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Renaissance Azure d'Or album cover
3.07 | 258 ratings | 25 reviews | 7% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1979

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Jekyll and Hyde (4:38)
2. The Winter Tree (3:02)
3. Only Angels Have Wings (3:43)
4. Golden Key (5:13)
5. Forever Changing (4:48)
6. Secret Mission (5:00)
7. Kalynda (A Magical Isle) (3:43)
8. The Discovery (4:23)
9. Friends (3:30)
10. The Flood at Lyons (4:57)

Total Time 42:57

Line-up / Musicians

- Annie Haslam / lead (excl. 3,5,8) & backing vocals
- Michael Dunford / classical (5,8), acoustic & electric guitars, mandolin (4), autoharp (5,10)
- John Tout / piano, electric piano (8), Yamaha CS80, CS30 & ARP 2600 synths, Hammond (8), Mellotron (9,10), clavinet (6)
- Jon Camp / bass, bass pedals, electric (6-8) & acoustic guitar (5), cello (1), lead (3) & backing vocals
- Terence Sullivan / drums, timpani (5,6,10), chimes (6,10), glockenspiel (5), gong (6), kalimba (5), xylophone (10), small percussion, backing vocals

Releases information

Artwork: Gered Mankowitz (art direction, photo) with Richard Gray (design)

LP Warner Bros. - K 56633 (1979, UK)

CD Sire ‎- WPCP-4220 (1991, Japan)
CD Wounded Bird - WOU 6068 (2001, US) Remastered (?)
CD Repertoire Records ‎- REPUK 1138 (2011, UK)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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Buy RENAISSANCE Azure d'Or Music

RENAISSANCE Azure d'Or ratings distribution

(258 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(7%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(24%)
Good, but non-essential (49%)
Collectors/fans only (17%)
Poor. Only for completionists (3%)

RENAISSANCE Azure d'Or reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is the first album with short songs, so the long complex progressive compositions are no more present here. Nevertheless the song are quite sophisticated, you just have to listen the still very elaborated bass to be convinced. Annie's voice is outstanding, as always. The main change are the keyboards: John Tout added some new technology here and it works in a certain way. Actually it replaces the classical arrangements we were used to listen on their previous albums. The only difference is that it sounds more artificial. There are lots of rythmic acoustic guitar, and some electric guitar parts.

"Secret Mission" has outstanding bass, reminding me GENESIS' "get'em out by Friday"! Finally, it is a real pleasure to listen to all the album, because ALL the songs are really good!

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This band has their own identity in the kind of prog music they play. It's a combination of folk, ballad, rock and symphonic music. Sometimes they include orchestration for their music. RENAISSANCE has a female vocal with great voice: ANNIE HASLAM. You may not need to care about their music because her voice is really great. I love this band because it's different and they have a very strong songwriting.

"Jekyll and Hyde" and "The Winter Tree" are an example of great pop music with excellent composition combining acoustic guitar and keyboard /mellotron. "Only Angels have Wings" is the track with male vocal (JON CAMP), great keyboard play and orchestration. No drumming in this track. It's totally a symphonic rock track. You may enjoy listening to the keyboard sound.

"Golden Key" is an excellent track with great female voice accompanied by the piano sound at background during intro. It's a melodic track. The orchestration helps accentuate the textures of the song. There is a nice break in the middle of the track (approx min 2:23) where the orchestration takes the lead for track melody. It's a memorable melody! "Forever Changing" is track with great acoustic guitar and female vocals. The nuance of this acoustic guitar sound is similar to GENESIS's "Entangled" of "A Trick of the Tail" album. Nope, it's not the same guitar fills and style. But the nuances created are similar. That's at least what I feel. You may feel differently.

Unlike other tracks, "Secret Mission" is written differently where it has dynamic drumming at the intro part followed by vocal and upbeat tempo music. "Kalynda" is a track with acoustic guitar and vocal in a slow tempo style. "The Discovery" is an uplifting instrumental track with great orchestration and classical music touch. This track may gear up your spirit. This is my favorite track for this album. It has a very strong energy!

Overall, I rate this album excellent. The only thing lacking (if I could say it) of this album is in its musical variety. From one track to another there is a lot of similarity in terms of structure and composition (with the exception of "The Discovery"). This is the kind of music you would like to enjoy before you go to bed in the evening, I think. It's a nice music. Gatot Widayanto, Indonesia.

