Thursday, June 6, 2013

“Renaissance: Grandine il Vento” album review: Fantastico!


 By Ray Shasho

Grandine il Vento the first studio album in thirteen years by progressive rock virtuosos Renaissance was released June 1st worldwide on (available in Japan through Marquee Records).

While those intricate recording sessions have since become a memory, a life altering event will forever reside in the heart, soul and mind of everyone who knew Michael Dunford. Annie Haslam’s dear friend and musical partner for 41 years and the brilliant guitarist and songwriter for Renaissance passed away on November 20th 2012 from a massive instantaneous Cerebral Hemorrhage. The album became Michael Dunford’s swansong

Legendary songstress and songwriter for Renaissance Annie Haslam had this to say about the release of Grandine il Vento
“I am so proud of this album and I know Michael is looking down and floating around watching all this happening. Thank you dear friends and in particular the Kickstarter pledgers who helped make this recording possible. There have been many sad life changing events that have affected us all, and I thank you all for being so patient. I care about all of you very much, and am so happy that we (Michael, Rave, Dave, Jason and Frank) were able to record this very special album … Love and Appreciation to all of you in our Renaissance family.”
The band recently concluded a tour performing their two-part concert featuring their masterpiece albums Turn of the Cards and Scheherazade and Other Stories. Guitarist Ryche Chlanda was recruited to perpetuate the legacy of Renaissance. At the beginning of the tour, Haslam was diagnosed with a serious vertebral compression fraction (spine injury) and was forced to wear a Jewett Back Brace for several months. Many of the concert dates had to be rescheduled.

I had the rare pleasure of chatting with Annie Haslam during the making of Grandine il Vento in the summer of 2012. Annie gave me a sneak preview by singing a few bars of “Symphony of Light” over the telephone. After hearing the piece, I told her I thought the song was powerful, poetic, beautiful, inspiring and almost reduced me to tears.

After listening to Grandine il Vento, I thoroughly enjoyed the all-encompassing musical arrangements and was overwhelmed by the commanding classical orchestrations. Haslam’s vocalizations were majestic and the duets were poetic … I gave Grandine il Vento (5) Stars.

The breathtaking album cover was painted by Haslam. Annie is an accomplished artist and many of her works can be purchased on her website. The album features guest performances by John Wetton (King Crimson, Uriah Heep, Renaissance) and Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull).
Grandine il Vento (Hail the Wind) … Here’s a synopsis of all the tracks on the album.

“Symphony of Light” the first track, is a tribute to the genius of Leonardo Da Vinci. Haslam described the song in our interview last summer …

“It starts off with Leonardo getting up in the morning and he’s an old man, he goes to the window and pulls back the velvet curtains and the light comes in. It’s all about the light coming and he connected with the light.”

Haslam’s haunting but beautiful interpretation at the introduction and ending of the song spotlights her extraordinary vocal range. The rhythms of the song alone seem to describe its very essence, much like a soundtrack to an epic motion picture.

“Waterfall” the second track, is a surreal musical portrayal about the rainforests in Brazil. Haslam has been there many times and says she loved it. “Waterfall” is a winsome and mellow arrangement.

“Grandine il Vento” the album’s title track, is described as a love song that transcends life itself.

“Porcelain” the album’s fourth track is an engaging anecdote about an African village and the people who live there.

“Cry to the World” is the band’sWorld Song’ in honor of Mother Earth and all who are part of her. Haslam states …

“I am so proud of our 'world song'. A song dedicated to the planet and mankind. From the incredible catchy melody from Michael, to the outstanding performances by Michael, Rave, Dave, Jason, Frank and the incomparable Ian Anderson on Flute, it is a stunning taste of what is to come.”

“Cry to the World” is definitely one of my favorite tracks … captivating and tenacious!

“Air of Dramathe next track, is a love song about two people who come together again later in their lives in Paris, where they had first met.

“Blood Silver Like Moonlight” is a duet with John Wetton.

Annie says, “He has been a friend for many years and I always felt our voices were similar in their timbre and range. I was told once by a 'spiritual' energy friend that John and I sang in the Angels choir together. That is what this song is about, remembering the choir!”
 The awe-inspiring duet with John Wetton is another favorite track … beautifully done!

“The Mystic and The Muse” is the final track on the album. Annie was inspired to write this by two of her paintings The Mystic and The Muse. She admits … “Although it is a fantasy in a way, I see Michael as The Muse and me as The Mystic.”

The Mystic and The Muse” is classic Renaissance. You are now entering … Prog-Heaven! An incredible musical journey infused by intricate mystique. I loved the entire album but this is definitely my favorite track!

Renaissance is … Annie Haslam (lead vocals, songwriter and painter), David Keyes (bass guitar & vocals), Rave Tesar (keyboards), Jason Hart (keyboards & vocals), Frank Pagano (drums, percussion & vocals) and Ryche Chlanda (guitars & vocals).

Grandine il Vento is dedicated to guitarist and songwriter Michael Dunford.

Purchase Grandine il Vento the new album by Renaissance at
Renaissance official website
Annie Haslam official website
Annie Haslam art for sale at
Annie Haslam on Facebook

Contact classic rock music journalist Ray Shasho at

Purchase Ray’s very special memoir called ‘Check the Gs’ -The True Story of an Eclectic American Family and Their Wacky Family Business … You’ll LIVE IT! Also available for download on NOOK or KINDLE edition for JUST .99 CENTS at or - Please support Ray so he can continue to bring you quality classic rock music reporting. 

~~Pacific Book Review says Ray Shasho is a product of the second half of the 20th century, made in the USA from parts around the world, and within him is every trend in music, television, politics and culture contributing to his philosophical and comically analytical reflections collected in his fine book of memories. I found Check the Gs to be pure entertainment, fantastic fun and a catalyst to igniting so many memories of my own life, as I too am within a few years of Ray. So to all, I say if you have a bit of grey hair (or no hair), buy this book! It’s a great gift for your “over-the-hill” friends, or for their kids, if they are the history buffs of younger generations trying to figure out why we are the way we are.

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