Renaissance: Turn of the Cards

MAY 1974 (38 YEARS AGO)
Renaissance: Turn of the Cards is released.
# ALL THINGS MUSIC PLUS+ 4.5/5
# Allmusic 4.5/5 stars
# Rolling Stone (see original review below)
Turn of the Cards is an album by Renaissance, released in May 1974.
Stunning vocals and superb musicianship were the hallmarks of Renaissance, the supreme art rock band of the Seventies. With Annie Haslam as lead vocalist, the group had a great advantage over most other bands whose singers lacked her finesse and purity of tone. The band’s superb vocal harmonies and top class musicianship is in evidence on this six track collection of distinctive songs.
Many connoisseurs regard such extended works as ‘Running Hard’ and the ‘Mother Russia’ suite to be amongst their finest works, and John Tout’s rhapsodic piano playing is another highlight of this pearl of an album.
REVIEW
by Bruce Eder, allmusic
The third album by this incarnation of Renaissance was a match for their previous success, Ashes Are Burning, with equally impressive performances and songwriting and a few new musical twists added. The songs here fit more easily into a rock vein, and the prior album’s folk influences are gone. Turn of the Cards rocks a bit harder, albeit always in a progressive rock manner, and Jon Camp’s bass and Terence Sullivan’s drums are both harder and heavier here, the bass (the group’s only amplified instrument) in particular much more forward in the mix. This change works in giving the band a harder sound that leaves room for Jimmy Horowitz’s orchestral accompaniments, which are somewhat more prominent than those of Richard Hewson on the prior album, with the horns and strings, in particular, more exposed. Annie Haslam is in excellent voice throughout, and finds ideal accompaniment in Michael Dunford’s acoustic guitar and John Tout’s piano. The writing team of Dunford and Betty Thatcher also adds some new wrinkles to the group’s range — in addition to progressive rock ballads like “I Think of You,” they delivered “Black Flame,” a great dramatic canvas for Haslam and Tout, in particular; and “Mother Russia” is a surprising (and effective) move into topical songwriting, dealing with the plight of Alexander Solzhenitsyn and other victims of Soviet repression (you had to be there in the 1970s to realize what a burning issue this was). And then there were the soaring, pounding group virtuoso numbers like “Things I Don’t Understand,” which managed to hold audience interest across nine or ten minutes of running time.
TRACKS:
All songs credited to Dunford/Thatcher except where noted.
“Running Hard” – 9:36
“I Think of You” – 3:08
“Things I Don’t Understand” (Dunford/McCarty) – 9:28
“Black Flame” – 6:25
“Cold Is Being” – 3:02
“Mother Russia” – 9:18
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Filed under 1974, Renaissance, Turn of the Cards

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