Tales of 1001 Nights, Vol. 2

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The second volume of Sire Records' retrospective compilation on Renaissance is not as impressive musically as its predecessor, devoted as it is primarily to the lesser of the group's late-'70s repertory. The intelligent thing to have done with this volume would have been to put "Song of Scheherazade" on this volume, which would have shored up its value -- perhaps this would have been an awkward fit, as the disc was to include the 23-minute live version of "Ashes Are Burning," but one or two of the lesser songs that are here might've been sacrificed. As it is, the material is less concise and accessible than that of the preceding volume, though it still has very attractive vocal and piano flourishes, and stunning melodies. There are also a few of what could be considered "offbeat" numbers for the group, most notably the folk-like "Northern Lights," and "Midas Man," on which the dominant instrument for much of the song is Mick Dunford's acoustic guitar rather than John Tout's piano. Much of the music seems more of a reach, however, in terms of subject matter, making this volume more of an acquired taste than its companion, and a choice more appropriate for hardcore fans of the group than those with a casual interest.

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