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4.7 out of 5 stars
Turn of the Cards
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on December 8, 2002
Format: Audio CD
My personal favourite album by Renaissance, I choose this one along with "Scheherazade" and "Ashes are burning", followed by their first symphonic albums with melodic and pop colours: "Novella" and "A song for all season's"(these records having a few weak moments and a lot of memorable ones!!).
"Turn of the cards" is a poetical and monumental romantic album too, equal to the best Yes albums and sometimes giving something more...well the first track "RUNNING HARD" is characterized by a fantastic epic piano intro, followed by the magical introduction by Annie Haslam, who performed according to her finest voice-tone ever!! A great performance and absolutely flawless too..."Think of you" is a sweet song, like a "fairy-tale", while "Things I don't understand" is characterized by the final angelic voice's breakthrough, after the last symphonic excursus at the piano, enriched with the outstanding colors of Annie's voice, whose abilty to harmonize the melody is enormous and wonderful as well!! "Black fame" and the arrangement of Albinoni's Adagio ("Cold is being") are worth songs and an excellent interlude towards the final mini-suite "Mother Russia", which is enriched with amazing themes and the story of a famous russian dissident as well, even if the lyrics aren't always inspired (well the focuse is more on the instrumental performance than on the lyrics,nevertheless, is anyway flawless)
Highly recommended!! Absolutely a must have album from Renaissance ...
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on August 23, 2000
Format: Audio CD
Turn of the Cards was the third Renaissance album I ever purchased, A Song For All Seasons and Ashes Are Burning being the first two. This album takes a significant turn from the airy, dreamlike tracks featured on the earlier Ashes and the later Seasons LPs. On Turn of the Cards, Renaissance seems to provide an alter ego to Ashes, its immediate forerunner; the tunes, while equally grandiose and expansive, are much darker and more brooding in both music and lyrics. Some might describe this entire album as downright depressing, and this isn't entirely inaccurate. The haunting tone of the album however, doesn't detract from the pure beauty of either the whole or its individual parts, as Turn is certainly a masterpiece in its own right and offers listeners a level of excellence that the band, unfortunately, never managed to equal in any of their subsequent albums (although A Song for All Seasons comes very close).
Each song taken individually, "Running Hard" is probably closest to the sound that most Renaissance fans will recognize from the lighter Ashes. Still pensive and introspective, the song is about as upbeat as this album gets and starts out with a truly stunning piano solo that builds to a soaring splash of sound. Near the song's end, a similar climax drags the listener back down to earth with both lyrics and a style of music that evoke a palpable sense of loss. "Things I Don't Understand" is a whirlwind of instrumental flourish and tempo shifts, with a driving beat throughout and an ending that ultimately renders calm from chaos, a true Renaissance hallmark. Here, the band pulls out all the musical stops and leaves practically no sound or style unheard.
"Black Flame", along with "Mother Russia", is perhaps the album's darkest piece and musically, easily its most spare. It is also one of its most triumphant, hypnotically leading the listener deeper and deeper toward despair until the last chilling - and they are chilling - notes expire. "Mother Russia" itself, is probably the album's best-known track, and with good reason. The story of Soviet novelist Alexandr Solzenytzin's internment in a Siberian workcamp ("banished for his written thoughts, starving for his fame...") is made all the more real by the effective use of authentic Russian instruments and musical styles. True to form, Renaissance paints a very vivid picture of the psychological and physical abandonment experienced by the subject and we can almost see him standing silently in the deep snow covering a barren and endless northern landscape.
The remaining two tracks, "I Think of You" (an ethereal but lonesome filler piece) and "Cold is Being" (nothing short of a dirge) are somewhat second-tier offerings, but only when considered alongside the album's more powerful songs. Even so, they do not detract from the overall superiority of Renaissance's darkest, and most weighty, production.
Listeners who've never experienced the thrill of Renaissance would be best served by purchasing both Turn of the Cards and Ashes Are Burning, and listening to them back-to-back. Although these albums were produced within a year of each other, they represent different sides of the same lush and amazingly complex coin that long-time Renaissance fans continue to treasure and use as the standard by which all other so-called art-rock groups are measured.
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42 of 50 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CD
ANNIE HASLAM
Through the years there have been many, many great female singers, with powerful, angelic voices, Barbra Streisand, Grace Slick, Nancy Nevins (Sweetwater), Celene Dion, Enya, and some of my current favorites, Sharon den Adel (Within Temptation), Floor Jansen (After Forever), Vibeke Stene (Tristania) and Loreena McKennitt to name a few. However, to my mind, none have ever topped Annie Haslam when she was with Renaissance. Haslam's voice had a magical quality and a smoothness that few others had. Though she had no formal training, her voice, seemed to me, to be the most perfectly pure and the the most purely pretty voice of all. Perhaps it is good that no one messed around with her voice, when you are on top, any change is downhill. But I digress too much, let's get to Renaissance and their beautiful music.
