Years: 1969 -
Styles: Art Rock, Classic Rock, New Wave, Progressive Rock, Psychedelic Rock, Symphonic Rock
John Hawken - Harpsichord, Keyboards, Piano (in band: 1969 - 1970)
Jane Relf - Backing vocals, Lead vocals, Percussion (in band: 1969 - 1970)
Keith Relf - Backing vocals, Guitar, Harmonica, Lead vocals (in band: 1969 - 1970)
Louis Cennamo - Bass Guitar (in band: 1969 - 1970)
Jim McCarty - Backing vocals, Drums, Lead vocals, Percussion (in band: 1969 - 1970)
Jon Camp - Acoustic guitar , Backing vocals, Bass Guitar, Guitar, Lead vocals, Tambura, Vocals
Rob Hendry - Backing vocals, Chimes, Guitar, Mandolin, Percussion, Vocals
Terry Crowe - Backing vocals, Lead vocals, Percussion (in band: 1970 - 1971)
Neil Korner - Bass Guitar (in band: 1970 - 1971)
Anne-Marie "Binky" Cullom - Backing vocals, Lead vocals, Percussion (in band: 1970 - 1971)
Terry Slade - Drums, Percussion (in band: 1970 - 1972)
Michael Dunford - 12 string acoustic guitar, Acoustic guitar , Backing vocals, Guitar, Harp, Vocals (in band: 1970 – 1972; 1973 – 1987; 1998 – 2002; 2009 – 2012)
John Tout - Backing vocals, Keyboards, Piano, Vocals (in band: 1970 – 1980; 1998 – 1999)
Danny McCulloch - Bass Guitar (in band: 1971)
Frank Farrell - Bass Guitar (in band: 1971)
John Wetton - Bass Guitar (in band: 1971 - 1972)
Annie Haslam - Backing vocals, Lead vocals, Percussion (in band: 1971 – 1987; 1998 – 2002; 2009 – present)
Mick Parsons - Guitar (in band: 1972)
Ginger Dixon - Drums, Percussion (in band: 1972)
Terence Sullivan - Backing vocals, Drums, Percussion, Vocals (in band: 1972 – 1980; 1998 – 2002)
Peter Finberg - Guitar (in band: 1973)
Peter Gosling - Backing vocals, Keyboards (in band: 1980 – 1983)
Peter Baron - Backing vocals, Drums, Percussion (in band: 1980 – 1983)
Gavin Harrison - Drums, Percussion (in band: 1983 - 1984)
Mick Taylor - Keyboards (in band: 1983 – 1984)
Raphael Rudd - Keyboards (in band: 1984 - 1987)
Greg Carter - Drums, Percussion (in band: 1984 – 1985)
Charles Descarfino - Drums, Percussion (in band: 1985 - 1987)
Mark Lampariello - Bass Guitar (in band: 1985 – 1987)
Roy Wood - Bass Guitar (in band: 1998 - 1999)
Alex Caird - Bass Guitar (in band: 1999 - 2001)
Mickey Simmonds - Backing vocals, Keyboards (in band: 1999 – 2002)
Rave Tesar - Keyboards, Piano (in band: 2001 – 2002; 2009 – present)
David J. Keyes - Backing vocals, Bass Guitar, Double bass, Lead vocals (in band: 2001 – 2902; 2009 – present)
Tom Brislin - Keyboards (in band: 2009 - 2010)
Frank Pagano - Backing vocals, Drums, Percussion (in band: 2009 - present)
Jason Hart - Accordion, Backing vocals, Keyboards (in band: 2010 - present)
Ryche Chlanda - Guitar (in band: 2013 - present)
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 five-octave voice, prominent piano accompaniment, orchestral arrangements, vocal harmonies, acoustic guitar, bass guitar, synthesiser, and versatile drum work. The band created a significant following in the northeast United States in the 70s, and that region remains their strongest fan base.
Renaissance was an English rock band that formed in 1969 in Surrey, England by Keith Relf and Jim McCarty (both ex-Yardbirds). They enlisted the beautiful Jane Relf (the younger sister of Keith Relf), John Hawken and Louis Cennamo. Signed to Island, they released their eponymous debut album, a misguided attempt to combine folk, classical, jazz, blues and rock. The record was met with dismal reviews and a second set due for release, was subsequently shelved when they virtually disbanded. By 1972, the group had evolved wit no original members remaining.
