Stegzy's Music Project

A commentary on Stegzy's album collection

Illusion – Renaissance [#610]

Ren_ill2Since rediscovering this in my collection, I have listened to it nearly every day since. It’s curious how the modern way seems to be more playlist orientated than album driven. As an exercise, I listened to the first album, Renaissance, this album, Illusion, and the following three albums, Prologue, Ashes are Burning and Turn of the Cards, in effect the first 5 albums by the band, to see if I could pinpoint something groundbreaking. I couldn’t but it was fun. But this Renaissance exercise has shown me how important music appreciation skills are in the full enjoyment of music by artists and appreciation of how sound develops over time.

As per Illusion by Illusion, I had mostly ignored this album, frightened by what stylistic differences that might exist to affect my enjoyment of core 1973-1978 era Renaissance. However, in true form, I found pre-Haslam Renaissance much more enjoyable. Indeed, it was clear that the style only seemed to change once the Dunford/Haslam crew stopped recycling work by the original band members and focused on their own style.

Illusion is the second album by the first incarnation of Renaissance that would later become Illusion and Stairway. It features the first song to include a member of the second incarnation, Michael Dunford, Mr Pine, which also features a melody that would later resurface in the fifth, and third with the new lineup, album Turn of the Cards. 

To add further twists the album was released in Germany in 1971, then again to the wider world in 1973 but not in the UK until 1977.

Finally, as a footnote, the video that accompanies today’s entry features Binky Cullom in the female vocal lead. Binky was a transitional member between Relf and Haslam. Sadly Binky doesn’t really seem to have the steadiness of Relf or Haslam, but I thought it would be fun to include it here.

Confused? Think about how the band felt!

and for those whose ears are now bleeding, here is the salve.

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Illusion – Illusion [#609]

Illusion_-_Same.jpgDuring the run-up to the next Music Project entry, I had to do a bit of research. Renaissance is one of those true prog bands whose line up has changed so much over the years, they’re unrecognisable to their original form. 

When Renaissance formed in 1969 it originally comprised of former Yardbirds Jim McCarty and Keith & Jane Relf together with John Hawken and Colosseum Bassist Louis Cennamo but when I first heard the band they were a quintet of none of the original members. The original line up released two albums then kind of went their separate ways in the early seventies. They then had a change of heart and reformed as a different band, Illusion. 

Of course I only kind of slightly knew this and to be honest, I was a little scared to listen to any Renaissance before Annie Haslam.  So when the next Music Project entry was Illusion by the McCarty/Relf lineup naturally I was a bit apprehensive. Then I dug about on Wikipedia and relearned the Renaissance story and how the McCarty/Relf Renaissance split and reformed as Illusion, confusingly later releasing the album Illusion. Curiosity got the better of me and I ended up Apple Musicing the album into my collection. 

So today, we’re looking at Illusion by Illusion. Jane Relf, together with Jim McCarty, John Hawken and Louis Cennamo (basically Renaissance pre-Dunford/Haslam) released this, their second Illusion album in 1978, Keith Relf having died tragically in 1976, is missing from this lineup.  It’s when you hear stuff like this, you begin to see the roots of Renaissance, the influence of other prog bands and how things could have been so-so different. 

Relf has a distinctive a voice as Haslam and there are clear embryonic audible melodic themes that would later resurface in Dunford/Haslam era Renaissance songs, likewise, one can hear the converse. Stylistically, they are subtly different yet the same; piano heavy, with an essence of floaty folk music vocals, airy poetic lyrics and a lick of Floydesque synth motifs here and there. I think my favourite track has got to be Madonna Blue which screams seventies folk rock so much it may as well grow long straight hair and wear a kaftan. Indeed, when listened to in its entirety, one might as well try listening back to back with Renaissance’s Illusion and see if you can tell the difference.

Just like I did.

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