Renaissance played a distinctive, and very English style of folky prog rock, led by piano and orchestral arrangements, with heavy bass but very little guitar. The strong link is of course Annie Haslam, whose voice is beautiful, and I think she knows it. Stubbornly pedantic in her clear vibrato-free tone and diction, it's folk singing with operatic power. I imagine John Tout's Tchaikovsky-like piano flourishes being played with a pompous frown, clad in white tie and tails.
These days, their sound seems quite tied to its times, with their orchestral arrangements bringing to mind 1970s musicals and TV themes. The songwriting is good if not outstanding. The three main long pieces are based on decent hooks, with fairly conventional and restrained classical-style development. The most of successful these is "Mother Russia", anchored by a broad, soaring chorus. "Cold is Being" is a cheesy vocal setting of Albinoni's Adagio, with oh-so-goth lyrics. Not bad, but I'd recommend hearing "Scheherazade and Other Stories" first, which has firmly the stronger material.
October 20, 2004