It is said in this life that good things come or happen to those who wait or are patient. Such a good thing arrived here the other day in the form of the new Renaissance CD ‘Grandine Il Vento’ [(c)2013 Symphonic Recordings, LLC…SRR 000-02…Available on Amazon.com]. For those who’s handle on Italian is much better than mine, the title translates into ‘Hail The Wind’. But this collection is less about the wind, but more about honoring the legacy of Renaissance and the elements that have made the band a favorite among it’s legion of longterm fans, as well as those who have been introduced to same [as I have done with ****, my cats and many others].
Let’s start out with the fact that this is the last collection that Michael Dunford, the chief songwriter and arranger was associated with. He passed on November 20th, 2012 and while the songs were completed, there were still the final mixdowns that were still being done by Rave Tesar [Piano and Keyboards], as he was behind the board for production. This proves to have been one of the smartest musical decisions in the progressive/classical rock arena outside of let’s say, Alan Parsons taking the reigns with Pink Floyd for ‘Dark Side of the Moon’. That may seem like a tad on the hyperbolic side, however please read on and you will see why this comparisson is more than apt.
Each tune was written by Michael, with the lyrics done by the one with the magical voice, Annie Haslam. This in it’s own way insured that the aural legend that started with the classic 5 lineup [which included Jon Camp-Bass, John Tout-Keyboards and Terry Sullivan-Drums and Percussion] with lyrics often supplied by the late great wordsmith, Betty Thatcher was continued. When their fans refer to the ‘Classic 5 Era’, they mean a time when songs like ‘Carpet of the Sun’, ‘Ocean Gypsy’, ‘Can You Hear Me’ and ‘Northern Lights’ as well as others defined the Renaissance brand. Well above the clouds musicianship, inspiring lyrics and orchestrations which were akin to what one would hear via the New York Philharmonic or the Royal Philharmonic [both orchestras that they have worked with]. We heard some of a return to this style 10 years ago, when the album ‘Tuscany’ was released. While there was the gap of that time between that collection and ‘Grandine Il Vento’, it is apparent that the renewal and rebirth of their classic trademark was well in process. This was helped out by the addition of new members David J. Keyes-Bass & Backing Vocals, Jason Hart-Keyboards and Backing Vocals and Frank Pagano-Drums/Percussion and Backing Vocals [After Michael’s passing…the band searched and found someone to fill his shoes, as well as do on heck of a number on the roundback acoustics and vocals, Ryche Chlanda]
For one, the opening track, ‘Symphony of Light’ can remind one of ‘Can You Hear Me’ in that it is written in a similar way. A symphonic piece, well orchestrated..some synths being used to augment and the lyrics telling a similar story. The major difference between the two is that the stanzas are more individually centred, so the old ‘ABACAB’ [not the Genesis song but the format of popular music] is not strictly followed. This is a good thing, all because it means that there is a surprise in the listening. And as exposition for the rest of the album, it is a very good start.
The next few songs, including the title track show that, in the intervening time since ‘Tuscany’ that the band has wanted to incorporate different styles, timbre and textures to their material. Hence, ‘Waterfall’, the title track and ‘Porcelain’ are familiar and yet different at the same time. ‘Porcelain’ in particular has a lyrical twist in it that one would not have expected from the band. Then again, this was part of the joy of listening to this on the first goround and subsequent listenings, the twist still surprises.
Three other songs of note on this collection are ‘Cry To The World’ which features the Jethro Tull flute-meister, Ian Anderson…’Blood Silver Like Moonlight’, which has a duet with Annie and John Wetton [he of King Crimson and Asia] and the closing track ‘The Mystic and the Muse’. This song has been played in concert long before this album was put together, as well as being the closing song during the combined ‘Turn of The Cards’ and ‘Scheherazade and Other Stories’ concert. Not only are there elements in this which recall ‘Symphony of Light’ [reacapitulation if you will] but even a few synth parts that could even hark back to the old ‘Twilight Zone’ theme. As such…both of those pieces prove to be great bookends.
Again if someone were to ask if the band still can bring it, still can live up to the legacy that meant so much to many of us and as such, we introduced others to same…the answer from here is an emphatic ‘YES’. This would be the answer as well to the question ‘Would Mickey and Betty be proud?’ Again that is a ‘YES’. Now it is on to the continuation of the legend and so that others can pass this music on, not just the ‘Classic 5’ but what has been placed on the record now.
[The format will return to it’s usual musings and observations of the actions, inactions and insanity that is created by what my cats refer to as ‘those crazy humans’. As for the above review, I promised to do this to honor the work that Michael Dunford had done on this collection. It is amazing..something to be shared….with friends and those who are fans of the genre. And on a personal note, I am hoping to do so with **** one of these days]
And with that…..enjoy the words [and if you purchase the above album, the music] as the pics fly through the air.