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Renaissance: Scheherazade & Other Stories (remaster 2CD/DVD)

Can any band as un-rock as Renaissance truly be classified as prog rock? Well, listen to their newly remastered and expanded Scheherazade & Other Stories and, in truth, it’s a question where the answer has little bearing on proceedings. This is prog and mighty symphonic prog at that, even if there’s little in the way of rock anywhere in sight. Originally released in 1975 and possessing of an atmosphere that leaves little doubt of its vintage, this album was created by arguably the classic line-up of Renaissance, Annie Haslam (vocals), Michael Dunford (acoustic guitar), John Tout (keyboards) Jon Camp (bass and bass pedals) and Terence Sullivan (drums and percussion) and together they crafted an atmospheric delight and no mistake. Opening with the hugely evocative “Trip To The Fair”, where the intricate melodies give the song place and atmosphere, you’re immediately struck by just how realised these tracks truly are. The wonderful Annie Haslam adds a vocal urgency to the soaring and swooping “The Vultures Fly High”, where the bass line from Camp proves irresistible. In old-money, that left “Ocean Gypsy” to close out side one as an expert example of patience and placement, where an ebbing mood flows beautifully, while never once allowing you to move off the edge of your seat in anticipation of crescendos that never quite materialise. Even some 46 years later, it’s a riveting journey that never once lets you slip from its grasp.

Side two, however, if anything takes things up a notch, the album’s near title track a jaunty, ambitious, orchestra fuelled romp that’s so utterly joyous that it should be a twee-fest, but is in fact a triumph as it cleverly and quickly leaves that mood behind before revisiting it in mere spots. The musical interplay here verges on the ridiculous, so impressive does it become, but even with that in mind it’s the arrangement that make this lengthy track arguably the crowning achievement of this band’s impressive catalogue - and the version that can be tracked down on the Live At Carnegie album may be even better! Here an edited, single-cut of “Ocean Gypsy” closes out disc one as a bonus track, but for me, tacked on at the end of the main event it feels like an unnecessary intrusion that adds little, even if it hasn’t been available on CD before.

The Live At Nottingham University January 1976 show that takes up disc two, on the other hand, proves a fantastic inclusion, although it has been previously available under the guise of British Tour ’76. Here, however, it sounds fantastic and with the two main pieces from the main album, “Ocean Gypsy” and “Song Of Scheherazade”, augmented by equals from the time in the shape of “Can You Understand”, “Running Hard”, “Prologue” and “Ashes Are Burning”, this really is a classic band performing in their pomp. For those who don’t already have this concert as a stand-alone release, this really does add a huge amount of value. As would, I’d guess, disc three, but not having seen the DVD portion of this set, where a 5.1 mix of Scheherazade & Other Stories is joined by a previously unreleased live promotional film from 1976 featuring “Ocean Gypsy”, “Prologue” and “The Vulture’s Fly High”, I can’t confirm that.

Would it be fair to suggest that a highly respected and loved band such as Renaissance have long been under appreciated? Unfortunately I’d say it probably is but with retrospective releases like this, hopefully that’s a wrong set to be put at least a little right. What’s indisputable is just how wonderful this album was and still is to this very day.


Track Listing
DISC ONE:
Scheherazade & Other Stories - Remastered

1. Trip To The Fair

2. The Vultures Fly High

3. Ocean Gypsy

4. Song Of Scheherazade

i Fanfare

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

ix Finale

Bonus track

5. Ocean Gypsy (single version)
(previously unreleased on CD)


DISC TWO:
Live at Nottingham University January 1976
1. Can You Understand

2. Running Hard

3. Ocean Gypsy

4. Prologue

5. Song Of Scheherazade

i Fanfare

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

ix Finale

6. Ashes Are Burning


DISC THREE:
Scheherazade & Other Stories
96 kHz / 24-bit 5.1 Surround Sound Upmix & High Resolution Stereo Mix

1. Trip To The Fair (5.1 surround upmix)

2. The Vultures Fly High (5.1 surround upmix)

3. Ocean Gypsy (5.1 surround upmix)

4. Song Of Scheherazade

i Fanfare

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

ix Finale
Bonus video content Renaissance - Live 1976 promotional film (previously unreleased)

1. Ocean Gypsy (Live promotional film)

2. Prologue (Live promotional film)

3. The Vulture’s Fly High (Live promotional film)

Added: December 18th 2021
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Score:
Related Link: Renaissance @ Cherry Red
Hits: 214
Language: english

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» Reader Comments:

Renaissance: Scheherazade & Other Stories (remaster 2CD/DVD)
Posted by Molly Whipple on 2022-01-11 17:32:32
My Score:

Thanks for this review calling my attention to this release. I immediately went to pre-order it. Obviously my rating here is a little premature since I haven't actually heard it. But Renaissance is one of my absolute favorite bands so I know I'll enjoy it. I like Renaissance enough to have been making a special mix album just last night using the best tracks from the Symphony of Light release and some tracks with Annie Halsam that appear on David Minasian's The Sound of Dreams album from 2020. Good stuff throughout.




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