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Renaissance

A Song for All Seasons (Three-Disc Special Edition)

Review by Gary Hill

This new remastered release is so classy. Not only do you get a remastered version of the original album, but it comes with several bonus tracks. That's just the first disc. There is also a two CD live album from 1978. The whole thing is included in a clamshell box with a great booklet and a mini-poster.

It should be mentioned that I previously reviewed the original edition of this album. Here's what I said about it, "I like this album quite a bit. It’s a bit more mainstream than some of the other Renaissance sets. It’s still easily recognizable as that band, though. This might not be my favorite Renaissance disc, but it’s well worth having." My track reviews for the songs on the album proper are taken from that review, too, for the sake of consistency.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2019  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
CD One
                
A Song For All Seasons - Remastered
             
Opening Out

Although this is trademark Renaissance in so many ways, there are hints of Pink Floyd in some of the heavier stuff. I really love the balance between harder rocking and mellower movements. Annie Haslam’s vocals are always top-notch, and this song is no exception. There is a great balance between more and less symphonic, too.

The Day of the Dreamer
Starting with some piano based music, this cut is fast paced. It’s a symphonically tinged number with a lot of folk music, rock and more in the mix. I really love some of the shifts and changes on this thing. It’s decidedly prog, but also rather mainstream and commercial. The later section is much more of the folk prog that Renaissance is known for doing. I like this one a lot. It’s got some really great melodies. I suppose one could consider the strings a bit over the top, but it’s just so appropriate for Renaissance, really.
Closer Than Yesterday
This is very much a folk song. It’s a bit less proggy than some of the arrangements that Renaissance would have done of this in the past. Still, with Haslam’s vocals over the top of the acoustic guitar based arrangement, it’s instantly recognizable as Renaissance.
Kindness (At the End)
A powerhouse, fast paced prog jam opens this number. It drops back after a time for a mellower movement. The vocals (male this time) come over the top as the song continues to move forward. This really does evolve into a powerful piece of music. I love the organ at the end, too.
Back Home Once Again
In terms of song structure, this is more of a mainstream pop number. The arrangement, though, brings it into Renaissance territory. It’s a mellower number, but does have some energy.
She Is Love

This comes in very classical in nature. As the vocals are added (male ones) that is almost augmented. There are definite elements here that make me think of Queen’s forays into old time music. But, overall, this is very much like classical soundtrack music. It’s very mellow and unusual. It’s about as “non rock” as you can get.

Northern Lights
Musically, this reminds me quite a bit of Yes. Still, it’s quite recognizable as Renaissance.
A Song for All Seasons
This is a progressive rock powerhouse that works through all kinds of shifts and changes. There are some definite symphonic elements. This extended introductory section works through and drops down to a false ending. Then a mellow prog movement joins with the first vocals. The piece works out from there, taking us through several thrilling changes. This is very much the Renaissance sound of old. I really do love this epic number. Of course, there’s a reason it’s the title track.
Bonus Tracks
                    
Northern Lights (promotional single edit)
             
(previously unreleased on CD)

This works really well in this version. I like it a lot.

BBC Radio Session - 19th August 1978
           
Day of the Dreamer

A flourish brings this into being. Piano takes over from there as the song continues. Then the band joins, and we're out into a trademark Renaissance sounding cut. This is energetic, dynamic, soaring and powerful. The dramatic instrumental excursion is so cool and covers a wide range of moods and textures. The section around the three-and-a-half-minute mark is particularly cool. They drive out of that with some more melodic, but fast paced prog. There is a break toward ELP-like elements for a moment before it flies out into another fast paced section.

Midas Man
I've always loved this song. They put in quite a powerful live performance. The peaks of the song are displayed in style. All the musical nuances are intact. This song just works so well here.
The Vultures Fly High
I love this live performance, too. It's soaring, powerful and such a classic Renaissance sounding piece.
Northern Lights ("Top of the Pops" Version)
              
(Previously Unreleased)

This version of the previous song is another strong one. You really can't go wrong with this tune, but this almost seems better than the main album version to me.

CD Two

         

Live at the Tower Theater, Philadelphia
        
4th December 1978
   
Can You Hear Me?

A dramatic buildup starts this song. They work through some various introductory sections as they continue. Eventually Haslam's voice soars in over the top. This number works through several different movements. It's a classic number and they deliver it in fine fashion. I love the mellower section around the seven-minute mark, and particularly the bass work during that movement. In a lot of ways that section makes me think of Yes.

Carpet of the Sun
This is another of my favorites from Renaissance, and they deliver a powerful and inspiring live rendition. It's driving and very cool.
Things I Don't Understand

Percussion is a big part of the opening of this cut. The track works out from there to a fast paced prog jam that still manages to be acoustic and understated. Haslam's vocals come over the top, bringing this to life in style. We're taken through a number of changes along this musical ride. This is a great live performance of a strong song from the Renaissance catalog.

Opening Out
While this live version works reasonably well, some of the synthesizer voices sound a bit cheesy here.
Day of the Dreamer
A powerful flourish opens this cut, and they work out from there with style and skill. This epic piece is packed full of powerful progressive rock. The contrast between more rocking and mellower is classic Renaissance. There are some seriously driving sections to this cut. The closing movement is particularly potent.
Midas Man
Here we have another version of "Midas Man." I think the acoustic guitar on this might be more powerful than it was on the live version on the first CD.
CD Three
       
Live at the Tower Theater, Philadelphia
              
4th December 1978
               
Northern Lights

Here we get another take on "Northern Lights." I like this version a lot. It seems to do a great job of capturing the magic of the cut for the live setting.

A Song for All Seasons
This epic title track gets a killer live performance here. They make their way through the various shifts and turns in style. There is a real passion at the heart of this performance in a lot of ways. The whole thing just seems ramped up a bit from the studio take.
Touching Once Is So Hard to Keep

Another piece of epic length, this covers a lot of territory, too. The piano and voice movement at the start is bouncy and a bit playful, but that's just the starting point. This thing really soars and is quite dynamic.

Ashes Are Burning
While they introduce this as  a "little song," it is a pure epic, stretching to over 25 minutes. It's in many ways the highlight of the set, too. This performance is so powerful and intense. The song, as you would expect, is full of all kinds of differing movements and modes. It's an epic journey, and this performance brings all that it should, really elevating things for the duration. There is a drum solo that comes in after the nine-minute mark. They bring it into a killer rock and roll jam from there. The guitar really shines in some of the soloing as they continue. The bass gets a chance to solo along this road, too. The keys get a bit of showcase before that section is over and they've made their way back into the song proper. They also take into some almost world music based stuff for a time. By around the 20-minute mark the music drops away, and Haslam's voice returns over some really ambient textures to bring the number forward. As it grows outward, it gets very powerful. This is such a perfect way to create a satisfying closing to the concert and this CD set. You just don't get a lot better than this when it comes to Renaissance.

 

 
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