Ren-Rey

 

Renaissance (UK): Renaissance (Island ILPS 9114, 1969)
Progressive
Jane Relf (joint lead vocals, percussion)
This seminal progressive rock band’s debut remains perhaps the definitive classical/rock crossover: a marvellously assured blend of post-psychedelic rock elements and themes deftly performed by master pianist John Hawken. The opening ‘Kings And Queens’ is the most ambitious track on offer, and perfectly sums up the band’s approach. ‘Island’ and ‘Wanderer’, beautifully sung by Jane Relf, have a strong folk edge, whilst the dark and sinister ‘Bullet’ adds an unexpected blues/rock twist to the proceedings. Without a weak moment, the LP is simply breathtaking and was enormously influential. GRADE: A+.
Renaissance (UK): Illusion (Island 6339 017, West Germany, 1970)
Progressive
Jane Relf (joint lead vocals, percussion)
Their second album inevitably isn’t as good as the first, as the band began an interminable succession of personnel changes during the recording sessions. As a result, ‘Mr Pine’ was cut by Jane Relf and John Hawken with an otherwise entirely different line-up (including Michael Dunford, who would become a mainstay of the Annie Haslam incarnation) whilst the lengthy ‘Past Orbits Of Dust’ was cut by a one-off reunion of four founding members plus Don Shinn replacing Hawken. Nonetheless, despite a much softer and folkier approach, there is some excellent music on offer. GRADE: B–.
Renaissance (UK): Prologue (Sovereign SVNA 7253, 1972)
Progressive
Annie Haslam (principal vocals, percussion)
The first recording by a completely new line-up (with almost no links with the first two albums), Prologue is an interesting development of the classical/rock fusion pioneered by the previous incarnation. An extremely versatile and accomplished set, it adds folk, jazz, psychedelic and Indian elements for a marvellously rich and impressive whole. The album has no inferior tracks, but the three standout songs are the opening title cut (arguably featuring Annie Haslam’s best-ever vocal performance), the catchy single ‘Spare Some Love’ and the closing eleven-minute raga blowout ‘Rajah Khan’, taking the band beyond Magic Carpet or Oriental Sunshine and into some of the most stoned Eastern rock jamming imaginable. GRADE: A–.
Renaissance (UK): Ashes Are Burning (Sovereign SVNA 7261, 1973)
Progressive
Annie Haslam (lead vocals)
Another fine album, this sees a rapid softening of the band’s musical style. Gone were any psychedelic trappings, replaced by a more basic (if that is the right word for such complex and ornate music) fusion of folk and baroque classical. The album’s reputation rests mainly on the two extended pieces that bookend it, but to my mind the four shorter songs are the real gems, especially the delightful ballad ‘Let It Grow’ and wonderfully melodic folk/rock of ‘On The Frontier’. GRADE: B.
Renaissance (UK): Turn Of The Cards (BTM 1000, 1974)
Progressive
Annie Haslam (lead vocals)
Most observers regard the band’s fifth album as an improvement on their previous work, but I disagree. Certainly, it is a refinement of what went before, with all extraneous elements removed; amongst these elements, however, are any grittiness, or any compulsion to write recognisably catchy tunes. What’s left is relaxed yet dramatic folky classical fusion, impressive in its scope and breathtaking in its execution, yet occasionally lacking in human warmth. Nevertheless, the disc contains some superb tracks, particularly the concert favourites ‘Mother Russia’ and ‘Black Flame’. GRADE: B–.
Renaissance (UK): Scheherazade And Other Stories (BTM 1006, with inner, 1975)
Progressive
Annie Haslam (principal vocals)
With an ambitious side-long suite and sumptuous orchestrations, this is generally considered Renaissance’s finest album. However, even more so than on its predecessor the beautifully crafted music impresses technically more than it resonates emotionally, leaving this a rather uninvolving experience. GRADE: B–.
Renaissance (UK): Live At Carnegie Hall (BTM 2001, double, 1976)
Progressive
Annie Haslam (lead vocals)
Capturing the band live at its commercial peak, this features a good cross-section of material from the first four albums by the Annie Haslam line-up, including side-long versions of ‘Ashes Are Burning’ and ‘The Song Of Scheherezade’. Accompanied by a full orchestra, the band sounds livelier and punchier than on record, making this superb set an essential document of their mid-period. GRADE: B.
Renaissance (UK): Novella (Sire SA-7526, USA, 1977)
Progressive
Annie Haslam (lead vocals)
A more dramatic album than its predecessors, this opens with one of the band’s most powerful pieces in the fourteen-minute ‘Can You Hear Me?’. Unusually, the American issue was the first pressing; it did not appear in the UK until more than six months later (as Warner Brothers K 56422, with a completely different sleeve). This was their commercial high water mark in the States, peaking at number 46. GRADE: B–.
Renaissance (UK): A Song For All Seasons (Warner Brothers K 56460, with inner, 1978)
Progressive
Annie Haslam (principal vocals)
Marking the return of male lead vocals and electric guitars to the band’s sound, this is a slightly harder-edged album. With two longer pieces and six shorter ones, it’s also more accessible, and in fact gave the band its only hit single with ‘Northern Lights’ (which reached the UK top ten). That cut and its B-side ‘Opening Out’ are the best things on offer, but despite a couple of weaker numbers a high standard is maintained throughout. Genesis producer David Hentschel adds a slick edge to the production that also works in the album’s favour. GRADE: B.

