Renaissance's music was, compared to other progressive bands, quite "soft". The compositions are generally dominated by piano and accoustic (or, if electrical, then melodious) guitar. There is a very strong classical influence, stemming mainly from romantic or baroque composers such as Rimsky Korsakov or Albinoni. And, always and crucially, there are Annie Halsam's pure, soprano vocals and the mellow (occasionally melodramatic) lyrics, often penned by a British poet, Betty Thatcher.
From an intellectual (and literary) point of view, Renaissance never got close to bands like Genesis or Van der Graaf Generator. But then again, they probably never wanted to. Instead, I presume they wanted to make their own brand of music; less challenging, perhaps, but certainly more than worthwhile. And the 70's allowed them to do just what they wanted: their albums from this decade feature wonderfully structured, long compositions on the one hand, and beautiful, wistful ballads on the other.
Okay, so that's the group. Now for this compilation. I'll be brief. This is just about the best collection of their material you could ever put together. Besides, this is a very handsome package indeed (from the cover to the sleeve notes to everything else). And the compilers certainly haven't skimped when it comes to the playing time: the CD lasts 75 minutes.
In fact, every last detail makes clear that a great deal of love and attention has been spent on this compilation, and because of this - and because of the music, obviously! - I recommend it very strongly to anyone looking for a great introduction to this band. Don't forget, though, that this is only half of the show: if you buy this, be sure to also get Tales of 1001 Nights, Volume 2.
Finally, a word of warning. You might like these two CD's too much. As a result, you might want to go out and get the original album's they're culled from. If so, you should realise that these compilations are pretty thorough, and you'd be doing yourself a disservice to get both these CD's and the orignal records. If in doubt, I'd advise you to buy the following albums (and take it from there, if you choose): "Scheherazade And Other Stories" and "Turn Of The Cards".