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Renaissance (UK) - 2002 - "Live In the Land of the Rising Sun"
(2CD: 105 min, "GEP")


*****+
Track List:

- Disc 1 - 

1. Carpet of the Sun 3:49
2. Opening Out 4:24
3. Midas Man 6:31
4. Lady From Tuscany 7:07
5. Pearls of Wisdom 4:41
6. Dear Landseer 5:40
7. Northern Lights 4:21
8. Moonlight Shadow 4:08
9. Precious One 4:48
10. Ananda 5:42

All tracks by: Dunford & Dunford / Haslam, except:
2 - by Camp / Dunford, 10 - by Haslam / Tesar, 
& 8 - by M. Oldfield.

- Disc 2 - 

1. Mother Russia 10:31
2. Trip To the Fair 11:53
3. One Thousand Roses 7:53
4. I Think of You 3:20
5. Ashes are Burning 19:57

All tracks by: Dunford, except:
2 - by Dunford / Tout & 3 - by Dunford / Haslam.

Line-up:

Annie Haslam - lead vocals
Michael Dunford - acoustic guitar; vocals
Terence Sullivan - drums & percussion
Rave Tesar - piano & additional keyboards
Mickey Simmonds - various keyboards; vocals
David Keyes - bass guitar; vocals

Produced by R. Tesar & A. Haslam.
Recorded live at Koseinekin Hall, Tokyo, Japan.
Engineered by Yoshiuki Tsuboi via T2-Audio.
Mixed & mastered by R. Tesar at "Studio X", NJ, USA.

Preamble. "In the Land of the Rising Sun", subtitled as "Live In Japan 2001", is the first live album by the revived Renaissance. Also, this is my first acquaintance with Renaissance's abilities to play live. Unfortunately, this album may also become Renaissance's last effort ever, as Annie Haslam has recently declared that the band officially decided to, "call it a day". On the other hand, though, there are rumours that drummer Terry Sullivan, not agreeing with such a decision, is in discussion with Renaissance's former members, keyboard player John Taut and bassist Jon Camp, regarding a possible new line-up.

The Album.
- Disc 1 (52 min)*****:
The first disc of this wonderful double CD set, which, as well as the band's latest studio effort "Tuscani", was released by the established "Giant Electric Pea" label, consists of ten songs of a moderate longevity (4 to 7 minutes). Three of these songs: Lady From Tuscany, Pearls of Wisdom, and Dear Landseer, all of which are in the core of the disc (tracks 4, 5, & 6), were taken from "Tuscani". (The review of this album can be read here.) There are only two songs here: Carpet of the Sun and Moonlight Shadow (1 & 8) that sound simpler than any other song on the album. While the latter of them is accessible, yet, at the same time, very bright and tasteful song, the show opener's role to shake up a public is as evident as it is typical for most of the live performances in general. All eight of the other tracks that are present on the album's first CD are excellent at every aspect. Stylistically, all of them are about (still the same) Renaissance's 'firm', distinctively original, and remarkably tasteful classic symphonic Art-Rock of a moderate complexity. Each of them features at least a couple of instrumental parts. The passages and rhythms of acoustic guitar, passages of piano and synthesizers, solos of organ and bass guitar, and the parts of rhythm section in general, are in the basis of the arrangements practically throughout the album. Annie Haslam's vocals, regardless whether they're light or dramatic, are unbelievably wonderful on this album and by all means. (I really wonder, why did she decide to quit the band?) Thanks to a very effective use of a virtual string ensemble, which, moreover, quite realistically reproduces the sounds of oboe, trombone, and other woodwind, brass, and percussion instruments, all of these songs are here lushly orchestrated and feature either medieval shades or flavors of the music of the Orient. The latter, though, are obvious only in Annie's vocalizes that open the aforementioned Moonlight Shadows and on Ananda (10), which is just filled with them. It was really difficult to 'choose' the best song among those excellent eight tracks on the CD, but as a citizen of eastern republic, I did it in favour of the last track on the CD where I especially liked the parts of Sitar sounding very realistic. (Though, in fact, I think that the best track on the first disc of the album is Lady From Tuscani.) I was always wondered at how wonderfully Western musicians (in a general sense of the word) are capable to reproduce tunes, flavours, just everything that is typical only for the (5-tone) music of the East and interweave all of it with the (7-tone) European classic textures.
- Disc 2 (53 min)******:
Almost all of the songs that are present on the second disc of this album are way complex and intriguing than any of the songs on the first CD. The only exception here is the Classic Art-Rock ballad I Think of You. Although this is the only track on the album that doesn't contain the parts of a string ensemble at all, nevertheless, this song is excellent and at all points. Furthermore, in my view, it was a wise decision to place it on the second disc, consisting of epic songs, just before the last, the longest, and the best song on the album, the 20-minute Ashes are Burning (5). Indeed, this classic, more than two thirds of which are covered by outstandingly diverse, complex, and just fantastic instrumental arrangements of a dramatic character, is the most intricate, diverse, and (thus) interesting composition on the album. Stylistically, Ashes are Burning represents a unique, really one-of-a-kind Classic Symphonic Art-Rock with elements of both of Classical Music and Classic Jazz-Fusion and of a very profound nature. Although Annie sings here not that often, her voice shines like a diamond on this wonderful ending of the album. All three of the remaining tracks on the second CD are about a pure Symphonic Art-Rock. The second best song on the album is undoubtedly the 10-minute Mother Russia (1), which is certainly as imperishable as the previously mentioned track. Both of them are more than merely masterpieces, and each of them was from the outset an undying classic for the future, which, in its turn, is the reality of today. The third best track on the album is, IMHO, the 11-minute Trip To the Fair (2). As well as both of the other winners, it is filled with diverse and complex arrangements that, apart from the parts of traditional Rock instruments, feature those of string, chamber, and brass instruments, passages of piano, and, of course, (wonderful) vocals. The best song of the "Tuscani" album, the 8-minute One Thousand Roses (3), along with another song from the same album, the 7-minute Lady From Tuscani (track 4 on the first disc), are respectively the fourth and the fifth best songs on this 'live' masterpiece.

Summary. I must say that I am very much impressed with this 'live' album by Renaissance and the band's performance on it as well. In my view, all the songs that are presented here even sound a bit better than their studio counterparts. Which is perhaps because of all of them, while being taken from the different albums by the band, were performed by the same lineup. So if a very coherent, completely original, and truly tasteful Progressive is to your taste, try to get this album at any cost.

VM: November 8, 2002


Related Links:

Renaissance: http://www.nightsweb.com/

"Giant Electric Pea Records": http://www.gep.co.uk/


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