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Tales of 1001 Nights, Vol. 1

4.7 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Audio CD, March 16, 1990
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Editorial Reviews

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Like a prog-rock Pentangle, Renaissance served up a pleasing melange of classical, Celtic, pop, and rock influences that reached its peak during the mid-'70s recordings anthologized here. Live renditions of "Can You Understand" and "Carpet of the Sun" prove the band was as technically proficient (and long-winded!) on stage as they were in the studio. Annie Haslam's sweetly operatic vocals are complemented by orchestral-strength rock arrangements, including that obligatory Rickenbacker bass sound. With the inclusion of "Running Hard" and "Mother Russia," this collection features most of the band's best-known songs, although "Ashes Are Burning" is conspicuously absent. (Had to save something for volume two.) --Billy Grenier
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (March 16, 1990)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Sire / London/Rhino
  • ASIN: B000002LKN
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #23,773 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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By Lawrance Bernabo HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on October 3, 2000
Format: Audio CD
This first volume in the 1990 Renaissance retrospective, also known as the "Orange" one, covers the progressive (nee classical) rock group's work from 1971-76. There is only the title track from their first album "Prologue," and then a marvelous representation of the best work from their three greatest albums.
It is interesting to note that the first three tracks--"Prologue," "Can You Understand" and "Carpet of the Sun"-are all live versions from the group's Carnegie Hall concert album. Most fans have usually considered these superior versions to the original recordings since it took the group a few albums to get a true feel for arranging their songs with the lush orchestrations that characterized their best work. The four tracks from "Turn of the Cards," my personal favorite Renaissance album, are where you can best appreciate not only Annie Haslam's voice but how it was as well integrated into the songs as any of the other instruments being played. "I Think of You" and "Black Flame" are relatively simply songs from the group's repertoire, while "Running Hard" and "Mother Russia" are totally representative of their more ambitious, longer, more deeply textured and layered works.
The only complaint would be the under-representation of the "Song of Schehrazade," with only "The Young Price and Princess" segment included, but it is understandable that the entire 25-minute cantata does not appear. There are plenty of other gems contained within. Devotees of Renaissance will note that one particular song is missing from this disc, namely the title track from their second album, "Ashes Are Burning.
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Format: Audio CD
Renaissance's music was, compared to other progressive bands, quite "soft". The compositions are generally dominated by piano and accoustic (or, if electrical, then melodious) guitar. There is a very strong classical influence, stemming mainly from romantic or baroque composers such as Rimsky Korsakov or Albinoni. And, always and crucially, there are Annie Halsam's pure, soprano vocals and the mellow (occasionally melodramatic) lyrics, often penned by a British poet, Betty Thatcher.
From an intellectual (and literary) point of view, Renaissance never got close to bands like Genesis or Van der Graaf Generator. But then again, they probably never wanted to. Instead, I presume they wanted to make their own brand of music; less challenging, perhaps, but certainly more than worthwhile. And the 70's allowed them to do just what they wanted: their albums from this decade feature wonderfully structured, long compositions on the one hand, and beautiful, wistful ballads on the other.
Okay, so that's the group. Now for this compilation. I'll be brief. This is just about the best collection of their material you could ever put together. Besides, this is a very handsome package indeed (from the cover to the sleeve notes to everything else). And the compilers certainly haven't skimped when it comes to the playing time: the CD lasts 75 minutes.
In fact, every last detail makes clear that a great deal of love and attention has been spent on this compilation, and because of this - and because of the music, obviously! - I recommend it very strongly to anyone looking for a great introduction to this band. Don't forget, though, that this is only half of the show: if you buy this, be sure to also get Tales of 1001 Nights, Volume 2.
Finally, a word of warning.
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Format: Audio CD
Most progressive rock of the 1970s was built around jazz rock solo noodling in classical structure. Renaissance built a small but loyal following creating its music organically, romantically, and beautifully. "Tales of 1001 Nights," part one of a two-part best-of collection, was for loyal fans who could get the band's music on import releases or small labels, if at all.
The music on "1001 Nights," gathered from their 1970s peak, was written by lead guitarist Michael Dunford with lyrics by poet Betty Thatcher. But Renaissance received its energy from Annie Haslam's transcendent voice. Too sensual for folk, too clear and sweet for rock, Haslam's voice soars, strengthening the group's ballads ("I Think Of You," the should-have-been-classic "Carpet Of The Sun") and atmospheric story songs ("Black Flame," the moving "Mother Russia" and "Ocean Gypsy," which Haslam reads as poetry set to music).
Credit also goes to pianist John Tout and drummer Terence Sullivan, who masterminded the group's rock/Rachmaninoff, Bacharach/baroque hybrid. Their cohesive work (rock without electric guitar as main instrument), and Haslam's voice, makes "Tales of 1001 Nights" a recommended sampler for an underrated band in the criticized progressive rock genre.
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Format: Audio CD
I keep searching for music like Renaissance Tales of 1001 Nights. There was a time when rock could include instruments and proficiency, when the pieces were longer than 3 minutes, when the themes were more than mating, when one could listen in the dark and let the music paint pictures. This record achieves this 70's "Progressive Rock" goal second to none. Think of Tales in terms of ELP's densest & most serious work, not unlike Take a Pebble but gently, with an orchestra, and with unparalleled female vocals.
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