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Renaissance were an Englishmarker progressive rock band, most notable for their 1978 UK top 10 hit "Northern Lights" and progressive rock classics like "Mother Russia" and "Ashes Are Burning".

Original Incarnation (1969-70)

  • Keith Relf - vocals, guitar, harmonica
  • Jim McCarty - drums, vocals
  • John Hawken - keyboards
  • Louis Cennamo - bass
  • Jane Relf - vocals


In January 1969, former Yardbirds members Keith Relf, and Jim McCarty organised a new group devoted to experimentation between rock, Folk, and classical forms. This quintet — Relf on guitar & vocals, McCarty on drums, plus bassist Louis Cennamo, pianist John Hawken, and Relf's sister Jane Relf as an additional vocalist — released a pair of albums on Elektra (US) and Island (UK-ILPS 9112), the first one, titled simply "Renaissance", being produced by fellow ex-Yardbird Paul Samwell-Smith.

The band had begun performing in May 1969, before recording had begun for the debut LP, mostly in the UK, but with occasional forays abroad, including festivals in Belgium (Amougies, October 1969) and France (Operation 666 at the Olympia in January 1970, and Le Bourget in March 1970, both in Paris). In February 1970, they embarked on a North American tour, but this month-long trek proved a mitigated success, as because of their Yardbirds credentials they found themselves paired with bands like The Kinks and their new classically-oriented direction didn't always go down well with audiences.

Beginning in the late spring of 1970, as touring began to grind on them, the original band gradually dissolved. Relf and McCarty decided to quit performing, and Cennamo joined Colosseum. Hawken organised a new line-up to fulfill contractual obligations and complete the band's second album, Illusion, which was left unfinished.

Transition (1970-71)

Apart from Jane Relf, the new band consisted mostly of former members of Hawken's previous band, The Nashville Teens - guitarist Michael Dunford, bassist Neil Korner and singer Terry Crowe, plus drummer Terry Slade. This line-up recorded one track, "Mr Pine", a Dunford composition, and played a few gigs during the summer of 1970. Meanwhile a final recording session brought together the original line-up minus Hawken, with Don Shin sitting in on keyboards, and produced the album's closing track "Past Orbits Of Dust". The now completed Illusion was released in Germany in 1971, although not released in the UK until 1976 (Island HELP 27). The album marked the beginning of Renaissance's long-standing collaboration with poet Betty Thatcher-Newsinger as lyricist when she co-wrote two songs with Relf and McCarty.

The last two remaining original members left in the autumn of 1970 : Jane Relf was replaced by American folk singer Anne-Marie "Binky" Cullom, then John Hawken left to join Spooky Tooth and pianist John Tout replaced him. There is an extant video of that line-up performing five songs on a German TV program (Muzik-Kanal). The plan at the time was that Keith Relf and Jim McCarty would remain involved as non-performing members - Relf as a producer and McCarty as a songwriter. Both were present when singer Annie Haslam successfully auditioned in January 1971 to replace the departing Cullom. But while McCarty would go on to write songs for the new band, Relf's involvement would be shortlived. Dunford soon emerged as a prolific composer, and also continued the writing partnership with Thatcher, who would go on to write most of the lyrics for the band's 1970s albums.

Second Incarnation (1971-80)

  • Annie Haslam (vocals)
  • Michael Dunford (guitar)
  • John Tout (keyboards)
  • Jon Camp (bass, vocals)
  • Terence Sullivan (drums, percussion)


Sometime in 1971, new manager Miles Copeland decided to re-organise the band, focussing on what he felt were Renaissance's strong points - Annie Haslam's voice and John Tout's piano. Until then Haslam had shared vocals with Terry Crowe, who was in effect the band's chief vocalist. Crowe and Korner went, the former unreplaced, the latter replaced by a succession of bass players, including John Wetton (later of King Crimson and Asia), Frank Farrell (later in Supertramp) and Danny McCulloch (formerly of The Animals and a former bandmate of Dunford and Crowe in The Plebs), until the position settled with the inclusion of Jon Camp. It was also decided that Dunford would now concentrate on composing, and a new guitar player, Mick Parsons, was brought in for live work. In 1972, shortly before recording sessions for the new band's debut LP, drummer Terence Sullivan joined, after Slade's initial replacement was deemed unsuited following a European tour. Tragically guitarist Parsons died in a car accident and was replaced at short notice by Rob Hendry. The resulting line-up entered the studio having played only a dozen gigs together. Prologue was released later in 1972 on EMI-Sovereign Records (UK), composed by Dunford except for two songs by McCarty, and all lyrics by Thatcher. Francis Monkman, of the group Curved Air, guested on synthesiser on the final track "Rajah Khan".

