Renaissance, 2010. L-R: Rave Tesar, Annie Haslam, Frank Pagano, Michael Dunford, and David J. Keyes.
|Origin||London, England, UK|
|Genres||Progressive rock, symphonic rock|
|Labels||Major League Productions (MLP)|
|Associated acts||The Yardbirds
I and Thou
David J. Keyes
|Past members||See Former members below|
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.
- 1 Original incarnation (1969–70)
- 2 Transition (1970–71)
- 3 Second incarnation (1971–80)
- 4 1980–98
- 5 Third incarnation
- 6 Death of Michael Dunford
- 7 Personnel
- 8 Discography
- 8.1 Studio albums
- 8.2 Live albums
- 8.3 Other releases
- 8.4 Singles
- 8.5 Michael Dunford's Renaissance
- 8.6 Annie Haslam's Renaissance
- 8.7 Renaissant
- 8.8 Major television appearances
- 8.9 Illusion
- 8.10 Renaissance Illusion
- 8.11 Covers of Renaissance songs
- 9 Notes
- 10 References
- 11 External links
Original incarnation (1969–70)
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 and vocals, McCarty on drums, plus bassist Cennamo, pianist Hawken, and Relf's sister Jane 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 that month-long trek proved only marginally successful as, because of their Yardbirds credentials, they found themselves paired with bands such as The Kinks and their new classically-orientated direction did not 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 fulfil contractual obligations and complete the band's second album, Illusion, which was 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. 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 two remaining original members left in late 1970; Jane Relf was replaced by American folk singer Anne-Marie "Binky" Cullum, then John Hawken left to join Spooky Tooth and pianist John Tout replaced him. There is an extant video (released on the DVD "Kings & Queens" in 2010) 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 Cullum (who would later marry drummer Terry Slade and is currently a massage therapist in the UK). While McCarty would go on to write songs for the new band, Relf's involvement would be short-lived. Dunford soon emerged as a prolific composer, and 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)
Sometime in 1971, new manager Miles Copeland III 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. Will Romano in Mountains come out of the sky agrees, stating that "unlike many of the artists to which they were compared Renaissance allowed the piano and female voice to come to the forefront". 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, 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.
Prologue was released later in 1972 on EMI-Sovereign Records in the UK and on Capitol-Sovereign in North America. Prologue's music was, except for two songs by McCarty, composed by Dunford, with all lyrics by Thatcher. Rock radio stations (particularly in the northeast US and Cleveland) gave the song Spare Some Love significant airplay for a few months after the album's release, and fans of Yes and Emerson, Lake & Palmer in particular, took notice of the band. Francis Monkman, of the group Curved Air (another group managed by Copeland), was a guest on VCS3 synthesiser on the final track "Rajah Khan".
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, seeing the original band as the only legitimate Renaissance.
Joining BTM label
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". 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. 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 No. 48 in the United States. There is "no musical connection to the well-known classical work "Scheherazade" By Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov."
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 No. 55 in the US. Renaissance were the first British band to sell out three consecutive nights at Carnegie Hall. While 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. (This point is further underscored by the band's including an album discography in the gatefold of LP copies of Live at Carnegie Hall, which lists only the four albums from Prologue forward.)
Live at Carnegie Hall's follow-up, Novella, saw more chart success in the US, peaking at No. 46 in 1977, although its UK release was delayed by yet another label change. Will Romano in Mountains come out of the sky describes the band's situation with:
"Renaissance was at an all-time popularity high, finding themselves playing to sold-out audiences ... in the U.S., particularly in the northeastern part of the country, in Pennsylvania and New York."
UK hit single
Although commercial success was limited during this period, Renaissance scored a hit single 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), and received significant airplay on both AOR and on radio stations adapting to a new format known as "soft rock", now known as adult contemporary. The band performed on a modestly successful tour of the US east of the Mississippi and drew significant crowds in State College, Pennsylvania and Cleveland in May and June 1979, promoting both A Song For All Seasons and a mix of old and new tracks.
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. Dunford and Camp assumed most of the band's songwriting.
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, Maurice Jarre, Rachmaninoff, Rimsky-Korsakov, Prokofiev and Shostakovich. 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 WVBR.
