Customer Reviews: Scheherazade & Other Stories
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on August 23, 2001
Renaissance is a band that went through various permutations, the best known being the line up that featured Annie Haslam's soaring, pure vocals, John Tout's considerable piano prowess, Jon Camp's imaginative bass, Michael Dunford on guitar and Terence Sullivan on drums. This was the second, and longest-lasting lineup of the band. An earlier lineup had a completely different lineup (how/why they kept the same name is somewhat surprising considering the band had a 100% change in personnel). A later permutation had Tout and Sullivan replaced by two other musicians.
Anyway, the Haslam-led lineup had two phases in their musical styles -- an early, progressive-rock featuring long, complex arrangements of songs influenced by classical composers (particularly Prokofiev) and a later, more pop-oriented style.
"Song of Scheherazade and Other Stories" is probably the best of the band's progressive-rock years, and argued by many to be their best overall effort as well. It opens with "A Trip to the Fair", featuring typical Renaissance arrangement of piano and orchestral highlights and, of course, Annie Haslam's distinctive, beautifully strong singing voice. The album's second track, the short "The Vultures Fly High" shows the band making a (then) rare trip to pop arranging. The final track of the vinyl's side one is the poignant "Ocean Gypsy", featuring some of the best piano work John Tout turned in.
"Song of Scheherazade" took up the entire second side of the album, featuring a suite of songs which told the story of 1001 Arabian Nights in condensed form (if you can call a 24 or so minute effort "condensed"). This was certainly the highlight of the band's orchestral/classical arranging, featuring an opening fanfare, a soft romantic ballad ("The Young Prince and Princess"), a piano fugue, and upbeat finale ("The Festival"/"Finale"). From its opening to its ending, the suite presents a well-formed, cohesive movement that tells of the Sultan's betrayal by his wife and his subsequent dastardly daily wedding and execution, Scheherazade (the heroine of the story) becoming his wife and weaving a magic spell of stories for him which he cannot live without, and the sultan renouncing his ways to live with Scheherazade happily ever after. This is musical story-telling in the progressive-rock vein at its finest.
Not only was this probably Renaissance's best effort to that point, it also marked one of the last progressive-rock dominated albums they'd release. Their next studio release, "Novella", was fairly progressive-rock oriented but after that came "Song for All Seasons", on which the band started moving in a more pop/mainstream direction.
Progressive-rock lovers everywhere should get "Scheherazade" and even those whose taste for progressive-lock runs lean will probably appreciate "Ocean Gypsy" for the pure beauty of its melody and arranging, as well as the title track for its overall arrangement and story-telling.
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This 1975 album featuring the nine-part 25-minute "Song of Scheherazade" suite is certainly the most ambitious effort by the progressive (nee classical) rock band Renaissance, recorded with a chorus and members of the London Symphony Orchestra. Personally, my favorite Renaissance album was "Turn of the Card," issued the year before this one, which is admittedly a much more atypical work for the group, but the consensus of opinion certainly seems to suggest this is the most popular album among the learned gentry.
The songs on the "first side" of the album certainly make this the strongest album by virtue of the fact that they are all well above average tracks. "Trip to the Fair" is another showcase for the wondrous voice of Annie Haslam, "The Vultures Fly High" presents a nice change of pace, and "Ocean Gypsy" is one of those lush songs you expect from Renaissance. Consequently, this is the one album (besides the live recording of their Carnegie Hall concert) on which you are not inclined to skip tracks.
The "Song of Scheherzade" was inspired by Michael Dunford's fascination with the "1001 Tales of the Arabian Nights" and consists of nine distinct but cohesive movements. The work is unique because it represents a rare example of musical collaboration between Dunford and the rest of the group. Dunford and lyricist Betty Thatcher wrote the three vocal sections, keyboard player John Tout wrote the opening fanfare and fugue sections, with bass player Jon Camp working with Dunford and Tout on the other sections. The orchestrations were arranged by Tony Cox. Like similar efforts by other progressive rock groups (e.g., Emerson, Lake & Palmer's "Karn Evil 9" from "Brain Salad Surgery), the Scheherzade Suite represents the great heights "rock" music could attain when it broke away from the radio play format.
