Renaissance (band)

Renaissance were an English progressive rock band, most notable for their 1978 UK top 10 hit "Northern Lights".


Former Yardbirds members Paul Samwell-Smith, Keith Relf, and Jim McCarty organised a new group devoted to experimentation between rock, Folk, and classical forms. This quintet — Relf on guitar & vocals, McCarty on drums, plus bassist Louis Cennamo, pianist John Hawken, and Relf's sister Jane Relf as an additional vocalist — released a pair of albums on Elektra (US) and Island (UK-ILPS 9112), the first one being produced by Samwell-Smith. As touring began to grind on them, the band gradually dissolved one by one, leaving McCarty and Jane Relf to hold things together. As the rest drifted off, new or guest members were added. A barely finished second album, Illusion, was released in Germany in 1971. It was finally released in the UK in 1976. (Island, HELP 27)]

One of the new additions was Michael Dunford. McCarty and Relf soon left, and Dunford, inheriting the helm of the band, started auditions for a new lineup. Vocalist Binky Cullom came and went. Reflecting his academic training, Dunford started rebuilding the group with more classically trained personnel. With some vocal training and local gigs under her belt, Annie Haslam saw an advertisement in the music sheet "Melody Maker" for a singer in Dunford's new group. She was hired, and the second incarnation of Renaissance was begun.

This lineup was the best-known and longest running, consisting of Haslam (Vocals), John Tout (piano), Jon Camp (bass pedals/Vocals) and Terence Sullivan (drums). Rob Hendry (electric guitar) left the group after the first album was recorded. Michael Dunford took over as lead (acoustic) guitarist. The group released Prologue in 1972 on EMI-Sovereign Records (UK), with music composed by Dunford with the exception of one track by McCarty. Renaissance began its long-standing collaboration with Cornish poet Betty Thatcher-Newsinger as lyricist; Dunford sent her sheet music and demo tapes, and she wrote poetry to fit.

The next album, Ashes are Burning, was released in 1973. Dunford, McCarty and Thatcher continued as composers and lyricist, and Dunford debuted with acoustic guitar contributions. Andy Powell, of the group Wishbone Ash, was brought in for a blistering guitar solo on the final track "Ashes are Burning," which became the band's anthem piece. The album became the band's first to chart in the US where it reached #171 on the Billboard 200.

The band left major label EMI, and was recruited by Stewart Copeland's new prog rock boutique label BTM Records-British Talent Managers. The label's first release was Turn of the Cards in 1975/76*. With a larger budget, the album went from folk-flavored 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 writing credit with the group. A lengthy tribute to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, called "Mother Russia", closed out the album, with lyrics inspired by his story "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich".

The LP was first issued in the United States on Sire Records in August 1974, where it reached #94, nearly two years before an official UK release. Although the band's fan base was relatively small, it's following was heavily concentrated in the large cities of the northeast US. The album was evnetually released in the UK in March 1976, followed only a few months later by their epic tone-poem Scheherezade and Other Stories, released on both sides of the Atlantic in September 1975. The album peaked at #48 in the United States.

A double live album, Live at Carnegie Hall, followed in 1976. Despite criticisms that the album was little more than a note for note reproduction of highlights from their previous four studio albums the album reached #55 in the US. It's followup, titled Novella also saw a modest chart success in the US, peaking at #46 in 1977.

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, Jarre, Rachmaninoff, Rimsky-Korsakov, Prokofiev. 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. Although commercial success was limited during this period, Renaissance scored a hit single in Britain with Northern Lights, which reached #10 there during the summer of 1978. The single was taken from the album A Song for All Seasons (a #58 album in the US).

With the unionization of professional orchestral musicians that followed, it was no longer financially feasible for the band to continue with its traditional orchestral sound. Renaissance floundered following 1979's Azure d'Or, as many fans couldn't relate to a largely synthesizer-oriented sound. As a result the band's fan base began to lose interest and the album only reached #125. Michael Dunford and John Camp assumed most of the band's songwriting, and after Azure d'Or, John Tout and Terry Sullivan left the group. Subsequent albums Camera Camera (1981) and Time Line (1983) brought Renaissance more into the contemporary synth pop genre, but neither garnered enough commercial interest to make a viable future for the band, which then ended its second incarnation. "Camera Camera" was the band's final album to chart in the US where it reached #196 in late 1981.

