George Starostin's Reviews



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Thomas M. Silvestri <> (05.12.2000)

I saw this band live only once, around April of '74 at a rather small (maybe a total of a hundred-fifty seats max, at tables and a small bar) club on Long Island called My Father's Place, the site of many great shows by cult bands of the day. I'm happy to report that they were positively ASTOUNDING, really one of the best shows I saw at that time. They opened with a rip-roaring "Prologue," went straight into "Can You Understand" (Annie on tambourine and, I think, other hand-held percussion), performed songs like "Kiev" and "Sounds of the Sea" with stunning perfection, pulled off beautiful three- and four-part harmonies on "Spare Some Love" and "Carpet of the Sun," energetically debuted "Running Hard" and "Things I Don't Understand," and closed with a memorable "Ashes Are Burning." Oddly, I seem to remember some guitar-sounding stuff here and there -- Tout on synthesizer? (which he had on top of his piano) -- but there was no guitar player on stage (as Dunford hadn't starting touring with them yet, as I believe he did later that year). Annie looked fabulous in a flowing, diaphanous dress and hit every note just like you hoped/knew she would, and the band was as tight as any of the progressive rock greats of that time which, as the old Motown song goes, "is really sayin' something"! If I recall correctly, it was bassist Camp who shared lead vocals on the duets with Annie. (I think "Things..." might've been the last song of the set proper, with "Ashes..." the encore.)

Dmitry Nemo <> (04.09.2002)

IMHO, one of the best group in art/prog movement. Event, that gives modern attitude to this group away (and to art-rock in general), happened with me on the metro VDNH in Moscow (unbelievally hard to find some of the real music in our free Russia elsewhere, but Moscow and St. Petersburg). In one of the kioskses, selling mp3-disks, seller answer me on my question about group Is it a heavy metal? . Then (but this was a one month ago) I didn t know anything on this group, didn t hear no one of their musical compositions. When I has arrived homeward to Nizhny Novgorod+ (third major city in Russia, it s information for you, ungrammatical americans. Let s see Day of independence! Why its creators consider, that mountains exist near a Novosibirsk and the capital of Russia is Petrograd ! I want to create site, dedicated to illiteracy of americans in american cinema. Send your collections). When I turn on a Prologue in my house, I immediately come to + state (though, probably, not as powerfully as after first kiss). I always wanted to create such music. When I was taught playing on piano in musical school (I didn t know absolutely nothing about art-rock, the most progressive tune for me was Yesterday , Yes today , if you understand, what am I driving at, and a little later Whiter Shade+ , both was well known by my parents and other Russians, latter in the Seventies on the unofficial, secret parties was known as good slow-dancing melody), I thought, why people not create alternative to such boring things, as etudes and sonatas. I real thought to create group, to invite acoustic guitarist, drummer, to add a little bass, singer or singeriss with classical formation. Finally to create two-three rememberring Shopin-like tunes and+ (they created already, but+ 21-st Century!). Classic music conquer Russia and the whole world! Afterwards I wanted to make a deal with more complex music ( TFTO was my first album in this step, we all can be foolish sometimes!) and after recent hearing the albums of 1969 77 years of Renaissance I understood, what the kind of idiot was me, that I didn t choose a Renaissance . Maybe, some of their classical-influenced passage not always identical (Mr. Hawken exercises in King and Queen , Rachmaninoff Prelude in Kiev , actually I'd play it at the end of my musical school education far better), but in comparison with many far gone colleagues, they look fresh and thrilling now. Sorry, George, but beautiful and exciting Epitaph slightly worse than The Sultan in pompous style; Song of the sea , Face of yesterday and another songs has REAL emotions from Jane and Annie, I don t always can say the same about Peter Rael Gabriel and Greg 21-st Cent. Schizoid Lake, sometimes doing play-acting. And I understand that pure boy Ron Wood, he gave his real feelings to dear Annie and don t leave it for himself and his songs. Funny, but many art/prog-lovers prefer false woman vocal of Jon Anderson (and another male singers) and don t (?) like REAL WOMAN vocal from Annie and Jane. Funny, but many of pop-crowd gals like poppiest vocals of Britney S(uck) et al., not (?) REAL MAN vocal of Gary Brooker and Justin Howard. 21-st Century, unfortunately, Homo sapiens evolving to Homo sexualis. P.S. Sorry for anti-american mood (John was right, there are real nowhere men+), parentheses (mind games forever), sexual naturalism (women, I can hardly express+) and grammatical and lexical miss takes, sorry, mistakes sometimes (creating music only by musician, learn more than one foreign language only by linguist). It s my own feelings and others must not to consider it as managament to action.

Renate Methöfer <> (01.01.2004)

I must admid, the classical influences are apearent, but I must say, I love the piano and bass interplays, which attracted me to the album in the first place.


Kenneth Willis <> (14.01.99)

Far be it from me to correct you but you are mistaken about Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata appearing in "Innocence". The only Beethoven on the whole album is all in "Island" where John Hawken quotes from the Pathetique Sonata. The lovely little piece in "Innocence" is definitely not the Moonlight and, so far as I am aware, is not even Beethoven. I have always suspected that it is Mr Hawken's own composition. If anyone can correct me I would be plesed to learn the truth.

[Special author note: well, I stand corrected - now that I've relistened to 'Moonlight', the two themes certainly are not the same; however, I still insist Hawken's melody is based on Beethoven's, almost a variation on the theme. Then again, it might indeed not be Hawken's at all. In any case, the similarity is quite obvious. Thanks for the correction.]

