Renaissance
Turn of the Cards


4.5
superb

Review

by ProgJect USER (31 Reviews)
February 16th, 2013 | 128 replies | 3,838 views


Release Date: 1974 | Tracklist


9 of 9 thought this review was well written

First working with an orchestra on Ashes are Burning, Renaissance further expanded on their classic style with Turn of the Cards, their fifth album overall and third with their best line-up. The group are known as one of the very few in progressive rock who successfully integrated a classic ensemble in their sound, able to make band and orchestra work as a seamless whole.

Ashes was already a really good symphonic progressive album, particularly standing out because of Annie Haslam’s beautiful voice, applied to its full effect in the vocal leads and harmonies. Turn of the Cards followed the same path, but the similarity between the two was anything but disappointing. Renaissance’s next record featured lengthier and more complex tracks, filled to the brim with beautiful melodies and grandiose symphonic arrangements. If anything, it is more balanced than both its predecessor and Scheherazade and Other Stories, which would follow after.

The music is driven first and foremost by John Tout’s classical-inspired piano playing and the crystal-clear, pitch-perfect voice of the inimitable Haslam. Her spectacular vocals add a compelling beauty to Renaissance's sweeping, romantic soundscapes, and Turn of the Cards contains some of her best performances, at turns commanding and soothing. Grand piano and acoustic guitar remained at the core of the group’s sound, with drums and electric bass being the only traditional rock elements still present. Apart from his leading role on the acoustic, Michael Dunford had already played an important part as composer for the band, even though he only became an official member from this recording onwards. Bass player Jon Camp’s work is comparable to that of Chris Squire, but without Yes’ self-indulgence. Terrence Sullivan rounded out the formation on drums.

Most of the compositions show a blend of classical music with amounts of jazz, pop, folk and rock, worked into one cohesive offering and uniquely enhanced by the orchestra. The interplay between musicians is terrific, and the overall result not overly bombastic. The truly symphonic instrumentals within the longer songs are all arranged orchestral parts. There is no room for soloing or jam sessions here; everything is carefully arranged.

Renaissance had a lot of talent in both the writing and performing department. Turn of the Cards represents another evolutionary step for them, mostly in terms of arrangement, dynamics and production. The pieces flow naturally from start to finish, encompassing melodious singing and vivid instrumentals in a continuous wave of crescendo and lull. If Prologue created the formula and Ashes are Burning defined the template, then here is where the band found the spark of creativity that lasted throughout their next couple of albums.

Highlight opener Running Hard is often considered one of Renaissance's greatest songs. It is the first to include a lengthy piano intro (something which would return more strongly on Scheherazade), and home to intricate, yet accessible vocal harmonies. Things I Don’t Understand has an absolutely haunting first section, with a powerful melody and choral effects, almost sounding like mellotron; later on, Haslam demonstrates her lyricism and exceptional vocal harmonization.

Black Flame is another magnificent composition, one that’s actually too short for its own good. Its brilliance builds from the interaction between keyboards and bass, with the guitar arpeggios soon entering the spectrum, and ultimately, Haslam completing the sonic palette. The record’s best piece is however Mother Russia. While not diverting from a standard structure, it is executed exceedingly well and has a strong sense of purpose. The mood is more sombre, and heavier in tone than anything else on the album.

Turn of the Cards proved that Renaissance could develop the symphonic sound they created to further and even greater results. Together with the preceding Ashes are Burning, the album led the band towards a wider audience, and easily stands among their strongest efforts. The mysterious and ethereal nature of their music is a perfect fit for Annie Haslam's angelic reverberations. After all, when you have a vocalist with the voice of an angel, all you need to do is play some great songs for her to sing.



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user ratings (52)
Chart.
4.2
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
ProgJect
February 16th 2013



37 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

ProgJect hopes this makes KILL happy. And others too, who wish to prog.

Nagrarok
February 16th 2013



8170 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'm not really sure what to do with the summary Jethro, feel free to edit one in.

JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
February 16th 2013



20270 Comments


Great job as always guys, pos'd hard.

I don't think I've heard this album in full, need to change that, I love Ashes and Scheherazade.

KILL
February 16th 2013



71167 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

omfg are you serious i gota go out right now but omg when i get back gonna read this so hard you dont even fucking know how much this means to me wow

Digging: David Axelrod - Song of Innocence

dosia
February 16th 2013



57 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Don't know why, but it's not the same level as Ashes and Scheherazade for me. Still a great album, maybe I should give it another chance.

sideburndude
February 16th 2013



2782 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yes sweet prog thank you

Nagrarok
February 16th 2013



8170 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Sweet prog is what ProgJect does. Thanks fellas.

jesuslover46
February 16th 2013



578 Comments


hell yes

Jethro42
February 16th 2013



12390 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

@Nagrarok; Thank's a bunch for your beautiful editing work, and your habitual magic touch. The summary is great like it is. Bravo, mate. Long live to our ProgJect!
@Jamie; Thanks my friend. Album reads like an open book. So go ahead for it.
@KILL; I'm so happy you're so happy. This is dedicated to you and your inimitable patience ;)
@dosia; To each their own, but if I were you, I'd give to it another spin. This with Ashes and Scheherazade form all together a solid trilogy. Annnd Turn of the Cards is probably more balanced than the two others.

dannyboy89
February 16th 2013



11945 Comments


This review owns! Pos hard!!!

BTW, is this in the vein of bands such as ELP, KC, Genesis, Yes and Pink Floyd?

Jethro42
February 16th 2013



12390 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

@Dannyboy; Thanks a bunch, man! They're more like Strawbs, Curved Air, a bit of Genesis and a lighter ELP here and there.

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
February 16th 2013



5987 Comments


So good to see that ProgJect is alive and kicking.

Will read later.

Digging: Lisa Gerrard - Twilight Kingdom

TheNotrap
February 16th 2013



8029 Comments


Good work ProgJect team.
Need to check this band.

Digging: Savage Grace - Master Of Disguise

greg84
Staff Reviewer
February 16th 2013



7346 Comments


Many great descriptions in this review. Pos'd hard.

Digging: Kimbra - The Golden Echo

Jethro42
February 16th 2013



12390 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks guys.

demigod!
February 16th 2013



44131 Comments


so glad this has a review. album absolutely rules

Digging: Failure - Magnified

Jethro42
February 16th 2013



12390 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

The review saw the day thanks to the tenacity of KILL.

Jethro42
February 16th 2013



12390 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Mother Russia
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3JcGIW9FkrY

KILL
February 16th 2013



71167 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

review is perfect mother russia is the best song ever bravo

Jethro42
February 16th 2013



12390 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Cooold as ice but he buuuurns for you
Mother Russia can't you hear him toooo

Cheers KILL. This review is mostly for you.



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