Review by Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This was the end of the road for me as far as Renaissance were concerned.Azure D'or defintely better than it's predecessor but nothing overly dynamic to write home about.Highlights on here were ' Golden Key' and 'Secret Mission'. I am sure there are many reviewers who enjoyed this band from 1980 onwards but personally I feel their influence waned after Azure D'or.
Review by Eetu Pellonpaa
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars This is the last album of Renaissance which I have heard on time of writing, though I have understood there has been some potentially interesting activity going on after the 1980's albums. There are some nice melodies and themes on the music, but somehow the band's grip to music has started to loosen, falling towards the depths of soap opera aesthetics. "Jekyll and Hyde" starts the album quite convincingly, but many tracks escape tighter observation by melting to the dinner hall tapestry. Instrumental "The Discovery" and sweet "Kalynda" stand the test of remembering after some listening, but I think the magic of the group lasted mostly from year 1972 to 1978. Even this heritage with good deal of live recordings both on audio and visual format makes this band a singular charming angel among the other 1970's progressive rock bands in my opinion.
Review by daveconn
4 stars At the moment, this is my favorite album from Renaissance. I never noticed how much they sounded like Yes, how much their logo looked like Yes' logo, how much Annie Haslam sounded like Jon Anderson, how Jon Camp might well have squired under a certain teacher. As I've noted earlier, all this at a time when the old guard was limping into the new decade, at a time when new hands were needed to grab at the brass ring. (I really have to stop mixing my metaphors.) At the core of Azure d'Or are some of the band's most succinct, magical creations: "Jekyll And Hyde," "The Winter Tree," "Kalynda." I suspect this is what most progressive bands were trying to do in 1979: write smart and snappy arrangements within the context of four-minute songs. That few pulled it off (Camel and Genesis come to mind) shows what a fine line it was. Looking back, though, Renaissance often floundered in the epic format, not the fount of inspiration that flowed from the very heart of Yes, Gentle Giant, Tull, etc. On Azure d'Or, the band is able to pack very clever twists into the standard verse/chorus format, which results in songs that brim with goodness (as opposed to a handful of deflated opuses). Everything moves briskly, purposefully, without a leaky patch in the thatch. Maybe Renaissance were late bloomers, a rarity as progressive rock bands go. Azure d'Or remains a treat on the tree of late '70s prog, as tart and tasty a selection to grow from their limb as I can recall.
Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Includes "Northern lights" clones parts 2-5

"Azur D'or" is largely lacking the classical and progressive influences which made Renaissance's earlier albums so distinctive. In their place, we have ten pretty straight forward melodic soft rock tracks. There appears to have been a conscious decision by the band to change direction, inspired by the commercial success of the "Northern Lights" single. As a result the orchestration, which had become a Renaissance trademark, is notable by its absence.

A number of the other key ingredients are still here, Annie Haslam's wonderful voice, John Tout's distinctive keyboards, and Michael Dunsford's guitar. The weakness is in the song-writing and the track development by the band. That said, the songs are highly enjoyable.

The highlight for me is the wonderfully melodic "Kalynda", which finds Haslam putting on a fine vocal performance. In prog terms, I readily acknowledge that this track is pretty much a non-starter, but it has a beautiful simplicity which seductively conveys the atmosphere of the island to which it relates.

Elsewhere, the band are trying too hard to rekindle the success they enjoyed with "Northern lights", several of the tracks appearing to be little more than clones of that song. "Secret mission", "Jekyll and Hyde" and "The winter tree" all fall into this trap. The multi tracking of Annie Haslam's vocals on many of the choruses finds her sounding similar to Sonja Kristina of Curved Air at times, the style of music only serving to emphasise that similarity.

There are moments which hint at the symphonic classics of the band's past. "The flood at Lyons" has a strong latter section, while "Jekyll and Hyde" has an orchestral sounding synth break. "The discovery" is an instrumental piece with an ambient start leading to an upbeat Spanish flavour.

"Only angels have wings" is one of those rare Renaissance songs with a male lead vocal. It sounds a bit like a cross between a Camel number and something by Mile Batt, but the vocals are average at best, only serving to emphasise Haslam value to the band.

In all, a commercially orientated album with pleasant melodies and proficient playing. Unfortunately it falls well short of the band's finest works.

John Tout, along with Terrence Sullivan would leave the band under acrimonious circumstances not long after the album had been released. Poor sales of the album led to the band being dropped by their record label, and yet again Renaissance future was left in considerable doubt.

Review by Joolz
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Azur d'Or is the sound of a band in transition as it searches for a future, and the last from the classic 1970s line-up. It is something of a hybrid, combining familiar elements from the band's past with some that would define their future, mixed with a sizeable dollop of post-Gabriel Genesis courtesy of David Henschel who once again produces. Immediately apparent is the lack of any longer tracks, the absence of an orchestra for the first time since Prologue and a preponderance of electronic keyboards. More subtle is the increased use of electric guitar, an absence of those rich group harmonies of old, and a liberal sprinkling of poor songs.