Ted Goodwin <> (27.01.2000)

This album was reissued not too long ago under the title Innocence, with a total of 6 bonus tracks -- not bad for a 5-track album, huh? There's the 2 bonus tracks you mention, plus 2 previously unreleased, rather un-Renaissance-like songs from 1970 (both sung by McCarty), and then 2 very unnecessary ones that are just Renaissance-related (both sung by Keith).

Bob Josef <> (07.02.2000)

I do think that you overlook the Yardbirds' blues-rock influences in "Kings and Queens," and, especially "Bullet." The songs do go on and on a bit too long.


Ted Goodwin <> (27.01.2000)

Thank you, thank you, thank you for giving some attention to this oh-so-neglected album. It has been issued on CD, but it still takes some looking to find. I agree with you that "Face Of Yesterday" rules -- I think the later Renaissance scarcely ever surpassed it.

The band's history gets rather confusing at this point, and the album credits are little help on the matter. The original line-up recorded the first 3 songs plus "Face", but then McCarty, K.Relf and Cennamo all left within a short time. By the time "Mr. Pine" was recorded, the band's line-up was Hawken, J.Relf, Dunford, bassist Neil Korner, drummer Terry Slade (not to be confused with Terry Sullivan), and K.Relf-sound-alike singer Terry Crowe (who, I'm told, passed away this last December). The lead singer on "Mr. Pine" is Mr. Crowe. (By the time of Prologue all THESE members were gone as well -- though of course Dunford came back later -- and there had been a couple of other transitional members that never made it onto an album.) In the meantime, K.Relf (still acting as producer) wanted to get the album finished, so he got 4 of the original 5 members together (Hawken was unavailable -- they used a guest keyboardist) to record "Past Orbits" (obvious filler, though I enjoy it) -- i.e., this song was made by EX-Renaissance members.

One other note: McCarty, not Relf, sings lead on "Golden Thread" (a much weaker vocal than most of his later Illusion (the band) work). McCarty is also the first voice you hear on "Love Goes On".

Bob Josef <> (11.08.2000)

The record is pretty good, considering the fact that the original lineup was falling apart even as it was being recorded. That's made obvious by the fact that there's only one collaboration between Relf and McCarty -- and I agree that "Past Orbits of Dust," like "Bullet" and "Innocence" before it, goes on way too long. Plus session pianist Don Schinn (brought in by Cennamo, who played with him on James Taylor's debut album) is a much weaker player than Hawken.

The other problem is that the recording quality is pretty lousy -- too much echo. (Although this is based on the original vinyl version -- I haven't heard the CD.) I prefer the Out of the Mist version of "Face of Yesterday" simply because the production is so much stronger.

This is too bad, because Side 1 is full of goodies. Relf's two hippy-dippy pop songs have great harmonies. And, despite the fact that "Mr. Pine" was written by future mainstay Mr. Dunford, "Golden Thread" sounds more like what the next version of Renaissance would do. It's got everything -- those abstract Betty Thatcher lyrics, a tuneful, well played, controlled (unlike, say, "Innocence") piano intro, that incredible vocalese by Jane that leads into apocalyptic harmonies -- all very neat. Unfortunately, we are then stuck with the thin voice of Jim McCarty, a constant complaint of mine when dealing with Renaissance and Illusion. He's the Graham Nash of this band -- great harmonizer, but he cannot carry a lead vocal. Still, this one could have been remade for Prologue or Ashes are Burning and fit right in with no problem.

"Mr. Pine" does stand out like a sore thumb -- it sounds almost nothing like anything else from Renaissance, Mark One. You can tell that the personnel are almost entirely different on this track. Dunford's lyrics are really kind of dumb ("Old Mr. Pine/doesn't wait 'til after nine/spends his whole time drinking wine/ -- yep, the guy was in desperate need of Betty Thatcher) and Hawken's organ jam in the middle is nothing special compared to his piano work. But, the two separate sections of the song, by themselves, do create a mystical mood. Fortunately, Dunford would quickly be able to write more cohesive compositions.


Ted Goodwin <> (27.01.2000)

As you seem to have figured out later, Camp was the main male singer in the band. Unlike a lot of listeners, I don't dislike the songs he sings (or if I do dislike any, it's not due to the singing). Also, Betty Thatcher was actually writing Renaissance lyrics as early as Illusion (Love Is All, Past Orbits Of Dust).

The title track was done better on their Live At Carnegie Hall album.

Bob Josef <> (07.02.2000)

They haven't quite got their act together - -the songs are all over the place. But they're fun. "Sounds of the Sea" is one of their better long ballads, "Kiev" I find quite moving.

<> (26.06.2002)

I'm afraid a 9 is too high for this album - it gets probably more like a 6 or 7 for me. I hate to make my first Renaissance comment with a negative, seeing as how I very much like them. But I never cared for the title track; some of the piano bits are ok, but it lacks structure and Annie's "do do dos" just aren't as captivating as other things she has sone. The four middle songs, though not unpleasant, lack memorable melodies or hooks. The best thing about this album is "Rajah Khan". Although it repeats itself, it is mesmerizing with a subcontinent flavored rhythm and Annie 'singing' "Bolero".

Eric Bukowski <> (10.08.2004)

Hardly my favorite Renaissance album, and to my ears not as good as you say (on par with Turn Of the Cards? Hardly!).