Hendry was replaced for the Prologue tour by one Peter Finer, who in turn left the group shortly before the sessions for the next album. Michael Dunford then returned as (acoustic) guitarist, completing what most fans regard as the classic five-piece line-up, which would remain together through six studio albums. Ashes are Burning was released in 1973. Andy Powell, of the group Wishbone Ash, was brought in for a blistering electric guitar solo on the final track "Ashes are Burning", which became the band's anthem piece, extended to almost twenty minutes with a long bass solo and other instrumental workouts. (John Tout returned Powell's favour by playing organ on Wishbone's classic album "Argus".) The album became the band's first to chart in the US, where it reached #171 on the Billboard 200. The band played their first US concerts during that period, enjoying success on the East coast in particular, which soon resulted in a special orchestral concert at New York's Academy of Music in May 1974. Soon Renaissance would choose to concentrate on the US market, as the UK press virtually ignored them, seeing the original band as the only legitimate Renaissance.

The band left Sovereign Records, and joined Miles Copeland's new prog rock stable and label BTM (for British Talent Management). The label's first release was Turn of the Cards in 1974. With a larger budget, the album went from folk-flavoured to a more dark, lush, orchestral rock sound. One of the album's songs, "Things I Don't Understand", which clocked in at 9:30, was Jim McCarty's last co-writing credit with the group (although it was actually in the band's live repertoire for years). A lengthy tribute to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, called "Mother Russia", closed out the album, with lyrics inspired by his autobiographical novel, "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich". The LP was first issued in the United States on Sire Records in August 1974, where it reached #94, some months before an official UK release. Although the band's fan base was relatively small, its following was heavily concentrated in the large cities of the northeast US. The album was eventually released in the UK in March 1975.

It was soon followed by Scheherazade and Other Stories, released on both sides of the Atlantic in September 1975. The album, whose second side was taken up with the epic tone-poem "Song of Scheherazade" based on stories from "One Thousand and One Nights", peaked at #48 in the United States.

A double live album, Live at Carnegie Hall, followed in 1976. Despite criticisms that much of the album was little more than a note for note reproduction of highlights from their previous four studio albums the album reached #55 in the US. Revealingly, in introducing the song Ashes Are Burning Haslam refers to it as the title track from the group's second album, rather than their fourth, suggesting that the Haslam-led lineup by this point considered themselves a distinct band from Keith Relf's incarnation of the group.

Its follow-up, Novella, also saw a modest chart success in the US, peaking at #46 in 1977, although its UK release was delayed by yet another label change.

In the 1970s, Renaissance defined their work with folk rock and classical fusions. Their songs include quotations from and allusions to such composers as Alain, Bach, Chopin, Debussy, Giazotto, Jarre, Rachmaninoff, Rimsky-Korsakov, Prokofiev. Renaissance records, especially Ashes Are Burning, were frequently played on American progressive rock radio stations such as WNEW-FM, WHFS-FM, WMMR-FM, KSHE 95 and WVBRmarker.

Although commercial success was limited during this period, Renaissance scored a hit single in Britain with Northern Lights, which reached #10 there during the summer of 1978. The single was taken from the album A Song for All Seasons (a #58 album in the US).

With the unionization of professional orchestral musicians that followed, it was no longer financially feasible for the band to continue with its traditional orchestral sound. Renaissance floundered following 1979's Azure d'Or, as many fans couldn't relate to a largely synthesizer-oriented sound. As a result the band's fan base began to lose interest and the album only reached #125. Michael Dunford and Jon Camp assumed most of the band's songwriting.

Later days

After the Azure d'Or tour, John Tout left the group for personal reasons, quickly followed by Terry Sullivan. Subsequent albums Camera Camera (1981) and Time Line (1983) brought Renaissance more into the contemporary synth pop genre, but neither garnered enough commercial interest to make a viable future for the band (Camera Camera was the band's final album to chart in the US where it reached #196 in late 1981). In 1985 Camp left, and Haslam and Dunford led an acoustic version of the band until finally calling it a day in 1987.

