Albums In My Collection
– Ashes Are Burning
– Azure d’Or
– Scheherazade & Other Stories
– A Song For All Seasons
– Symphony Of Light
– Turn On The Cards
I tend to feel that without Renaissance there would have never been a Magenta (my current favorite band). Renaissance’s existence could be summed up and divided into two parts—before and after Annie Haslam.
For the first two albums, the band featured singer Jane Relf and a host of musicians who eventually all left the band, with several of them (including Jane) going on to form Illusion, a band with a similar style. For the third album, the band’s management recruited the great Annie Haslam and musicians who would make up a Renaissance (Mk II) line-up. Throughout the many years that followed some of the musicians would come and go, but Annie remained constant. Thankfully!
The band started out (and remained for most of the 70s) a unique act for their time—a progressive rock band (featuring a stellar female vocalist, unlike the majority of their contemporaries) who placed an emphasis on acoustic instruments (especially some killer grand piano) and orchestral arrangements (again, unique for their era). You won’t hear much, if any, in the way of Yes or Genesis or Gentle Giant comparisons here, but a intricate mixture of rock, classical, folk, and jazz music all built around the angelic and powerful vocals of Annie Haslam (apart from a handful of songs during the earliest days). And no surprise—if you have the luck to get a singer with such unique talent, why not flaunt the treasure? Annie has a voice that is truly special. She can hit the highs and lows without difficulty, all the notes pitch-perfect and crystal clear, and all loaded with emotion. I’ll admit to not being a huge fan of the band’s later career, when they altered their sound to fit with the 80s’ poppish/new wave nonsense, but the first decade saw some excellent material from the band, material that remains enjoyable to this day.
As mentioned, Magenta is a band that owes at least a tip of the hat to Renaissance, since they take the band’s influence and merge it with sounds of other (more traditional) progressive bands from the 70s to create a great revamped version of their own for the 21st century. So thanks to Annie and Renaissance for releasing some stellar albums such as Scheherazade and Other Stories, or Turn Of The Cards, or Novella, or Ashes Are Burning—without these albums, a band such as Magenta might not have ever existed in this new century.