TURN OF THE CARDS by British progressive rock group, Renaissance, was originally released in 1974. This is a Japanese rerelease of the album from 2002.
Renaissance: Michael Dunford (vocals, acoustic guitar); John Campbell (vocals, bass guitar); Annie Haslam (vocals); John Tout (keyboards); Terence Sullivan (drums).
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. ~ Bruce Eder