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4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
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on 12 May 2001
I just love Renaissance's music and this is one of their later albums. Annie Haslam's voice is just heavenly. The rendition of "Trip to the Fair" shows what the group could do in its lighter moods but this is contrasted by Scheherazade - 20+ minutes of music to get lost in - almost like a good book.
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on 18 August 2008
This was the first album I ever purchased by Renaissance. Because I was always a fan of progressive rock, a band with a female singer was intriguing to say the least. Annie Haslam on vocals, John Tout on keyboards and piano, Jon Camp on bass, Michael Dunford on guitar with Terry Sullivan on drums did not ever dissapoint. I still play this album (vinyl) on occasion. It opens up with a haunting melody about a trip to a fair that is more out of Ray Bradbury's "Something Wicked This Way Comes" than any good time. The song "Ocean Gypsy" has been covered by Candice Night and Ritchie Blackmore and their band "Blackmore's Night", proving the enduring quality of work here.

The Sheherazade suite was the entire side of side 2, and as a body of work in itself provides the listener with a kaliedescope of musical imagery that truly transports you into another time. For those who were unaware, Annie had one of the most unique vocal traits, having a range that spanned five octaves. The average singer has a range of about 2-3.
That was complimented by the songs that were written by Michael Dunford and Betty Thatcher. This songwriting team was sadly, one of the most underrated in music, and were one of the best!
I love hearing when younger people get turned onto this type of music. This band could also replicate live what they did in the studio, which was rather remarkable considering the multilayered sound that was favoured to showcase Annie's voice.
This album, and band is well worth checking out.
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VINE VOICEon 12 March 2004
Over the years I've dusted off my Renaissence vinyl collection on several occasions, reminding me of the occasion when I saw the band perform at the Apollo, Manchester sometime in the early 80s. Musically, they were always highly competent and professional, never gave less than good value and were capable of reproducing their studio act on stage to an uncanny degree, given that this was before the age of PCs and tapes on stage. Live music played by live musicians, plus the distinctive voice of good old Annie Haslam from Bolton.
And the specialism of Renaissence was not 3-minute pop songs but epics in size, scale, grandeur, and especially time. A Renaissence special might start at about the 9 or 10-minute mark (Running Hard, Touching Once is so Hard to Keep etc.), and sometimes lasting as long as the 20+ minutes of Scheherazade on this collection. That apart, there is a 10+ minute Trip to the Fair, a fine piece of music with a spooky interlude towards the end; the slightly nondescript Vultures Fly High; and a haunting melody called Ocean Gypsy, with Annie supported by a phalanx of strings.
One of the songs they performed live on stage was an extended - that's right - version of the aforementioned Vultures, and frankly I wished they'd stuck to the shorter version. In fact, the band often performed at their best on comparatively brief numbers and simple arrangements like So Cold is Being Lonely, but that is not a lesson they learned easily. The fans of 70s neo-classic rock liked to spread out, and that's what they got.
This is not to criticise Renaissence, just to say they were a product of their time and deserve every credit for that. I don't think this is their best effort, but it's dripping with all the ingredients that make the band unique and memorable!
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on 19 April 2003
Well what can I say, Aged 32 and been into rock and metal all my life and then to hear Northern Lights playing on a radio station one afternoon on my way home from work... I thought it was a new record just released and oh no... a whole back catalogue of a sound I hadnt heard before with such pure vocals and perfect symphonic music... Trip to the fair (shouldnt that be fayre?) is just an astounding track with the smooth piano breaks and the choir intro. astounding... Finishing with Sheherazade, a 25 minuite Anthem of pure genius (check out the live version on Carnegie...) You will *NOT* be dissapointed in this recording... I havent yet heard any of Annies solo Material yet, but will be getting there in time :-)
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on 19 September 2007
this is a masterwork-no filler at all for the first time: Trip to the fair, Vultures, Ocean gypsy are works of marvel.

