Musicians: Jane Relf – vocals, percussion, Keith Relf – electric guitar, vocals, harmonica, John Hawken – piano, harpsichord, Louis Cennamo – electric bass guitar
Jim McCarty – drums, vocals
Renaissance is the self-titled debut album by British progressive rock band Renaissance. Renaissance are an English progressive rock band, best known for their 1978 UK top 10 hit “Northern Lights” and progressive rock classics like “Carpet of the Sun”, “Mother Russia”, and “Ashes Are Burning”. They developed a unique sound, combining a female lead vocal with a fusion of classical, folk, rock, and jazz influences. Characteristic elements of the Renaissance sound are Annie Haslam’s wide vocal range (who would join after this LP), prominent piano accompaniment, orchestral arrangements, vocal harmonies, acoustic guitar, bass guitar, synthesizer, and versatile drum work.
The nucleus of the first line-up was composed of former members of The Yardbirds, Keith Relf and Jim McCarty, who intended to put “something together with more of a classical influence”. Renaissance was born, and the band released this studio album in 1969, and another in 1971.
Subsequently, there was a period of high turnover of musicians until the “classic line-up” of Haslam, John Tout, Michael Dunford, Jon Camp, and Terry Sullivan was established, although none of them were in the original band. They were assisted with lyrics on many songs from Cornish poet Betty Thatcher-Newsinger. From 1972 to 1979 Renaissance released seven successful studio albums, toured extensively, and sold out three nights in a row at Carnegie Hall with Tony Cox conducting the New York Philharmonic. (Not bad for a Prog rock band, yeah?)
The 80s were a lean time for them, with personnel changes, and two relatively unsuccessful studio albums, leading to disbandment in 1987. The band re-formed in 1998 to record Tuscany, which was eventually released in 2001; however they disbanded again the next year.
2009 heralded a new line-up for Renaissance, led by Haslam and Dunford, and since then the band has continued to record and tour. They were shocked and saddened by the sudden death of Dunford in November 2012. Later, Haslam stated that the band would continue touring. The current line-up is not as English as the band’s early period with five U.S. born members, and one English born member who lives in the U.S. In April 2014 Renaissance released the studio album Symphony of Light, which I have yet to pick up. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renaissance_(band)
Official website: http://renaissancetouring.com/band/
The only anomaly I find on this album is that the piano sounds like it may have been recorded a little hot. Other wise what we have here is a most enjoyable progressive rock debut LP with all the elements that make up Prog rock.
Kings & Queens – This is a progressive rock LP so let’s start it off right with a near eleven minute song. This tune starts off with classical piano and then the drums come in giving the tune an almost Spanish sound. In fact, it is reminiscent of The Doors “Spanish Caravan”. The percussion is fantastic and the song melds into a more 60’s pop/rock sound. The bass playing is great as well in this tune. Then the tune goes back into a more classical style with mostly bass, piano and vocals and then back to solo piano with a “Spanish Caravan” vibe. As for lyrics, well,…..it happens to be themed in the period of The Renaissance, the name of the band is Renaissance after all, so why not?
Innocence – This song has interesting lyrics and a very slight Kansas (another prog rock band) feel. The bridge is interesting as it is basically just classical piano.
Yup, this is all there is on side one.
Island – This is a nice song, but the female vocals sound off to me for some reason. The tune changes to a baroque style with drums for the bridge and ends the same way, rather interesting.
Wanderer – This is the shortest song on the LP at 4 minutes. This tune is kind of in the style of Mannheim Steamroller in it use of a harpsichord and orchestration. The vocals are ok and the song seems to be about getting to know ones goals and success by relaxing in one’s knowledge of one’s self instead of constant chasing.
Bullet – Might as well end the way it began with this 11+ minute tune. The tune starts with kind of a doom feeling soundtrack, a minute later it goes into a funk style with great bass work. A few minutes later, harmonica is added (although judging by the sound, they may have used the wrong type of mic for it). About 3/4 of the way, it goes back to the soundtrack sound, then finishes with a bass solo in the upper register with strange bells.