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Neo-classical rock for the connoisseur
on 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!