The Mystic and The Muse
I don’t normally review EPs as a rule because they are usually either a predecessor for some new record on the way or leftovers that didn’t make the cut on a previous release. But in the case of Renaissance’s The Mystic and The Muse, a collection of three new songs from the brilliant classical prog-rock pioneers of the ’70s, I felt compelled to share my thoughts. With the words from that old saying “You can’t go home again” running hard through my brain I was a bit apprehensive about what this might sound like compared to their illustrious catalog, but guess what? After only a minute or so, the lyrics from another song immediately came to mind. It was from Renaissance’s own signature song, “Ashes Are Burning”: “Clear your mind maybe you will find/ that the past is still turning/ circles sway echo yesterday/ ashes burning… ashes burning” And the past is indeed still turning ladies and gentlemen, turning out a wonderful new glimpse of what this legendary band has in store for us in the future.
First up is the title track, “The Mystic and The Muse,” a masterful eight-minute journey through many movements, styles, and operatic flourishes leading the listener on a wonderful exploration of mind, body, and soul. As Annie explains, “This song is based on two of my paintings: The Mystic and also The Muse. When Michael sent me the music, I immediately saw these two paintings in my mind’s eye and called Michael and sent him the images to look at and it was a natural progression, from the visual to the song. I am the Mystic and Michael is the Muse. I am tuned into energies that have evolved over the years culminating into the channeling of my art. Michael is the one who resurrected the band, so he is my Muse. I LOVE this piece, we performed this on our recent summer tour of the U.S. and Canada, for which we received a standing ovation at every show. It was the most wonderful feeling for Michael and I as well as the band. ‘Live’ it is extremely dramatic and powerful and is the beginning of more to come!”
“Immortal Beloved” is next and hearkens the listener back to the passionate harmonies of “Let It Grow” and “On the Frontier” and is inspired by someone who has passed on, but has left the warm glow of their memory behind to watch over their loved ones. This is a very passionate and universal theme that will truly touch everyone who hears it.
Last but not least and probably my favorite of the three is “Tonight,” an interesting composition that has the delicate feel of a Broadway-esque centerpiece. Annie describes the song’s narrative this way: “‘Tonight’ tells about knowing one’s soul mate in love does exist, and with faith will arrive.”
And with that, for now, our sojourn ends but also hints at the brilliance yet to come. This EP contains all the precious elements and musical treasures of this extraordinary band’s past releases. All three songs, “The Mystic and The Muse,” “Immortal Beloved,” and “Tonight” could easily fit alongside any of the group’s illustrious past offerings. Fronted by the uncrowned “Queen of Progressive Rock,” Annie Haslam, with her voice as powerful as ever, and Michael Dunford, songwriter of some of the most unique and memorable music to grace the airwaves, this astonishing group of musicians has me very excited to see what they’ll have for us next.