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Renaissance: Live Fillmore West 1970

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!

Track Listing
1 Innocence 9:20
2 Wanderer 4:05
3 No Name Raga 14:23
4 Bullet 7:54
5 Statues (Bonus Track) 2:33
6 I'd Love To Love You Till Tomorrow (Bonus Track) 2:52
7 Please Be Home (Bonus Track) 3:19
8 Try Believing (Bonus Track) 2:47

Added: February 17th 2017
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Angel Air Records
Hits: 1467
Language: english

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Renaissance: Live Fillmore West 1970
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2017-02-17 00:14:03
My Score:

After splitting from The Yardbirds in 1968 Keith Relf and Jim McCarty wanted to veer in a mellower direction, away from the heavy psychedelic blues rock they had been playing for years. They decided to form Renaissance and released their debut self-titled effort in 1969. The band was originally billed as Keith Relf's Renaissance but Relf's name was soon dropped.

The band's early line-up was:
Keith Relf (vocals)
Louis Cennamo (bass)
Jim McCarty (drums)
Jane Relf (vocals)
John Hawken (piano)

In March of 1970 the band performed a month long tour of the US in support of their first album, hence Live Fillmore West 1970 was born. Because this incantation of the band was so short lived, they only lasted a couple years, this documentation brought to us courtesy of Angel Air Records is an important piece of rock history. The band's style is a blending of classical, jazz and rock and on this live release the sound can get pretty trippy and psychedelic, especially on some of the extended jams, most notably "No Name Raga", the disc's longest track at over fourteen minutes where there is plenty of room for instrumental jamming. The guitar and keyboards are nice but the vocals are just okay for me as they are a bit rough around the edges. "Wanderer" is a progressive track with classical stylings and an uplifting keyboard sound. "Innocence" delves into more psychedelic rock with some majestic piano and floating keyboards as does "Bullet" with bluesy vocals and harmonica.

The bonus tracks are a series of demos that work together very well. My favourite is "Statues" with its sublime vocal arrangement but the lovely acoustic ballad "I'd Love To Love You Till Tomorrow" and the pretty piano led piece "Please Be Home" are nice tracks as well.

Although the vocals are a bit rough in spots on some of the live tracks this doesn't take away from what is a very good live album and one that any fan of Renaissance should likely check out.

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