The original debut album was a then-groundbreaking meld of progressive rock with classical and jazz influences. The album is a little clunky by today’s standards, and far druggier than the later group in its ambience (cofounders Keith Relf and Jim McCarty were the heavily psychedelic half of the final lineup of the Yardbirds, which made them anathema to Jimmy Page), but vocalist Jane Relf had a striking individual style and the classical influence was unique for its time.
The groups second album “Illusion” is more polished in its sound, but the record never found an audience because it has never remained in print for very long or been very easy to find, The classical influence is more pronounced, and Jane Relf stretches out further in her vocalizing, as the original group evolved somewhat in the direction of Renaissance Mark II.
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 to Island Records and complete the band's second album, "Illusion" which had been left unfinished.
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. The two remaining original members left in late 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. The plan at the time was that Relf and 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 (who would later marry drummer Terry Slade and is currently a massage therapist in the UK).
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, Uriah Heep, UK, and Asia), Frank Farrell (later in Supertramp) and Danny McCulloch (formerly of Eric Burdon and 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, Ginger Dixon, was deemed unsuitable following a European tour. 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.
First album by the ‘70s (i.e., Annie Haslam) version of Renaissance is transition work, rooted in more standard hard rock sounds (including psychedelia) then what followed. One can spot the difference, which may please some listeners and put others off, in the fairly heavy guitar sound of “Prologue”. Rob Hendry’s electric instrument playing both lead and rhythm parts prominently at various times behind Annie Haslam’s soaring vocals and adjacent John Tout’s piano. “Kiev” may also startle some longtime fans, since Haslam doesn’t handle the lead vocals, the male members’ singing being much more prominent. The ethereal, flowingly lyrical “Sounds of the Sea” is the cut here that most resembles the music that the group became known for in the years ahead, and shows Haslam singing in the high register for which she would become famous.
Hendry was replaced for the "Prologue" tour by Peter Finberg, 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 Ash's 1972 album "Argus".) The album became the band's first to chart in the US, where it reached No. 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.
The band left Sovereign Records and joined Miles Copeland's new prog rock stable and label BTM. 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". Turn of the Cards was first issued in the United States on Sire Records in August 1974, where it reached No. 94, some months before an official UK release. It remained in the Billboard 200 for 21 weeks. Although Renaissance's fan base was relatively small, its following was heavily concentrated in the large cities of the northeast US.
It was soon followed by "Scheherazade and Other Stories", released on both sides of the Atlantic in 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 No. 48 in the United States.
Although commercial success was limited during this period, Renaissance scored a hitsingle in Britain with "Northern Lights", which reached No. 10 during the summer of 1978. The single was taken from the album "A Song for All Seasons" (a No. 58 album in the US), Renaissance floundered following 1979's "Azure d'Or", as many fans could not relate to a largely synthesizer-oriented sound. As a result, the band's fan base began to lose interest and the album only reached No. 125.
After the "Azure d'Or" tour, Tout left the group for personal reasons, quickly followed by Sullivan. Subsequent albums "Camera Camera" (1981) and "Time-Line" (1983) brought Renaissance more into the contemporary synthpop and new wave 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 No. 196 in late 1981. In 1985 Camp left, and Haslam and Dunford led an acoustic version of the band and performed occasional shows.
Renaissance partially re-formed 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 March 2001, following the delayed release of "Tuscany", a full band tour was organised, with a line-up of Haslam, Dunford, Sullivan, Simmonds, Rave Tesar (keyboards) and David J. Keyes (bass/voc).
Betty Thatcher (born 16 February 1944), the band's non-performing lyricist who wrote most of the lyrics for the band, died on 15 August 2011. On 20 November 2012, Michael Dunford died from a cerebral hemorrhage at his home in Surrey, England. John Tout died of lung failure on 1 May 2015 at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, London.
1. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renaissance_(band)
2. The Great Rock Discography - Martin C.Strong, Four Edition, by Canongate Publishing, Ltd. Edinburgh, p. 667
3. All Music Guide to Rock. The Definitive Guide to Rock, Pop and Soul. 3rd Edition 2002. Edited by Vladimir Bogdanov, Chris Woodstra, Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Published by Backbeat Books, page 932 - Bruce Eder
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