Renaissance – Self Titled

r-1013151-1184117040-jpeg
Artist: Renaissance
Genre:Progressive Rock
Title:Renaissance
Released: 1969
Label: Elektra
Format: Vinyl
Musicians: Jane Relf – vocals, percussion, Keith Relf – electric guitar, vocals, harmonica, John Hawken – piano, harpsichord, Louis Cennamo – electric bass guitar
Jim McCarty – drums, vocals
Producer:Paul Samwell-Smith
Engineer:Andy Johns

Renaissance is the self-titled debut album by British progressive rock band Renaissance. Renaissance are an English progressive rock band, best known for their 1978 UK top 10 hit “Northern Lights” and progressive rock classics like “Carpet of the Sun”, “Mother Russia”, and “Ashes Are Burning”. They developed a unique sound, combining a female lead vocal with a fusion of classical, folk, rock, and jazz influences. Characteristic elements of the Renaissance sound are Annie Haslam’s wide vocal range (who would join after this LP), prominent piano accompaniment, orchestral arrangements, vocal harmonies, acoustic guitar, bass guitar, synthesizer, and versatile drum work.
The nucleus of the first line-up was composed of former members of The Yardbirds, Keith Relf and Jim McCarty, who intended to put “something together with more of a classical influence”. Renaissance was born, and the band released this studio album in 1969, and another in 1971.
Subsequently, there was a period of high turnover of musicians until the “classic line-up” of Haslam, John Tout, Michael Dunford, Jon Camp, and Terry Sullivan was established, although none of them were in the original band. They were assisted with lyrics on many songs from Cornish poet Betty Thatcher-Newsinger. From 1972 to 1979 Renaissance released seven successful studio albums, toured extensively, and sold out three nights in a row at Carnegie Hall with Tony Cox conducting the New York Philharmonic. (Not bad for a Prog rock band, yeah?)
The 80s were a lean time for them, with personnel changes, and two relatively unsuccessful studio albums, leading to disbandment in 1987. The band re-formed in 1998 to record Tuscany, which was eventually released in 2001; however they disbanded again the next year.
2009 heralded a new line-up for Renaissance, led by Haslam and Dunford, and since then the band has continued to record and tour. They were shocked and saddened by the sudden death of Dunford in November 2012. Later, Haslam stated that the band would continue touring. The current line-up is not as English as the band’s early period with five U.S. born members, and one English born member who lives in the U.S. In April 2014 Renaissance released the studio album Symphony of Light, which I have yet to pick up. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renaissance_(band)
Official website: http://renaissancetouring.com/band/

The only anomaly I find on this album is that the piano sounds like it may have been recorded a little hot. Other wise what we have here is a most enjoyable progressive rock debut LP with all the elements that make up Prog rock.

Side One:
Kings & Queens – This is a progressive rock LP so let’s start it off right with a near eleven minute song. This tune starts off with classical piano and then the drums come in giving the tune an almost Spanish sound. In fact, it is reminiscent of The Doors “Spanish Caravan”. The percussion is fantastic and the song melds into a more 60’s pop/rock sound. The bass playing is great as well in this tune. Then the tune goes back into a more classical style with mostly bass, piano and vocals and then back to solo piano with a “Spanish Caravan” vibe. As for lyrics, well,…..it happens to be themed in the period of The Renaissance, the name of the band is Renaissance after all, so why not?

Innocence – This song has interesting lyrics and a very slight Kansas (another prog rock band) feel. The bridge is interesting as it is basically just classical piano.
Yup, this is all there is on side one.

Side Two:
Island – This is a nice song, but the female vocals sound off to me for some reason. The tune changes to a baroque style with drums for the bridge and ends the same way, rather interesting.

Wanderer – This is the shortest song on the LP at 4 minutes. This tune is kind of in the style of Mannheim Steamroller in it use of a harpsichord and orchestration. The vocals are ok and the song seems to be about getting to know ones goals and success by relaxing in one’s knowledge of one’s self instead of constant chasing.

Bullet – Might as well end the way it began with this 11+ minute tune. The tune starts with kind of a doom feeling soundtrack, a minute later it goes into a funk style with great bass work. A few minutes later, harmonica is added (although judging by the sound, they may have used the wrong type of mic for it). About 3/4 of the way, it goes back to the soundtrack sound, then finishes with a bass solo in the upper register with strange bells.

