Though the release of Renaissance's brand new album Grandine il Vento has been tempered somewhat by the recent passing of guitarist Michael Dunford shortly before its release, let's not fail to state what is pretty obvious...this is a wonderful little album. Coming 12 years after their last studio album Tuscany, Grandine il Vento manages to successfully recreate the classic Renaissance sound just like its predecessor. The line-up for the album is Annie Haslam (vocals), Michael Dunford (acoustic guitar, backing vocals), David J. Keyes (bass, vocals), Rave Tesar (keyboards), Frank Pagano (drums), and Jason Hart (keyboards).
If anyone has caught the band live over the past few years, you've no doubt witnessed Haslam's voice sounding quite good, and she's in great form here as well. Just listen to her gentle touch and soaring lines on the epic & majestic opening song "Symphony of Light", a remarkable tune that has all the classic Renaissance elements; stunning piano & keyboards, nimble bass lines, deft acoustic guitar work, and powerful vocals. This track wouldn't have been out of place on Turn of the Cards or Ashes Are Burning. "Waterfall" is a lovely little ditty, complete with Haslam's charming vocal and warm guitar chords from Dunford, while the alluring title track offers up some fascinating lyrics to match the majestic musical arrangements. Tesar and Hart have really laid down some exquisite keyboard tapestries on this one, and the soaring chorus from Annie is a thing of beauty.
The band goes for a more groove laden pop feel on "Porcelain", but again, Annie steals the show with her soothing delivery on the chorus. "Cry to the World" is for all the folk lovers in the house, complete with lush acoustic guitar and guest flute from Jethro Tull legend Ian Anderson, while "Air of Drama" is a quirky, mysterious little song that has a majestic feel thanks to some glorious keyboards, lush guitars, and a great vocal duet between Haslam and Keyes. Tesar's gorgeous piano leads in the dramatic "Blood Silver Like Moonlight", another song with that classic era feel, and none other than John Wetton (Asia/King Crimson/UK) makes a guest appearance to join Annie on vocals. The album closes with the dark, ominous "The Mystic and the Muse", a powerful song that features plenty of bombast and drama, thanks to some huge symphonic swells, complex passages, and soaring vocals from Annie. It's easily another one of the main highlights of the album.
Though it took over a decade, Renaissance have truly delivered a stunning album here with Grandine il Vento. Sadly, it's also the last appearance of the late Michael Dunford, but he most certainly has gone out on a high note. The band have regrouped after Dunford's unexpected passing, with new guitarist Ryche Chlanda, and are taking the new album out on the road. Expect to be wowed, as much of this latest CD should slot right in alongside all those great Renaissance classics.
1) Symphony of Light
3) Grandine il Vento
5) Cry to the World
6) Air of Drama
7) Blood Silver Like Moonlight
8) The Mystic and the Muse