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Progressive Rock CD Reviews


Academy of Music

Review by Gary Hill

This live album is quite good. It does seem like it started life as a bootleg, though. For that reason there are a few issues here and there with crowd noise that’s a bit too loud and localized. Still, to have a live recording of this historic concert is great. Not only do Renaissance play this gig with an orchestra, but Andy Powell of Wishbone Ash guests on one track. The sound is quite good here, particularly if it was (as it sounds like it was) an audio recorded bootleg.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2015  Volume 2 at

Track by Track Review
Disc 1

Can You Understand

A gong starts this, and they launch out from there into melodic, fast paced Renaissance prog. This song works through quite a few changes. There are mellower moments and more rocking ones. Vocal moments are interjected between extended instrumental movements. Parts of this bring to mind classical music, while others call to mind world music. This is such an effective and powerful piece. It’s classic Renaissance and performed with style and precision. I particularly love the fast paced movement around the nine minute mark.

Black Flame
This is pretty and starts with mellow music. It’s marred a bit by audience chatter. When Haslam’s voice enters, it’s particularly expressive and beautiful. The cut builds out after the first verse to more rocking, but still quite melodic territory.
Carpet of the Sun
I’ve always loved this great tune. It’s one of my favorite songs from Renaissance. It really is a great example of their version of symphonic folk prog. This live telling is quite strong.
Cold Is Being
This is quite a pretty and mellow piece. It’s very classical and slow moving.
Things I Don’t Understand
Fast paced, I like this one a lot. At times the vocal arrangement feels just a bit like Jefferson Airplane to me. There are a couple instances of feedback on this recording, but not enough ro really be very intrusive. I love the soaring non-lyrical vocal section later in the piece. The mellow movement that takes over from there is particularly pretty and magical. A lot of this song is definitely set in a folk prog style.
Running Hard
This classic Renaissance epic has the kinds of peaks and valleys you expect from there. It has a lot of energy and diversity. It’s a great song. The symphonic elements seem to add a bit more to this than they do to some of the other songs.
Disc 2


Ashes Are Burning

This song includes guest appearances from Andy Powell (Wishbone Ash) and Howard Stein. The song is another dynamic and powerful Renaissance classic. It has some exceptionally strong passages in a lot of ways. The jam later in the tune has an almost Allman Brothers go prog kind of vibe to it. I really love this piece so much. It’s one of the best here for sure. The section that it works out to near the end is absolutely amazing in this live telling. At over 21 minutes in length, it is certainly epic.

Mother Russia
Here we get another Renaissance classic delivered in style. This live version is extremely good. It’s such a powerful piece, too. There are some moments of feedback on this, but it’s not that much of a problem. The drop back to very symphonic treatments is a nice touch.

With only non-lyrical vocals, this is great fast paced melodic prog. It does include some feedback. I really love the fast paced bass driven section later in the track in particular. The classical excursion in the middle is a nice touch, too.


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