MUSIC:5_Star_Rating_System_5_stars
SOUND:5_Star_Rating_System_4_and_a_half_stars

 

Porcupine Tree – Octane Twisted

r-4044494-1353372310-1504-jpeg
Artist: Porcupine Tree
Genre: Progressive Rock
Title: Octane Twisted
Released: 2012
Label: Kscope Records
Format:CD
Musicians: Richard Barbieri – keyboards, synthesizer, Colin Edwin – bass guitar,
Gavin Harrison – drums, mixing, percussion, John Wesley – guitars, vocals,
Steven Wilson – guitars, keyboards, mixing, vocals

Octane Twisted is a live album released by Porcupine Tree in November 2012. The album contains a live performance of the band’s 2009 album The Incident in its entirety recorded at the Riviera Theater in Chicago on 30 April 2010. The second CD contains other tracks also recorded in Chicago (CD 2, tracks 1–4), along with 3 songs from the band’s show at Royal Albert Hall in London on 14 October 2010 (CD 2, tracks 5–7). There is also a DVD.
I never thought I would say this about a Porcupine Tree endeavor given the perfectionism and attention given to all their recordings, but for a live album, this one is lacking some important items. First, I don’t know exactly how it was recorded, but it is a bit thin sounding, which generally is not a big deal for a live album, but one barely hears the audience, so one does not get that live show feel. The sound-stage is also a bit narrow for a live concert(s). Also it seems that the live versions of the songs don’t have the impact compared to the studio versions, at least on this CD. It almost makes one wonder if Porcupine Tree was never meant to play live, but of course that is a silly train of thought given that the DVD is probably better on this and this is only one live album.
There is really nothing that stands out on this double CD except for the fantastic drumming (live, not the computer generated drums that appear on certain tunes) and the fact that the tracks were not separated by a few seconds of silence like a studio LP. (You should never do that with live albums).

MUSIC:5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars
SOUND:5_Star_Rating_System_3_stars

Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Self Titled

R-7635414-1445621655-3543.jpeg

Artist: Emerson, Lake & Palmer
Genre: Progressive Rock
Title: Self Titled
Released: my copy =1977 reissue (Original release = 1971)
Label: Atlantic
Format:Vinyl
Musicians:Keith Emerson-Keyboards, Greg Lake-Vocals, Bass, Carl Palmer-Drums & Percussion
Producer:Greg Lake
Engineer: Eddie Offord

Emerson, Lake & Palmer were an English progressive rock supergroup formed in London in 1970. The band consisted of keyboardist Keith Emerson, singer, bassist, and producer Greg Lake, and drummer and percussionist Carl Palmer. They were one of the most popular and commercially successful progressive rock bands in the 1970s with a musical sound including adaptations of classical music with jazz and symphonic rock elements, dominated by Emerson’s flamboyant use of the Hammond organ, Moog synthesizer, and piano (although Lake wrote several acoustic songs for the group).
The band reformed partially in the 1980s with Emerson, Lake & Powell featuring Cozy Powell in place of Palmer, and 3, with Robert Berry in place of Lake. In 1991, the original trio reformed and released two more albums, Black Moon (1992) and In the Hot Seat (1994), and toured at various times between 1992 and 1998. Their final performance took place in 2010 at the High Voltage Festival in London to commemorate the band’s fortieth anniversary, before Emerson’s death in 2016 marked the end of the group.

Keith Emerson and Greg Lake met in December 1969 when Emerson’s then band the Nice and Lake’s band King Crimson, co-headlined a series of concerts at the Fillmore West in San Francisco, California. Two well-known bands to this day. Emerson was looking to form a new band, and Lake wished to leave King Crimson.
The three performed their first gig as Emerson, Lake & Palmer at the Guildhall in Plymouth on 23 August 1970.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emerson,_Lake_%26_Palmer
Official site: http://emersonlakepalmer.com/

From July to September 1970, the band recorded their debut album, Emerson Lake & Palmer, at Advision Studios in London. Lake produced the album himself with Eddy Offord as their engineer. Three of its six tracks are instrumentals, including “The Barbarian”, an arrangement of the 1911 piano suite Allegro barbaro by Béla Bartók. “Knife-Edge” is based on the first movement of Sinfonietta by Leoš Janáček that features a passage from the Allemande of French Suite No. 1 in D minor by Johann Sebastian Bach. Palmer recorded a drum solo, “Tank”. Lake contributed “Take a Pebble” and “Lucky Man”, an acoustic ballad he wrote with his first guitar at the age of twelve.

Take A Pebble is the longest song on the LP at 12:32. It starts with guitar and a swipe of piano strings sound effect. There is a shortened version of this song (called a “radio edit”) that is popular. This is a definite prog rock song as it has all the elements (time signature changes, etc.). Take a good listen to the guitar work as it is quite good as well as the percussion.

Knife Edge is one of my favorites and another popular song. I like the Deep Purple flavored keyboards. The song ends by them slowing down the tape to make it sound like a record slowing down. No doubt about the recording source being analog.

Lucky Man is another one of my favorites and one of their biggest hits, if not the biggest. I love the huge Moog stuff at the end too.

SOUND:5_Star_Rating_System_5_stars
MUSIC: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_and_a_half_stars

Lucky Man (LP version): https://youtu.be/Fn_1d_DUE08
Knife Edge (from LP): https://youtu.be/HFFXznlJxHM
Knife Edge live (original)

Being a percussionist I have to include Tank. This is live from 1977:https://youtu.be/PrfqVAaR2YQ