The Forgotten Arm: Renaissance

Though they are still around today in one form or another (more on that later), Renaissance began as a very different band. Formed in 1969 by Keith Relf and Jim McCarty, both former members of The Yardbirds, Renaissance was intended to be a band with a completely unique sound. That sound was achieved by incorporating folk and classical influences into the blues rock that Relf and McCarty knew so well. Joining them were bassist Louis Cennamo, keyboardist John Hawken and Relf’s sister Jane as a second vocalist. This lineup produced just one album, a self-titled record in late 1969, before the changes started.

Jim McCarty was the first to leave, his dislike for air travel preventing him from touring with the band. McCarty would, however, continue to be involved with the band as a songwriter. Keith Relf and Louis Cennamo departed soon after to form the band Armageddon. Most of the tracks on Renaissance’s second album, Illusion, were recorded by the original band, though some featured new or interim members. For the Illusion sessions, Jane Relf brought in her friend Betty Thatcher, who would serve as one of the band’s primary lyricists through the ’70s. By 1971, no original members of Renaissance remained in the band.

Despite the absence of any founding members, Renaissance carried on. With vocalist Annie Haslam joining the band in early 1971, Renaissance quite literally found its defining voice. With Haslam leading the band, Renaissance released several successful albums, including 1973’s Ashes Are Burning. Apart from Haslam, the only longtime member in the current incarnation of Renaissance is guitarist Michael Dunford, who joined in 1973. Renaissance’s most recent release, a three-song EP called The Mystic And The Muse, came in 2010.

In 1977, following the death of Keith Relf, McCarty, Cennamo, Hawken and Jane Relf regrouped as Illusion. They released two albums between ’77 and ’78, a collection of demos and an album as Renaissance Illusion in 2001.

Watch: Renaissance – “Kings & Queens” from Renaissance (1969)

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~ by E. on July 14, 2011.

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