Sure, the title track kicks things off in an unusually kickin' fasion for them and features Annie's most mind-blowingly out-of-the-stratosphere high vocal range, but I always find myself wishing there were some actual lyrics to the song. By the way, most of this was ripped from a Rachmaninov piano concerto. "Sounds Of The Sea" is just fucking beautiful and features the band in rare, understated musical and lyrical form. When Annie hits the high notes at the end of the chorus it sounds totally unintentional that her raising of the vocal pitch was to lift song up, it's just totally natural-sounding and totally beautiful, unlike when she hits that final high note in the "Finale" section of "Song Of Scheherezade." Even though that track is worlds better and the "Finale" section is the best portion of music they ever did, compared to "Sounds Of The Sea" those super high notes sound forced. For those of you looking for a gentle, heartfelt-sounding ballad, go with "Sounds Of The Sea" instead.

I find the highlight of the album to be "Spare Some Love" which features the unbeatable vocal harmonies you rave about, but the rest I find totally forgettable. It's definately a worthwhile album to have, yet hardly the "blast from start to finish" that you suggest. I find it half good, half passable, yet the highs on this one are hardly close to the highs they'd have on the proceding albums. A good start for the new lineup, but much, MUCH better was to come.


Ted Goodwin <> (27.01.2000)

"Can You Understand" is another song done better on the Live At Carnegie Hall album.

Bob Josef <> (07.02.2000)

Their masterwork. Everything is great -- every track is a classic. Even if they used the same chord sequence on "Spare Some Love" on "Carpet of the Sun," it's still terrific. By the way, the piano piece which brackets "At the Harbor" is "La Cathedrale Engloutie (The Sunken Cathedral)", by Claude Debussy, from his "16 Preludes".

Ted Goodwin <> (28.12.2001)

I made a quick comment on this album earlier but I thought it was about time I gave it a full review. This album is pretty much the beginning, rather than the peak, of "classic" Renaissance. It seems odd to me that you'd call it the band's best album; it's kind of like if you'd said the best Genesis album was NURSERY CRYME. I also disagree with your choice of best song -- "Let It Grow" is my least favorite song on the album. (BTW, to my ears this song and "Carpet Of The Sun" sound remarkably like something the Renaissance spin-off band Illusion might have done.) I don't have a clear favorite song on the album, but "Can You Understand" is a fine example of classic Renaissance, although the opening and middle instrumental sections do go on a bit. And not being of the "dislike-any-Renaissance-song-that's-not-an-Annie-showcase" school, I consider "On The Frontier" to be an overlooked classic. (BTW, the length of this song is actually 4:54, not 5:54 like it says on the CD case. Bonus trivia: This track is actually a cover, having previously been the title track to an album by Jim McCarty's short-lived band Shoot.) "At The Harbour" is an effective, if depressing, little oddity; I've often wondered how a highly upbeat person like Annie could relate to such dark material as this or certain songs from TURN OF THE CARDS. (More bonus trivia: For a 1978 double-LP reissue of this album combined with PROLOGUE, the Debussy sections of this song were edited out due to then recent changes in copyright laws. This left the guitar-based 3-minute middle section, which actually worked quite well in its own right. Not that I want to encourage any record companies to edit things out of classic rock songs.) The title track is, frankly, not one of my favorite Renaissance "epics". The various parts are good, but to me it sounds like each section just follows the previous one without really building on it (particularly at the start of the quiet organ part that leads into the last vocal section).


Ted Goodwin <> (27.01.2000)

Always thought Thatcher sounded pretty dang depressed on this album, especially on "Cold Is Being", my least favorite track on the album. "Black Flame" sounds pretty depressed too but it's still my favorite on the album. I find the instrumental break on "Mother Russia" rather uninteresting (and I don't find very many Renaissance instrumental breaks uninteresting).

Bob Josef <> (07.02.2000)

"...this makes me wonder how many other melodies I have not identified..."

Just fro your info, "Running Hard" (and its predecessor "Mr. Pine" {play the two back-to back}) were both based on French composer's Jehan Alain's "Littanies."

Yes, they did have a taste for obscure classical muic.

This is a great album (although "Cold is Being" is really a downer). But I agree with you that Ashes is the peak.

Ralph Stalnecker <> (14.09.2000)

This is the one that turned me on to Renaissance hearing 'Black Flame' on FM radio (Hmmm.. remember FM radio?). Annie's voice at the conclusion of 'Mother Russia' still gives me chills. Thanks for the reviews...

bob whitworth <> (02.06.2004)

Standout track. The last 30 seconds of this track are unlike I've heard anywhere, from any musical genre, from any source. Wow.

Eric Bukowski <> (27.08.2004)

I've just aquired this album on vinyl (it seems to be largely out of print, or online dealers have seriously limited quantities in stock for a steep price) and so far, it's been a wonderful investment of 3 bucks.

A lot of these songs I was familiar with before, and mainly bought it so I could hear for the first time "Cold Is Being" and "I Think Of You," both of which have been fantastic additions to the million Renaissance songs that are constantly stuck in my head.

"Cold Is Being" is especially beautiful, and I'm surprised that with as powerful as the song is, along with its very short length, that it didn't make it on either of the Tales Of 1000 Nights compilations. They've definately gone with the "less is more" approach on this track, and it is proof that sometimes the shining moments in prog bands catalogs are when they strip away all the flashy musicianship, complex time signature changes, and the singer belting the highest note he/she can at prime moments of the song. ("Cold Is Being" reminds me very much of Yes's "Soon," "The Man Who Walked With Kings" by The Flower Kings, "June" by Spock's Beard, "Hairless Heart" by Genesis, "Think Of Me With Kindness" by Gentle Giant etc.) It very much reminds me of "Prelude In C Minor" by Chopin. That song is very slow, and mostly sustained whole-note chords in a minor key. The song progresses so well melodically though that its bare-boned simplicity doesn't hurt it at all.

