's incarnation, which is considered in general the beginning of their golden era. Despite "Prologue" and "Ashes Are Burning" be the third and fourth studio albums from the band, they are often considered, especially for the new band's members, the two first studio albums from the band. This new line up doesn't include any founder member of the original line up of the band. The original line up of the band recorded two studio albums, "Renaissance" and "Illusion", which were released in 1969 and 1971, respectively.

As I've already reviewed these two albums previously on Progarchives, in a more extensive way, I'm not going to do it again. So, if you are interested to know, in more detail, what I wrote about them before, I invite you to read those my both reviews. However, in here I'm going to write something about them in a more short way. So, of course, I'm not going to analyze them track by track, as I did before, but I'm only going to make a global appreciation of both albums.

"Prologue": "Prologue" is, without any doubt, a great album and is almost perfect. This is a superb album of lush melodies, full of originality, great song writing, and great performances. It represents excellent progressive rock music with the undeniable classical influences, a trademark of the band so typical on their golden era. The songs "Prologue", "Kiev" and "Rajah Kahn" are truly masterpieces, but unfortunately the other three aren't, especially "Spare Some Love" which is, in my humble opinion, a little bit inferior to the others. However, "Prologue" is an excellent start for this new reborn line up of the band and a fantastic prologue to their most classical musical manifestations. "Prologue" is with "Ashes Are Burning" and "Scheherazade And Other Stories" my first three contacts with their music and I must confess I love these three albums. So, "Prologue" was a beloved album by me, since the first minute, and even after so many years and when I know almost all the others, it represents, even today, one of my favourite works of Renaissance.

"Ashes Are Burning": 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, and I can assure you that I know very well these musical works sice the beginning, 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, it isn't, in my humble opinion, a truly 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 specially "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 the others. It's true that the title track "Ashes Are Burning" is, in reality, a memorable piece of music, and it can also be considered, without any doubt, as one of the greatest progressive songs ever made. However, I think that song isn't enough in order to can consider "Ashes Are Burning" a real masterpiece.

Conclusion: In the distant years of the 70's, "Prologue", "Ashes Are Burning" and "Scheherazade And Other Stories" were my three first contacts with Renaissance's music and, in my humble opinion, "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, I still consider "Scheherazade And Other Stories" their best studio album and the only studio masterpiece of the group. I must confess that I don't have this compilation. If you have, like me, the two studio albums in two individual packages, you don't need to buy this compilation because it hasn't anything new to offer, like bonus tracks. Unless you haven't yet the two individual albums, in this case, this compilation album is a good option for you because it's cheaper than the two separated albums. So, if you don't have these two albums yet, you need urgently to leave your home to buy them, because they are essential in any progressive rock musical collection, and in this case, this is the better option because you save on price and space, if it's possible to buy it, yet. So, I think this compilation deserves to be rated with 4 stars because, in my humble opinion, none of these albums are two real masterpieces but only two essential albums.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

Report this review (#2237332)
Posted Wednesday, July 10, 2019 | Review Permalink

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