RENAISSANCE
"Running hard towards what used to be
Losing ground in changes sliding endlessly
Reaching out for mirrors hidden in the web
Painting lines upon your face inside instead"
I'm sure many of you are familiar with them but for those of you that know little of Renaissance, let me edify you. The Phenomenon of Renaissance was originally started by ex Yardbirds, Keith Relf and sister Diane. Renaissance created a unique niche in the 70s with their exhilarating, passionate brand of progressive, neo-classical rock with historical, folk tendencies that preceded and is somewhat akin to New Age music. Although it is somewhat common today for many European and some American bands to borrow classical melodies even symphonies to be blended with rock or heavy metal, Renaissance was the first band that I can remember doing that and none, in my opinion, have done it any better. Annie Haslam is the pre-eminent vocalist of her time, with a five octave range and a compelling emotional ability to reach the listeners, she is the most important cog in the Renaissance juggernaut. But this melding of talented artists was a symbiosis, evidenced by the fact that Haslam's solo career has floundered. the members of Renaissance seemed to feed off each other and were not as good separately. The Michael Dunford-Betty Thatcher writing team intermittently produced enough strong material to keep Renaissance fans happy, and the production, while recording for Capitol, was top notch.
TURN OF THE CARDS
"Changing moods and stranger feelings
In my dealings with the world
Faces that I've seen before am I sure
Or has my brain turned
Thinking about things I don't understand
Thinking about things I don't understand"
It's hard to believe this album is almost thirty years old, so I guess many of you reading this weren't even born yet. That doesn't mean the music is dated though, this music is like traditional architecture it gets better with age. In fact Renaissance are constantly getting new and younger fans.
With Turn of the Cards, the Annie Haslam fronted version of Renaissance changed its technique slightly and as a result Renaissance really hit its apex. After keyboard dominated albums Prologue and Ashes are Burning the band went with a more orchestral sound and their next two albums, Turn of the Cards and Scherazade excelled and became two of the greatest albums of the 70s "progressive rock" movement.
CREDITS
Annie Haslam - Percussion, Guitar (Bass), Vocals
Jim McCarty
Jon Camp - Bass, Guitar, Vocals
Keith Relf
Terence Sullivan - Percussion, Drums, Vocals
John Tout - Keyboards, Vocals
John Camp - Guitar (Bass), Vocals
Michael Dunford - Guitar (Acoustic), Guitar, Vocals
Betty Thatcher Newsinger - Composer
"RUNNING HARD" Long songs are the rule with Renaissance and at 9:37, this is no exception. "Running Hard" is a progressive rock number characterized by an exceptional piano introduction followed by inimitable Annie Haslam and the orchestra. It starts out somewhat progressive but changes to a symphonic mode at about 5 minutes after another brilliant piano solo. The last half of the song remind me of "Ashes Burning" another classic Renaissance song.
"THINGS I DON'T UNDERSTAND" 9:32 Again stars out with a contemporary sound but is characterized by the final angelic voices breakthrough, after the last symphonic excursus at the piano, enriched with the outstanding colors of Annies voice, whose abilty to harmonize the melody is enormous and wonderful as well.
"BLACK FLAME"
"I am words, I am speaking
I never heard my conclusion
Lost the way in my confusion, in illusion
Lost inside the picture frame"
"Black Flame" 6:29 begins with the simple elegance of an acoustic guitar until Annie and the orchestra enter at 1:45.
At 4:30 the keyboards and piano come in strong again.
"MOTHER RUSSIA"
"Pays the price, works the seasons through
Frozen days, he thinks of you
Cold as ice but he burns for you
Mother Russia, can't you hear him too?
Mother's son, freedom's overdue
Lonely man, he thinks of you
He isn't done, only lives for you
Mother Russia, can't you hear him too?"
"Mother Russia" 9:20 is like a suite, a wonderous song that give you the exact feeling of the subject matter. The song is dedicated to Alexander Solzhenitsyn and other victims of Soviet repression. This song puts special emphasis on keyboards along with Haslams voice which, soars over and above, as well as through, the melodic ascension of the music, demonstrating that she does not need to be singing actual words to contribute to the beauty of a song.
SUMMATION
For me, with Turn of the Cards, Renaisance was at their apogee. The preceding and succeeding albums were also very good and worth consideration but this album was their pinnacle.
SIMILAR GROUPS
This is a tough one! I'm going to go with Loreena McKinnett, Beto Vazquez's Infinity and remotely like Blackmore's Night and Therion.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CD
"Turn of the Cards" is my favorite Renaissance album, although as I listen to them all in order I am struck by how it also perhaps the most atypical example of their progressive (nee classical) rock. Taken as a whole these songs are relatively unadorned. "I Think of You" is a relatively simple piece, ending with one of those wonderful high notes by Annie Haslam followed by some nice harpsicord work by John Tout. Likewise "Black Flame" begins with the simple elegance of an acoustic guitar (a reminder that the forthcoming "Unplugged" Renaissance album is not really breaking new ground for the group).
Of the two set pieces, "Running Hard" is most decidedly in this simpler vain, which has the overall effect of better showcasing Haslam's glorious voice. The other showpiece, "Mother Russia," shows that the group was paying attention to Russian dissidents (the song is dedicated to Alexander Solzhenitsyn) as much as they were Russian classical musicians and offers an emphasis on percussion quite usual for a Renaissance song in the driving conclusion. Again, Haslam's voice soars over and above, as well as through, the rhythmic progression of the music as proves that she does not need to be singing actual words to contribute to the beauty of a song.
