Thursday, July 3, 2014

Audio Fidelity reissues Renaissance’s classic Scheherazade album

Renaissance's Scheherazade
British progressive folk outfit Renaissance was one of two great bands to rise up from the ashes of legendary British blues-rock band the Yardbirds (the other being Led Zeppelin). Formed in 1969 by former ‘birds Keith Relf (vocals) and Jim McCarty (drums), the band’s original line-up recorded two obscure and poorly-distributed albums before the founders jumped ship. The roster ran through a number of musicians by 1971 before a new version of Renaissance was formed around the incredible voice of singer Annie Haslam.

The new Renaissance included Haslam, guitarist Michael Dunford, and keyboardist John Tout, with a virtual revolving door of bass players and drummers. The Haslam-fronted band recorded a number of critically-acclaimed albums which increased the band’s audience, including 1972’s Prologue and 1974’s Turn of the Cards. With the release of Scheherazade and Other Stories in 1975, the band struck that magical balance of prog-rock instrumental virtuosity, classical and folk influences, and lush orchestration. Widely-considered to be the apex of the band’s creativity, Scheherazade featured the classic Renaissance line-up of Haslam, Dunford, and Tout along with bassist/vocalist Jon Camp and drummer Terence Sullivan.

On July 15th, 2014 Audio Fidelity will reissue Scheherazade and Other Stories as a limited edition, numbered Hybrid SACD, a format that is certain to enhance the sound and dynamics of this beautiful, complex album. Recorded in May 1975 at the Abbey Road Studios and released in July of that year, Scheherazade featured four lengthy compositions: the dreamy eleven-minute “Trip To The Fair”; the short, punchy rocker “The Vultures Fly High”; the elegant seven-minute “Ocean Gypsy;” and the epic, nine-part, 25-minute “Song of Scheherazade,” where the band is accompanied by the London Symphony Orchestra along with a full chorus. 

The album rose to #48 on the Billboard Top 200 albums chart, its highest position at that time, an achievement they would beat with 1977’s Novella album. Renaissance would survive and thrive through the punk and new wave years, releasing a number of albums before breaking up in 1987. Haslam re-formed the band eleven years later, in 1998, with Dunford, Tout, and Sullivan and with Roy Wood (The Move, Wizzard) on bass.

The band went on hiatus again in 2002, returning in 2009 with Haslam still on the microphone today. Various line-ups of the band have recorded a handful of recordings in the new millennium, and Haslam continues to tour in the wake of Dunford’s 2012 death. For all that Renaissance has achieved during its 45-year history, they’ve never reached another peak as high as the classic Scheherazade album.

Scheherazade tracklist:
1. Trip to the Fair
2. The Vultures Fly High
3. Ocean Gypsy
4. Song of Scheherazade
i. Fanfare
ii. The Betrayal
iii. The Sultan
iv. Love Theme
v. The Young Prince and Princess as told by Scheherazade
vi. Festival Preparations
vii. Fugue for the Sultan
viii. The Festival
ix. Finale

Buy the album from Renaissance's Scheherazade & Other Stories SACD


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