Renaissance are an English symphonic-rock ensemble that was initially active as a recording unit between the late 1960s and mid-1980s. Between the first and third albums, the nameplate underwent a complete overhaul in personnel. The two chief iterations of the band were variably led/directed by alumni of The Yardbirds and the Nashville Teens.
The “mainstream” Renaissance lineup coalesced in 1972–73 between the albums Prologue and Ashes Are Burning. The original concept behind the nameplate — a fusion of multi-century folksiness and ivory-laden classicism — was expanded and modernized over the years, culminating with the neon-powered, precision-fueled trio lineup of the early 1980s.
Members: Jim McCarty (drums, 1969-70), Keith Relf (vocals, guitar, 1969-70), John Hawken (piano, keyboards, 1969-70), Louis Cennamo (bass, 1969-70), Jane Relf (vocals, 1969-70), Terry Crowe (vocals, 1970-71), Terry Slade (drums, 1970-72), Neil Korner (bass, 1970-71), Michael Dunford (guitar, 1970-72, 1973-87, 1998-2002, 2009-12), Anne-Marie “Binky” Cullom (vocals, 1970-71), John Tout (piano, keyboards, 1970-80, 1998-99), Annie Haslam (vocals, 1971-87, 1998-2002, 2009-present), Danny McCulloch (bass, 1971), Frank Farrell (bass, 1971), John Wetton (bass, 1971-72), Jon Camp (vocals, bass, 1972-85), Mick Parsons (guitar, 1972), Ginger Dixon (drums, percussion, 1972), Terence Sullivan (drums, 1972-80, 1998-2002), Rob Hendry (guitar, 1972-73), Peter Finberg (guitar, 1973), Peter Gosling (keyboards, 1980-83), Peter Baron (drums, 1980-83), Gavin Harrison (drums, 1983-84), Mike Taylor (keyboards, 1983-84), Greg Carter (drums, percussion, 1984-85)
Renaissance were one of two spinoffs of R&B/beat legends The Yardbirds. In mid-1968, singer Keith Relf and drummer Jim McCarty left that band in the hands of its late-period guitarist Jimmy Page, who promptly assembled a new lineup (“The New Yardbirds”) that would ultimately become Led Zeppelin. Meanwhile, Relf and McCarty formed the folk-psych duo Together and issued one single, “Henry’s Coming Home” (b/w “Love Mum and Dad”), on Columbia in November 1968.
Wishing to create a grand sound that fused rock, folk, and classical, the pair enlisted Keith’s sister Jane on vocals, plus keyboardist John Hawken and bassist Louis Cennamo. Hawken hailed from R&B/beatsters The Nashville Teens, serving as their pianist/organist from 1962 to 1968. Cennamo had played in a string of bands, including Jimmy Powell and the Five Dimensions (which backed Jamaican singer Millie Small on her 1964 transatlantic #2 “My Boy Lollipop”), The Herd, and Patto’s People (Mike Patto’s midway band between The Bo Street Runners and Timebox). In homage to their 15th and 16th century influences, they named the new band Renaissance.
Their debut album, Renaissance, appeared in October 1969 on Island Records. The five-song album is book-ended by its two lengthiest numbers: “Kings and Queens” (10:56) and “Bullet” (11:21). Both songs were composed by Relf and McCarty, as were the medium-length numbers “Innocence” and “Island.” The shorter side-two cut “Wanderer” was written by Hawken and McCarty. The album was recorded at London’s Olympic Sound Studios and produced by fellow ex-Yardbird Paul Samwell-Smith. Relf handles guitar and harmonica in addition to co-vocals with his sister. Hawken plays harpsichord on select passages.
An alternate recording of “Island” was issued as a single, backed with the non-album track “The Sea.” In the US, Renaissance was released on Elektra with different cover art.
Ashes Are Burning (1973)
Turn of the Cards (1974)
A Song for All Seasons (1978)
Azure d’Ore (1979)
Camera Camera (1981)
Songs for Renaissance Days (1997 — recorded 1984–85)
- Renaissance (1969)
- Illusion (1971)
- Prologue (1972)
- Ashes Are Burning (1973)
- Turn of the Cards (1974)
- Scheherazade and Other Stories (1975)
- Novella (1977)
- A Song for All Seasons (1978)
- Azure d’Ore (1979)
- Camera Camera (1981)
- Time-Line (1983)
- Songs for Renaissance Days (1997 — recorded 1984–85)
- Tuscany (2000)
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