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Renaissance - Prologue CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.74 | 441 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Renaissance is a band with a peculiar early history. Founded by Keith Relf and Jim McCarty of the Yardbirds, the band recorded two albums while experiencing considerable line-up changes. Relf decided to remain on as a producer and McCarty as a writer, and a new line-up was put together with Annie Haslam on vocals and Michael Dunford soon taking over the writing job, teaming up with poet Betty Thatcher-Newsinger. The Yardbirds alumni left and the manager re-organized the band and they prepared to record their first album, 'Prologue'.

The strengths of this album and indeed this new Renaissance are Annie Haslam's five-octave voice, John Tout's superb piano work, and the collaboration in song-writing between Dunford and Thatcher-Newsinger. I also find the bass is well in place and certainly of the progressive mould, as well the drums and percussion suit the classical tendencies of the piano-based music.

The opening track is a real seventies piano rocker with some great grooving bass over which some classically inspired piano is played. Annie provides a melody of 'do-do-do's, which can be a bit tiresome a times mostly because it makes me think of seventies hippie rock that could have been used in a Wrigley's gum or Coke commercial. But the music is quite a ride and it gave me a shiver the first time I heard it.

My favourite track is the next one, 'Kiev'. After a lovely classical piano intro, it turns a little dark before settling into the folksy piano and rhythm groove that carries the song. Bass guitarist Jon Camp takes the lead vocal here though Annie joins in for the chorus. The middle section features a galloping rock rhythm section and hectic piano playing. Classical themes race neck in neck with the rhythm section. The lyrics tell a story of a simple man living in or near Kiev. I feel there is also a bit of an Eastern European flavour to the music in parts.

The last track for side one is a slower and beautiful piece for piano and vocals. Annie truly is given the chance to showcase her vocal talents for the first time here and is accompanied by some harmony vocals from the male vocalists. The percussion is not heavy handed and only comes in to add some dramatic effect when required.

We start side two with 'Spare Some Love', another bell-bottom swaying seventies hippie tune with the piano still at the forefront. There's a short 'proggy' section in the middle with the bass and drums and a bit of electric guitar. Once more, the bass guitar really stands out at times.

'Bound for Infinity' is another slow piece but with some pleasant highlights and dramatic moments. Annie's voice sounds brilliant, and there is some clean electric guitar that actually comes closer to centre stage here than what we've heard so far.

The final track is really a step away from the classical piano-led music so far. 'Raja Khan', named after a dog, opens with an electric guitar instrumental that bears an Indian flare and resembles early Tea Party (a Canadian outfit that appeared in the 90's). The main melody segments of the song are very rhythm-oriented and include 'vocalese': more singing without words. Annie still sounds spectacular. There's a synthesizer solo here, the first one on the album, and the bass guitar is again rumbling along. The music turns more piano prog-like, similar to 'Kiev' and then there's a kind of experimental part before returning to the main sequence of the song again. For the final stretch, a rock theme carries us home.

Though the album is not as streamlined in sound nor as highly rated as some of their later albums, I'm of the opinion that this is a very strong beginning for this new Renaissance. It is quite an enjoyable album to pick up from time to time and give a spin.

FragileKings | 4/5 |


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