It is tempting to relate the march of songwriting mediocrity to the relentless growth in stature of Jon Camp, but that would be an over-simplification as the other songwriters are not blameless. Good and bad abound in fairly equal measure - excellent songs like Golden Key, with its beautiful melody and performance worthy of the band at their height, are counter-balanced by mediocre clones of Northern Lights - eg Jekyll And Hyde - or songs with poor tunes like Secret Mission. In all cases, though, song structures are simple and unchallenging as the band consciously strived to attract a new audience. The result is an album of soft-rock AOR tinged with some pop melodies.

Despite my pervasive negativity there is much to admire here, often little touches providing a lift such as the Mellotron choir on Flood At Lyons or Annie's soft harmonies and pretty melody of Friends. Azur d'Or is an enjoyable and pleasant experience from a talented group of musicians who continue to perform at a very high personal level. Collectively, though, the magic that created such masterpieces as The Song Of Scheherazade has eluded them. Good, but inessential!

Review by b_olariu
3 stars Sorry to tell you but this one is far more better then Novella, Camera-camera and Time line. Indeed here are no more longer composition as on previous albums but is very ok to me. Might be a little pop here and there but with tracks like The discovery, an instrumental one, a damn good, and The flood of Lyon, the listner can only enjoy to the max this album, as i did. The compositions are maybe no longer very complex as on Ashes are burning and Turn of the cards, but has a kind of catchy tunes. Annie Haslam voice is again heavenly, not to mention the rest. My favourite Renaissance album remains A song for all seasons. 3 stars, still a good one, the next releases are very poor, not even for die hard fans.

Review by Tarcisio Moura
3 stars The most different album done by the classic Renaissance line up of the seventies. When it came out in 1979 I was quite disappointed: gone were the orchestrations and the long epic compositions. On the other hand the electronic instrumentation got bigger to the point of sometimes almost drowning Annie Haslam´s vocals. Not up to anyone´s expectation after the very fine Song For All Seasons.

Still, it is the classic Renaissance and I must say I enjoy this album much more now than at the time. Well, how could I have guessed then that this band would release such new wave crap like Camera Camera in the next years? At least on Azure D´or the songs are good, the musicianship is awesome and the sound is still very much progressive. It was also clear that bassist Jon Camp was about to take charge of the musical direction (a bad move as future works would show, but did not much harm here). His vocal performance on Only Angels Have Wings is one of his finest. He also wrote the best cut in the whole album, Kalinda, a beautiful ballad like the old days.

There are some different songs, like the interesting instrumental track The Discovery. But the orchestra is sorely missing on some more prog tunes like Turn Of The Key or The Flood Of Lyons. Fortunately, nothing disastrous. A minor classic Renaisance record, but still classic Renaissance. And I´d rather hear it to Novella nowadays. 3,5 stars.

Review by Gooner
4 stars Renaissance - "Azure D'Or" is one those LPs that is criminally underrated along the likes of Yes - "Going For The One" and Genesis - "And Then There Were Three...". Certainly this release deserves a 3.5 or 4.0 rating out of 5 stars as it stands alongside the greats in the Renaissance discography. Produced by David Hentschel (of Genesis "And Then There Were Three"), some people have a problem with his production? I don't get it.

The material is varied if somewhat eclectic sounding...and STILL Renaissance. I find "Azure D'Or" to be one of Renaissance's more "traditional proggy" sounding LPs. Many have mentioned the introduction of new sounding keyboards by John Tout. Sure, there's an introduction to new keyboards, but they still sound very '70s by prog. standards, and not unlike(quite similar, really) to what Tony Banks of Genesis and Rick Wakeman of Yes were using at the time. You're not going to get Ultravox or Depeche Mode here, folks. No New Wave here...just a refinement of prog.(the same approach Genesis took with "And Then There Were Three" and Gentle Giant on "The Missing Piece" -side 2). You're getting string-synth, yamahas, moogs, etc. in this package. Nothing out of step from the '70s prog scene. In fact, I am reminded of the John Williams project SKY with Annie Haslam on vocals. Speaking of SKY, the instrumental here "The Discovery", would not be out of place on one of their first 2 LPs. Francis Monkman could've played keyboards on this. Also of note is the vibraphone. Vibraphone is used quite often on this release with hints of Pierre Moerlin's Gong, Mike Oldfield's "Incantations" and early Gentle Giant.

This release would appeal to fans of Curved Air and Sky, although it still sounds like Renaissance. Give this one new ears, please. 4 stars out 5.

Review by kenethlevine
2 stars After the storm of delights that was "A Song for All Seasons", Renaissance stood at a new crossroads, the prog movement a year older and practically comatose. Keeping producer David Hentschel seemed like a good idea as he had really helped revitalize their sound. "A Song" had contained a blend of both short and long pieces, not unusual for the band, except that the scales tipped in favour of the abbreviated for the first time. Rather than stay with that balance, they opted to go with 10 short tracks. If they had remembered to go back to the well for inspiration, the decision might have worked. By and large, the ashes were completely cold by this point.

