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Renaissance: Song Of Scheherazade Live (DVD)

Longtime fans of prog/art rock band Renaissance have been chomping at the bit for ages to get some of their archival live footage released on DVD. Well, finally something has come to fruition in the form of Song Of Scheherazade "Live" , a brand new DVD containing 2 shows from the classic era, one shot at the Capitol Theater in Passaic, NJ in 1976, and the other from 1979 at the Asbury Park Convention Center, also in New Jersey. Oddly enough, both shows were filmed in black and white, and the picture quality as one would imagine is not the greatest, but the sound and the performances here on both sets are stellar.

Featuring the classic line-up of Annie Haslam on vocals, John Tout on keyboards, Michael Dunford on guitar, Jon Camp on bass, and Terry Sullivan on drums, the band runs through numerous selections from their back catalog at both shows, and on the 1979 concert they play a few numbers from their then brand new release Azure d'Or . The Capitol Theater set is really amazing to watch, Annie singing with all her heart (and looking quite spectacular I might add!) while Tout's gorgeous piano and synth stylings lay down plenty of magical tapestries on classics such as "Running Hard", "Ocean Gypsy", "Mother Russia", "Prologue" (which is absolutely spectacular here), and of course the epic "Song Of Scheherazade". He doesn't get talked about enough, but the most important key to this band was the incredible bass skills of Camp, whose silky smooth, acrobatic Rickenbacker lines gave the band a unique voice, especially considering there was no lead guitar, given that Dunford mostly played acoustic accompaniment. Camp's virtuoso performance offers up plenty of lead bass lines and complex patterns, and it's a shame that he doesn't get mentioned more when the talk of 70's bass legends like Chris Squire, Geddy Lee, John Wetton, Greg Lake, and Jack Bruce comes up.

Over to the 1979 show, the band are starting to dive into their more commercial period, though strong selections like "Northern Lights", "Jekyll and Hyde", "A Song For All Seasons", "The Flood at Lyons", and the lovely "Forever Changing" fit right in alongside staples such as "Vultures Fly High" and the mighty "Mother Russia". You can see how the band were moving towards a more modern sound, with Tout employing more synthesizers and Dunford playing more electric guitar this time around. Annie Haslam's voice is once again spectacular throughout, as she not only uses it to sing the lyrics, but also as an instrument to vocalize melodies and harmonies.

Fantastic stuff, and once you get past the fact that these shows are in black & white, you'll realize what a treasure chest of goodies this really is. Hopefully, more Renaissance material will reveal itself from the vaults at some point.

Track Listing
Capital Theater 1976
Running Hard
Ocean Gypsy
Carpet of the Sun
Mother Russia
Song Of Scheherazade:
The Young Prince and Princess
The Festival
Convention Hall 1979
Can You Understand-Intro
Vultures Fly High
Jekyll and Hyde
Northern Lights
Forever Changing
Secret Mission
Mother Russia
A Song For All Seasons
Flood at Lyons

Added: July 19th 2009
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: band Website
Hits: 4923
Language: english

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Renaissance: Song Of Scheherazade Live (DVD)
Posted by Ken Pierce, SoT Staff Writer on 2009-07-19 07:39:47
My Score:

The music of Renaissance will always hold a special place in my heart as a fan of music and that's because I remember their albums as stuff that my Mother used to play for me from her own record collection when I was younger. It was this along with some of her other vinyl platters that really helped me formulate my interest music as a whole. There was something unique about the band and something very classy and warm in its overall charm. For those who might have never enjoyed this wonderful band, they are a blend of Classical meets Progressive along with Folk and Rock elements and are often considered to be one of the finest bands of this type in Progressive Music history. This makes sense based on the number of wonderful compositions that the band had offered up to the world on albums such as "Ashes Are Burning", "Turn Of The Cards" and "Scheherazade and Other Stories". While the group formed in 1969 and had released a number of albums previous to the ones referenced, it was the lineup from around 1973 up until 1979 that is considered the bands signature and most beloved roster and this was largely because of the bands second singer, Annie Haslam. Annie's voice was my own introduction to the band and probably one of the highest points in what they were doing for me, and this made the release of this DVD something wonderful. Despite having released about fourteen albums over the course of their career, there was never an official DVD release of any kind which makes this footage a welcome thing to their fans. The home viewer gets to enjoy not one but two different shows from two distinct points in the bands history. The first is from a show in 1976 where they were playing the Capitol Theatre in Passaic, NJ while the other is circa 1979 and done at the Convention Hall in Asbury Park, NJ.

Given its age in terms of footage the home viewer should be aware that there are some severe limitations to its visual sense and that the angles are extremely standard. It's essentially a camera standing on one side of the band shooting them and giving the occasional close-up as opposed to those concert films we see nowadays where the camera is right up in the artist's face of focused down the neck of the guitar. Despite the limited angles and stage goings on, the music is superb and the band sounds amazing given its means of being recorded. I was not clear what this footage might have been intended for when it was recorded, but it is nice to see it finally come to light considering the bands now legendary place in the genre. As mentioned the band was considered the classic lineup and that means its Haslam (vocals), John Tout (piano), Jon Camp (bass pedals, vocals), and Terence Sullivan (drums). The material being delivered comes largely from three of the bands most important releases. Highlights for me were "Ocean Gypsy", "Mother Russia" and the three part epic "Song Of Scheherazade" which is where the DVD film takes its name from. All of these tunes brought back memories and would be the closest that I came to seeing the band live since the chance to catch a concert was not something that happened for me way back then when they were most active.

The film is entirely shot in black and white which is a little bit of a bummer but its better to have it delivered in this fashion than never at all. One critique was how the second show only used the introduction portion of "Can You Understand" as opposed to playing the entire track which I have always loved. The pair of shows run two hours when played back to back and that is sure to appease the bands existing fans who I know are still out there and hopefully this shall generate some new interest in their back catalog which should be able to be found with the proper searches at any of the fine online retailers. There is no booklet inside, nor much in the way of photos on the overall packaging which is normally a pet peeve of mine, but I was so happy to finally be holding and enjoying a visual presentation of this band that I let them slide on it. This is a recommendation for anyone who enjoys not only the Progressive Rock meets Classical Rock side but also those who enjoy the presence of an incredible female vocalist and well-thought out compositions and I hope it inspires those who wish such a life for themselves in music. Let's hope that this release finds more footage from this band surfacing and being released.

» Reader Comments:

Renaissance: Song Of Scheherazade Live (DVD)
Posted by Karl Jones on 2009-06-26 14:28:39
My Score:

Having seen the band live many times in the seventies and early eighties, I would a just like to re-iterate what Pete says regarding John Camp. He is certainly on a par with the many outstanding bassists of the era and a great all round musician. The same goes for Terry Sullivan, a vastly underrated drummer.
I really enjoyed watching this. To at last, be able to see and hear Renaissance performing in their prime!... This has been well worth the wait. The B&W footage may not be the best, but who cares when the music is this good. Brought back many memories..Annie and Jon's interraction with the crowd..The highlight for me though, is the amazing performance of "A Song For All Seasons". What a fantastic piece of music that every up and coming modern prog band should aspire to. If you are a Renaissance fan, especially one who saw them at their peak, you will not be disappointed.

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