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Renaissance - Renaissance CD (album) cover

RENAISSANCE

Renaissance

 

Symphonic Prog

3.73 | 297 ratings

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SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
3 stars The start of a new renaissance!

This self-titled debut album by Renaissance can rightfully be called one of the very first Symphonic Prog albums ever. I think that this is an album that deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as King Crimson's In The Court Of The Crimson King in terms of historical significance. It was albums such as these and a few others that started the progressive Rock movement in the late 60's. The band could hardly have chosen a better name for themselves as what we have here is truly a renaissance of sounds from the past (i.e. Classical music and traditional Folk) revived in a Rock/Psychedelic framework. It is clear from the very beginning of the first track that this music is something special (compare with other albums from the 60's and you will hopefully know what I mean). The piano here is aggressive and played with great skill and passion by the underrated John Hawken. I'm certain that this album was a big influence on Rick Wakeman in his early days. Like Wakeman, Hawken would also later become a member of Strawbs and play on some of that band's best and most progressive albums.

Kings And Queens, as the album's first track is called, is a very progressive song that runs for 11 minutes and takes many twists and turns. It features excellent piano, bass, drums, electric and acoustic guitars, male and female vocals and a strong and memorable melody line. This is not only this album's best song but also one of my all time favourite Renaissance songs. It is hard to believe that this was released in 1969; Renaissance were clearly ahead of their time and this sounds quite fresh and exiting even today. The next song, Innocence, features a slightly more 60's sounding chorus, but the rest of the song has the same sound and style as Kings And Queens with some jazzy and some Classical bits. Again, the piano work is great! The lead vocals are about equally distributed between Keith and Jane Relf, or rather they often sing in unison and harmonise with each other to great effect. Their voices complement each other very well. The Annie Haslam fans will probably miss her voice here, but personally I like the vocals of the two Relfs just as much.

Island and Wanderer are perhaps the tracks that most resemble the Haslam-era Renaissance material. The vocals on these songs are by Jane Relf alone and she sings them in the Haslam-style. These songs are folky yet classically influenced with very pleasant melodies. Here we have in addition to piano also lots of wonderful Harpsichord by Hawken. Finally, the album closes with another 11 minute song. Unfortunately, this song tends to drag a lot and lacks any strong melodic features to make it memorable; clearly the album's weakest part. It features some rather tedious moments that drags this album down a bit.

Overall, I find this album much underrated and historically important as a very early Prog album. Personally, I even prefer this self-titled debut over some of the albums by the Annie Haslam line up! Even if it is a bit rough, compared to later albums this one has more electric guitars, vocals that are more fitting for a Rock band and more room is left for instrumental workouts.

Essential for historical reasons and a very enjoyable listen too! But not quite consistently excellent, I'm afraid

SouthSideoftheSky | 3/5 |

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