Exposé Online banner

Renaissance — Live at the Union Chapel
(Symphonic Rock SRR 000-04, 2016, DVD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2016-03-22

Live at the Union Chapel Cover art

Of the bands that combined rock with classical music starting in the late 60s and early 70s, some went the keyboard-heavy route with Mellotrons and the like to add the required grandeur, but others went the route of actually using orchestras. Probably the most famous of these was Renaissance, who melded moderately complex folk-rock songcraft with Romantic swaths of strings, famously fond of Prokofiev in particular. Soaring atop it all was Annie Haslam’s beautiful voice. Many progressive rock fans derided the band for a variety of reasons, often centering on the fact that they just didn’t rock. On the other hand, they did gain legions of fans, many of whom didn’t care for progressive rock. Adding to the confusion was the fact that the press labeled Renaissance as progressive rock. In any case, this new DVD of the current version of the band, which features only Haslam from the old days, will do nothing to change anyone’s opinion of the band. If you liked their classic 70s material, you’ll probably enjoy this – it does heavily favor long-time favorites like “Carpet of the Sun,” “Mother Russia,” and “Running Hard,” and the newer pieces featured are very much in the same style. The selections from Grandine il Vento (2013), the last album produced before Michael Dunford’s death, come off quite well, proving the magic wasn’t gone. They wisely avoid the 80s material that attempted mainstream popularity and lost the band’s identity. If you never cared for Renaissance’s brand of symphonic rock, Live at the Union Chapel is unlikely to change your mind. The interpretations of the material hew very closely to the original versions, using two keyboardists to fill out the sound in place of an orchestra: one provides mostly piano, while the other handles string sounds as well as other things as needed. The crucial question everyone will be asking is, “How is Annie’s voice?” I’m happy to report that in her upper 60s, Annie Haslam’s voice is in fine form. She sounds especially good on the vocalese of “Prologue,” which opens the set. At times, especially during the quieter passages, there’s a bit of a quaver that wasn’t there 40 years ago, but not enough to put off a fan. I regard Live at the Union Chapel as a gift to the fans who already love the band, and not a good introduction to their music; I would definitely recommend that a newcomer familiarize themselves with Scheherazade or Live at Carnegie Hall before moving on to this.


Filed under: New releases, 2016 releases

Related artist(s): Annie Haslam, Renaissance

Latest news

2018-11-16
The Seventeenth Dream of Dr Sardonicus Festival Tickets Now Available – Fruits de Mer Records and their merry crew of psychedelic explorers are getting set to present the next The Seventeenth Dream of Dr. Sardonicus Festival. The dates are set for August 2-4, 2019 at The Cellar Bar in Cardigan, Wales. They've also announced that the legendary Groundhogs will top the bill. » Read more

2018-11-02
Charles O'Meara (C.W. Vrtacek) RIP – A true musical original has left us. Charles O'Meara, who recorded under the name C.W. Vrtacek, was a wild-card musical talent, ranging from complex progressive rock to introspective modern compositions, with stops at many places inbetween. » Read more

2018-10-17
Eurock Documentary Seeks Funding – We've been fans and fellow travelers with Archie Patterson and his Eurock project on the journey to discover great music. After many years of promoting and trying to spread the word,a new phase is beginning: a documentary film. Things like this don't just happen, and money does not magically appear to make it happen, so it's up to the fans to get it done. » Read more

2018-09-29
Marty Balin RIP – One of the architects of the 60s psychedelic sound of San Francisco has died at the age of 76. Marty Balin was a singer, songwriter, and guitarist who was one of the founders of Jefferson Airplane. After the split of the original Airplane, Balin went on to form the highly successful Jefferson Starship. » Read more

2018-09-25
Help the Psychic Equalizer Avoid Extinction – Last year we reviewed the debut album by Psychic Equalizer, a musical project of Hugo Selles. He's now working on the ambitious follow-up to that release, and is seeking funding from listeners around the world. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Time's Forgotten - A Relative Moment of Peace – Time’s Forgotten is a new progressive band from San Jose, Costa Rica. Formed in 2004, the band consists of Juan Pablo Calvo (keyboards, samples, background vocals, programming), Jorge Sobrado...  (2008) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues