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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Renaissance

Turn of the Cards (box set)

Review by Gary Hill

This new set is pretty exceptional. It features three CDs and one DVD. The first CD has the original album in re-mastered form with a number of bonus tracks added at the end. The second and third CDs feature a live concert performance. The DVD is actually an audio DVD with several different mixes of the album proper (without any bonus tracks). The whole thing comes in a clamshell box with separate cardboard sleeves for each disc and a nice booklet. All in all, this makes for a great set. I have previously reviewed the main album, and for the sake of consistency I've used those track reviews. I think I like the sound of this version better than the other release of it I reviewed, though.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) in Music Street Journal: 2020  Volume 3. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2020.

Track by Track Review
CD 1
              
"Turn of the Cards" Re-Mastered
                    
Running Hard

Starting with classical piano, that holds the cut for a time. That piano turns more toward jazz after the first minute or so, but continues as the only instrument. Eventually we’re taken out into fast paced, but very symphonic progressive rock. The cut is energized, dramatic and powerful. We’re taken into a fast paced, classically oriented movement after the vocal section completes. It has a bit of a jazz vibe on hand, too. It drops down to a mellower segment for the next vocals. It begins to intensify that particular arrangement as they continue onward.

I Think of You
A shorter more straight-line piece of music, this is so pretty. It’s like folk turned progressive rock more than it is anything else. It has some hints of world music at times in the melodies.
Things I Don't Understand
This is a real epic piece. It has a soaring, folk prog movement, but then works out to more classically oriented stuff. Yet, it keeps changing several times. The vocals really create a lot of majesty and magic on this piece.
Black Flame
The first minute and a half or so of this is very classical in nature. Still, it has plenty of folk prog in the mix, too. The vocals join after this extended introduction and it gets more into the folk-influenced prog sounds. The piece continues to build from there. I particularly like the mellower movement later in the tune.
Cold Is Being
Organ opens this. The vocals come in with just that backdrop. It continues with a real classical element. The singing almost feels like a poetry recital, just sung. That basic arrangement is the full arrangement for the entire piece.
Mother Russia

Piano in a very classical style starts this. Then it gets intensified and other instruments added, but the classical mode is still the driving force. It gets kind of a driving soundtrack sort of impetus as it continues. It really has a lot of energy and power. It’s dramatic. Then it ends. It drops to a folk styled arrangement for the first vocals and builds from there. This gets so powerful as it continues with the prog elements serving as the counterpoint to the mellower, folkier movements. After building way up, they drop it down to a mellow, classical section and begin to work forward from there. Annie Haslam’s vocals come over like  a songbird after a time. The composition builds instrumentally with a classical prog vibe. There is a climax with non-lyrical vocals. Then the song proper is reborn and we’re back into that direction.

Bonus Tracks:
               

 

 

 

Everybody Needs a Friend

This number is previously unreleased. In a way that's a shame because this song is so strong. On the other hand, it's an unknown gem that, had it been released, wouldn't be fresh if it had previously been released. The vocal performance is strong, with some real emotion conveyed. The music is sort of a folk rock tune elevated to symphonic prog song. All in all, I love this tune, and I'm glad it's finally released. It's just so strong.

Mother Russia (single edit)
The title and parenthetical should tell you what this is. As you might guess, when a song that's nine-and-a-half minutes long is cut to three-and-a-half, you lose a lot of it. It still works really well in this shortened format, though.
Things I Don't Understand (new stereo mix)
This is four seconds longer than the album proper version, I don't hear a lot of difference between the two, though. Perhaps the more chorale styled vocals are a bit higher up in the mix, but beyond that they sound pretty similar.
Black Flame (new stereo mix)

This one is five seconds longer than the other version, but again I don't hear a lot of difference.

Mother Russia (new stereo mix)
For some reason, parts of this, particularly early, see to have more immediacy and power than the other version of the song.
CD 2
                   
"Live At The Academy of Music - 17th May 1974"
                   
Can You Understand

A gong brings this in. From there we get piano rising up as they eventually make their way out into the song proper. I've always been a big fan of this song, and they really do a killer version here.

Black Flame
This live rendition holds up really well, too. Haslam's vocals are suitably powerful, and the whole arrangement is so powerful.
Carpet of The Sun
Here get a live rendition of one of my favorite Renaissance songs. They put in such a potent and faithful live performance. It works so well.
Cold is Being

There is a bit of feedback that's a bit off-putting early on this ride, but this organ -based, mellower number gets a solid live performance.

Things I Don't Understand.
Coming in with a powerhouse fast-paced arrangement, this is so strong. They create another faithful live exploration of the piece.
Running Hard
Another powerhouse live performance, this thing really works well. This band just delivers such faithful and potent live versions of their songs.
CD 3
              
"Live At The Academy of Music - 17th May 1974"
             
Ashes are Burning

There is some seriously powerhouse instrumental work on this thing. It has such great interplay and really inspired performances. This might be my favorite performance from the whole concert set.

Mother Russia
Here they put in another faithful and powerful live performance of a classic song.
Prologue
Another of my favorites from the band, this gets a great live treatment. There is a bit of feedback mid-song, but it's quick and over. Beyond that, this is a powerhouse performance of a killer tune.
 
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