The rest of the album is also light years away from being a pothead slacker. I agree, "Running Hard" isn't the most remarkable example of a Renaissance classic, but after several listens it does grow on you, and the frantic orchestral break towards the end is fantastic.

Of course, "Mother Russia" is excellent and a key track in their repitoire, but what prog fan doesn't know that already? Most people I've met who are casual Renassiance fans mention either "Carpet Of The Sun" "Northern Lights" "Ashes Are Burning," or "Mother Russia" as their favorite tunes by the band. When I was purchasing the album the guy that checked me out said "Oh wow, Renaissance. Aren't you a little young to be into them? This one's got "Mother Russia" on it, you'll love it if you like Yes as much as you say you do!" This song is as pompous as you can get without also being pretentious at the same time. The brass arangements on this are especially impressive and magestic. Even Ed at work...jesus. He has the album, and when I excitedly told him I found a mint-condition vinyl copy Turn Of The Cards he was like "Oh yeah, the one with Mother Russia!"

"Black Flame" is of course good, but it just feels like an "in-betweener" for me. A very solid tune no doubt, but it just feels like something to tide you over until the better songs come. It's one of those songs that isn't the greatest but more than deserves its spot on a classic album. It has "buildup" scrawled all over it. It sets the mood for the final two incredible tracks.

"Things I Don't Understand" may be the most underrated track in the Renaissance catalog and is my personal favorite on the album. The choruses on the first section most definately grab you by the collar like you say, and more. It's section after great section of awesomely freaked-out music, and it's so energetic and changes so much and so frantically. It's catchy, complex, and melodically rewarding as all hell. Schizophrenic and nervous? Most definately. It's such an incredible display of tension that when the song melts into the overwhelimg, pastoral beauty of the 2nd half you can't help but be an emotional wreck. Annie's wordless beltings on this are among the most memorable of Renaissance's vocal melodies, and the vocal harmonizing by the band on this section simply cannot be beaten. Only the most hardened individual couldn't be moved to tears by the time the song is over. Hell, even if every other song on the album sucked, I'd still whole-heartedly reccomend Turn Of The Cards for "Things I Don't Understand."

Fortunately, the rest of the album is top notch or very near top notch as well. It is nowhere near the perfectly constructed Ashes Are Burning or their progressive masterpiece Scheherezade And Other Stories, but not a lot of albums are anyways. This album has equal elements of it's better preceding, consistant album, and equal elements of the diverse, experiental, and emotionally moving proceding album. It is most definately a transition album, and shows the band once again searching for a new trademark sound. However, much like Bowies Station To Station or Drama by Yes, it's one of the best transition albums in existance. You could easily start with this album, or add it to your Renaissance collection at will. You better have a sizable balance on your credit card if you wish to buy a new CD copy though, that's all.


Ted Goodwin <> (27.01.2000)

Actually, the only classical quote in the whole "Scheherazade" suite is a six-note quote from Rimsky-Korsakoff -- at least that's what the liner notes of a Renaissance compilation say.

Bob Josef <> (07.02.2000)

I think this one tends to be overrated by fans. But I think "Trip to the Fair" is pretty cool, with a fair amount of stylistic variation in one song. And although most fans go gaga over "Ocean Gypsy," I think its a rather boring retread of "Sounds of the Sea."

By the way, according to Betty Thatcher, the song is about the sun and moon as lovers who can never meet. Go figure.

And the title suite, while too long, as least has enough change to keep the listener intrigued.

Eric Bukowski <> (10.08.2004)

I don't understand why you'd "really pass" on this one. Unfortunately, I have to go with the masses of Renaissance fans and praise this as not only their best album, but one of the best prog-rock albums to have in your collection. Not only is it quintissential, representing all sides of the band in their best form, but it is also their best and most entertaining and enjoyable work start to finish.

The first side of the album is a total emotional trip, whether it's the freaked-out carnival-gone-wrong atmosphere of "Trip To The Fair," the frantic, schizophrenic rant of "The Vultures Fly High" or the highly romantic lyrical imagery of the breathtaking ballad "Ocean Gypsy" (my personal favorite Renaissance tune) the listener will find their emotions twisted and toyed with on many different levels. As if draining the listenener with the first side wasn't enough, next they send the listener on the trip which is the "Song Of Scheherezade."

Maybe it's not quite as good as what a classical compser would have composed, but who cares? If you've seen any dramatic movie, most of these orchestral passages will remind you of film score music, except it's much better. Much like the feeling that grand orchestral passages give you in a great movie, these will do the same and then some. Although it's presented as a single song, there are many diversions and separate songs within the song which make it hard to get bored with the suite. The introductory fanfare is especially captivating, as is "The Prince and Young Princess as told By Scheherezade." This ranks among their most beautiful and moving tunes. "Festival Preparations" is a great piece of incidental orchestral music and builds up in the grandest way possible. It starts ominously and quitely, and when Annie wails the high notes towards the end and the orchestra swells to a blistering crecendo, you know you're in for something good, and the music that follows it doesn't dissapoint, as it melts into a fast-paced ELP style piano driven section, which is followed by more instrumental piano based instrumental music and vocal chanting by the band.

