Most folks, when they think of Renaissance, it's the Annie Haslam led version of the band that instantly comes to mind. However, the genesis of the band featured a completely different line-up than the one that would become one of the most loved progressive/art rock bands of the '70s. Formed from the ashes of the Yardbirds, vocalist/guitarist Keith Relf and drummer Jim McCarty decide to start a new band that would venture off into more of a folk and classical direction, recruiting bassist Louis Cennamo, keyboard player John Hawken, and Relf's sister Jane on vocals, titling the new group Renaissance. Releasing their self-titled debut in 1969, the band proceeded to tour Europe and eventually came over to the US, supporting The Paul Butterfield Blues Band on March 6th at the famous Fillmore West in San Francisco, with the performance being captured on tape but sitting in the vaults for many years. In comes Angel Air Records, who have now released that concert, along with some demo tracks and unreleased material.
Though this original version of the band was short-lived, you can hear the seeds of the classic Renaissance sound being born on this live recording, even though the band was completely overhauled just a short year later. Kicking off the set with "Innocence", Relf's effects laden guitar textures and Hawken's majestic piano blend classical leanings with psychedelia, while the complex arrangement of "Wanderer" goes straight into the type of prog that the band would shortly become famous for, as the sinewy bass lines bounce around intricate passages of Hawken's vast array of keyboards until Relf's dreamy vocals come into play. The 14+ minute "No Name Raga" is more of a jam, again with plenty of psychedelic, folk, and prog rock elements fighting for supremacy, complete with some tasty guitar playing courtesy of Keith and layers of trippy keyboards from Hawken. "Bullet" starts out almost like a straight up classical piece, before the band burst in with some psychedelic hard rock for what turns out to be the most rousing number in the set, showing that Relf & McCarty hadn't forgotten their blues and rock roots. The sound quality throughout is decent, but a tad muffled in spots, but it doesn't detract from the listening experience at all.
To round out the CD, Angel Air have included some bonus material, including the previously unreleased song "Statues" from 1970, an upbeat pop tune with a catchy hook and some nice piano, plus the demo cuts ""I'd Love to Love You Tomorrow", "Please Be Home", and "Try Believing". The first two are mellow folk based numbers, and not overly memorable, while the latter has a more psychedelic flavor adding to the folk & pop arrangement, reminding almost of early Traffic. All in all, this is an intriguing release, containing some rare material from the very first line-up of Renaissance, not long before the band would be completely revamped with all new members and taking the elements begun here to the next level.
See more about this release on our recent YouTube show!
No Name Raga
Statues (Bonus Track)
I'd Love To Love You Till Tomorrow (Bonus Track)
Please Be Home (Bonus Track)
Try Believing (Bonus Track)