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Renaissance - A Song For All Seasons CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.65 | 322 ratings

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4 stars Punk may not have directly caused the downfall of Prog, but it represented a significant shift in the ideals and expectations of the record buying public - Prog's audience had flown, and with it any chance of second division bands to continue without change or compromise. Renaissance's solution was to invite Genesis producer David Henschel to oversee the recording for the first time. His influence is undoubtedly significant, as the sound here is much more crisp and punchy with a much harder edge. The band also seem invigorated by Henschel's presence, their arrangements displaying an exciting freshness lacking from Novella.

On Novella Jon Camp clearly had a greater presence than before, with two songwriting credits and a more prominent bass work. That trend is extended here on the band's next album as six of the eight songs are credited wholely or in part to him while only three contain lyrics by Betty Thatcher, the Cornish poetess who had been the band's principal lyricist since the beginning. Additionally, Camp takes lead vocals on two songs, a sure sign of shifting dynamics within the band!

How did these developments affect the music? In some respects the classic elements are still to the fore, with two mini-epics amongst the best in the band's repertoire - both Day Of The Dreamer and title track A Song For All Seasons would be natural contenders for a list of favourites, despite the alien sounds of electric guitars and more prominent synths than in earlier years. Renaissance had always mixed shorter songs in with the longer ones, but here they predominate. Even the opener Opening Out, which has all the hallmarks of a Renaissance standard, barely gets above four minutes.

Generally the shorter songs are a mixed bag. Opening Out is a very-mini-epic which never develops. Closer Than Yesterday is a stunning ballad from the top draw with the added benefit of some interesting Mellotron work and counter-harmonies. Jon Camp's solo singing on his Kindness (At The End) works very well, reminiscent of Kiev from Prologue. The next two songs are the album's low point: TV theme song Back Home Once Again is a pleasant 'nothing' track while the forgettable She Is Love is sung solo by Camp backed only by orchestra. Lastly, the much maligned Northern Lights may be poppish, but is still an intelligent and entertaining arrangement.

Title track A Song For All Seasons is the undoubted star of the show, eleven minutes of sheer joy as the band weave their magic around the only lyric on the album that actually seems to mean anything [the four seasons as a metaphor for life]. This song has everything you could wish, tempo and mood swings abound while subtlety rubs shoulders with bombast as beguiling melodies lead to a rousing climax that tests the famous range of Annie's voice. It may be the last mini-epic the band would write, but they went out with a bang!

From here onward it was all downhill - when you reach the top of a mountain, the only way to go is down. Sadly it is the beginning of an unrecoverable slide into the musical wilderness that represented their 1980s output. This album certainly has a couple of poor songs, but the freshness and energy in the remainder, together with a sharper production, make this underrated album highly recommendable.

Joolz | 4/5 |


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