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Renaissance - Renaissance CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.75 | 355 ratings

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Dick Heath
Special Collaborator
Jazz-Rock Specialist
4 stars As memories now fade it is difficult to remember whether this album or King Crimsons "Court" was the first to be released in 1969, (and both by Island Records). However, fans at the time recognised both albums as ones introducing radically new musical ideas which were well played and well recorded LPs. These had moved on in sophisticationfrom the studio-controlled recording of the Moody Blues " Days Of Future Past" - BTW an album largely ignored in the UK at the time in terms of sales- or more roughly provided by Nice.

The original CD issue of the first Renaissance album was released by the German based, Line Records (catalogue no. LICD 9.00421) - reflecting that typical unwillingness on the part of Island Records to issue CDs versions of a lot of its back catalogue. (The Line Records version has no more tracks than the original LP).

Whilst the new comer to the Yardbirds, Jimmy Page, had taken the band's name (only to quickly evolve into Led Zeppelin), the majority of the Yardbirds became Renaissance. However, they had abandoned much of the R'n'B and instead discovered Beethoven, in the company Jim Hawken. As a result their music was a sophisticated hybrid of "Beethovenian blues rock".

Renaissance were picked up by the overground media, and to become more than just a band with an underground following. In particular, the previously straight Jim Mossman, presenting the new BBC 2 TV channel's art series, broke the establishment rules by having this group of "pop musicians" on his show, to discuss and play their music. The public became aware that young, long haired musicians were capable of making more than just 3 minute hits, forgotten 3 months later. Renaissance and this album opened doors, to be pushed further open with Crimson exposure to the masses through the Rolling Stones Hyde Park free show.

A groundbreaking album, indeed a seminal album, as nothing like it had been heard before. Hawken's strident grande piano, played mostly in forte is the dominant lead, lifting musical ideas from the likes of Beethoven concertos. Yardbirds' blues tempers this and Jane Relf provides a sort of clarity or purity with the vocals. And that artwork on the LP sleeve: a picture of Icarus's fall, long lingered in the mind.

As a footnote: This line-up of Renaissance did start to record a second album, "Illusion" soon afterwards, some of which was previewed on a BBC Radio One live gig. However, this was not to be an immediate follow-up LP to capitalise on the band's initial success. Renaissance (as they truly were to rock muisic), lost their name and found themselves as Illusion, in competition to the new variant of Renaissance. Keith Relf moved on, did his own thing, formed Armageddon, joined Medicine Head and alas died in a tragic accident.

Dick Heath | 4/5 |


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