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Renaissance - Turn Of The Cards CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.08 | 573 ratings

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Prog-Folk Team
5 stars A much darker version of Renaissance emerges in "Turn of the Cards", a wintry album if there ever was one. The full lineup is now into its second album, and it has largely dispensed with the sunny disposition of much of the previous recording "Ashes Are Burning". It completely expunges the electric guitar from its arsenal, not to reappear until "A Song for All Seasons", when the band as a whole had evolved enough to accommodate it.

The album begins with the nostalgic and spiritual "Running Hard". Often considered one of Renaissance's greatest songs, it is the first to include a lengthy piano intro that would be adopted to the greatest degree on the "Scheherazade" album. The piano meanders purposefully towards the main and soaring tune that sees Annie in fine form. The orchestral accompaniment is tasteful and Annie delivers one of her better "la la" flights of fancy in the break. We are even treated to intricate yet accessible vocal harmonies with her band mates. If there is a flaw, it is in the less than ideal production, somehow not even as good as on its predecessor. It sounds somewhat muddy. Nonetheless, the orchestral denouement is majestic without pomposity.

"I think of You" is more reminiscent of Sandy Denny's work with STRAWBS than anything, basically a simple folky number, but with none of the cheer of the earlier tunes of similar ilk. Then perhaps the most Gothic sounding epic of the band's career, "Things I don't Understand". It is the last to be co-written by Jim McCarthy. I am fascinated by his involvement in the credits 3 albums after leaving the group. Was he still involved peripherally or are these mere leftovers from the first era? The first part of the piece is absolutely haunting, with a powerful melody and choral effects, almost sounding like mellotron, but the songs wanes in its final minutes as it tries to morph into a suite with middling success. It could have been one of their best but ends up only mildly satisfying.

The last 3 tracks, side 2 of the original LP, are really the meat of the repast. "Black Flame" is again lusciously melancholy, and is augmented by Tout's harpsichord, more mystical lyrics and a masterful structure and melody. "Cold is Being" totally takes the icy aspect and runs with it to the tune of Albinoni's 'Adagio'. Only 3 minutes long and blissful. It turns out to be by way of introduction to the mother of all Renaissance works, "Mother Russia", an ode to exiled Alexander Solzhenitsyn. While the introduction, verses and chorus are all nothing short of wondrous, it is the break in the middle that sparkles with Annie's plaintive wails followed by emotive piano, orchestral effects, and spine tingling harp. This is truly a miraculous passage! Worth the price of admission, but as we have seen the album offers so much more.

Again, 4.5 stars, rounded up because this is actually a bigger change than one might reasonably expect from one album to the next, meaning that chances were taken, and the artistry triumphed.

kenethlevine | 5/5 |


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