Review Summary: The first album of Renaissance's "classic period", introducing their interesting style of prog rock
The band Renaissance was originally formed in 1969, and released two albums. However, after various difficulties, most of the original band members left, and the band was reformed in 1971 with an entirely-new lineup. It was under this incarnation that the band achieved its frequently overlooked but well-regarded position in the pantheon of progressive rock artists. Prologue was the first release for this edition of the band, and very much laid the groundwork for Renaissance’s future efforts.
Prologue is comprised of six songs, each ranging from four to twelve minutes in length. The music is quite progressive in form, with a heavy classical influence. For example, the title track features an excerpt from Frederic Chopin’s “Revolutionary Etude”. Like the band’s other releases, a variety of instruments are utilized, with piano and acoustic guitar featuring prominently. Unsurprisingly, lead singer Annie Haslam is also a focal point. On this album, Haslam’s remarkable voice is frequently used as an instrument, with “Prologue” and the closer “Rajah Khan” featuring Haslam vocalizing syllables over a musical backdrop, rather than any traditional lyrics. The results are both impressive and distinctive.
Prologue is a consistently great work, with no songs clearly faltering as weaker than their counterparts. “Kiev”, a rhythmically catchy track distinguished by Jon Camp’s admirable lead vocals, “Sounds Of The Sea”, containing particularly gorgeous singing by Haslam, and “Rajah Khan”, with its eerie and exotic atmosphere, are certainly among the album’s highlights, but the album is solid throughout.
While excellent in its own right, Prologue does not represent Renaissance’s best work. Later releases such as Ashes Are Burning, Turn Of The Cards, and Scheherazade And Other Stories contain more fantastic individual tracks, as well as being perhaps more cohesive as a whole. Nonetheless, Prologue is an excellent progressive rock release, and certainly a must-listen for fans of the band’s later successes, as the album represents a well-executed template of Renaissance’s distinctive musical formula.