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Renaissance Illusion: Through The Fire (reissue)

As founder members of Renaissance, drummer and singer Jim McCarty, keyboard player John Hawken, singer Jane Relf and bassist Louis Cennamo were, along with guitarist Keith Relf, responsible for the band's first two albums before the outfit reinvented themselves completely and, in the process, found greater fame. However this original quartet would reform in 1977 minus Keith Relf, who had sadly died the year before, under the name Illusion. Employing a style mirroring that of their early work together they (alongside guitarist John Knightsbridge and drummer Eddie McNeill) set about releasing three well received albums. However, many years down the line, McCarty found himself once again writing in the early Renaissance style and flanked again by Jane Relf, Louis Cennamo and John Hawken (and a gaggle of sessions hands) formed Renaissance Illusion, who released their one and only album, Through The Fire, in 2001.

Even though it's unsurprising in style, Through The Fire still managed to captivate and engage with its audience, a decidedly patient set of songs more than hinting at times gone by through the relaxed manner in which they tell their story. McCarty and Relf were in fine vocal form, combining to quite stunning effect as they weaved their mystical tales and gentle comments on life and beyond. The fittingly titled opening cut "One More Turn Of The Wheel" sets the tone for what's to come, a slow build of sounds and atmosphere patient in the extreme as it slowly comes to life, Eastern flavours enigmatically unfolding through shimmering piano and wonderful vocals.

As with most of this version of Renaissance (and Illusion), the basis of this album may be more song based than many will expect, memorable and gently hook laden choruses sticking long in the mind as the likes of "Good Heart", "Glorious One" and "My Old Friend" play out. The latter a beautifully poised selection that conveys loss and time passing in a cleverly accessible manner, even as its pace refuses to rise above an engaging crawl. With "Beyond The Day" a gentle sway that incorporates pipes and whistle and "Through The Fire" almost a casual jaunt that possesses a decided glint in its eye, while this album could never be seen as anything other than reserved and controlled, it is somehow surprisingly diverse. This Angel Air reissue adds two previously unheard bonus selections in the shape of "If There Was Something I Could Change?" and "Moving On", which thankfully don't break the album's spell, fitting the mood and atmosphere perfectly. As such they are both welcome additions and, rather pleasingly, just as good as anything the original release contained.

They may have been overshadowed by the band they formed and then left behind and their reappearance as Illusion. However, with this solitary album Renaissance Illusion created a worthy legacy of their own and one that in this hectic world provides an excellent opportunity to slow down and relax with some beautifully poised and memorable music.

Track Listing
1. One More Turn Of The Wheel
2. Good Heart
3. Glorious One
4. Through The Fire
5. Blowing Away
6. Mystery Of Being
7. Beat Of The Earth
8. Beyond The Day
9. My Old Friend
10. Through The Fire (reprise)
11. If There Was Something I Could Change?
12. Moving On

Added: June 22nd 2019
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Through The Fire at Angel Air
Hits: 1905
Language: english

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Renaissance Illusion: Through The Fire (reissue)
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2019-06-22 20:01:47
My Score:

Out of the smoldering ashes of The Yardbirds, another band would rise. That band was Renaissance, formed by ex-Yardbird members Keith Relf and Jim McCarty. After a couple of albums Renaissance changed lineups, you know the one with Annie Haslim fronting the band. Later in the ‘70s McCarty got his old Renaissance mates back together and formed the band Illusion which would only last a couple of albums. Fast forward to the year 2000 and the formation of Renaissance Illusion featuring the original Renaissance/Illusion members; Jim McCarty (drums, percussion, vocals, piano, keyboards), Jane Relf (vocals), John Hawken (piano, keyboards) and Louis Cennamo (bass).

This is a gorgeously done album, beautifully recorded with heartfelt melodies and arrangements. Some might call this soft rock and that wouldn’t be wrong but there is so much sophistication here, so much depth and feeling. One of the best tracks is the album opening “One More Turn Of The Wheel” with its exotic Indian flavoured acoustic guitar and piano and serene lead vocals. The lovely “Good Heart” is next featuring subtle yet soaring lead guitar followed by the catchy “Glorious One”, another deep feeling winner.

Track after track, the melodies and veteran song craft is revealed making Through The Fire a thoroughly enjoyable listen. I think fans of both bands will find something to appreciate here. Highly recommended.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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