Renaissance albums were not available individually on CD for some time. A pair of compilations were issued in 1988. In the 1990s most of their catalog appeared on CD from reissue record labels such as Repertoire Records (Germany). In 2006 Repertoire did much higher quality remasters of Ashes are Burning, Turn of the Cards and Scheherezade with markedly improved sound.

In the mid 1990s both Haslam and Dunford formed their own bands using the name Renaissance and released albums with different line-ups.

Renaissance partially reformed in 1998 with several new musicians to record the CD Tuscany. They played one concert at the Astoria in London before embarking on a short Japanese tour in 2001. 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.

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 Newsinger and keyboard contributions by John Tout.

2008 Sep 20th 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 1984 in Sellersville Pennsylvainia.


The original 1969 line-up comprised Keith Relf (vocals, guitar, harmonica), Jim McCarty (drums, vocals), John Hawken (keyboards), Louis Cennamo (bass) and Jane Relf (vocals). This lineup released Renaissance (1969) and appeared on most of Illusion (1971). (Note: The following list includes temporary replacements & sidemen.)

  • Summer 1970 - Added Terry Crowe (vocals), Terry Slade (drums) Neil Korner (bass) replaced Cennamo, Michael Dunford (guitar) replaced Keith Relf. This lineup recorded one track for Illusion (1971).
  • Autumn 1970 - Binky Cullom (vocals) replaced Jane Relf
  • Autumn 1970 - John Tout (keyboards) replaced Hawken
  • January 1971 - Annie Haslam (vocals) replaced Cullom
  • 1971 - Danny McCullough (bass) replaced Korner
  • 1971 - Frank Farrell (bass) replaced McCullough
  • June 1971 - John Wetton (bass) replaced Farrell
  • 1972 - Crowe left, Terence Sullivan (drums) replaced Slade, Jon Camp (bass, guitar, vocals) replaced Wetton, Mick Parsons (guitar) and Dunford reduced his role to composing for the band.
  • 1972 - Rob Hendry (guitar) replaced Parsons (who had died in a car accident). This lineup released Prologue (1972).
  • 1973 - Peter Finer (guitar) replaced Hendry
  • 1973 - Michael Dunford (guitar) replaced Finer. This lineup released Ashes are Burning (1973) through Azure d'Or (1979).
  • 1981 - Peter Barron (drums) replaced Sullivan, Peter Gosling (keyboards) replaced Tout. This lineup released Camera Camera (1981).
  • 1983 - Gavin Harrison (drums) replaced Barron, Mike Taylor (keyboards) replaced Gosling
  • 1984 - Greg Carter (drums) replaced Harrison, Raphael Rudd (keyboards, harp) replaced Taylor
  • 1985 - Charles Descarfino (drums) replaced Harrison, Mark Lampariello (aka Mark Lambert) (bass, guitar) replaced Camp
  • 1998 - Terence Sullivan (drums) replaced Descarfino, Roy Wood (bass, keyboards, percussion) replaced Lampariello, John Tout (keyboards) replaced Rudd
  • 1998 - Alex Caird (bass) replaced Wood, Mickey Simmonds (keyboards) replaced Tout
  • 2001 - David Keyes (bass) replaced Caird, added Rave Tesar (keyboards)



Compilations & archival releases

  • 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/misc from 1968-76)



  • "Island" b/w "The Sea", 1969
  • "Back Home Once Again" b/w "The Captive Heart", 1977
  • "Northern Lights" b/w "Opening Out", 1978
    • Chart peak: #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

Japan only

  • "Spare Some Love" b/w "Prologue", 1972

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
  • 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 program with Renaissance performing "Can You Understand" and "Black Flame." Syndicated (USA), 1974. 11 minutes, original running time unknown.

  • The Midnight Special

Multi-artist television program 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 programs 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" 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 2nd album of the original Renaissance (1971); and the eponymous 2nd 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

Renaissance Illusion

  • Through The Fire, 2001



External links

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