Renaissance

October 29, 2017
The Egg Center For The Performing Arts
Albany, NY

Review by David Gardiner
Photos by Stan Johnson

I discovered Renaissance back in 1972 while seeking out progressive music that leaned more toward the classical tone of bands like Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Yes and Genesis. I bought their third album, Prologue, and was immediately impressed by lead singer Annie Haslam.

Forty-five years later at the Egg, Haslam’s voice continued to shape the legacy of the group with style and sophistication. She was joined by keyboards Rave Tesar and Geoffrey Langley, bassist Leo Traversa and drummer Frank Pagano. On guitar was Mark Lambert, nicely filling the void left by Michael Dunford, who passed away in 2012.

It was at this concert that I got to witness Annie Haslam’s dream of performing with a 10-piece chamber orchestra, culminating into The Symphonic Journey. The first couple songs featured the core band. They began with “Prologue,” with Haslam hitting every note with amazing ease. They followed with the epic “Trip To The Fair,” a song closer to a progressive jazz from 1975’s Sheherazade And Other Stories.

Haslam then introduced the chamber orchestra, comprising of a string quartet, woodwinds, horns and percussion, stationed behind the band. It was obvious the chamber orchestra was there to fill the room with Renaissance music for an audience of appreciative fans.

“Carpet Of The Sun” and “At The Harbor,” both from 1973's Ashes Are Burning, were played with symphonic beauty, The show continued with a newer song from 2013 called “Grandine il Venton,” which carried a flavor of 21st century freshness.

After “Kalynda (A Magical Isle)” from 1979’s Azure d’Or, Haslam acknowledged the band’s founding members from the Yardbirds, guitarist Keith Relf and drummer Jim McCarty. That was followed by “Island” form the band’s self-titled debut from 1970.

The orchestra dramatically enhanced “Mother Russia” from 1974's Turn Of The Cards in 1974. The set closed with “Song For All Seasons,” and after lengthy applause, we were treated to an extended version of probably their most celebrated song, “Ashes Are Burning” with Mark Lambert playing some heartfelt lead guitar.

I am sure everyone left feeling this was something quite special because of the inclusion of Renaissance Chamber Orchestra. Thier inclusion elevated the music to a new level, with majesty befitting the romantic historical notions.

Even as the lineup of the band has changed, the music keeps evolving. Tonight, however, it was Annie Haslam who defined the identity of Renaissance.

A truly creative individual, she has an amazing catalog of solo music as well, starting back in 1977 with Annie In Wonderland, an album she made with ex-husband Roy Wood from the Move and ELO fame. At the Egg, her vision was crystallized, playing fully realized versions of the best songs by Renaissance.

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