Renaissance Mk.1 was a formidable band that was sadly, very short-lived. This was the first and only album from this particular line-up.
Written by: Eric
LABEL: Island Records
CD REISSUE: 1987, Line Records Germany, LICD 9.00421
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: England
LINEUP: Keith Relf – vocals, guitar, harmonica * Jim McCarty – percussion, vocals * John Hawken – piano, harpsichord * Louis Cennamo – bass * Jane Relf – vocals, percussion
TRACK LISTING: 01 Kings And Queens * 02 Innocence * 03 Island * 04 Wanderer * 05 Bullet
WEBLINKS: Site Link
I had already owned a couple of Renaissance albums by the time I picked up this debut. I saw it in an import bin at my local ‘Korvettes’ department store.
Looking quite pristine in its gatefold sleeve and fantastic Dali-esque cover, I was blissfully unaware of what I was buying. After putting down my $7.99 I realised that this was a very different band to the Annie Haslam version. That version at the time, were at the peak of their popularity.
For those wondering, the origins of Renaissance can be found in The Yardbirds – one of the seminal bands of the 1960’s. Guitarist Keith Relf and drummer Jim McCarty formed Renaissance to explore other styles of music. This included classical and folk creating one of the finest early progressive rock albums Britannia ever produced.
Renaissance Mk.1 was a formidable line-up that was sadly very short-lived. The band added classically trained John Hawken on keys, bassist Louis Cennamo, and Keith’s sister Jane Relf on vocals.
The atmosphere of this record is extraordinary. Richly baroque and piano driven progressive rock is the order of the day.
The opener ‘Kings & Queens’ is nothing short of epic. The vocal interplay between Keith and Jane is quite loveky and at times comparable to San Francisco’s It’s A Beautiful Day. In particular you hear this on ‘Islands’ although this is definitely music based on the European classical tradition.
John Hawken’s harpsichord on ‘Wanderer’ weaves an ornate tapestry of sound blending seamlessly with Jane’s warm vocals. The band rock a little harder on the albums final and longest cut ‘Bullet’. This is a band who had no desire living in the rock ‘n roll past.
Unfortunately, after both U.S. and European tours in 1970, the band fell apart. They attempted a follow-up album ‘Illusion’. However it was left incomplete after Keith Relf and Louis Cennamo left to form Armageddon. That lineup released a classic hard rock album soon after..
Jim McCarty kept the Renaissance flag flying, completing the ‘Illusion’ album augmented by session players and a new line-up. It would be another couple years before the most successful version of the band with Annie Haslam would take shape. But for my money this debut album stands alone in the hallowed halls of British progressive rock.