Critical reception to "classic" line-up
Reviewers were deeply divided in their reactions to the "classic" period of Renaissance, and their style of music. Some critics saw little value in their music, like Wayne King's entry in The new Rolling Stone record guide describing the period 1974 to 1983:
"Their inability to compose songs that would allow for any fluidity or improvisation" meant that "Renaissance's appeal, nonexistent in their native England and cultish at best in America, declined ... and the remainder of the Sire material matches this commercial decline with an artistic one. The comeback attempt on IRS ... was a ludicrous failure."
Progressive rock reviewers were much more supportive, such as Charles Snider in The Strawberry Bricks Guide to Progressive Rock evaluating the album Scheherazade and Other Stories, who describes:
"Annie Haslam's crystal clear five-octave voice high in the mix, supported by the virtuoso talents of pianist John Tout and Jon Camp's distinctive Rickenbacker bass, and orchestral arrangements by Tony Cox."
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 (the last being in Georgetown, DC, until splitting up in August 1987).
In 1988, Sire issued a two-part compilation, Tales of 1001 Nights, focusing on the band's 1972–79 period. In the 1990s most of their catalogue appeared on CD from reissue record labels such as Repertoire Records (Germany). In 2006 Repertoire issued remastered versions of Ashes are Burning, Turn of the Cards and Scheherezade; however, they have been criticised for having a heavily compressed 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 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), who played one London concert on the 9th of March (again at the Astoria) and three dates in Japan – Osaka on the 13th, Nagoya on the 14th and Tokyo on the 16th. The Tokyo concert was recorded and released as In the Land of the Rising Sun: Live in Japan 2001. (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.a
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 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 1894 in Sellersville, Pennsylvania. In 2009, Tout suffered a heart attack.
In August 2009, Annie Haslam announced that she and Michael Dunford were commemorating the 40th anniversary of Renaissance with a re-formed 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.
A tour in Eastern North America and Japan was undertaken in 2010, together with a three-song EP release and a new official website. Renaissance headlined the sold-out final edition of the North East Art Rock Festival, entitled NEARfest Apocalypse, on 23 June 2012.
Death of Michael Dunford
On 20 November 2012, Michael Dunford (born 8 July 1944) died from a cerebral hemorrhage. One month later, Annie Haslam stated that the band would continue touring in the future, despite losing "our 'guiding light' Michael Dunford". In February 2013, it was announced that Ryche Chlanda would be the guitarist on their 2013 tour.
In April 2013 the most recent Renaissance album, Grandine il Vento, was released. It was dedicated on the inside sleeve to Michael Dunford. This album was reissued as Symphony of Light in April 2014 with three bonus tracks.
Renaissance performed at the Birchmere Music Hall in Alexandria, Virginia (a Washington, DC suburb) on April 3, 2014. There was no opening act; the band played for almost 2 1/2 hours with only a few quick breaks for monologues and a ritual exit and return before the 15-minute one-song encore.
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.
- Current members
- Annie Haslam – lead vocals (1971–87, 1998–2002, 2009–present)
- David J. Keyes – bass (2001–02, 2009–present)
- Rave Tesar – keyboards (2001–02, 2009–present)
- Frank Pagano – drums, percussion (2009–present)
- Jason Hart – keyboards (2010–present)
- Ryche Chlanda – guitars (2013–present)
- Former members
|1969 – Summer 1970||Summer 1970 – Autumn 1970||Autumn 1970||Autumn 1970 – January 1971|
|January 1971 – Spring 1971||Spring 1971||Spring 1971 – June 1971||June 1971 – 1972|
|1972||1972||1972 – 1973||1973|
|1973 – 1980
|1980 – 1983||1983||1983–1984|
|1984 – 1985||1985 – 1987||1987 – 1998||1998–1999|
|1999||1999 – 2001||2001 – 2002||2002–2009|
|2009 – 2010||2010 – 2012||2013 – present|
|UK chart||US||NL |
|1973||Ashes Are Burning||–||171||–|
|1974||Turn of the Cards||–||94||–||1975 (UK)|
|1975||Scheherazade and Other Stories||–||48||–|
|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||–||UK:Silver|
|2013||Grandine il Vento||–||–||–||Reissued 2014-04-15 as Symphony of Light with bonus tracks.|
|1976||Live at Carnegie Hall||–||55|
|2002||In the Land of the Rising Sun: Live in Japan 2001||–||–|
|2011||Renaissance Tour 2011 – Turn of the Cards and Scheherazade & Other Stories Live In Concert (DVD and double CD set)||–||–|
- 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 and miscellany from 1968–76)
- Dreams & Omens, 2008 (live performance recorded 1978)
- Live in Chicago, 2010 (live performance recorded 1983)
- The Mystic And The Muse (Three-track EP of new songs), 2010
- "Island" b/w "The Sea", 1969
- "Back Home Once Again" b/w "The Captive Heart", 1977
- "Northern Lights" b/w "Opening Out", 1978 – UK No. 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
- "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
- "Spare Some Love" b/w "Prologue", 1972
- "The Mystic And The Muse" 3 Song EP, 2010
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 (originally issued as by "Renaissance")
- 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
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 programme with Renaissance performing "Can You Understand" and "Black Flame." Syndicated (USA), 1974. 11 minutes, original running time unknown.
