After the band´s rebirth with the album "Tuscany" (see reviews section), which hadn´t achieved a big success in Europe although it wasn´t a bad album at all , Annie Haslam and company are back thanking to their oriental fans for the sales of the comeback album releasing a double album recorded live at Tokyo Koseinenkin Hall in March 2001.
This time, the band´s line up consists of the old members Annie Haslam (vocals), Michael Dunford (acoustic guitars, vocals) and Terence Sullivan (drums), along with David Keyes (bass, vocals), Rave Tesar (piano, keyboards and producer), and Mickey Simmonds (keyboards and vocals).
Of course, and excluding the live albums released by King Biscuit and other bootlegs, the only reference at stage we have is the masterpiece "Live at Carnegie Hall", one of my favourite albums in prog history, so I´ll take that album out of my mind because I don´t want to compare.
Firstly the sound is very clear; not brilliant but all the instruments can be heard very good. On the other hand the musicians are great and do their job with a high level, hiding some little mistakes with the heart... and I´m talking about Annie because she´s not in her best moment on stage (I´m sorry, purists). In studio recordings she still have that angel´s voice, but the thing changes when she sings on stage. I won´t say that she doesn´t sing good but she can´t reach to the notes she reached years ago. Anyway I repeat: she sings with a lot of passion, so everything can be forgiven. In fact the listener can notice that Annie is absolutely happy with her loyal japanese fans.
Now I´ll talk about the most controversial matter when somebody have to review a compilation or a live album: the track-list. As happens in football, each guy will have a favourite team, and here every fan will have a favourite track. Anyway I think they could avoid Haslam´s solo songs (from "The dawn of Ananda" they play “Ananda” and “Precious One”) and mainly the awful “Moonlight Shadow” cover. I admit that Mike Oldfield has a commercial hook and the sales can be increased with the inclussion of this cover... but Renaissance has the same legendary background as Oldfield although they have less zeros in their banks, but they have songs enough and they don´t need covers... in fact they could have used “Ocean Gypsy”, covered some years ago by Blackmore´s Night.
Most of the short tracks (and less important) can be found in Cd 1: the aforementioned Haslam´s solo songs, Oldfield´s cover, a selection of "Tuscanny´s" best songs (“Lady From Tuscany”, “Pearls of Wisdom”, “Dear Landseer”), “Northern Lights” and “Opening Out” from "A Song for all Seasons" album; along with other short legendary tracks such as “Midas Man”, “Carpet of the Sun” with Annie singing in a very emotive way. The longest tracks are in Cd 2. From "Turn on the cards" they choose “Mother Russia” (10:31) and the old time hit “I think of you” (3:20); from "Tuscanny" –out of place if we look at the rest of the songs- “One thousand roses” (7:53), and “Trip to the fair” (11:53) from : "Scheherezade". The last song is the amazing “Ashes are Burning”.
In short, an average album that shows the current power on stage and the evolution of a legendary band. Renaissance´s fans will be happy with this album, but the followers of this style of progressive rock prefer "Live at Carnegie Hall" album.