Renaissance albums were not available individually on CD for some time. Sire issued a two-part compilation, Tales of 1001 Nights, focussing on the 1972-79 period, in 1988. In the 1990s most of their catalog appeared on CD from reissue record labels such as Repertoire Records (Germany). In 2006 Repertoire did much higher quality remasters of Ashes are Burning, Turn of the Cards and Scheherezade with markedly improved sound.

In the mid 1990s both Haslam (who had released a self-titled solo album in 1989) and Dunford (who had been working on a proposed musical based on the Scheherazade storyline) formed their own bands using the name Renaissance and released albums with different line-ups.

Renaissance partially reformed in 1998 around a nucleus of Haslam, Dunford and Sullivan, plus Tout and several new musicians, most notably Roy Wood and Mickey Simmonds, to record the CD Tuscany. In 1999, Haslam, Dunford and Simmonds played a one-off trio concert at London's Astoria supporting Caravan. In 2001, following the delayed release of Tuscany, a full band tour was organised, consisting of one London concert (again at the Astoria) and several dates in Japan. It was documented on the live release In the Land of the Rising Sun: Live in Concert. (Tout, although in the audience at the Astoria, did not perform on this tour). Annie Haslam, who had become the band's spokesperson, said that several factors made further touring and recording impractical. The band's short third incarnation was soon over.

Terry Sullivan has since recorded an album called South of Winter with a studio group he named Renaissant. It is evocative of Renaissance's music, with lyrics by Betty Thatcher-Newsinger and keyboard contributions by John Tout.

On 20 September 2008, John Tout made his first public appearance in the US in over 25 years, with Annie Haslam and the Jann Klose band, at the Sellersville Theatre 1984 in Sellersville, Pennsylvaniamarker.

Sometime before the summer of 2009 John Tout suffered from a heart attack. He is recovering at this time

In late August 2009, Annie Haslam announced that she and Michael Dunford were commemorating the 40th anniversary of Renaissance with a reformed band, called Renaissance 2009 (including no other members of the "classic" line-up, but with musicians from the 2001 incarnation of the band), and a concert tour.

Personnel

(Note: The following list includes temporary replacements & sidemen.)

Year Female Lead vocals Male Lead vocals Guitar Keyboards Bass Drums

Percussion
1969–1970 Jane Relf Keith Relf Keith Relf John Hawken Louis Cennamo Jim McCarty
Summer 1970 Terry Crowe Michael Dunford Neil Korner Terry Slade
Autumn 1970 Binky Cullom John Tout
January 1971 Annie Haslam
1971 Danny McCulloch
1971 Frank Farrell
June 1971 John Wetton
1972 Jon Camp Mick Parsons Jon Camp Terence Sullivan
1972 Rob Hendry
1973 Peter Finer
1973 - 1979classic line-up Michael Dunford
1981 Peter Gosling Peter Baron
1983 Mick Taylor Gavin Harrison
1984 Raphael Rudd Greg Carter
1985 Mark Lampariello Charles Descarfino
1998 John Tout Roy Wood Terence Sullivan
1998 Mickey Simmonds Alex Caird
2001 Mickey Simmonds & Rave Tesar David Keyes
2009 Rave Tesar & Tom Brislin Frank Pagano


Discography

Albums

Year Title Chart-Positions Comments
UK US
1969 Renaissance 60 -
1971 Illusion - - 1976 (UK)
1972 Prologue - -
1973 Ashes Are Burning - 171
1974 Turn of the Cards - 94 1975 (UK)
1975 Scheherazade and Other Stories - 48
1976 Live at Carnegie Hall - 55
1977 Novella - 46 1977 (January in US, August in UK, as the band moved to the Warner Bros Music Group)
1978 A Song for All Seasons 35 58
1979 Azure d'Or 73 125
1981 Camera Camera - 196
1983 Time-Line - -
2001 Tuscany - -
2002 In the Land of the Rising Sun: Live in Japan 2002 - -


Compilations & archival releases

  • In the Beginning (compilation double-album of Prologue and Ashes are Burning), 1978
  • Tales of 1001 Nights (compilation in two volumes), 1990
  • Da Capo (Repertoire Germany compilation), 1995 [2 CDs] [Limited Edition in tall digipak with a much more concise, detailed booklet]
  • Live at the Royal Albert Hall : King Biscuit Flower Hour, 1997 (live performance recorded 1977; two volumes)
  • Songs from Renaissance Days, 1997 (compilation of out-takes, including one B-side and two Haslam solo tracks, 1979-88)
  • The BBC Sessions 1975-1978, 1999 [2 CDs]
  • Day Of The Dreamer, 2000 (live performance recorded 1978)
  • Unplugged Live at the Academy of Music, 2000 (live performance recorded 1985)
  • Live + Direct, 2002 (edited 1970 live recording plus demos/misc from 1968-76)
  • Dreams & Omens, 2008 (live performance recorded 1978)