- The Midnight Special
Multi-artist television programme 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 programmes 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" and "Day of the Dreamer" on 4 May 1978.
- MTV Interview
Interview by J.J. Jackson with Annie Haslam and Jon Camp. MTV (USA), April, 1983. 10 minutes.
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 second album of the original Renaissance (1971); and the eponymous second 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
- Through The Fire, 2001
Covers of Renaissance songs
This list does not include Renaissance songs performed by individual former members of the band.
- "Ashes Are Burning", on the Faith & Disease albums Fortune His Sleep 1995 and Livesongs: Third Body, 1996
- "Ocean Gypsy", on the Blackmore's Night album Shadow of the Moon, 1997
- Elliott, Russell W. "The History Of Renaissance". www.nlightsweb.com. Retrieved 2009-04-29.
- Romano, Will (2010). Mountains come out of the sky: an illustrated history of prog rock (1st Ed.). Montclair, NJ: Blackbeat Books. p. 130. ISBN 978-0-87930-991-6
- Romano, Will (2010). Mountains come out of the sky: an illustrated history of prog rock (1st Ed.). Montclair, NJ: Blackbeat Books. p. 132. ISBN 978-0-87930-991-6
- "Jon Camp Interview 2012". Retrieved 2012-03-28.
- Snider, Charles (2007). The Strawberry Bricks Guide to Progressive Rock (1st ed.). Chicago: Strawberry Bricks. p. 127. ISBN 978-0-615-17566-9
- Whitburn, Joel (1996). Joel Whitburn's top pop albums, 1955-1996 Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 649. ISBN 0-89820-117-9
- Romano, Will (2010). Mountains come out of the sky: an illustrated history of prog rock (1st Ed.). Montclair, NJ: Blackbeat Books. p. 133. ISBN 978-0-87930-991-6
- Marsh,Dave (1983). The new Rolling Stone record guide (1st. Ed.). New York: Random House/Rolling Stone Press p. 419. ISBN 0-394-72107-1
- Eder, Bruce Allmusic review of Azure D'or. Retrieved 2014-01-26.
- Snider, Charles (2007). The Strawberry Bricks Guide to Progressive Rock (1st ed.). Chicago: Strawberry Bricks. p. 207. ISBN 978-0-615-17566-9
- Eder, Bruce Allmusic review of Tuscany. Retrieved 2014-05-12.
- Allmusic South of Winter entry. Retrieved 2014-05-24.
- "RENAISSANCE 2009 40th Anniversary Concert Tour". Retrieved 2012-03-18.
- Lifton, Dave (23 November 2012), "Michael Dunford of Renaissance Dies", Ultimate Classic Rock, retrieved 2012-12-22
- Haslam, Annie (22 December 2012), Annie Haslam Facebook page (Facebook)
- Haslam, Annie (February 2013), "Renaissance Announces New Guitarist", Renaissance website blog, retrieved 2013-02-14
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 458. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
- "Dutch album charts – Renaissance (album)". dutchcharts.nl. Retrieved 2013-06-01.
- Liner notes from Live + Direct.
- Official band website
- Northern Lights (fan site)
- Renaissance Fanfare (fan site)
- Annie Haslam's official site