The best part is when it finally concludes with the "Finale" section, which is the crowning acheivement of their catalog. When the chants of "Scheherezade!" swell through the key changes and the gradual swells of choir, orchestra, and trumpet fanfare, it will be hard to not be completely bowled over. Finally, when it concludes with Annie hitting the rediculously high "B" note not one, but two octaves above middle C, it will be impossible to escape feeling overpowered with emotion, you will either, laugh, cry, or sit there stunned in sheer awe of how wonderfully the track ends. The first time I heard the track, all three of those happened to me, a feeling I hadn't felt since I first heard "Close To The Edge" and somehow this song surpassed that. It's a bit too much good. Usually, I don't get too overwhelmed by music, if I like something, I just like it and that's that. The first time I heard "Song Of Scheherezade" I cracked up, cried, and clapped my hands, all for my speakers. It's that good. And yes, I'm that big of a nerd. And no, I'm not old and don't have a beard either.

The whole epic is beautiful beyond words, and without a doubt it carries the torch as the best finale to any prog-rock epic ever. George, your claims that it doesn't "entertain" are ludicrous. This is the best Renaissance album and should be your first purchase if you plan on investigating the bands music. Unfortunately, if you hear this one first the other albums might not sound as good as they are to you! Get this IMMEDIATELY, even for the rediculous import price. Or hell, buy a used turntable and track down the vinyl. As evidenced from Philly Record Exchange, there's plenty of idiots who got rid of their mint-condition copies (same goes for the rest of their catalog). Buy a turntable, and buy ALL their albums on vinyl! You'll save money and it will be worth it.


Bob Josef <> (07.02.2000)

I actually think this is the weakest effort put out by the band before Camera Camera. I agree that the songs tend to be too long and slow. But a BIG disagreement on "The Captive Heart" -- one of the group's best ballads. Fantastic vocal harmonies! When's the last time you listened to ABBA?

Ted Goodwin <> (08.05.2000)

I notice you rated this one as Renaissance's most "underrated" album. That strikes me as strange because it seems to be the favorite of most Renaissance fans -- at least the ones I've encountered in cyber-world. (I've never been able to pick a favorite Renaissance album personally, only favorite songs -- for example, Azure d'Or has more of my favorite R. songs than any other album, but I'd hardly say it's my favorite R. album.) The majority of Novella is taken up with songs I like -- namely 'Can You Hear Me', 'Touching Once' (great tune, nonsensical mush of lyrics), and, to a lesser extent, 'Midas Man'. That leaves 'Captive Heart', which doesn't do much for me, and 'The Sisters', which many R. fans (not including me) have as a big-time favorite. 'Sisters' mainly makes me think, "why the @#$!! doesn't Dunford play guitar like that anywhere else??".

Andy Evanson <> (23.10.2002)

One of the things that I find intriguing/appealing about Novella is the similar structure overall to Dire Straits' Love Over Gold, although I admit that the comparison is tenuous in most places. Both albums consist of five songs (two on side A and three on side B, for those who remember vinyl). The first tracks ('Can You Hear Me'/'Telegraph Road') are both rambling commentaries about 'progress' influencing a breakdown in social interaction. The second tracks ('The Sisters'/'Private Investigations') are dark, almost condemnatory departures from the bands' typical output, although both feature some of their finest solo guitar work anywhere. 'Midas Man' and 'Industrial Disease' I think are similar only in their being the only cuts played on FM (AOR) radio ... but I'll stop the analogy short of attempting to describe Midas Man's greed as 'classic symptoms of a monetary squeeze,' lest it starts to crack from the stress fractures. We bring the albums down for a love song; 'The Captive Heart' and 'Love Over Gold' both describe a cycle of failed relationships, but more importantly surviving those failures to begin anew. And finally, 'Touching Once' and 'It Never Rains' are longer tracks (9:27 and 7:59, respectively) .... but of course, my analogy has already shattered from the strain, so I'll leave further analysis to those with a greater musical education and understanding that I.

Eric Bukowski <> (10.08.2004)

From what I've read online at Yes message boards and from the internet in general this actually seems to be a fan favorite, yet I can't understand why.

It's definately not a BAD album by any stretch, yet the whole thing is just SO dreary and depressing and that really makes it a pain to take the whole album in one sitting.

"Can You Hear Me" is definately my least favorite of the groups epics, yes, it does have some good vocal sections but the whole thing is bogged down by some of the most uninspired instrumental passages of their entire career. And 13-plus minutes of the same tempo doesn't help matters at all. There are also no peaks or lows in the track, its just 13 minutes of consistant boredom. Hell, there's not even much in the way of an ending, when the song is done it's just kind of over, with little fanfare. It would have been great as a 5 minute song, but much of the instrumental rambing in the same dreary minor key really kills it for me. When you speak of Renaissance "killing time" with their epics, this is the only example I can think of where they're actually doing so. Besides that, I do like the vocal sections and the very quiet intstrumental bit in the middle, which are the couple parts of the song that actually feel like it builds up to something yet unforunately in the end, it doesn't. If I'm in the mood for the song, it's great, I just have to be feeling especially desperate or sad. If that's my emotional case for the day, then it rules.

I don't feel "The Sisters" fares much better either. Also another tune where I'd have to be feeling especially sad to appreciate. It is most definately a tear-jerker and features one of Michael Dunford's best acoustic passages ever, but the overall tone of the song is far too sad to be appreciated for normal listening.

"Midas Man" is one of my favorites, and the only of the "sad" tracks that can be appreciated whenever, not only can everybody relate to the lyrics (who hasn't been used by somebody after you for money or superficial reasons?) but the tolling bells and dark, deep synth lines get stuck in your head like nothing else.