Other than the sneering "Jeckyll and Hide", the mini epic "Golden Key", and the wondrous folk of "Kalynda", the band seem to have lost their ample songwriting and arranging instincts. Songs like "The Flood at Lyons" are literally sunk by over use of synthesizers and a remarkable lack of melodic development, and "Friends", "Winter Tree" and "Forever Changing" are simply beyond the banal. For the most part I keep waiting for the trademark magic but am overcome with disappointment. "Discovery" is an instrumental with a few hot passages and "Only Angels Have Wings" is interesting in its totally synthetic accompaniment but also twee as can be.

The band needed a break after this no question, the heyday of their unbroken string of artistic and commercial success coming to a sudden and final halt. Avoid.

Review by ZowieZiggy
3 stars When I listened to Jekyll & Hyde, I could believe my ears : it was like I my listening to "Earth & Fire". The popish sound was there, but more than anything the vocals which are so close to Jerney Kaagman's ones here as well.

The song is very catchy but totally different from their classical repertoire. Rather astonishing but pleasant; which is not true for the dull "Only Angels Have Wings".

The band reverts to a more standard sound and approach with "Golden Key". The great Annie as we all know her is back at the best of her form. So convincing and passionate in this type of song. This is one of the best from this album. It has all the elements from an old "Renaissance" song I can think of : superb vocals, great harmonies and sumptuous keys. Like in the good old days, really.

Songs are pleasant and, here and there, the past grandeur is back again. "Secret Mission" has the definite flavour of "Sheherazade" (without the orchestrations). John Tout does an excellent job on the keys and the song is complex enough to be called "progressive". The high pitched vocals are such a sweet souvenir. Another one of my fave here.

The highlight from this work is "Kalynda". A wonderful melody full of emotions. The acoustic guitar work is also poignant. All these elements combined together deliver another catchy (although commercial) song. When played at this level, it is really a pleasure to listen to commercial tunes, isn't it?

The second blunder of this album is the instrumental "The Discovery". Nothing to discover, frankly. Just a filler like the childish "Friends". The band was probably out of inspiration.

The closing number starts as a "Genesis" part and this song is more upbeat than a usual "Renaissance" song. The result is quite well achieved, I must say. Annie & John (Tout) being again the highlights. A fine way to close this good album.

Three stars.

Review by octopus-4
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
2 stars The end is beginning. Sadly the band is following the path that will lead to the only two albums released in the 80s. And it's a good thing that they released only two.

This is still a listenable album but without any highligh and with clear anticipations of the poor things to come.

Some decent songs are "Golden Key" and "Forever Changing". On "Friends" we can hear the high-volume bass as in the good old times, but it's the only remarkable thing of this song.

"Jekhyll and Hide" is a first touch of what Camera Casmera will be. Annie's voice is plastic. On "Only Angels Have Wings" it seems to be listening to Kayak or Caravan. Not a bad thing, but it's a fact that they are no longer the Renaissance.

Only the last track "The Flood At Lyons" has the mood and the arrangement of the best times.

Taken alone it could be a three stars album, but they are Renaissance, a band that has released a serie of masterpieces until just a couple of years before. Was it an attempt to renew the sound, or to make their major happier while the times were changing? Or is it only the end of Dunford's creative inspiration that started to appear in the previous album?

Whatever it is, if you don't know Renaissance yet you may like it. Who knows their best albums can't be not disappointed of this one. Not as bad as the very poor two successors but I can't give it more than two stars. Not poor but neither good if we think to the previous standards of the band.

Review by Matti
2 stars When it comes to production, this isn't very far from the previous album Song For All Seasons, but musically the step down is notable. Synth-loaded pop direction frankly began with SFAS, but it still was a strong album with plenty of progressive elements. Imagine an album completely in the manner of the bright light hit 'Northern Lights' and the syrupy 'She's Love' (sung terribly by John Tout) from SFAS, and you'll get the picture. Well, since I mentioned Tout as a vocalist, here he sings 'Only Angels Have Wings', similarily cheesy musical-style ballad, only this time with a ridiculous synth arrangement. Even if I don't remember some tracks at all (I owned the vinyl over two decades ago), my bet is that this particular song was the ugliest, while some were simply totally forgettable, Q.E.D.

Annie Haslam's angelic voice doesn't fail, but with the sweet poppy nature of the album, she can't save it from being a let-down to fans of their more symphonic output.

