Renaissance: Scheherezade And Other Stories

The very best of Renaissance.

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Although it was released in 1975, there’s something contemporary about this album. Often regarded as the band’s high point, the way in which Michael Dunford’s quite forthright guitar interacts with John Tout’s keyboard swathes and Annie Haslam’s vocal performances are simply stunning, capable of ranging from delicacy to delirious.

In many ways, this is best heard on opening track Trip To The Fair, which incorporates all of the above elements on a lengthy song that has a dark undertone that is almost disturbing; it’s actually based on what happened when Annie Haslam first dated Roy Wood. There’s a sense of the band exploring the fear of loneliness on much of the album, which is present in both the musical arrangements – augmented by some impressive orchestrations which veer from expansive to subliminal – and also the insights from Betty Thatcher, who wrote most of the lyrics here.

Of course it’s the epic title track, Song Of Scheherezade, that really holds the attention. Split into nine sections spread over nearly 25 minutes, it’s almost an opera given the way in which it relates the classic tale of the queen who manages to escape threatened execution at each dawn by telling her husband 1001 tales.

Although not based on the classical masterwork by Rimsky-Korsakov it does occasionally proffer a nod of acknowledgement in that direction. But such is the quiet power of this epic that it does hold you in its thrall throughout. A brilliant album given extra boost by this newly remastered format.

Malcolm Dome

Malcolm Dome had an illustrious and celebrated career which stretched back to working for Record Mirror magazine in the late 70s and Metal Fury in the early 80s before joining Kerrang! at its launch in 1981. His first book, Encyclopedia Metallica, published in 1981, may have been the inspiration for the name of a certain band formed that same year. Dome is also credited with inventing the term "thrash metal" while writing about the Anthrax song Metal Thrashing Mad in 1984. With the launch of Classic Rock magazine in 1998 he became involved with that title, sister magazine Metal Hammer, and was a contributor to Prog magazine since its inception in 2009.