Title - 'Academy of Music 1974’
Artist - Renaissance
Cleopatra Records are releasing in this month of February and then March two (2), yep, you read that right, two (2) RARE live albums from UK prog rock legends, Renaissance. This first one reviewed here today is Academy of Music 1974, a 2-CD extravaganza, with other release the equally live single disc album, DeLane Lea Studios 1973.
For those not in the know about Renaissance, they 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’ (the latter track that is actually included on this 1973 live album, featuring both Andy Powell and Al Stewart).
They developed a unique sound, combining a female lead vocal with a fusion of classical, folk, rock, and jazz influences. As was worldly commented on at that time, characteristic elements of the Renaissance sound were Annie Haslam's five-octave voice, prominent piano accompaniment, orchestral arrangements, vocal harmonies, acoustic guitar, synthesized bass guitar, keyboard synthesizers, and versatile drum work.
Phew, I know right, but combining all those sounds meant, at least at that time they stood out in a market that needed something new, something fresh. Something creative. Indeed, the band created a significant following in the northeast United States in the 70s, and that region remains their strongest fan base even today.
And so hang on to your Renaissance hats for, as promised, come early March the band will release a stunning 2-CD version of Academy of Music 1974. Combined with a weird-ass cover artwork that still haunts me every time I look at it, the album is truly an astonishing live performance from an ensemble at the height of their career. No doubt about, make no bones, from 1972 to 1979 Renaissance released seven (7) successful studio albums, toured extensively, and sold-out three nights in a row at Carnegie Hall with Tony Cox conducting the New York Philharmonic!
Unlike other prog rock groups, Renaissance forwent much of the technology of the day offered them in favor of acoustic instruments and grand, deep, sweepingly orchestral arrangements. This allowed for a more symphonic sound, which truly comes to the fore on tracks like ‘Black Flame,’ ‘Cold Is Being’ and the inspired ‘Mother Russia.’
As with their previous live album, DeLane Lea Studios 1973, their live set showcased the band’s latest release at that time, Ashes Are Burning, which kicks off the second disc of this double album. Wisely containing all the longest, jam-filled tracks onto this second disc, it may well only contain three songs - ‘Ashes Are Burning,’ ‘Mother Russia’ and ‘Prologue,’ but don’t be fooled into thinking one you put it on that it will be quickly over!