BBC Sessions

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Renaissance has given some powerful live performances, and also some poor ones, but for these BBC sessions, they seem to have been 100-percent spot-on every time out. Revived pieces of their early repertory, such as "Prologue," sound fresh and new, and then-current songs such as "Midas Man" and "Vultures Fly High" receive treatments that make their studio renditions, fine as those are technically, seem like nothing more than unfinished demos -- it was Annie Haslam who, for reasons not explained, had the final say over the release (or not) of this material, and it's easy to understand why she wanted them heard; she's in exceptional voice everywhere here, and the little technical flaws that come from this kind of live performance (i.e., momentary feedback etc.) don't affect her. What's more, the digital remastering by Pete Zorlakki brings all of the voices to the fore, as well as Michael Dunford's acoustic guitar -- no easy feat when surrounded by electric bass and a full drum kit in action (courtesy of Jon Camp and Terry Sullivan, respectively) -- in ways that one could reasonably have hoped for in a live performance off the stage; even "Song of Scheherazade" seems refreshed here, and preferable in some ways to the "official" live version issued by Sire Records way back when (though it, too, has its virtues, such as the physical presence of and real-time interaction with an audience). The fact that the repertory encompasses so much of the group's best (and core) repertory from across an entire decade doesn't hurt, either, making this a kind of live best-of set.

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