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Renaissance

Illusion

Review by Gary Hill

Technically this album (the second from Renaissance) was released in 1971. It was only released in Germany at that time, though. It would eventually get a wider distribution, but not until a couple years later. It should be noted that while much of this does include female vocals, Annie Haslam had not yet joined the band. The female singer on this set was Jane Relf. A lot of this release has a real folk meets psychedelic element, but there is still plenty of prog music to be found. There are things here that definitely call to mind the kind of music that band would be known for later in their career, too.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2020  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Love Goes On
Acoustic guitar brings this into being. As the vocals join they bring a gentle, folk rock kind of vibe with them. This is an accessible kind of vaguely jazzy 1960s styled tune. It shifts to a fast paced jam after this introductory chorus section. The more proggy elements are built into the mix when it does. This is a very effective piece that alternates between the two movements as it continues. It's a strong opener.
Golden Thread
A piano features in the introduction to this piece. The cut begins to grow outward with some healthy helpings of classical music in the mix. Guitar and piano seem to climb in parallel ways. The guitar drops away and leaves the piano alone for a time. The piece gets very classical in that movement. Eventually it shifts toward more of a rock based band treatment with a gradual transition in that direction. Female vocals of the non-lyrical variety soar over the top. The cut continues to evolve with a real folk prog element taking control. The vocals remain non-lyrical with both male and female being heard, until around the three-and-a-half-minute mark. Then male vocals emphasis the folk element with an old world charm. The piece gets into some pretty powerful progressive rock zones as it continues to explore and expand.
Love Is All
Intricate piano with a lot of classical music built into it begins this number. Folk rock based elements rise up as it continues. The vocals continue that concept. The piece has some classical elements, mainly from that piano that keeps dancing around. Overall, though, it's much more of a pure folk rock song. The synthesizer that comes in later adds another element, though. I dig the electric guitar that comes in later, too.
Mr. Pine
I'm a big fan of harpsichord, so the inclusion of that instrument on the introduction here earns the track points from me. The piece works to sort of a psychedelic folk rock sound for the vocal movement. The harpsichord returns on the instrumental connecting piece. While the lead vocals on this track are male, this reminds me a lot of Jefferson Airplane in this opening section. After a false ending a new instrumental movement rises up that feels like a different piece. Synthesizer lends a dramatic prog rock sound to the piece. This exploration works into some cool territory before some non-lyrical vocals soar over the top. Then the number peaks and a new rocking concept emerges for more keyboard soloing to dance over the top. Vocals join as the cut drives onward with a great psychedelic prog sound. The folk element is brought back with the male vocals. It eventually returns to the earlier Jefferson Airplane like movement to continue.
Face of Yesterday
Another cut that starts with piano, that instrument paints some intriguing picture while the bass dances behind it. While that motif is rather classical in nature, as the arrangement fills out a bit and shifts, there are some jazzy elements brought into it. It's a mellow folk prog based arrangement as the powerful vocals join to move it forward. The piano really leads a lot of this number, particularly as it works into a growing, driving kind of arrangement later. The whole sound is very much what would eventually become classic Renaissance. I dig the dreamy kind of jazzy edge that the piece has, too, though. The number works to its closing in style.
Past Orbits of Dust
The epic of the album, this weighs in at over 14-and-a-half minutes. It powers in with a fast paced decidedly prog rock based jam. As it shifts to an almost jazzy groove from there the tune takes on new dimensions. There is a veritable sea of vocals at times. The cut has elements of psychedelia in the mix at some points, too. This is up-tempo and gets very soaring. It also gets a bit crazed at times. It's very explorative and creative. There is a trippy kind of psychedelic movement around the five-and-a-half-minute mark. It eventually makes its way to a percussion showcase movement. A new fast-paced jam gradually emerges from there, and the vocals return over the top. A jazz-styled section takes over from there. I eventually drops way down for a bit of a bass showcase. That movement gets a little strange at times. The cut gets into some fairly freeform, albeit stripped-back, territory from there. Everything but the bass remains for a time. Then some spacey elements emerge, but never really take hold, as the piece ends more with a whimper than a flash.
 
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