"The Captive Heart" is pretty clumsy, why this was released as a single instead of a seriously edited "Can You Hear Me?" is beyond me. The actual music of the song is somewhat pretty but the stacks of vocals get in the way of each other, and how much worse can the phrasing and timing in a song be than the "Finding out the hard way again" line? Ugh. This could have been great, but it sounds tossed-off. Annie played this song for the first time live on a solo tour in like, 1998. Maybe she should have thought about why the song was left alone in a live environment for over 20 years before she ressurected it.

The real gem here is the convulted epic "Touching Once" which totally makes the album worth buying. It breezes through so many moods, styles, and key changes that it's impossible to get bored with. The twisted piano parts in the verses are as yummy as the best of anything they've done, as is the medieval style chanting later on. It starts getting REALLY good building up to the lone sax solo in the Renaissance repetore, which was a surprising inclusion. It is an intense section of music that is given ample time to build up to a full crecendo and to a beautifully pompous coda which features Annie hitting one of those trademark stratospheric notes, which she holds for a rediculously long time. Drastically, the song cuts you off with a brief snippet of the medieval chanting which was represented way earlier in the track, and at this point you see why you payed for the CD.

It's most definately worthwhile, it's just that you have to be in the right mood for some of it. I'd hardly call it "most underrated" though. That distinction should go to Azure D'Or!


Bob Josef <> (07.02.2000)

An even bigger disagreement, George. This is a good compromise between the band's acoustic/orchestral sound and more use of electric guitar and synths. Here, unlike the next album, producer David Hentschel provides a tasteful balance between both that doesn't overwhelm the band's main strength. There's also a good balance between shorter and longer tracks. I do agree that the nadir of the album -- their worst track yet -- is "She is Love," because of Camp's excruciating lead vocal. Annie might have saved it, but bleah!!

By the way, all of the band's CD's are in print, at least as imports. And I say: find this one!!

Ted Goodwin <> (08.05.2000)

I mentioned that many R. fans have Novella as their favorite R. album. Kind of strangely, most of the rest of them seem to have Seasons as their favorite. Personally, I like it less than they do but more than you do. It would be a rare person who would knock "Northern Lights", of course. The rest of the album I consider fairly even (as strange as that may sound). "Opening Out"/"Day Of The Dreamer" makes a nice 2-part suite; I just wish there were some kind of soloing on DOTD's fast 7/4 section. "Kindness" sounds fine to me -- I have nothing against Camp's singing in most cases, particularly this one; an interesting thing about this song is that it "melts" from 3/4 into 4/4 without actually undergoing a time-signature change (not sure how to explain that comprehensibly -- you just have to listen closely). "Back Home Once Again" I like almost as much as "Northern Lights". I don't even mind "She Is Love" that much, although it takes some getting used to, to say the least. I'm not a big fan of the title track; to me it's lofty and pretentious in a way that other R. epics manage not to be. This is partly due to the lyrics (some of Thatcher's worst, in my opinion) and partly due to its ending as if it had all of "Scheherazade" for a buildup.

Eric Bukowski <> (10.08.2004)

I'm actually totally with you on this one. It is a half-baked attempt at selling out while maintaining some of the old sound. The problem is, the old sound isn't the old sound. Instead of the "Russian classical composer" old sound we now have the "Sound Of Music" old sound, which I'm not sure was done before. The "Opening Out/Day Of The Dreamer" suite and the title track have some obnoxiously perky moments, especially within "Day Of The Dreamer" while not their worst attempt at an epic like you say, does get to some obnoxiously cheesy parts towards the end. It starts off great, "Opening Out" does have some unusally grand and "heavy" musical themes for Renaissance but really doesn't lead up to much, and "Day Of The Dreamer" which represes a lot of the themes from it's preceding track, doesn't do much for me either. I LOVE the first half of the tune, which is so infectiously euphoric that I can't help but loving it. Sadly, it dissipates into an abyss of dreck and never fully recovers. I often find myself wanting to hear the song, but always shut it off a little more than halfway through.

"Closer Than Yesterday" is pretty good, as is "Kindness At THe End," the only Camp sung tune that I actually like. Sure, it's not the best, but it's not exactly the worst, I'll take that over bland, repetitive junk like "Rajah Khan" or "Captive Heart" any day. As far as "Back Home Once Again" they could have at least thrown in a decent vocal hook in the chorus. It's just so unlike Renaissance that I can't appreciate it, it reminds me of the Carpenters at their most saccahrine except not as good. How is that possible? It is unfortunately, thanks to this song. "She Is Love" is just nausiating, wouldn't have even been an acceptable outtake.

I agree they did a good job of saving the best for last, "Northern Lights" is their best short-form pop song and one of their best in general, and if you feel like paying attention to it "A Song For All Seasons" can be pretty damn good. It's hard to not be moved by the obscenely chirpy introductory symphonic-rock nonsense.

I just don't understand how Azure D'Or is worse than this to your ears. Whatever, this isn't the best album. Save it for your last purchase out of the classics, but make Azure D'Or your first purchase of the mid-late period stuff.


Ted Goodwin <> (27.01.2000)

Sorry, but I really like some of this album. There is some definite dreck, but I prefer it over Camera Camera. "The Winter Tree", "Forever Changing" & "Secret Mission" are favorites of mine (songs I'd describe, after reading a lot of your reviews, as typical songs-I'd-like-that-George-wouldn't).

Bob Josef <> (07.02.2000)

I actually like this album much more than most fans do. I don't think the problem is so much with the songs -- they're short, but still rooted in the folk/classical sense of melody. David's Hentschel's production is the problem -- the endless overdubs do make the record sound stiff and somewhat sterile. Since he was Genesis's producer from A Trick of the Tail through Duke, that's not to surprising!

