To my mind, the one word that best describes Renaissance would be ‘Lush’ – everything about their music is bright, widescreen and with an essential depth of sound that is characterised by Annie Haslam’s strong and sweet vocals.

Esoteric have chosen to release a three CD clamshell of Renaissance’s seminal ‘A Song For All Seasons’ complete with bonus tracks from BBC Radio 1 sessions and 2 CDs comprising their entire performance at the Philadelphia Tower Theatre in 1978 – many tracks of which are previously unreleased.

Renaissance are/were a pretty well unique band.
They featured massed strings and plucked their music from a wide range of forms – you can find classical. Jazz, folk and rock in their wonderful compositions but the sound – especially that of the vocals from Annie Haslam – is unlike anyone else in the progressive genre and it was never a surprise that they built a vociferously loyal following but were very much a ‘Marmite’ band to most Prog lovers.

These are not albums that you can dip in and out of. Every track has form and structure, movements if you will, and needs to be listened to in its entirety – pressing pause mid-track leaves a visceral sense of a hole in the air but starting mid-track again doesn’t resolve so that you have to go back to the beginning of the track and start again.

Both of the packages present the natural sound of the band but the string loaded ‘Song For All Seasons’ is possibly more towards the sound encapsulated in their biggest hit ‘Northern Lights’. ‘Ashes Are Burning’ almost feels, at times, like a conventional Prog album.

As usual, Esoteric have done a wonderful remastering job on all the material and the sound is pure, powerful and utterly enjoyable which was not really how I remembered the original releases. The packages are filled with bonus tracks and live renditions and the booklets with them make for good reading.