I'm not a big fan of folk music, but then I'm no expert on classical music either. Its wrong to dismiss any one genre out of hand, and Rennaisance make things pleasantly hard for the listerner by fusing styles of music, your typical rock fan may choose NOT to listern too. 'Ashes are Burning' is a beautiful blend of rock, classical and folk, in just the right quantities of each. Annie Haslam is one of the most beautiful and haunting singers of the time, and along with John Touts virtuoso piano playing, their input forms the conerstone of this album. The album has a natural 'organic' feel, largely thanks to the dominance of the piano and acoustic instruments, and only tasteful and conservative use of electric keyboards. Also the production is the type that typifies 70's rock; honest, clear and un-enhanced. For that reason AAB has a pleasantly dated and melancholic feel, that I think ALL good prog rock albums of the era had a generous helping of.
Theres not a bad track in sight, but the strongest are 'Can you Understand' 'On the Fontier' 'At the Harbour' and the brilliant title track. I challenge anyone to listern to 'At the Harbour' and not come away moved, by the story of a disaster at sea, and so many men folk from a village dying and leaving their wives and children behind. Haslams lyrics reflect the drama and grief so precisely and so articulately it cant fail to move the most cynical of music fans. You're not likely to hear many other acts like Rennaisance although, Mostly Autumn can be similar at times. Ashes are Burning is the peak of their career in my opinion. I strongly reccomend this album.