What made Vanilla Fudge so intriguing was how they and producer Shadow Morton mutated hit songs by stretching the tempo to slow motion so exquisite that even an overexposed song by the Supremes sounded new on the radio. The formula worked fine on covers, but despite their collective talent, the material they composed on Renaissance feels more like psychedelic meeting progressive and has less of that commercial magic. Renaissance is a concept album, produced and directed by Shadow Morton, the man who brought you the Shangri-Las and who produced the second album for the New York Dolls. With a long poem by Carl DeAngelis on the back cover and an amazing construction of a Mount Rushmore-type set of statues of the band members on the front, sculpted in the stars away from Earth, the band moved into an arena yearned for by Iron Butterfly and Rare Earth: respectability. Carmine Appice's "Faceless People" is the band's standard sound on an unfamiliar tune. While it is highly listenable, not the tedious chore lesser music in lesser hands becomes, Top 40 could hardly respond to an epic like that or "The Sky Cried When I Was a Boy." This is the punk version of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and there should have been a bigger market for it on FM radio. Singer Mark Stein and Tim Bogert compose a prototype that bands like Uriah Heep should have embraced. Calvin Schenkel's "The Spell That Comes After" offers more than the band's originals, though Vince Martell's fuzz guitar on "The Sky Cried" meeting the superb vocals suspended somewhere above it all makes for a nice musical sandwich; their name far more appropriate than the trendy-for-the-time vibe Vanilla Fudge suggests. Martell's "Thoughts" is eerily cosmic and spaced -- his creativity seemed kept in check by the band, which is a pity; his early 1980 demos without the group evidence that his contributions were essential, despite the fame Bogert and Appice would find. Renaissance is a solid, albeit typical, release from this innovative group. Sundazed has re-released Renaissance with three additional tracks. The cover of Donovan's "Season of the Witch" does more with those two famous chords than most. It is a highlight and proves that covers should have been evenly matched with the originals on these early discs. That's what got them the audience in the first place, and reinvention is what they did best.
AllMusic Review by Joe Viglione