There are some tracks that maybe could make a half of another fairly good SFAS sort of album, if the rest was proggier. 'Jekyll & Hyde' is a dramatic up-tempo song that opens the album promisingly, and the next happy little song 'The Winter Tree' is OK. 'Forever Changing' and 'Kalynda' are peaceful nice tracks, nothing more. But when you get to the highlight of the last track 'Flood at Lyons' which manages to sound bold and symphonic in five minutes, there has been too much of plastic and zaccharine all over, and too many throwaway songs. 2½ stars.

Review by ClemofNazareth
3 stars Given the number of early progressive bands who had either disappeared or simply gone over to the AOR darkside by the late seventies (or in the case of Genesis gone full-frontal pop), Renaissance fans should have been happy the group was at least sticking somewhat close to their unique brand of 'classical folk' by this point. And for the most part it seems fans were still engaged, as the album charted and sold respectably though much of that was likely momentum from their 1978 hit single "Northern Lights" which was still getting significant airplay by the time 'Azure d'Or' released in the summer of 1979.

While the key players are the same ones who cranked out the previous few Renaissance albums, there are several changes that are rather hard to miss on this album. The most significant is the considerable tightening up of arrangements resulting in much shorter songs than nearly anything in their repertoire at the time (only one song tops five minutes, and that one not by much). This means that nearly all the lengthy classically-arranged instrumental passages that characterized much of the band's history are gone. Once exception is an energetic but brief "The Discovery", a rare instrumental song from a band whose very identity is inexorably tied to its iconic lead singer as much as or more so than its instrumentation. Instead producer David Hentschel elected to take what could have been sequential piano, synthesizer, guitar and percussion tracks and simply layer them all on top of each other to achieve a sort of ivy-covered 'wall of sound'. As an aside, Phil Spector of course pretty much invented the Wall of Sound concept back in the sixties and tried to employ it in George Harrison's 'All Things Must Pass' sessions before Harrison fired him for showing up drunk in the studio. A young Hentschel was sound engineer for many of those sessions. He also played synthesizers on Elton John's 'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road', the very symbol of ostentatious seventies overproduction, so I suppose it's no surprise he felt the urge to do the same here.

Another big change is the emergence of bassist Jon Camp and drummer Terence Sullivan as songwriters. Between them they wrote half the songs on the album, easily eclipsing their combined efforts on all the earlier Renaissance albums. And Camp took things one step further by penning his own lyrics rather than relying on the group's stalwart lyricist Betty Thatcher (who still managed to deliver the words to four of Michael Dunford's five songs). And in one of the most noticeable changes the rock band that had risen to fame with only acoustic guitar had now plugged in with both Camp and Dunford playing electric guitars (sometimes simultaneously) and keyboardist John Tout spending more time hunched over his synthesizers and organ than at the piano, which results in more rock-based compositions that tend to use the band's classical passages as window dressing rather than the basis for their sound.

Despite all the changes this is still a very solid album, and is perhaps one of the better examples of a progressive band adapting to the changing times without completely selling their souls. For the most part at least.

The opening "Jekyll and Hyde" can be a bit jarring to anyone who had recently spun a classic Renaissance record before playing this one, as the synthesized orchestral sounds and swirling organ bleats all but drown out the bits of piano that one would normally expect on a Renaissance record. Annie Haslam's vocals are as potent as ever though and despite the slightly New-Wavey rhythm this is unmistakably a Renaissance song with a fresh coat of paint much like the Moody Blues would attempt with their 'Long Distance Voyager' release just a couple years later.

"Only Angels Have Wings" recalls the band's folk roots with its soft Haslam/Camp vocals and jaunty, almost baroque synthesized strings and woodwind sounds, Camp taking what amounts to the lead vocal role in a rare turn for the group. This became one of only two singles for the album along with "Jekyll and Hyde". Tout returns to his piano for "Golden Key" as Haslam demonstrates her vocal range on a song with a satin sheen of studio production that carries over to the Sullivan-penned "Forever Changing", a ballad-like number with Dunford on acoustic guitar and what amounts to something akin to a "Northern Lights Part 2". This is a beautiful tune thanks mostly to Dunford's strumming and fingering and one that has been underappreciated over the years in the Renaissance catalog.

On the other hand other than the delightful instrumental "The Discovery" the second half of the album is a bit weaker and much more commercial than the first. "Secret Mission" suffers from a rushed tempo that barely allows Haslam to breathe, and despite the tasty guitar work "Kalynda (A Magical Isle)" becomes an exercise in synthesized noodling and what amounts to a duet between Haslam and Camp, while "Friends" works in completely superfluous choral backing and a funky bass line that relegates the song's lyrics to the 'too sappy' bin. This is one song the band could have salvaged and possibly even turned into a strong offering with some well-placed piano, a slower pace and perhaps switching out the lead bass with more of Dunford's bucolic acoustic guitar.

