“Substantial pleasures… even if they arguably venture too far into prog indulgence”: Renaissance’s 2024 reissue of Tuscany, featuring live Japan set

Classic line-up’s 2001 reunion album is enhanced with the inclusion of In The Land Of The Rising Sun

Renaissance - Tuscany reissue
(Image: © Esoteric)

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Seeing news of much-loved bands reforming is about as commonplace now as fact-checking Donald Trump’s speeches. But in the late 90s – when many a once-cherished act had moved on from diminishing commercial returns to launch solo projects, supergroups or salmon farms – it was a rarer occurrence.

So fans of folk prog luminaries Renaissance would have been excited by the news, back in 1998, that Annie Haslam, Michael Dunford, John Tout and Terry Sullivan – the core of the early 70s line-up from their prog-leaning peak – were sharing a stage again for the first time in 18 years.

The fruits of their reunion arrived in 2001 with help from Haslam’s erstwhile paramour Roy Wood, and the material on this remastered version sounds revitalised. Even if the production is a little synthetic at times, tracks such as the hymnal, haunting Lady From Tuscany and the string-soaked Dolphins Prayer make for proud additions to the band’s repertoire. 

They also seem to retain touches of their old symphonic ambition, as on the orchestrally-enhanced romantic paean In The Sunshine and the Latin-infused Life In Brazil – even if that latter experiment isn’t entirely successful. The galloping pace and anaemic horns of The Race are also unconvincing.

Mike Oldfield’s Moonlight Shadow resembles nothing more than a Renaissance hit that should have been

Perhaps as prominent a selling point of this three-CD set will be the inclusion of a Japanese live set from 2001, released the following year as In The Land Of The Rising Sun. Here, Haslam is in strident voice reprising early gems such as Carpet Of The Sun, offset by shimmering acoustic chords from Dunford.

Fans who stayed on board for the broader folk-pop delights of the band’s later albums will still find the Top 10 hit Northern Lights irresistible. It’s followed here with a cover of Mike Oldfield’s Moonlight Shadow, resembling nothing more than a Renaissance hit that should have been.

More substantial pleasures are in store for fans of the band’s mid-70s incarnation, in the shape of the floating, 10-minute exploration of their Solzhenitsyn tribute Mother Russia. It makes for a wonderfully immersive opening to the third disc, followed by the intoxicatingly slow-building post-psychedelic reverie Trip To The Fair.

They arguably venture too far into prog indulgence on Ashes Are Burning, however, as it’s extrapolated into a 19-minute suite thanks to a lengthy fretless bass solo from new member David Keyes. A rather baffling diversion; but it doesn’t distract too much from an invigorating live set from a band who still clearly had a lot to offer.

The expanded version of Tuscany is on sale now via Esoteric.

Johnny Sharp

Johnny is a regular contributor to Prog and Classic Rock magazines, both online and in print. Johnny is a highly experienced and versatile music writer whose tastes range from prog and hard rock to R’n’B, funk, folk and blues. He has written about music professionally for 30 years, surviving the Britpop wars at the NME in the 90s (under the hard-to-shake teenage nickname Johnny Cigarettes) before branching out to newspapers such as The Guardian and The Independent and magazines such as Uncut, Record Collector and, of course, Prog and Classic Rock