I did see them on this tour, a couple of months before the album was released. The four songs they did -- "Jekyll and Hyde," "Secret Mission," "The Flood at Lyons" and especially "Forever Changing" -- translated much better to a live setting.

Eric Bukowski <> (10.08.2004)

I most definately like this more than Song For All Seasons, and possibly even Novella. I most definately like it more than Time Line or Camera Camera, and for obvious reasons. At this point in their career, the sound wasn't too far removed from their classic sound (It was most definately augmented more by synths, but the attitude was basically the same, minus all the instrumental and orchestral passages).

At heart, Renaissance were a pop band. You could take out individual portions of the "Song Of Scheherezade" suite, the 2nd half of "Trip The Fair," the vocal sections of "Can You Hear Me?," "Ashes Are Burning" and "Things I Don't Understand" etc. and you have what would have been really good pop music.

It's not to say that anything in Azure D'or is better than the aforementioned classics, but goddamn George, hardly any of it is bad. I'll admit "Only Angels Have Wings" is way on the sappy side, but at worst, the rest of the album is very much listenable, at best, as grandious as some of the classics, yet in a different way.

The two opening tracks are definately stellar and I like them as much or better as some Annie-era classics. However, there are many other gems on the album. "The Flood At Lyons" is as resonant and emotionally hard-hitting or better than anything in the Resnaissance catalog (maybe due to the fact that I discovered the album around the time that some friends in the area have had to deal with flooding that has ruined most all of their possesions, regardless, it has a great deal of emotional impact due to the fact that generally, it deals with loss and is just a fucking beautiful song) and "Friends," is as well, which just reminds one that your best friends are the best. The melodies of the aforementioned track are bouncy and happy, and the line "Time for old friends" hits me really hard, as I've recently relocated to a new area and I'm also in the process of realizing how much it sucks to be so far away from the people you grew up with.

And geeze, how can you overlook the gorgeous melodies of "The Golden Key" or "Forever Changing" (at least the great coda?). Even "The Discovery" has some great stuff, you just have to sit through the first half to get to it (not that the first half is even all that bad). The final couple minutes are among the most menacing in the Renaissance catalog and I always find myself rewinding to repeat those last couple minutes. "Secret Mission," although just as rediculous as you say, is still rewarding musically, if only for the part where Annie hits that grand high B on the 2nd chorus singing "Changes every DAAAAAYYYY!" and it goes into that cool synth-driven ending. Kaylinda the most entertaining of the ballads? Hardly, but it's still good and catchy enough.

I really don't understand such a low rating for the album, or your opinion that "these songs suck!". You've given it the same rating as Time Line, which I find completely rediculous. Yeah, Time Line does have a few great songs on it but it's nowhere near as consistant or musically rewarding as Azure D'Or. It has "Orient Express" "Entertainer" and "Richard The 9" but so what? These songs are not as good as anything on Azure D'Or, besides the Camp-sung track. And what song on Camera Camera is as good as most anything on here? (which you've given a higher rating). "Faeries?" Yeah, It's OK, but give me a break! "Tyrant Tula" is my favorite from that one anyways.

Azure D'Or is one of my favorite Renaissance albums and don't see why anybody should be put off to it. Maybe not the best first choice, but it was my second choice and I hardly regret it. Don't dismiss this album. It may not be the best pop album, or the best Renaissance album, but it's still definately good. I play it just as often or more than the others. It's accessability and gorgeously produced, synth heavy sound is a refreshing change if you don't feel like sitting through any long epics. Annie sounds like she's belting from a cavern most times. Good, atomospheric production.


Ted Goodwin <> (27.01.2000)

This is an odd one. But at the time, who was to know prog/synth-pop fusion wouldn't catch on? Anyway, rather than liking or disliking entire songs, I find I like parts of most of the songs while disliking other parts. (Strange thing about this one -- apparently every copy in existence has noticeably scratchy sound quality on side 2, even CD copies.)

Bob Josef <> (07.02.2000)

Sorry, no go! The attempt to mix synth-pop with their old art rock sounds just does NOT work! And I agree that Goslings's synth work is hopelessly tacky when compared with Tout's majestic stylings. "Running Away with You'" is a fun, upbeat pop song that could have been a hit, but the only other track that works for me is "Bonjour Swansong". This is the only one that sounds to me like a classic Renaissance tune, but even so, it's a clone of "Northern Lights".

This phase of the band's sound was pretty much brought about by Jon Camp, who felt that the band needed to get more commercial. Ironic that they hit their sales nadir here.

Lee Mendham <> (01.09.2004)

I'd just like to give a shout for "Remember", which is a nice little poignant song about war and remembrance, even if the outro is too long.


Ted Goodwin <> (27.01.2000)

Only songs I really dislike on this are "Richard IX" and "Electric Avenue". I agree that "Entertainer" has some feel from the good old days to it -- by far my favorite on the album. (That wouldn't be Camp on the piano, though, just some guest player.)

Bob Josef <> (07.02.2000)

Jon Camp in almost total control. Actually as a POP album, Time-Line is an improvement over Camera Camera. The songs are much better played, and Annie doesn't try to push her voice into vocal stylings where it doesn't belong.

But so what? Barring Annie, this could be ANYBODY! The only track worthy of classic Renaissance is the opener, "Flight", driven by Dunford's acoustic guitar.

But the did learn their lesson -- the classic lineup has recorded a new album minus Camp, ensuring that another Time-Line will not appear.

