After almost five years writing and working for progressive rock, I have never had the chance to review a new CD released by one of my favorite bands and one of the most undervalued bands in progressive rock history: Renaissance. I hope you understand my happiness when I read that (almost) the legendary lineup was going to release a new CD. If you are good progheads and you own a good record collection, I´m sure you´ll have masterworks such as "Turn of the cards", "Scheherazade and other stories", "Novella", "Ashes are burning", or the amazing live album "Live at Carnegie Hall".
review"Tuscany´s" line up is formed by the eternal and angelical Annie Haslam (vocals and backing vocals), Michael Dunford (acoustic guitars, vocals and backing vocals), Terence Sullivan (percussion), and Mickey Simmonds (keyboards, orchestral arrangements). The classic keyboardist John Tout plays on four tracks although he is not credited as official member but "special guest". Other collaborators are Alex Caird, Roy Wood, and Rob Williams.
If we look at the track list -almost none of them last more than five minutes- we could think this CD would contain an "updated" musical line, and Haslam and co. haven´t returned to the original sound of Renaissance. But once we listen to "Lady from Tuscany" (6:40), with an atmospheric intro close to Enya, we can congratulate ourselves because Renaissance keeps alive the spirit of the classic albums. Delicious keyboards, acoustic guitars, festive and epic airs, and Annie singing in a great way.
All of the tracks are similar: we have quiet moments such as "Pearls of wisdom" (4:25), with great keyboards and orchestral arrangements by Simmonds, and an exquisite acoustic guitar; "Dolphins prayer" (3:49) and "Eva´s pond", songs written for Haslam´s voice, only accompanied by keyboards; or "In my life" (5:26), a song very nice and greatly arranged but a bit boring. Strange songs are "The race" (4:58), an acoustic song too vigorous with a monotone drum beat, and "Life in Brazil" (3:40), which suspiciously looks like Jon Anderson´s experiments with Brazilian music, although filtered by Renaissance´s sifter.
The best tracks are "Dear Landseer" (5:19), which could be perfectly included in any Renaissance´s classic album, with countryside flavor increased by flutes, harpsichord sounds, orchestrations, etc.; "In the sunshine" (4:25); and a marvelous song titled "One thousand roses" (7:12), which shows how Renaissance can sound in XXI Century, keeping the quality and without looking themselves in the mirror of the past, being Simmonds the main responsible of this evolution thanks to his arrangements.
Ten songs are enough to test what Renaissance has to offer us in 2001. Shorts songs, OK; without suites, OK; but Renaissance hasn´t changed the style, and the band has updated its eternal sound. I think they are in a second youth. If you haven´t listened to Renaissance, it´s a good way to taste its music; and if you already know the band, you won´t get deceived at all.