Title - 'A Song For All Seasons: Expanded Edition' [3CD]
Artist - Renaissance
For those not in the know, 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, prominent piano accompaniment, orchestral arrangements, vocal harmonies, acoustic guitar, bass guitar, synthesiser, and versatile drum work.
The band created a significant following in the northeast United States in the 1970s, and that region remains their strongest fan base.
The original line-up included two former members of The Yardbirds, Keith Relf and Jim McCarty, along with John Hawken, Louis Cennamo and Relf's sister Jane Relf.
They intended to put "something together with more of a classical influence" and so Renaissance was born; and the band released a studio album in 1969, and another in 1971.
Subsequently, John Tout replaced Hawken on keyboards, followed by 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.
The 1980s were a lean time for them, with personnel changes, and two relatively unsuccessful studio albums, leading to disbandment in 1987.
Two different offshoots of Renaissance existed at the same time at one stage in the mid-1990s. 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, but 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 United States and in April 2014, Renaissance released the studio album Symphony of Light.
Esoteric Recordings will this-April release an incredible newly remastered and expanded 3CD clamshell box edition of their classic album, A Song for All Seasons.
Disc 1 - A Song For All Seasons (Remastered)
1. 'Opening Out'
2. 'Day of the Dreamer'
3. 'Closer Than Yesterday'
4. 'Kindness (At the End)'
5. 'Back Home Once Again'
6. 'She Is Love'
7. 'Northern Lights'
8. 'A Song for All Seasons'
9. 'Northern Lights' (Promotional Single Edit) (Previously Unreleased on CD)
10. 'Day of the Dreamer' (BBC Radio One Session 1978)
11. 'Midas Man' BBC Radio One Session 1978)
12. 'The Vultures Fly High' (BBC Radio One Session 1978)
13. 'Northern Lights' ("Top of the Pops" Version) (Previously Unreleased)
Disc 2 - Live at The Tower Theater, Philadelphia 1978)
1. 'Can You Understand'
2. 'Carpet of the Sun'
3. 'Things I Don't Understand'
4. 'Opening Out' (Previously Unreleased)
5. 'Day of the Dreamer'
6. 'Midas Man'
Disc 3 - Live at The Tower Theater, Philadelphia 1978
1. 'Northern Lights'
2. 'A Song for All Seasons' (Previously Unreleased)
3. 'Touching Once Is So Hard to Keep' (Previously Unreleased)
4. 'Ashes Are Burning' (Previously Unreleased)
Released in March 1978, the album featured the song 'Northern Lights', a Top Ten hit single in the UK and Europe, and was a successful hit album in the UK, USA and Canada.
Working with producer David Hentschel (who had also produced the albums A Trick of the Tail and Wind and Wuthering for Genesis), the material on A Song for All Seasons was some of the most carefully crafted work of the band's career.
Flying in the face of the prevailing musical fashions of the time, A Song for All Seasons would be the band's most successful album in Europe and is one of their best-loved works.
While many purists consider Scheherazade and Other Stories to be their penultimate magnum opus, and it is a classical-rock progressive dreamers landscape certainly, to my mind their Novella simply works better on a scale of Annie’s voice and Dunford-Tout-Camp-Sullivan surrealism.
That said, in 1978, 14 months later, Renaissance decided to bring the electric guitar back into the fold as well as some very lush orchestral production.
Thus, A Song for All Seasons works both better than some previous efforts, and, in some spots, drops some of their weakest material across 8 studio albums (6 with this version of the band).
Annie and John continue to enjoy that legendary lead trade-off role with beautiful melodies and the backing by Rabinowitz and orchestra are equally gorgeous. 'Northern Lights', the title track, 'Back Home Once Again', and 'Closer Than Yesterday' are Renaissance in top form.
The aptly-named album opener 'Opening Out' and 'The Day Of The Dreamer' are initially quite promising, but they never quite reach what one expects from Renaissance classics; especially in the 9 minute 'Dreamer' which has lots of room to maneuver.
As we all know, 'Northern Lights' was actually the only Top 10 (UK) hit single for the group and is also one of the best tracks on the album. Drawing from the same well as 'Carpet of the Sun' and other folk-classical fusions.
'Closer Than Yesterday' also springs from this melodic sound with beautiful acoustic guitar work. That said, if you still feel as though the album is less “centered” than any of their previous efforts you are not alone. However, the cornerstone of A Song For All Seasons is the 11 minute title track which can be said to revisit the framework of the epic Scheherazade suite.
This superb Expanded 3CD Edition has been newly remastered from the original master tapes and features 16 bonus tracks. Inclusive of the previously-unreleased Promotional Edit and a "Top of the Pops" recording of 'Northern Lights', it also brings forth some BBC Radio One Session recordings from August 1978.
Add to that the second and third discs comprising the entire concert recorded at the Tower Theater in Philadelphia on December 4th, 1978 - which is appearing in full on CD for the first time - this additional 55 minute's worth of unreleased tracks ensures that A Song For All Seasons: Expanded Edition is a gem of a release for all their fans.
The release also features an illustrated booklet with a reproduction of the band's 1978 US tour programme and new essay. The set also includes a reproduction of the original album poster given away with the initial pressing of A Song For All Seasons.
3CD Box-Set Purchase Link