And finally "The Flood at Lyons" closes the album, which for the first time in Renaissance's history is a closing song that doesn't approach epic stature in either length or depth. Once again the pace is too rushed and the rhythm tries too hard to be catchy rather than majestic. The layered fake orchestral and choral sounds are most noticeably out-of-place here, and I've been tempted to break out some editing software to stretch this thing out and give it some room to develop the way it should have been recorded in the first place. Once again Haslam's vocals salvage the thing, but just barely.

The first time I listened to this record I expected a glossy, overproduced bit of schlock along the lines of what just about every other progressive dinosaur was cranking out by the late seventies. 'Azure d'Or' isn't quite that, but the lack of restraint shown by Hentschel on the latter part of the record puts it dangerously close to that category. This ends up being a decent record, mostly on the strength of "The Discovery", "Only Angels Have Wings" and "Forever Changing". That makes it a three star effort, not among the strongest Renaissance albums but given the times still a pretty good one.


Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
2 stars Here we arrive at Renaissance's "Tormato". Much like Yes tried to do on that album, Renaissance tones down the prog (and with it, their audience's interest), and shortens all the songs down to radio friendly accessability.

There are some moments of prog. The album opens with an orchestral intro on Jekyll And Hyde. But it doesn't last long, as the song quickly turns into something more record company executive friendly. Other songs have a little more value. Secret Mission has some good parts, as does the instrumental The Discovery (the best song on the album).

But the point has been made. Renaissance is trying to be more of an AOR band than a prog band.

It's no surprise that after this album, band members fled the scene.

2.5 stars.

Review by rogerthat
2 stars In these difficult times, speaking from an economic point of view, it occurs to me that I could compare Azure D' or to a so-called 'rightsizing' initiative. It is sonically a far cry from Song for All Seasons which, according to Jon Camp, featured so many musicians there wasn't room in the studio for some of them! After that surge of triumphant defiance of the punk wave, which also delivered their only UK (or otherwise) top 10 hit Northern Lights, Renaissance turned their back on big orchestra and went electric-and-synth. This album also does not feature a single track of 8 minutes or longer. Lean and mean, to put a positive spin on it.

What is 'rightsized' is of course a matter of perspective. Renaissance may have cut down heavily on pomp and ambition but the results can be bland and dull without enough meat to compensate for it, i.e., catchy vocal or instrumental hooks. On this album, it is and more or less wrote the epitaph for Renaissance mk-ii (though they weren't aware of it at the time, obviously).

I am probably a bigot for not liking this because I have always felt that with a singer as talented as Annie Haslam in their lineup, Renaissance would have benefited from writing more short songs than epics. I guess in believing so, I make the assumption that these short songs would also have the infectious appeal of a pop hit. Unfortunately, in trying to make it short and sweet, Renaissance only end up sounding generic and anonymous at best and banal and, yes, dragging at worst.

A case in point is the ballad Golden Key. By this point, Annie is supremely confident in her singing craft. Where, on earlier albums like Ashes are Burning, she might have struggled to infuse drama into this sort of melody, she now unleashes a masterclass in dynamics in her characteristic unobtrusive, subtle style. Unfortunately, just as she beautifully builds up the chorus, the band head into - you guessed it - yet another of their 'time wasting' sections of music. It is hard to fathom what purpose an interlude that consists of re-iterating a dull keyboard motif is supposed to serve but there it is. If you hang on till the very end, Annie conjures up a solid finish. But this track more or less sums up the problems of the album.

Annie is in equally lustrous form on Forever Changing or Kalynda but while these songs might have fairly beautiful tones, the actual notes are, I am afraid, pretty banal and unappetizing. But 'rockers' Secret Mission and Jekyll or Hyde don't even give her the width to emote that the ballads do and they come and go without making much of an impression. Only Winter Tree has something of the appeal of Northern Lights to my mind and is the only unqualified highlight off this album for me.

Neither the band's approach nor that of the producer's helps matters much. There is just not enough energy on the rockers nor, strangely, much feeling in the quieter or more poignant moments. While Flood at Lyons sounds too much like Running Hard initially, it has some potential and is similar to Yes's attempts to write more radio-ready music. But it just sounds rather flat to me and despite some good singing (again) is rather unremarkable.

In interviews of more recent vintage, Annie has said she doesn't really like the album and acknowledges it as the beginning of the decline, as the point where they began to listen to 'others' instead of trusting their instincts. All possibly quite true but it's water under the bridge. Renaissance lost their contract with Warner Bros and John Tout and Terence Sullivan soon after and, until their recent revival through successful tours of the American North East, were more or less a closed chapter.

The lyrics of Golden Key inadvertently capture their predicament after the commercial failure of this album: "Turn off the golden key, company machine/Sell his identity, spin their golden dream". With Azure D' Or, Renaissance lost something more than just the prospect of commercial success: their identity. I give it 2.5 stars but won't round it off to 3 as I cannot really find enough to like here to make a recommendation.

