Renaissance – Turn Of The Seasons (Highland HL521/522)

Turn Of The Seasons (Highland HL521/522)

Walnut St Theatre, Philadelphia, PA – July 29th, 1974

Disc 1 (71:55):  Opening, Can You Understand, Black Flame, Things I Don’t Understand, Cold Is Being, Running Hard, Ashes Are Burning, Mother Russia  

Disc 2 (74:11):  Prologue.  My Father’s Place, Roslyn, NY – April 1974:  Introduction, Can You Understand, Let It Grow, Kiev, Things I Don’t Understand, Ashes Are Burning, Prologue.  State Fair, Falcon Heights, MN – September 11th, 1974:  Ocean Gypsy

The British group Renaissance hit a peak in 1974. Ashes Are Burning, released in 1973 and Turn Of The Cards in May 1974 defined their style of progressive rock based upon light, ethereal melodies and scored for acoustic guitars and piano.  Hovering above the music is Annie Haslam’s five-octave vocal range, one of the most distinctive voices to grace a rock album.

Turn Of The Seasons, perhaps the only silver pressed Renaissance bootleg in existence, presents three documents from various shows in 1974 in various levels of sound quality and listenabilty.

The main recording on this release is an audience recording of the Walnut Street Theater show in Philadelphia on July 29th.  Renaissance’s main source of support has always been the east coast of the US and eastern Pennsylvania in particular.  The amazing Annie Haslam still lives south of Philadelphia and for many years performed a special Christmas concert at Upper Tricum Lutheran Church in Upper Black Eddy in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

The recording is distant and lacking in dynamics but clear enough to capture the atmosphere of the event.  There are two small tape flips during the music.  The first is 7:23 in “Things I Don’t Understand” and the second occurs 13:58 in “Ashes Are Burning.”

It begins with the opening tape of an early classical music “Kyrie” before they come on stage for “Can You Understand?”  From their breakthrough album Ashes Are Burning, the familiar tune is an appropriate opening for the performance.  

“It’s nice to be among Philadelphians again…”  Jon Trout tells the audience before introducing “Black Flame” from the new album.  All of the songs from Turn Of The Cards except “I Think Of You” are played.

“Cold As Being,” clocking in at three and a half minutes, is by far the shortest song in the set.  It is, however, the highlight of the nightTaken entirely from Albinoi’s “Adagio In G minor,” Haslam at the end calls the song “sad” and confesses it brings her to tears.  The following number “Running Hard” is a marked contrast.  It’s much happier with more energy. 

The set ends with a fifteen minute version of “Ashes Are Burning.”  The first encore is “Mother Russia” from the new album.  The night closes with “Prologue” from the first Renaissance album with this line-up, released in 1972.  It is one of the jazziest songs in the set.  The loud grand piano contrasts nicely with the treble bass.

After the Philadelphia show, Highland include the WLIR FM radio broadcast from April, 1974.  Broadcast from My Father’s Place in Roslyn in Nassau County on Long Island, the venue is small but played a significant role by giving air time to many bands before closing in 1987. 

The label use a high generation tape with slight hiss, but it is still an excellent and powerful stereo recording.  Unlike the Philly show, the setlist is drawn from mostly older material.  This as a month before Turn Of The Cards was released and only “Things I Don’t Understand” is given a preview. 

They praise the hot and sweaty conditions and Annie complains about the frog in her throat that won’t go away, but the band deliver a tight performance.  “Keep On Growing” from Ashes Are Burning, introduced as a love song, is given an extremely rare live outing.  (A second performance taped in 1975 surfaced last year).  It is a gorgeous song, a great vehicle for Haslam’s hyper-femininity to shine.  It’s followed by another rarity, “Kiev” from the Prologue LP. 

And like the Philly show, the set ends with a fifteen minute version of “Ashes Are Burning.”  The only encore is a fun rendition of “Prologue.” 

The final track on this release is the live debut of “Ocean Gypsy.”  Sourced from an excellent soundboard recording, the artwork states it is taken from the Minnesota State Fair on September 11th, 1974.  But I have my doubts since there is scant audience presence, it sounds like a small studio, and there are few hand claps at the very end.  Nevertheless, it is an excellent performance of a haunting track and a very nice addition to this collection. 

The cover artwork is inspired by the Live At Carnegie Hall LP from 1975 and adorned with many photographs of the band on the inserts.  Not many Renaissance silvers have ever been produced.  Sirene released some titles on professional CDR, but nothing on silver.  Turn Of The Seasons is an excellent production worth having. 

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