Perhaps it is insightful to recall that in terms of Michael Dunsford's music, "Turn of the Cards" is the album that proceeds his most ambitious project, the Scheherazade cantanta. Whatever the reason, this is the Renaissance album that best showcases the vocal talents of singer Annie Haslam.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on March 5, 2001
Format: Audio CD
With "Turn of the Cards," the Annie Haslam fronted version of Renaissance changed its approach a bit and as a result really hit its stride.
After a sound that was rooted in keyboards dominated "Prologue," and "Ashes are Burning," the band went with amore orchestral sound and their next two albums, "Turn of the Cards," and "Scherazade," excelled and became arguable the two greatest albums of the so called "progressive rock" movement.
Renaissance had always taken the genre in a more acoustic sounding direction than did better known acts such as Yes, or Emerson, Lake and Palmer, and this could be part of the reason they never achieved the same level of commercial success as those bands did. But "Turn of the Cards" is a masterwork. The orchestral touches only help to further fleshes out the strong melodic appeal of songs like "Black Flame," or the stark, somber mood of "Cold is Being," and they drive home the power on the nine minute closing epic "Mother Russia" a tribute to Soviet dissident writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Both stark and ornate, "Turn of the Cards" found Renaissance coming fully into its own, and 70's "progressive rock" never sounded so good.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on June 4, 2007
Format: Audio CD
Nothing new to say here. If you like prog rock with a touch of classical/magical/psychedelic and performed by real musicians and one incredible voiced lady, then this and Scheharazade need to be your next music purchases. Also, one of my favorite album covers of all time.

Thank you, Repertoire Records.

No outtakes or lyrics included.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on September 1, 2001
Format: Audio CD
This is, without any doubt, the best album Renaissance ever did. Besides the classics "Running Hard," "Mother Russia", and "Black Flame," the other three cuts are so perfect its amazing they did not receive the attention the other songs did. "Things I Don't Understand" is the most underrated song this band ever did. "Cold is Being"--ALRIGHT!! Let's end it all right now!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon November 27, 2005
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
This 1974 release opens with the 9'34" Running Hard, which is ushered in with a classical flourish on the acoustic piano courtesy of excellent player John Tout. John Camps superb, trebly Rickenbacker bass provides some nice counterpoint and then the rest of the band gradually joins in, with the delicate soprano of Annie Haslam soaring above. The music of Renaissance is extremely disciplined 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 organ and harpsichord work, and does not use synthesizers at all on this recording (if they are used, they are buried deep in the mix). Electric guitars are also absent, which further emphasizes the classical approach. Perhaps the only thing missing from this recording is the "tap-tap-tap" of an impatient conductor tapping his baton on the stand! It is only John Camps bass work and to a much lesser extent, Terence Sullivans drumming that lend the rock aspect to the compositions. I might add that Terence Sullivan is a very sensitive drummer (he is more of a symphony percussionist) and engages in a dialogue with the acoustic piano rather than bulldozing over it. This is largely attributable to his emphasis on cymbal/high-hat/snare work rather than heavy beats on the bass drum/floor toms. The pieces on Turn of the Cards include three short pieces that range from 3'01" to 6'25" (I think of You, Black Flame, Cold is Being) and three longish pieces in the 9'00 - 9'30" range (Running Hard, Things I don't Understand, Mother Russia). There are some absolutely beautiful and haunting moments on this CD including Cold is Being, which is based on Albinoni's excessively melodramatic Adagio for Organ and Strings in G minor. Although Albinoni is not credited on the piece, there is a "thanks to" Albinoni cited in the liner notes, in addition to a "thanks to" composer Jehain Alain (1911-1940) for the introduction to Running Hard. Alain was not credited on the composition either. In summation, this is a wonderful recording made during the period of peak creativity for this band (1973-1977) and is recommended to prog fans that also appreciate classical music. If you like this recording, also check out Ashes are Burning (1973); Scheherezade and other Stories (1975); and Novella (1977).
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on July 11, 1999
Format: Audio CD
Turn of the Cards and Ashes are Burning are the highlight of this band's recording output. Three cuts in particular are standouts, Running Hard, Black Flame, and Mother Russia. Annie Haslem's voice is remarkable for its range and power which she used to great dramatic effect without succumbing to vocal histrionics. The band compliments her nicely without overplaying. The only flaw can be found with the occassional lyric which may bring forth a wince or two from the listener. Renaissance had a unique sound that drew heavily from british folk tradition while allowing for a fresh creative approach. Sadly, as time progressed and they attempted to update their sound they eventually lost that which made them unique. This album is highly recommended...Simon
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CD
Those were the days my friends, end of the 70s and here in Venezuela I had a select group of prog listenting friends who shared all the insight on whatever we could lay our hands on to..

Renaissance- Annie Haslam's heavenly voice and the group that was able to combine prog with classical.. then life happened and was cut off from this world... Turn of the Cards is one of the finest and you can take it from me that I have not listed to the group in over 20 year
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