Kevin Bryan delivers his verdict on some of this week’s CD releases.

Renaissance,”50th Anniversary-Ashes Are Burning-An Anthology-Live in Concert” (Cherry Red / Esoteric)- Renaissance made their recording debut long long ago in 1969,albeit with a totally different line-up, and this venerable prog-rock institution decided to mark their 50th anniversary by performing a series of concerts with orchestral accompaniment in the U.S.of A. during October 2019. The most memorable of these shows found the band in particularly fine fettle as they brought their distinctive blend of classical, folk, rock and jazz to the historic Keswick Theater in the Philadelphia suburb of Glenside. This impressive concert souvenir extends over two CDs,a DVD and a High Definition Blu ray, capturing a typically polished performance which found Renaissance tackling several back catalogue gems which had never been orchestrated or performed with an orchestra before. Annie Haslam’s soaring five octave vocals remain the band’s trademark, and as an added bonus founder member Jim McCarty lent a hand on two of the stand-out tracks,”Island” and the epic closer,”Ashes Are Burning.”

Peter Knight’s Gigspanner, ”From Poets To Wives” (Talking Elephant)- Veteran folkie Peter Knight is best remembered these days for his musical exploits with Steeleye Span during the early seventies but the demon fiddler actually received a classical training at the Royal Academy of Music a decade or so earlier. In more recent years this master musician has focussed his attentions on the development of Gigspanner , a ground breaking trio whose open-minded approach to music making has been attracting critical plaudits ever since their debut album first saw the light of day a decade or so ago. “From Poets To Wives” was compiled by Peter himself, bringing together his favourite pieces from their recorded repertoire to date as Gigspanner serve up their dazzling reinventions of everything from the much recorded “She Moved Through The Fair” to a slice of 18th century social commentary from his Steeleye days,entitled “Hard Times of Old England.”

Paul Brett,”Stone Survivor” (Cherry Red / Lemon)- Paul Brett’s exquisite guitar work has graced a whole host of interesting recording sessions and critically well received solo offerings during the past half century or so but he remains a fairly shadowy figure as far as the mass of the general public are concerned, an unfortunate state of affairs which the appearance of this well researched 4 CD retrospective should help to rectify a little.. The contents include delightfully obscure offerings from long forgotten outfits such as The Union and Tintern Abbey as well as the debut single from The Crazy World of Arthur Brown,”Devil’s Grip” and a generous selection of tracks from the three albums that he recorded with the excellent Paul Brett’s Sage for the Pye / Dawn label during the early seventies.The entire collection provides an eloquent vehicle for Paul’s rare prowess on both electric and acoustic guitar.