Review by VianaProghead
3 stars Review Nş 173

'Azure D'Or' is the ninth studio album of Renaissance and was released in 1979. This was the first album where the band stopped using an orchestra, the first album where the band exclusively features short songs and where the long epic pieces were gone and it was also the first album with the only full instrumental song ever released by the group.

The line up of the album is the same of their last previous studio albums. So, the line up on 'Azure D'Or' is Annie Haslam (lead and backing vocals), Michael Dunford (guitars), John Tout (keyboards), Jon Camp (vocals, backing vocals, guitars and bass) and Terence Sullivan (backing vocals, drums and percussion). However, this was the last album to feature this line up. John Tout who was dealing with some personal problems due to the death of his sister left the band and Terry Sullivan, long time friend of John Tout, also left the band as well, by a principle of solidarity.

'Azure D'Or' has ten tracks. The first track 'Jekyll And Hyde' written by Betty Thatcher and Michael Dunford is a good song to open the album. Annie Haslam's voice sounds as good as ever, and despite the new rhythm, more pop than was usual, it remains an unmistakable Renaissance's song, as fresh and cool, as always it was. The second track 'The Winter Tree' written by Betty Thatcher and Michael Dunford is a great example of a good pop music with excellent musical composition. It combines a nice acoustic guitar work with a beautiful keyboard working. It isn't as good as the previous song, but it's still a good song. The third track 'Only Angels Have Wings' written by Jon Camp is a different track from the previous, especially because it has the male voice of Jon Camp. It's a song with excellent orchestration and a great keyboard working. We may say that this is a typical symphonic track, very interesting and pleasant to hear, which curiously hasn't any drumming work. The fourth track 'Golden Key' written by Betty Thatcher and Michael Dunford is an excellent track and it's probably my favourite track on the album. It's a wonderful song, probably the best musical composition on the album, and it's also probably, the most progressive track on it. This is a great melodic song with an absolute irreproachable orchestration, completely in the same vein of some of the best songs composed for their previous great studio albums. The fifth track 'Forever Changing' written by Betty Thatcher and Terry Sullivan represents another good musical moment on the album and represents also another highlight on it. This is another great melodic song with a memorable melody and where, once more, we are in presence of a fantastic vocal performance and a great acoustic guitar working. The sixth track 'Secret Mission' written by Jon Camp is another good song where all the musical elements, combined together, turned this song complex enough, to can be called a good progressive song, really. Once more the vocal performance of Annie Haslam is great and the keyboard work of John Tout is also, and once more, absolutely remarkable. No doubt about it. The seventh track 'Kalynda (A Magical Isle)' written by Jon Camp is a nice melodic song full of emotions. It has another great and perfect acoustic guitar working. Once more the vocal performance of Annie Haslam deserves a special mention. It's a very beautiful and simple song and although it can't be considered one of the most progressives on the album. The final result is another catchy and pleasant song to hear. The eighth track 'The Discovery' written by Jon Camp is a rare instrumental track for the band, the only composed on the album. Sincerely and despite being a very simple and vulgar instrumental song, I consider it a delightful and very interesting track, with great orchestration and with a classical touch. The ninth track 'Friends' written by Betty Thatcher and Michael Dunford is another beautiful and melodic song. It's true that it's another very simple song, in terms of musical composition, and a little bit repetitive. But, once more, the final result is sufficiently catchy, nice, pleasant and enjoyable to hear. The tenth and last track 'The Flood At Lyons' written by Jon Camp and Michael Dunford was the song chosen to close the album. This is another good song that brings us the same mood and musical arrangements of their best good old times. Once again the vocal working of Annie Haslam is absolutely great and contributes powerfully to turn this song into a great musical moment and ending this album magnificently.

Conclusion: Despite 'Azure D'Or' be the weakest musical work released by Renaissance in the 70's, it remains, for me, a good album. It's true that it's a more commercially oriented album only with short songs, but in general, we can say that it's a very pleasant and nice musical proposal to hear, nothing disastrous and sufficiently good to be considered still a classic Renaissance's album, a minor classic it's true, but nevertheless, it's still a classic album from them. If you don't know Renaissance's music yet, you may like 'Azure D'Or'. I even sincerely think that even who knows their best albums shouldn't be disappointed with it, because it isn't as bad as some think. However, I wouldn't advise you to start with it. My advice is to start with 'Ashes Are Burning', 'Turn Of The Cards' or 'Scheherazade And Other Stories'. Their compilation album 'De Capo' is also another great proposal to start with this great 70's band.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

Review by Warthur
4 stars This would be the last album from the classic Renaissance lineup; after this John Tout and Terence Sullivan would quit, and the remainder would reconfigure their sound for the much-derided Camera Camera and Time-Line albums.

