Review Summary: Not the band's best, but worthy of its status as the last release of Renaissance's "classic period"
The British band Renaissance managed to achieve a period of moderate commercial success and critical acclaim for much of the seventies, playing a classical- influenced brand of progressive rock distinguished by the excellent female vocals of Annie Haslam. Several of the band’s albums, notably Ashes Are Burning, Turn Of The Cards, and Scheherazade And Other Stories are widely regarded as masterpieces of the progressive era.
However, Renaissance also had multiple other quality albums during their prime. A Song For All Seasons is one of these, the group’s last successful release before a series of weak attempts, following the devastating trend in the progressive rock scene as the 1980s approached.
Released in 1978, A Song For All Seasons shows Renaissance adapting to changes in the music landscape while generally retaining their signature sound. As a result, a majority of the album’s tracks are quite short, and several are rather poppy in style. However, the album remains progressive, with several long and complex songs.
A Song For All Seasons also marks a change with the use of electric guitar, after its absence in several prior Renaissance albums. This distinction is clearly evident in the album’s opener, “Opening Out”. However, for the most part musically the album is typical of Renaissance, featuring a variety of instruments and a heavy reliance on Annie Haslam’s voice, with her singing being exceptional as usual.
The album’s greatest strength is its ability to evoke a mood, a pleasant and contemplative one. The album’s songs are consistently positive, both musically and lyrically. However, in terms of quality, A Song For All Seasons is slightly less reliable. There are arguably no tracks here which match the band’s great successes on previous albums, although songs such as “Day Of The Dreamer”, “Closer Than Yesterday”, and the title track are excellent. In addition, the more pop-oriented tracks, notably “Back Home Once Again” and “Northern Lights” are somewhat bland and may well alienate many in Renaissance’s progressive fan base. “She Is Love” lacks many features of interest, and also seems to drag down the album. Despite these faults, A Song For All Seasons is generally a high-quality listen.
As prog fans well know, all of the major bands within the genre faced a difficult task in overcoming the changing musical tastes beginning in the late 1970s. Most of progressive rock’s leading acts succumbed to a dramatic decline in quality, and moved towards a pop style. Renaissance was not immune to these trends, and a shift towards a more commercial and accessible style is evident on A Song For All Seasons. However, the album is worthy of inclusion alongside Renaissance’s other “classic period” releases. Those who enjoy the band’s better-known albums are likely to enjoy this one as well, although first-time Renaissance listeners are recommended to start elsewhere, perhaps with Scheherazade And Other Stories.