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

2018-07-31
Tomasz Stańko RIP – Tomasz Stańko, one of the greats of Eastern European jazz, has died at the age of 76. Stańko's career started in Krzysztof Komeda's quintet, where he contributed trumpet from 1963-1967, when he formed his own group. He worked extensively with Edward Vesala, Don Cherry, Zbigniew Seifert, Chico Freeman, Howard Johnson, Cecil Taylor, and many others. Many of his recordings have been released by ECM, an association that began in the mid-70s. » Read more

2018-07-09
Soft Machine Set to Release New Music – It's been 50 years since The Soft Machine changed the face of music with their first album. Their blend of psychedelic rock and jazz was unique, and while the band went through many changes before disbanding in 1981 — by which time there were no original members remaining — they remained an innovative force with a style all their own. » Read more

2018-07-01
7d Surfaces Happy Rhodes Back Catalog – We've covered singer Happy Rhodes before, both for her solo work and recently with The Security Project, but her 11 albums have been hard to track down. Until now. 7d features high-quality downloads of all her releases, and several of them are also available on CD. » Read more

2018-06-25
Fred Chalenor RIP – We have news of another sad passing in the world of creative music. Bassist Fred Chalenor, whose creativity featured on albums by Tone Dogs, Caveman Shoestore, and many more, died on June 23, 2018 after a long battle with Alzheimer's. Tributes have poured in from the many musicians and fans whose lives he touched. » Read more

2018-06-13
Jon Hiseman RIP – One of the great drummers of the rock era has died. Jon Hiseman was a veteran of such ground-breaking groups as Colosseum (I and II), Tempest, John Mayal's Bleusbreakers, and was a founding member of the innovative large band United Jazz + Rock Ensemble. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

John Lees' Barclay James Harvest - Legacy Live at the Shelpherd's Bush Empire 2006 – The 2006 resurrection of Woolly Wolstenholme’s Maestoso gestated into a full on BJH reunion tour once guitarist John Lees got on board the rock and roll bandwagon. Picking a representative set list...  (2008) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues