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Renaissance

Prologue (Remastered and Expanded Edition)

Review by Gary Hill

Newly released, this is a revised and expanded edition of the classic 1972 album from Renaissance. I love the sound on this version. The original was good, but I think the nuances and overall textures particularly shine here in this new recording.

As far as the "expanded" part, there is only one additional song, a single version. That said, the new booklet is very informative and well worth having. I consider that part of the expansion. It's also updated with newer information. Perhaps you could even say that the content inside it is "remastered." I should mention that I previously reviewed the original edition of this album. For the sake of consistency (and because the music is the same) I'm including that here (with a few modifications), and augmenting it with the additional track. So, what follows (until that bonus track review) is that one. Just remember that I think this new edition in general sounds better.

This early Renaissance disc has a lot of the folky progressive rock that was a trademark of the band at times. Annie Haslam guides some of the songs, but isn’t as big a factor as on some other Renaissance albums. No matter how you slice this, though, it’s a great set that still holds up really well.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2018  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Prologue
Classical piano leads out here. The band joins after a short time, at first complementing the basic concept. Then it works out to a fast paced jam that’s got some jazz in the mix. Non-lyrical vocals soar over the top. The piece slows down from there. Then it powers out into a fiery jam, and the changes continue to ensue. This thing keeps getting reinvented. It’s quite a powerful tune. Other than those non-lyrical vocals (more like a voice as an instrument) it’s an instrumental. It rocks, it has classical moments and it’s just plain cool.
Kiev
This piece also starts with classical piano. It’s quite a dynamic and powerful number, though. It’s a real powerhouse, actually. A folk rock styled motif serves as the backdrop for the verse. Male vocals are the order of business on that section. In fact, Annie Haslam’s vocals serve only as the backing ones for this whole cut. The movement lasts over three minutes and is fully a folk rock piece. Then they take it out into a smoking hot progressive rock jam that really rocks. It moves through a number of shifts and changes as it continues. By the five minute mark it drops back down to a reprise of the beginning. It works out from there into a great powered up rendition of the melodic prog stylings. Then another shift back to the first verse section brings the vocals back.
Sounds of the Sea
Starting and ending with literally the sounds of the sea, this is essentially a folk progressive rock piece. With the lead vocals handled by Haslam, it’s more typical Renaissance. It’s quite a pretty and poignant piece, but it’s not the most dynamic thing here.
Spare Some Love

Although there are sections of this that are more in line with the folk prog of the previous cut, this tune rocks out a lot more. It’s also a lot more dynamic. It’s quite a strong tune and very recognizable as Renaissance. I love how the guitar comes in on the left speaker while Haslam's voice is in the right at the start of this cut on this edition. It's a great touch, and I don't remember it being like that on the original edition of this album. There is also some great channel separation when the cut drops for it to make its way into the more rocking movement.

Bound for Infinity

Intricate and pretty, this represent the more folk prog side of Renaissance. It’s another strong cut, but probably not a highlight of the set. That’s because there are some really strong tunes on this album.

Rajah Khan
This is the epic of the set, weighing in at over eleven and a half minutes. Some fairly loud psychedelic space opens this. Then guitar creates the loudest rocking sounds of the disc. It almost seems louder and more "in your face" on this edition than I remember it being on the original one. We get some middle Eastern elements as that holds it. In fact, it’s about two and a half minutes in before anything else is heard on the song. Then, they come in with a more folk prog styled song structure. Haslam’s voice comes across non-lyrically. After moving in a pretty straight line for a couple minutes that way, guitar and bass take over in a short interlude. Then it fires out into some seriously hard rocking progressive rock from there. The piece just continues to evolve from there with various themes emerging, working through and getting replaced, many times to come back again later. It’s really a great piece of music.
Bonus Track
              
Spare Some Love (Single Version)

As you probably gathered from the title and parenthetical, this is a single version of the earlier cut. That one was five minutes and 11 seconds long. This one is just a little less than four minutes. It doesn't get the channel separation of the album version, leading me to think that this is the original mix. It feels a bit flat and lackluster in terms of production, too. Then again, a lot of times singles were mixed to have a bit less dynamic range anyway, particularly when they were typically played on AM radio. This works well in this format, though. It just shines brighter in the album take.

 
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