I have heard in the past that Dunmore and Thatcher were trying to turn their cantata into a musical, similar to what Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice did with the original children's cantata version of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," but apparently that effort, if not abandoned at this point, has yet to reach fruition.
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on February 7, 2002
Rock critics are quick to dismiss the progressive era as contrived and full of excess. They are wrong, and the best example of progressive genius is Renaissance's Scheherazade and Other Stories. I believe this is one of the best rock records of all time, although it will never be acknowledged as such.
The music is absolutely stunning (with the exception of "A Trip to the Fair"). On side one, "Ocean Gypsy" ranks among Renaissance's best pieces, but it is side two that defines this album. The Scheherazade suite is one of the highlights of rock history, featuring gorgeous melodies and fabulous musicianship as it retells the Scheherazade legend. Aficionados of classical music will also appreciate the album.
Renaissance was a staple of progressive radio in New York City, and deservedly so. I have introduced my kids to the band's music, and they love it too.
Buy this album; you will love it.
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on July 31, 1998
Why this album is listed as an import is a bit of a mystery to me. Several of Renaissance's albums are US releases, but not this one? Well, at least it's pretty decently priced. Anyway, this has got got to be one of the best albums of it's day, at least as far as progressive rock is concerned. Undoubtedly the high point of Renaissance's career, the album consists of 3 tracks that were originally on the first side with the title track that was on the other. The great point about this CD is that there are no weak songs. Scheharzade is the showpiece for the work; it's a group effort and although different members contribute to different parts it fits together really well. The Young Prince and Young Princess is a highlight of this section. The first part consists of strong songs; perhaps the best is Ocean Gypsy. I have introduced this song to various friends and relatives and it has always converted them to followers of the group. I would say that this album, with the possi! ble exception of Live At Carnigie Hall, is the perfect place to get to know the music of Renaissance.
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on August 27, 2010
I just bought this recording for, I think, the fourth time. The remastered CD sounds superb, and the bonus DVD of the best and classic lineup of this band is absolutely priceless. This lineup of Renaissance is one of my all-time favorite bands - a pity they are no longer together. But c'est la vie in the world of rock bands.
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on August 8, 2001
My dad first introduced me to Renaisance when I was eight years old. "Trip to the Fair" was instantly my favorite. As a singer and pianist, I could, even at such an early age, appreciate the intensity of John Tout's piano prelude, Annie Haslam's beautifully pure voice, and the overall magnitude of this band. The hauntingness of "Trip to the Fair," and the sadness of "Ocean Gypsy" are moments every person should experience. It's a shame that music has taken such a downfall these days, and that people have forgotten the capabilities of the creative mind. Renaissance is a genre of its own, combining the discipline and format of classical music, and merging it with the addictive sound and heavy rhythms of rock. I suppose that would be classical rock, wouldn't it? But, nevertheless, Renaissance has paved a sound so original and powerful, and "Scheherizade" is probably their finest moment.
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VINE VOICEon December 13, 2004
This 1975 release shows Renaissance at a peak and the excellent music on this album certainly reflects this - it is a personal favorite in fact. I really appreciate the craft that the band put into their music; not to mention the emotional sophistication and superb musicianship. This album is an especially fine example of these qualities.