And then there is the 25 minute opus about a king and a very clever woman.
Up to this point, this king, having been burned once, felt that all women were adulterers, and called for a new concubine
each night, only to have her killed at dawn- after having his way with her;

Scheherazade was finally brought before him.

With her gift of story telling and music, she enchanted the King.
But she had a plan: Tell a story that absolutely enthralled him-and when the dawn came, Scheherazade pulled a "to be continued next week!" (in this case-the next night)the King, unable to make a decision, and wanting to hear the end (or next part) of the story, allowed her to continue each night to 'finish' the story.

She kept putting off the close of her tales of wonder, and the King let her continue to what would have been the finish-except by this time (1001 nights later) he had fallen deeply in love with her, and asked for her hand. Of course the maiden killing came to an abrupt halt, and the country was full of joy.
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on 1 August 2013
A wonderfully powerful selection of songs. Although the first track, Trip to the Fair, is probably the most difficult to get into, everything else on this is quite breath-taking, led by the highest quality musicianship and Annie Haslam's outstanding vocals. An album to get lost in, again and again.
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on 19 January 2016
This was one I played all the time when it was first released, I always enjoyed listening to the classical record my mum had, 'Scheherazade' by Rimsky-Korsakoff and I love the dramatic sound. So when this was released, just the title got me intrigued and that was it. If you can it's worth listening to Rimsky-Korsakoff first and don't compare it to this album. The other three tracks are equally as pleasing to listen to. I'm a bit eclectic with my musical taste and love Rock & Classical and most things in between.
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on 6 January 2015
It seems an eternity ago that I bought Renaissance's first LP (vinyl), but I have always wanted more of their music and yet somehow, over the years, I have only bought one other album. However, a few days ago I sampled this digital album on Amazon and really liked the sound of the album, it reminded me just how good this band were. Ocean Gypsy is particularly brilliant and brings into focus why Progressive Rock was so wonderful. The other tracks all have their own style, with traces of Folk/Rock, moments of classical music and some wonderful singing by Annie Haslam, and the piano at the beginning of trip to the Fair reminds me a lot of their first album. The final track, which lends it name to the album title, is perhaps the epitome of Progressive Rock - an extended storyline set to music and Renaissance do this really well.
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on 11 April 2014
This is music that doesn't easily fit into an easily explained single genre, which of course is mostly a good thing.
I remember them vaguely from the early to mid 70's but for whatever reason i have always categorized them (in my head) as folk. However when reading Stephen Lambe's book 'Citizens of Hope and Glory-The Story of Progressive Rock' i was surprised to see this album highly recommended as "neo-classical prog rock" so i took the plunge and bought it.
Having listened a few times now i can just about see the prog-rock reference but for me it's more in the vein of symphonic/pomp/folk and although a good album i'm not (yet) totally convinced by it.
Only 4 tracks but one is nearly 11 minutes and the piece de resistance, the title track, nearly 25 minutes.
I think the folkiness comes from Annie Haslam's beautiful voice as she could easily be the singer for Steeleye Span or Fairport Convention etc.
The opener 'Trip to the Fair' has a dramatic piano (an instrument used extensively throughout the album) introduction lasting 3 and a half minutes and sounding at times a lot like Keith Emerson, and also includes an hysterical laugh before settling down into a lovely ballad with hints of jazz and a fairground sounding ending.
The next 2 tracks 'The vultures fly high' and 'ocean gypsy' are more standard affairs with the former having a rockier tone and the latter being more orchestrated although both are quite catchy.
I actually prefer these first 3 tracks and can't get that excited over the closing multi-faceted piece 'Song of Scheherazade' as although technically very clever i've never really been a lover of strings/orchestras and i thought they were too invasive.
I'd give 3.5 stars if i could or 7 out of 10.
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on 10 February 2015
I was delighted to rediscover this album, which is as fresh now as it was then. The title track is a great combination of classical and rock, better imho than Court of the Crimson King, Mocking Bird, or Atom Heart Mother all of which are in a similar vein.
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