LONNIE LISTON SMITH — Renaissance (review)

LONNIE LISTON SMITH — Renaissance album cover Album · 1976 · Fusion Buy this album from MMA partners
3/5 ·
Sean Trane
Sixth and last real Cosmic Echoes album for this band that was finally starting to be one, with some now-fairly-long-standing members in its ranks, such as Donald Smith, David Hubbard, Killian and more recently Al Anderson, Wilbur Fletcher and Guilhermo Franco. And while the continuous slide from the absolute perfection of Astral Travelling kept going, until the fairly mediocre Golden Dream, this album does indeed seem a bit better titled with its Renaissance. Yes, the present is an improvement, but it still has its share of overly sweet songs, but at least the superb (if somewhat pretentious) artwork depicting Liston as an artiste-painter makes up partly for it.

The BMG digipak CD reissue comes with a border of cabalistic signs I had no recollection of seeing on the outer gatefold cover of the vinyl back then, but it adds charms. I had picked the album up (along with its predecessor) in my teens, but quickly send it back to the used-vinyls store. Of course, I investigated in the mid-90’s some earlier of his works, after seeing some of his credentials in Rashaan’s or Pharoah’s band or Gato Barbieri albums. So a few years later I borrowed this album from the library with some understandable wariness, and to be honest, it didn’t reverse my opinion drastically, but it has crawled up a few echelons in my esteem and at least, there are no blatant disco songs.

Opening on the instrumental mid-tempo Space Lady with its delightful Smith-played flute and good Liston Rhodes and later Hubbard’s sax, the album continues with a Latin-inspired (Brazilian) Mardi Gras instrumental that takes a long stroll. Things slip rather badly with the awfully string-ladden arranged soppy Starlight And You, but not all is bad. I’m only slightly bored and let it glide along, because despite the candyfloss, the arrangements are awesome.

The instrumental ultra-funky but mid-tempoed Hubbard-penned Mongotee is another beauty, where SLS’s Rhodes is charming its way into our eardrums and the string arrangements are more sober than previously. The soppy Song Of Love interrupts the reverie (despite Smith’s excellent soul vocals), but the short cosmic Between Here And There reaches a mild blissness (not a word, I know ;o)) that prepares us for the title track finale, a decent soul-funk with again plenty string arrangements. Well, as said above, Renaissance certainly merits somewhat its name more than its predecessor Golden Dream, as there is one more good track than there are very-average ones.

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