Eric Bukowski <> (10.08.2004)

This is without a doubt the nadir in the career of Renaissance and it's a damn good thing that it ended here (almost).

Most of this release is prime 80's garbage that I wouldn't care to make anybody sit through, except my roomate, who hates classic Renaissance anyways and gets particularly annoyed with this stuff, so it's fun to play when I want to fuck with her.

Although most of this album is total trash, and not just because it was the 80's and it's pop, there are a few good songs on here. "The Entertainer" is almost kinda-sorta close to a classic Renaissance pop song, and like you, I love when she raises the pitch on the "Come and see!" part of the chorus. Hearing Annie hit those rediculously high notes totally hightens my appreciation of what would have otherwise been a typically bland pop song for most other female singer in the 80s. Good stuff, and good of you to notice it.

"Chagrin Boulevard" I'm not especailly crazy about, although the song itself is nice for some reason I find Annie's vocals really irritating on the track, they sound shrill and out of pitch, which is totally unlike her. I have to agree that "Richard The 9" is really catchy and irresistable, but it's not that I'm proud of liking it. It's music that I'd be totally embarassed to have on with anybody else around, but the track is for some weird reason appealing to me. I think it's the corny, tinkly 80s synths that do it for me. And that chorus. So catchy. I hate it!

Unlike you, I really like "Orient Express," my favorite track on the album. Sure, it's corny, full of wacked-out 80's-style synths and out-of-character "funky" slap bass from Jon Camp, but it's all the more reason to like the piece of trash. The chorus is catchy and it's fun as hell to hear Annie screaming at the top of her lungs at the end of the chorus. What in God's name possessed her to do that? It's over-the-top, rediculous, and totally fun to listen to. It's like she just flipped out in the studio, much like the track on Camera Camera that she also does this new super-wailing scream thing of hers, except here it's much more tasteful and effective. I suppose. Shut the fuck up!

"Auto Tech" is as disgusting as you say, and I find most of the rest of the album just as garbage-y and disposable. You know, one of the setlists I saw for this tour only had "Auto Tech" and "Electric Avenue" as the songs played from this album? What were they thinking! It really must have been a confusing time for them. They couldn't even recognize when they sort of hit the mark any more. You rated this turkey way too high, George!

Only buy this if you're super hardcore about Renaissance and can't get enough of them, like me, unfortunately, for how much this import costs. In fact, download it. Wait, don't do that. It's illegal!


Ted Goodwin <> (27.01.2000)

I really didn't think most of this was much worse than some of "Camera" or "Time-Line". My two least favorites, however -- "No Beginning And No End" and that awful "Northern Lights" remake -- are actually not Renaissance but Annie solo tracks from the year after R. split up.

Bob Josef <> (07.02.2000)

I do think the ballads have nice melodies. But, again, tack eighties pop production pretty much ruin these songs. Oh well.


Ted Goodwin <> (27.01.2000)

I agree that "Madonna Blue" is the best track -- most other songs just don't seem to live up to their potential (not like "Wings Across The Sea" had a lot to begin with). If only Louis had given that piano part to the pianist instead of playing it on the bass (and had left that one jagged, dissonant section out of his "Theme"). If only "The Revolutionary" (love that "ba-ba-ba" chorus!) had a better vocal and a sensible song structure. And so on. I do like "Man Of Miracles", though -- tense and soothing, disturbing and sweet all at the same time. Jane's vocals here, with the 2 parts an octave apart, are tops.

By the way, I've heard that the 3rd Illusion album -- actually a collection of demos finally released in 1997 -- is not very good, so I personally haven't bothered with it.

Bob Josef <> (07.02.2000)

Big disagreement, again, big guy. I do think that "Cruising Nowhere" is annoying, but the best tracks rival the first album in every way. "Louis' Theme" does point to what McCarty and Cennamo would do with their new age outfit, Stairway. Again, McCarty's voice is just too thin.

The third Illusion CD, Enchanted Caress, is a bunch of 1979 demos. Only really worth it if one is TOTALLY hardcore.

George Fazakas <> (05.02.2001)

Both are excellent and a natural progression to Renaissance Mk1's first album, and the 2nd Illusion which these 2 albums are a natural progression forward.

I dissagree with all the crits here, I feel both are excellent albums and every musician tends to give his bit towards the whole. I can only imagine what this group would have turned out if they had stayed together longer and fate had been with them.

Enchanted Caress I must add is not just a bunch of demos. There are several excellent songs on them, namely " The Man who loved the trees" which I think is Jane Relf's best song ever. Just give it a listen. John Knightsbridge plays an incredible guitar solo on "Slaughter on 10th Avenue" . Generaly I think this album would have been a great succesor to the other two had it come out at the time.

It is slightly short, but contains some excellent material. It is closed of with supposedly the last recording Keith Relf made, " All the fallen Angels" which also appears on the Renaissance Mk 1 Innocence cd. However this is debateable as I think there are other demos lurking about which have not seen the light.

If you read Jim Mc Carty's notes on the Edsel release of the Illusion cd's he says that before Keith died they had recorded some demo's and had been taking them to record companies. As far as I know these have never seen the light of day.I have sent a query to Greg Russo's Yardbirds page quering this as he is in contact with Jim.

Also the good news. There is a new Jim Mc Carty ( solo cd) coming soon, possibly under the Title of Jim Mc Carty's Renaissance (or Illusion) as all the original members appear on it. Evidently this is scheduled for release Spring / Summer 2001. ( this info is also from Greg Russo). I can hardly wait for this.

Greetings fellow travellers in space and time

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