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Renaissance: A Song For All Seasons (3CD Expanded & Remastered)

Here's another example of a really strong album made even better thanks to a stellar remaster treatment and some killer bonus material. In 1978, British progressive/symphonic rock & folk act Renaissance released their eighth studio album A Song For All Seasons with renowned producer David Hentschel, who had also worked with Elton John, Genesis, Mike Oldfield, Peter Hammill, Queen, Nazareth, and many others. The album remains one of the bands biggest sellers, and contains their only hit single, "Northern Lights", and with orchestral arrangements from Louis Clark, who worked with ELO on a few occasions, it's a fine display of symphonic art rock. Esoteric Recordings have not only remastered the album, but they have also included a wealth of bonus material, including a full concert from 1978 at The Tower Theater in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from the A Song For All Seasons tour, a mini fold out poster, and a wonderful booklet with lyrics, photos, essays, interview segments, and more.

To the album proper, plenty of strong material to be found, and while perhaps not quite to the level of predecessors Novella, Scheherazade and Other Stories, Turn of the Cards, and Ashes Are Burning, it ranks up there pretty high when considering Renaissance's 'classic' albums. "Opening Out" kicks things off, the orchestral swells, sinewy bass lines from Jon Camp, Michael Dunford's layers of acoustic guitars, and Annie Haslam's gorgeous vocals making for a stellar introduction to the album, and one of the easy highlights. The 9+ minute "Day of the Dreamer" follows, another fine epic from the band, John Tout's majestic piano working wonders alongside the orchestral arrangements, Annie's magical vocals quirky & wispy, the middle instrumental jaunt containing synths, tricky drum parts, blazing bass, and the dramatic orchestral bombast all absolutely thrilling. The more folk flavored "Closer Than Yesterday" follows, Annie's multi-tracked vocals and Dunford's guitar taking up the bulk of the arrangement, while "Kindness (At the End)" sees Hentschel's presence really adding to the classic prog flavors, his experience working with Genesis paying dividends to this little prog-rock gem that features analog synths, 12-string guitars, and great lead vocals from Camp. In fact, the booklet makes the mistake of stating that A Song For All Seasons contains only one song that doesn't feature Haslam on lead vocals, when in fact it is two, "Kindness (At the End)" and "She is Love". The latter apparently was originally to feature Annie on vocals, but something happened the day of the recording and she wasn't able to make it, so Camp stepped in and completed the vocal track. It's easily the weakest song on the album, as he clearly doesn't hit the heights he did on "Kindness (At the End)", nor is the song very interesting. "Back Home Once Again" is a nice symphonic pop rock tune, again the appearance of synths present, and "Northern Lights" is a wonderful ditty that shows that pop and progressive rock can certainly co-exist, Annie's playful hook laden vocals soaring over layers of acoustic guitar, piano, synths, and Camp's leather bass lines. This brings us to the closing title track, 11-minutes of prime symphonic rock, the orchestra fully integrated with the band, strings, synths, piano, acoustic & electric guitar, bass, drums, and percussion all working together gloriously to create one of Renaissance's greatest songs. In fact, it's nearly a full 4-minutes before we even hear Annie for the first time on this dramatic composition, with plenty of ebbs and flows throughout its lengthy run time, and the grand finale is just breathtaking.

Now, how about the bonus content? On the first disc, you get the single edit of "Northern Lights" as well as a Top of the Pops performance of the same song, as well as BBC versions of "Day of the Dreamer" and Renaissance classics "Midas Man" and "The Vultures Fly High", all three absolutely spectacular. Check out Camp's muscular bass lines on the latter...incredible. He was easily one of the most underrated bass players of the '70s prog-rock scene. Discs 2 & 3 contain the full performance from the Tower Theater in 1978, and it's of course glorious as you can imagine. Tunes from the A Song For All Seasons albums are mixed in with Renaissance classics such as "Can You Hear Me", "Midas Man", "Carpet of the Sun", "Things I Don't Understand", and "Ashes Are Burning", the sound quality excellent and the performances stellar.

Three discs of top notch Renaissance makes this a must have box set for any fan of the band, and if are new to this unique British band, it's a great place to start your investigation. The clam shell box is a little cumbersome to open at times (a little flap or cut out might have been nice) but once you get it opened there's a wealth of treasures to be enjoyed.


Track Listing
DISC ONE:
“A SONG FOR ALL SEASONS”
RE-MASTERED
1. OPENING OUT
2. DAY OF THE DREAMER
3. CLOSER THAN YESTERDAY
4. KINDNESS (AT THE END)
5. BACK HOME ONCE AGAIN
6. SHE IS LOVE
7. NORTHERN LIGHTS
8. A SONG FOR ALL SEASONS BONUS TRACKS
9. NORTHERN LIGHTS PROMOTIONAL SINGLE EDIT (PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED ON CD)
10.DAY OF THE DREAMER - BBC SESSION - 19TH AUGUST 1978
11.MIDAS MAN -BBC SESSION - 19TH AUGUST 1978
12.THE VULTURES FLY HIGH - BBC SESSION -19TH AUGUST 1978
13.NORTHERN LIGHTS - "TOP OF THE POPS” VERSION (PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED)


DISC TWO:
LIVE AT THE TOWER THEATER, PHILADELPHIA - 4th DECEMBER 1978
1. CAN YOU UNDERSTAND (LIVE 1978)
2. CARPET OF THE SUN (LIVE 1978)
3. THINGS I DON’T UNDERSTAND (LIVE 1978)
4. OPENING OUT (LIVE 1978) (PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED)
5. DAY OF THE DREAMER (LIVE 1978)
6. MIDAS MAN (LIVE 1978) - LIVE AT THE TOWER THEATER, PHILADELPHIA - 4th DECEMBER 1978


DISC THREE:
1. NORTHERN LIGHTS (LIVE 1978)
2. A SONG FOR ALL SEASONS (LIVE 1978) (PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED)
3. TOUCHING ONCE IS SO HARD TO KEEP (LIVE 1978) (PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED)
4. ASHES ARE BURNING (LIVE 1978) (PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED)

Added: August 11th 2019
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Score:
Related Link: More Information @ Cherry Red/Esoteric Recordings
Hits: 1301
Language: english

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