The band are also attempting to change and evolve their sound here - but to my ears they do so more successfully. Yes, it's a departure from the sound which had largely served them well from Prologue to A Song For All Seasons, but they'd been ploughing that particular furrow to exhaustion; it was time to evolve or die, and though the classic line-up would ultimately take the latter route after this, they do make an honest bid at the former.

Synths are a bit more prominent, songs are shorter and tighter, and in general a lot of the features which had crept into the music on A Song For All Seasons are dialled up significantly. Another factor is that Michael Dunford is no longer so omnipresent when it comes to the songwriting; from Turn of the Cards he'd at least a co-writing credit on all of Renaissance's songs to Novella; and the only songs on Prologue and Ashes Are Burning which didn't have a Dunford credit on them were old Jim McCarty pieces left over from his tenure in the band, and the only song on A Song For All Seasons which didn't was a Jon Camp piece.

From Novella onwards, Camp had been contributing more intensively to the songwriting, but usually in collaboration with Dunford; here, however, the Camp/Dunford writing partnership is more or less dissolved, save for The Flood At Lyons where Dunford provides music and Camp does the lyrics. For the rest of the album, aside from Sullivan's Forever Changing, it's either Jon Camp pieces (with lyrics by Camp himself) or new Dunford/Thatcher numbers.

Camp even takes on lead vocals on Only Angels Have Wings; by this point it had become rare for Renaissance to feature male lead vocals, since they'd realised what an absolute gift they had in the form of Annie Haslam and, quite sensibly, didn't want to mess with that. Aside from that departure, though, the material here doesn't feel as disjointed as one might expect, with all the songs fitting into the general atmosphere of the album and the album itself representing an entirely acceptable development of the band's sound, adapting to a new era without dispensing with their spirit.

One can imagine Renaissance continuing into the 1980s developing this particular musical strand further and further - but the departure of Tout and Sullivan and the end of their old record deal put paid to that, and perhaps made the more radical changes heralded by Camera Camera seem necessary for the sake of survival. Yes, it's less orchestral, but with this Renaissance proved that they didn't need the orchestra to hand to work their magic - and there's ample evidence here that their prog chops remained sharp even in the context of shorter-form compositions. (Just listen to the brisk instrumental The Discovery if you don't believe me.) Azure d'Or is often left out of the classic run of Renaissance albums, and I feel like that's an injustice - it's at least as solid as A Song For All Seasons, which I'd consider it a companion piece two since it's the other album did in that general style.

Latest members reviews

3 stars A Change in Sound, but still OK. This is the album where Renaissance gave in to the record company, and began writing directly for radio exposure, melding a distinctly early British new wave sound into their own style. The result is that if you did not know in advance, you might not realize this ... (read more)

Report this review (#1706958) | Posted by Walkscore | Friday, March 31, 2017 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I really like this album. Is it as majestic as Ashes Are Burning or Song of Scheherazade? Not at all. It's a more modest-sounding album. Orchestration is replaced completely by keyboards. The flirtation with electric guitar that began on Song for All Seasons is in even more full bloom here. This cer ... (read more)

Report this review (#1429328) | Posted by Mr. Gone | Monday, June 22, 2015 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Renaissance were still very creative at this point in their career. Just no epics. That isn't a bad thing. The record kicks off with the soaring Jekyll and Hyde, which really rocks harder than most of this record. The Winter Tree is a softer piece, very folk oriented with a good chorus. Not un ... (read more)

Report this review (#1167144) | Posted by fudgenuts64 | Tuesday, April 29, 2014 | Review Permanlink

2 stars After listening to many other Renaissance albums and tracks I finally decided to give this one a spin. However, it has been a big dissapointment for me. I think that it is just too darn "poppy" for my tastes. The only tunes here I tend to like are "Jeckyl and Hyde" and "Secret Mission". The re ... (read more)

Report this review (#277789) | Posted by mohaveman | Tuesday, April 13, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Azure d'Or was the first Renaissance album I bought, and one of my favorites. I gave it a five because it's a great album, yet still misunderstood... Azure d'Or has my favorite Renaissance song "Secret Mission" (as well as Friends, Winter Tree and Only Angels Have Wings). One of the best album ... (read more)

Report this review (#101489) | Posted by rainbow111 | Sunday, December 3, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars The eighth work of RENAISSANCE announced in 1979 "Azure D'or". Tone with brilliant synthesizer. Music with which throb feeling overflows. Classical fine work. Anyway, it is a nostalgic sound.The produce of this album is David Hentschel. John Tout and Terence Sullivan secede after announcing th ... (read more)

Report this review (#48676) | Posted by braindamage | Tuesday, September 27, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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