Renaissance redux

Perhaps my enthusiasm made them think it would be more in keeping with what they would like.

Scheherazade and Other StoriesIn my recent prog rock post, I ended, “I own albums by FM, Electric Light Orchestra, Kansas, Renaissance, Supertramp, Genesis, and Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, but not the ones listed.”

Then Arthur commented:

I don’t have most of the albums you talk about…, BUT the ones you list at the very end of this post, I want to know more about your connection to those. That’s because I had something by most of the bands you list, but you’re the only one I know who’s ever listed Renaissance. (I have two of their albums on vinyl and chose to bring them with me from America when I had to leave so many other things behind)

Let’s start with the group Renaissance. I must have heard them in New Paltz during my college days.

1977 was pretty much, from an emotional point of view, my annus horribilis, graduated from college but directionless. In the first months of the year, I was crashing on my parents’ sofa in Charlotte, NC. My birthday was coming up in March, and all I really wanted was Scheherazade and Other Stories, the 1975 album by the British group.

I received it, and I played it. I sensed a really unenthusiastic, albeit mostly unspoken, response from the family, especially my father, who said something like “Hmm” in that particular way he did when he was displeased. He had heard a variety of musical genres, Beatles, Stones, Young Rascals, Led Zeppelin on my turntable.

Yet, I got the clear impression that this particular group was just – I don’t know, how do I put it? – Too white? Too weird? Perhaps my enthusiasm made them think it would be more in keeping with what they would like. Or something; in any case, the rejection was a bit soul-crushing.

I played it all the more for that, but at the same time, it sucked much of the joy out of listening to it. I hadn’t heard it in years until I found it on YouTube. LISTEN. My, I love it all over again, especially side 2. I mean, the second half, which literally made me weep, as I anticipated movements I had not heard in three decades.

Anyway, less than two months after my birthday in 1977, I hitchhiked out of Charlotte, unannounced, and continued my wanderings. Did I take the LP with me, or did I have them ship it to me subsequently? I have no idea.

Coincidentally, this is an album that the Wife – even younger than YOU, Arthur 😉 – was familiar with, because her college roommate Alison played the music of the group incessantly.

Other prog rock groups

FM – I misremembered; I have a couple by a duo called AMFM, at least one of which I got from a Kickstarter sale by their label, Polyvinyl.

Electric Light Orchestra – A New World Record on CD, plus extra songs. Also, a greatest hits CD. Saw Jeff Lynne’s ELO perform a song from Alone in the Universe, the 2015 album, on CBS This Morning Saturday in November.

Kansas – just a greatest hits CD.

Supertramp – Crime of the Century and Breakfast in America on vinyl. Had to burn a copy of the latter onto CD, because I LOVE that album.

Genesis – I own none of the Peter Gabriel-era Genesis, though I have a LOT of solo Gabriel. Abacab (1981), Genesis (1983), Invisible Touch (1986), We Can’t Dance (1991), the latter two on CD, plus the greatest hits.

Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention – Vinyl: Fillmore East – June 1971. CD – Jazz from Hell, You Can’t Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 1 (show from 1974, released in 1988), the compilation album Strictly Genteel, the single Peaches en Regalia, and a greatest hits album.

Arthur also asked:

I’ve since had time to follow the link and saw there were a lot I’d never heard of. Which made me wonder, Roger: How many of those, if any, had YOU not heard of?

LOTS. 50-45, 42, 41, 39, 38, 36, 35, 29, 26-24, and 19.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

4 thoughts on “Renaissance redux”

  1. I never really could get into Renaissance either, with one exception. I had several of their albums, but they just didn’t have the energy or panache of other prog groups to my ear. I did like singer Annie Haslam’s multi-octave voice, but too often it was in service to bloated, static, too fussy arrangements.

    The exception, though, was the 1979 album Azure d’Or, which horrified their fans by keeping the song times to less than five minutes each and emphasized the synthesizer. “Too pop”, many of them sniffed, but to my ear there were several solid pop songs on that album, as well as a couple of nice instrumentals. The songs “Kalynda (A Magical Isle)” and “Friends” in particular impressed me. They went even further in trying to cope with New Wave with further albums, and became much less interesting again, but that one album was a keeper as far as I was concerned.

    Also of note was Haslam’s first solo album Annie in Wonderland, from 1977, which was produced and accompanied by her then-boyfriend Roy Wood of Move, ELO, and Wizzard fame. It sounds like a Wood solo album with Haslam vocals, basically, but it’s a solid album if you’re a fan of either.

  2. In the early ’90s, I bought a CD that combined two of their albums – Prologue and Ashes Are Burning. They’re okay, and some of the songs are terrific, but it never inspired me to go out and get more. So even young’uns like me have some knowledge of the band!

    I hadn’t heard of a LOT of those bands, as I went through it when you first posted it. Cool list, though!

  3. I have several favorite Renaissance albums including “Ashes Are Burning” (MY personal fave) and have seen them seven or eight times, most recently in November 2014. Annie Haslam, the lead singer, lives in Pennsylvania and paits as well as sings and is a wonderful (and tiny) person; after I met her at a show in 1995 she did a wonderful thing for a friend of mine who was dying, and placed a call to him in his hospital room. She is now referring to their music as “legacy rock.”

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