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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Renaissance

Novella

Review by Steve Alspach

  Renaissance was a unique band, blending a rare combination of acoustic rock and classical music into a never-duplicated result. Like many others, I was a Renaissance fan in the 70s. I had pretty much forgotten about them until a few years ago when, on a train ride home, I met a man who had bought some of their old albums on CD. He told a story of how (before an outdoor concert) he was hit in the head by an errant Frisbee thrown by an apologetic Annie Haslam. Memory refreshed, I went back to their old albums and found Novella to be one of their best.

The personnel for Renaissance at this time was Annie Haslam (Vocals), Jon Camp (Bass and Vocals), John Tout (Keyboards), Terence Sullivan (Drums and Percussion), and Michael Dunford (Acoustic Guitar and Vocals).

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: The Early Years Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Can You Hear Me?
Renaissance is often at their best when accompanied by an orchestra, and this song proves it. A grand opening track at 13:39, this composition spans a wide range of dynamics, including quiet acoustic guitar interrupted by choral blasts. An orchestral movement starts the piece, leading to the verses themselves. This is followed by the quiet guitar-choral blast interlude (done quite effectively - the guitar lulls the listener to a rather relaxed state), a bridge that goes from quiet to full band and orchestra, and the final verse as a coda. The song ends rather abruptly, with an arpeggio from Annie allowing the song to segue into "The Sisters".
The Sisters
This is a rather somber song, indicated from the start by the peal of a church bell. The tune tells the story of the Sisters' attempt to help the people of a small town. The number has a Spanish feel to it, particularly in the acoustic guitar solo.
Midas Man
This cut features Michael Dunford's acoustic guitars in the arrangement. The rhythmic strumming is offset by a stop-and-start guitar riff and a syncopated vocal line.
The Captive Heart
This is a beautiful song featuring Annie Haslam's vocals and stellar piano work from John Tout. Outside of some backing vocals from Jon Camp, the song is all Haslam and Tout.
Touching Once (Is So Hard To Keep)
This one is another large production with a full orchestra. The verses have a tango feel to them (punctuated by the piano), and Annie and Jon Camp combine their voices exceedingly well on the choruses. The composition explores several moods during a lengthy instrumental passage before a final flourish of the chorus. This track sends the album out with a bang.
 
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