What more can be said about a wonderful, classic progressive rock album that hasn't already been said a million times since it was first released back in 1975? How about that it's now been given a grand SACD treatment from the folks at Audio Fidelity? Yes, that indeed is something new and spectacular to be said about this landmark album from British prog/art rock act Renaissance, the grand Scheherazade and Other Stories. Mastered for this SACD version by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio, this is a magical experience for your ears whether you have a SACD player or just standard CD. John Tout's gorgeous piano shimmers with majestic clarity on the soaring "Trip to the Fair", right there alongside Annie Haslam's angelic vocals. It's one of the bands signature songs, and on this special edition, it's never sounded better.
As good as the opener is, it keeps getting better from there. The criminally underrated "The Vultures Fly High" follows, a quirky yet brief prog affair with a majestic Haslam vocal, sinewy Rickenbacker bass lines from Jon Camp, Michael Dunford's lush acoustic guitar, emotion synths & piano courtesy of Tout, and the nimble drum fills provided by Terrence Sullivan. It's long been one of my favorite tunes from the band yet never seems to get its due. The beloved "Ocean Gypsy" just seeps out of your speakers with pure emotion, Annie's vocals really coming to life on this edition, with Tout's piano just spectacular, the clarity jaw dropping. That brings us to the epic "Song of Scheherazade", a nine part, near 25-minute orchestral masterpiece. With help from Tony Cox on the orchestral arrangements, Renaissance turn this tale into something grandiose and magical, Betty Thatcher's lyrics mixing perfectly with Dunford's musical score. The entire band helps out on vocals throughout this one, Annie of course shining ever so brightly, with Tout & Camp's virtuoso piano, synth, and bass lines sprinkled dramatically in various spots to great effect. It's simply a stunning achievement, and one of progressive rock's most glorious epic length tracks alongside "Supper's Ready", "Close to the Edge", "Thick as Brick", "Tarkus", and the like.
So, if you already own Scheherazade and Other Stories, or perhaps have already bought various incarnations of it, do you really need this Audio Fidelity version? Well, I would say it's pretty damn spectacular, and especially if you own a SACD player it's a no brainer. Even those who might be curious to upgrade just for the remastered CD layer, yes, it does sound amazing. The booklet has been replicated with all the original lyrics and band photo, so it's all exactly as you know and love it, just with a new sound clarity that needs to be heard to be believed.
1) Trip to the Fair (10:51)
2) The Vultures Fly High (3:04)
3) Ocean Gypsy (7:05)
4) Song of Scheherazade (24:37)
ii. The Betrayal
iii. The Sultan
iv. Love Theme
v. The Young Prince and Princess
as told by Scheherazade
vi. Festival Preparations
vii. Fugue for the Sultan
viii. The Festival