The music of Renaissance is very disciplined (I really appreciate this) for a rock band and the instrumentation and playing style is more in keeping with a symphony orchestra than a rock band. Keyboardist John Tout uses the acoustic piano exclusively with some minor pipe organ and harpsichord work, along with a string synthesizer - it is used effectively throughout the album and marks a point where John started using synthesizers more. Electric guitars are absent and Michael Dunford employs both strummed and picked parts on the acoustic guitar, which further emphasizes the classical approach. In fact, it is only John Camps virtuosic bass playing on a trebly Rickenbacker bass and to a much lesser extent, Terence Sullivan's drumming that lend the rock aspect to the compositions. To emphasize the classical "thing" even further, an orchestra is featured on this album, and this may very well be their most classically influenced record. Saving the best for last though, Annie Haslam has one of the most stunning altos I have heard - the delicate textures of her voice are both positive and uplifting.

The pieces on Scheherazade include a single short track (The Vultures Fly High 3'04"), two pieces in the mid-length range (7'05" Ocean Gypsy and Trip to the Fair 10'51), and finally the massive multi-movement Scheherazade suite (24'37"). The suite is a very sophisticated piece of music and is extremely well-arranged; with dense ensemble work and breathtaking dynamics. The Scheherazade suite is incredible and my favorite composition by the band - I think it neatly sums up everything that I love about their music. In addition to the suite, there are some absolutely beautiful and haunting moments on this album including the track Ocean Gypsy, although all of the other pieces are very strong.

This remastered effort by Repertoire is not too bad at all and features great sound quality along with a brief band bio and a few photos.

In summation, this is a wonderful recording made during the period of peak creativity for this band (1973-1977) and is very highly recommended to prog fans that also appreciate classical music. If you like this recording, also check out Ashes are Burning (1973); Turn of the Cards (1974); and Novella (1977).
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on December 8, 2002
Another must have album, expecially the final suite, which was inspired by Rimsky/Korsakov's original Scheherazade, which is one of the most beautiful prog suites ever, that I will bring to a desert island naturally !!
But proceeding by order, the album starts with the remarkable intro at the piano of "TRIP TO THE FAIR", which is in the vein of the best stuff of classical music;then it continues with the fantastic introduction of the finest femal voice ever (in my opinion) according to the "fairy-tale" romantic style...afterwards a short jazzy/pop solo to conclude the track, before introducing the light and quite easy song "The vultures fly high",whose melody is captivating, thanks to Annie's magical interpretation ... the same consideration, of course, I have to do for the mythical ballad "Ocean Gipsy", which moreover adds the final fantastic crescendo, which alone makes this song well worth checking out.Finally I have to describe the emotion and the feelings too, which are brought about the incredible mood of the Title-track SUITE: it's so enriched with beautiful themes and fantastic arrangements, that it's better if you check it out soon!! Nevermind if you are a critic of classical music, because Renaissance have changed the original opera for its major part, making the concept of "1001 nights" from "Arabian nights" more captivating and sensible (always according to my opinion).
Highly recommended!! Buy this desert island record and you won't be disappointed...
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on June 24, 2010
Hat tip to "Mark C." of Seattle, who mentioned a 2006 remastered version (REP 5080) in another version's review (ASIN: B0000073BG). Here we have it, remastered version REP 5080!

The timbre and soundstage of this recording conveys concert hall realism with 21st century brilliance of clarity, surprising when one considers it was first cut in the 70s. Every nuanced overlay is audible in breathtaking detail on this CD. The sound quality is crystal clear and luscious.

I don't need to point out the haunting beauty of its content which has been reviewed dozens of times already. What I want to emphasize is the high caliber of fidelity so abundantly clear in this particular release. If you ever sought to possess a copy of Scheherazade & Other Stories and want the best - you have arrived.

Repertoire presents it like a miniature LP, with the disc inside a sleeve which is inside an originally-illustrated shrink wrapped cardboard jacket instead of a jewel case. Tucked inside with the sleeve there is a folded 8x8" glossy print with album and artists details on side 1. On side 2 is a write up about Renaissance along with a bit of what went into creation of the Scheherazade album and other albums the group produced later.
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on October 24, 2010
This commentary refers specifically to the Friday Music remaster FRM 7510

Prospective purchasers should know that the first couple of seconds of track 4 "Song of Scheherazade" exhibit audible "judder" (for lack of a better adjective). This was found on two separate copies, including a replacement provided by Friday Music. This artifact was audible on multiple playback systems and does not exist on other CD editions, of which I have several. The remainder of the album sounds fine.
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