Singles

UK

  • "Island" b/w "The Sea", 1969
  • "Back Home Once Again" b/w "The Captive Heart", 1977
  • "Northern Lights" b/w "Opening Out", 1978
    • Chart peak: #10
  • "The Winter Tree" b/w "Island of Avalon", 1979
  • "Jekyll and Hyde" b/w "Forever Changing", 1979
  • "Faeries (Living at the Bottom of the Garden)" b/w "Remember", 1981
  • "Bonjour Swansong" b/w "Ukraine Ways", 1981
  • "Richard the IX" b/w "Flight", 1983


US

  • "Prologue" b/w "Spare Some Love", 1972
  • "Carpet of the Sun" b/w "Bound For Infinity", 1973
  • "Mother Russia" (3'07 edit) b/w "I Think of You", 1974
  • "Carpet of the Sun" (live) b/w "Kiev" (live), 1976
  • "Midas Man" b/w "The Captive Heart", 1977
  • "Northern Lights" b/w "Opening Out", 1978
  • "Jekyll and Hyde" b/w "Forever Changing", 1979
  • "Bonjour Swansong" b/w "Remember", 1981


Japan only

  • "Spare Some Love" b/w "Prologue", 1972


West Germany only

  • "Faeries (Living at the Bottom of the Garden)" b/w "Bonjour Swansong"


Michael Dunford's Renaissance

These albums were essentially collaborations between Dunford and singer Stephanie Adlington.
  • The Other Woman, 1994
  • Ocean Gypsy, 1997 (mostly new versions of past Renaissance songs)
  • Trip To The Fair, 1998 (compilation of tracks from the previous two releases)


Annie Haslam's Renaissance

This album was essentially an Annie Haslam solo release (one of several).
  • Blessing in Disguise, 1994


Renaissant

This album was essentially a Terry Sullivan solo release, with lyrics by Betty Thatcher-Newsinger and keyboards by John Tout. Terry's wife Christine did most of the vocals, with Terry himself taking lead on two songs.
  • South of Winter, 2005


Major television appearances

  • Don Kirshner's Rock Concert
Multi-artist television program with Renaissance performing "Can You Understand" and "Black Flame." Syndicated (USA), 1974. 11 minutes, original running time unknown.

  • The Midnight Special
Multi-artist television program with Renaissance performing "Carpet of the Sun" and "Midas Man." NBC (USA), 1976. 5 minutes, original running time unknown.

  • Sight and Sound in Concert
First in a series of programs consisting of artists performing live, with the performance broadcast simultaneously on TV and FM radio, hosted by DJ Alan Black. Songs performed were: "Carpet of the Sun", "Mother Russia", "Can You Hear Me", "Ocean Gypsy", "Running Hard", "Touching Once" and "Prologue". Originally broadcast on 8 January 1977. BBC (UK), 1977. Approximately 50-55 minutes.

  • The Mike Douglas Show
Television talk show features Renaissance performing "Northern Lights" on 4 May 1978.

  • MTV Interview
Interview by J.J. Jackson with Annie Haslam and Jon Camp. MTV (USA), April, 1983. 10 minutes.

Illusion

Shortly prior to his death, Keith Relf wanted to try to reform the original Renaissance. Since the name Renaissance was now firmly in the hands of the Haslam lineup, he chose the tentative band name "Now". Jim McCarty was not involved at this point. After Relf's death, all of the surviving four formed a new band (along with two new musicians) and named it Illusion after Renaissance's second album. Illusion released two albums for Island Records before splitting, while a third made up of unreleased demos appeared years later. The original four reformed again for the production of Through the Fire which was released under the bandname of Renaissance Illusion. (There are two second albums entitled "Illusion": the 2nd album of the original Renaissance (1971); and the eponymous 2nd album of their reunion band, Illusion (1978).)

  • Out Of The Mist, 1977
  • Illusion, 1978
  • Enchanted Caress: Previously Unreleased Material, 1990
  • Illusion: The Island Years, 2003


Renaissance Illusion

  • Through The Fire, 2001


Covers of Renaissance songs

This list does not include Renaissance songs performed by individual former members of the band.

References



External links




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