Pro­logue Es­o­teric Re­mas­tered early al­bum re­calls roads not taken.

Prog - - Intro -

Pro­logue felt – and still feels – like the Re­nais­sance de­but al­bum, even though it was tech­ni­cally their third. They’d formed at the tail end of the 1960s with ex-Yard­birds Keith Relf and Jim McCarty in­tro­duc­ing what they called “the clas­si­cal el­e­ment”, but by 1972 the per­son­nel – lit­er­ally un­der new man­age­ment – had changed rad­i­cally. An­nie Haslam’s voice and John Tout’s key­boards were nudged forth, lead­ing to the folk pomp sound with which they’re most as­so­ci­ated.

Yet here they’ve not quite lo­cated that niche: the ma­te­rial’s writ­ten by McCarty or mem­ber-on-sab­bat­i­cal Michael Dun­ford, with lyrics by Betty Thatcher, the band’s word­smith (from a dis­tance) for many more years.

As such, it’s a tran­si­tional work, with the out­fit ten­ta­tively mov­ing away from con­ven­tional rock tropes, though re­luc­tant to aban­don them al­to­gether. Rob Hendry’s elec­tric gui­tar parts are very much present be­hind Haslam’s sky­high vo­cals, which Re­nais­sance hadn’t fully com­mit­ted to yet. In fact, on Kiev she doesn’t sing lead, the boys in the band mov­ing that along with an in­con­gru­ous (for this group) mus­cle.

On more light-footed ma­te­rial, we dis­cern the dis­tinc­tive evo­lu­tion they soon em­braced. Spare Some Love, the sin­gle ver­sion of which (never on CD be­fore) is in­cluded as a bonus track, bun­dles along with an acous­tic gui­tar do­ing suf­fi­cient heavy lift­ing, and Sounds Of The Sea waves Haslam through as she em­barks on her unapolo­getic lofty tones. From this ocean view, the first sparks of Ashes Are Burn­ing – the sub­se­quent al­bum, which greatly boosted their pro­file – can be sighted.

The pre­sciently ti­tled Pro­logue has a unique charm, as if teas­ing a dif­fer­ent path the en­sem­ble might have taken. Un­til, that is, you come to the 11-minute fi­nale Ra­jah Khan, a one-off that fuses raga-ref­er­enc­ing sitar-like sounds and a squalling synth solo by Curved Air’s Fran­cis Monkman. It’s a child of psychedelia that’s a mis­fit re­gard­ing Re­nais­sance’s past or fu­ture and, a cap­ti­vat­ing puz­zle, re­mains so.

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