Title - 'Scheherazade & Other Stories'
Artist - Renaissance
For those not in the know, Renaissance were 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.'
Indeed, they developed a unique sound, combining a female lead vocal with a fusion of classical, folk, rock, and jazz influences to great success throughout their career.
To prove just that Audio Fidelity have just re-released Renaissance's legendary progressive album Scheherazade And Other Stories on Limited Numbered Hybrid SACD. Quite easily one of the signature albums of 1970's prog rock, Scheherazade is a beautifully crafted album, expertly sung and played by Renaissance (Annie Haslam - lead and backing vocals; Jon Camp - bass, bass pedals, backing vocals, lead vocal on The Sultan; Michael Dunford - acoustic guitars, backing vocals; John Tout - keyboards, backing vocals; Terence Sullivan - drums, percussion, backing vocals; Tony Cox - orchestral arrangements).
Running at just under 50 minutes, it all begins with the eleven minute 'Trip to the Fair,' before the shortest track on the album (three minutes) comes forth, 'The Vultures Fly High.' This beautiful, unique in many ways sixth album chock full of lush, orchestral orchestrations continues onwards with the seven minute 'Ocean Gypsy,' before coming to a near twenty five minute close with the tale telling fables of 'Song of Scheherazade.'
Broken down into nine different chapters - i. Fanfare, ii. The Betrayal,
iii. The Sultan, iv. Love Theme, v. The Young Prince and Princess as told by Scheherazade, vi. Festival Preparations, vii. Fugue for the Sultan,
viii. The Festival, ix. Finale - it is musical artistry that captures total perfection at every turn.
This was actually the first album in which Renaissance (Annie Haslam's version, at least) that did not use quotes from actual classical pieces. Contrary to popular belief, the above mentioned 'Song of Scheherazade' is not based on Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade, but does have a recurring six-note motif that alludes to that work.
As you listen you can still understand where some of the original confusion over where the sections of 'Song of Scheherazade' begin and end came to light also. This was caused by the fact that Fanfare and The Betrayal together sound like a single section, while Festival Preparations has two distinct parts of its own (4:00 and 1:11 in length). Indeed, and for those wishing to continue to know / read, this confusion was reflected in the packaging and labels of originally printed vinyl LP copies of this album; and in the mis-titling of Festival Preparations (Part 1) as The Young Prince and Princess on the 1990 Tales Of 1001 Nights, Volume I compilation!
In wrap, the twenty five minute, nine-part epic, Song Of Scheherazade is definitely (as I hope I've overly stressed) the true highlight of not only this album but prog rock history itself! Accompanied by the London Symphony Orchestra and a chorus, the classical tale is told about the Sultan and the magical woman, Scheherazade, who ultimately wins his heart.
Reviewed by: Russell A. Trunk