Renaissance - Scheherazade And Other Stories
I must admit from the outset that I had only vaguely heard of Renaissance prior to discovering Scheherazade And Other Stories while searching through the immense stack of CD’s my colleagues at Classic Rock Revisited kindly sent to me. I was intrigued that this obscure album, originally released in 1975, was being rereleased in the SACD Hybrid format. Had I somehow missed something big while attending junior high school in the progressive rock haven of northern California?
Well, the answer is an unequivocal yes; and to be honest I feel totally ripped off. I wish I had known of this group when this album was released. I would have been a devoted fan! This being the case I must write this review from the perspective of a musician hearing this group for the first time. I humbly defer to those reading this who are familiar with Renaissance and this album. You are literally decades ahead of me.
In wonderfully pure progressive rock style Renaissance produced an album over forty-five minutes long that contains only four songs. The songs are complex, involved, highly dynamic, and richly saturated with strings and choirs. You know, all the stuff hardcore prog-heads like me find irresistible.
The three pieces referred to in the title as “and other stories” open the album. These can at times be a little too early seventies sounding - and that’s not easy! There are moments when I curiously feel the need to look down to make sure my bellbottoms are not getting caught in the front sprocket of my ten-speed (I hated when that happened!). But they are still beautiful songs. My favorite of the three is “Trip To The Fair”. It features a thoroughly badass classical piano introduction that is eventually accompanied by intense vocal, percussive, bass and guitar support. Nice way to open an album, guys; you have my attention!
“Song Of Scheherazade” is the true masterwork of this collection. It follows the format of a symphonic composition. This piece has it all. It is filled with overtones of early Genesis and Rick Wakeman to go along with an occasional Grace Slick with a touch of Loreena McKennitt added in (decades before she hit the scene). All of this is being presented while accompanied by the London Symphony Orchestra. Yeah … an actual orchestra! How’s that for a crazy concoction! “Song Of Scheherazade” is twenty-five minutes of brilliance. It’s a progressive magic carpet that takes you on an amazing ride as captivating as the namesake’s tales. This is a journey of intense orchestration along with moments of solid rock rhythms, acoustic guitars, and powerful symphonic rock interactions. It’s great stuff!
Thank you, Audio Fidelity, for resurrecting this album. I now have powerful new additions to my progressive rock playlist.
- Trip To The Fair
- The Vultures Fly High
- Ocean Gypsy
- Song Of Scheherazade
By Roy Rahl