Renaissance (UK): In Concert No 188 (BBC CN 03234/S, with inserts, 1978)
Progressive
Annie Haslam (lead vocals)
Running for almost an hour, this BBC transcription disc benefits from both fine performances and strong sound quality. It also boasts an interesting track listing: old warhorses like ‘Prologue’ and ‘Carpet Of The Sun’ are present as usual, but they also offer versions of ‘Back Home Once Again’, ‘Day Of The Dreamer’ and ‘A Song For All Seasons’ plus an unusual medley of ‘Can You Understand?’ and ‘The Vultures Fly High’. GRADE: B.
Renaissance (UK): Azure D’Or (Warner Brothers K 56633, with inner, 1979)
Rock/Progressive
Annie Haslam (principal vocals)
With Hentschel still at the helm, Renaissance capitalised on the success of ‘Northern Lights’ by going neoprog ­– there are no extended pieces here, and the orchestral arrangements of old have been replaced by tinny string synthesisers. There are a few mild experiments too – a pacy instrumental, a number composed by drummer Terence Sullivan, a cut sung by bassist Jon Camp to sparse keyboard backing – but the new, more straightforward approach makes clear the lack of really outstanding material. Even if this were a one-shot album by an unknown neoprog band, one would have to conclude that despite some catchy keyboard fugues, the only really distinctive feature is the superb singing. GRADE: C+.
Renaissance (UK): Camera Camera (Illegal ILP008, 1981)
Pop/Rock/Progressive
Annie Haslam (lead vocals)
When Camera Camera was released, fans were horrified by both its musical content (pop-ish high-tech neoprog) and cover (depicting the band in garish clothes looking like an electropop outfit). But whilst they neither look nor sound like Renaissance, taken on its own terms this is probably a slightly better album than Azure D’Or, even if this change in style was clearly motivated by a desire to keep abreast of musical trends and make some quick cash. The very first pressing omits the single ‘Bonjour Swansong’, an even more blatant attempt to rewrite ‘Northern Lights’ than the previous LP’s ‘The Winter Tree’. GRADE: C+.
Renaissance (UK): Time-Line (IRS SP-70033, 1983)
Pop/Rock/Progressive
Annie Haslam (principal vocals)
The final album by the band’s original incarnation takes Renaissance even closer to eighties pop/rock, although plenty of folk and classical elements remain. With ten short songs incorporating lots of synthesisers and elements of funk, this could have been a real disaster, but a strong set of compositions ensures that it is not. Indeed, ‘Flight’, with its dramatic tempo changes and sweeping melody, is as good an album opener as ‘Opening Out’ was five years previously. GRADE: C+.
Renaissance (UK): Tuscany (Toshiba-EMI TOCP-65591, CD, with obi, Japan, 2000)
Progressive
Annie Haslam (lead vocals)
Reuniting the Annie Haslam and Michael Dunford factions (plus Terence Sullivan, as well as John Tout helping out here and there), this was the first true Renaissance album for seventeen years. Unsurprisingly, it’s not a return to their classic form, falling midway between A Song For All Seasons and Azure D’Or in style. The results are by no means bad – frequently better than Michael Dunford’s Renaissance or any of Haslam’s underwhelming solo work – but there isn’t another ‘Northern Lights’ here, despite a couple of pretty close rewrites. ‘Dear Landseer’ is probably the best thing on offer, with the remaining material failing to make much impression. GRADE: C+.
Renaissance (UK): In The Land Of The Rising Sun (EMI TOCP-66007/08, double CD, with obi, Japan, 2002)
Progressive
Annie Haslam (lead vocals)
This Japanese-only live set mixes the band’s familiar classics with material from Tuscany and a couple of numbers from Annie Haslam’s solo albums. It’s a fine album throughout, with excellent performances, but the contrast in quality between the older and newer songs is striking. GRADE: B–.
Renaissance (UK): The Mystic And The Muse (Belle Antique BELLE 101738, CD, with poster booklet and obi, Japan, 2010)
Progressive
Annie Haslam (lead vocals)
This three-song, seventeen-minute EP succeeds where Tuscany failed in recapturing the band’s mid-seventies sound. With Annie Haslam in fine voice, it’s a solid set, even if the songwriting isn’t particularly outstanding. Nonetheless, it’s a shame they didn’t expand the venture into a full album. GRADE: C+.

Renaissance (UK/USA): Tour 2011 (Symphonic Rock Recordings SRR 000-01, DVD plus double CD, with digipak and booklet, 2011)ProgressiveAnnie Haslam (principal vocals, percussion)
This excellent set features the band interpreting Turn Of The Cards and Scheherazade And Other Stories in their entirety, before encoring with ‘The Mystic And The Muse’. All things considered, this is the probably the best introduction to their live performances. GRADE: B.
Renaissance (UK/USA): Grandine Il Vento (Avalon MIZP-300007, SHM-CD, with gatefold minisleeve, booklet and poster booklet, some with book, Japan, 2013)
Progressive
Annie Haslam (principal vocals)
Reprising the title track from the 2010 EP, this sounds like the logical follow-up to A Song For All Seasons that the various LPs in between weren’t. Not all of the tempo changes are handled brilliantly, and this occasionally sounds a little more modern than I suspect the band intended, but the classic Renaissance sound is back for the first time in 35 years and there is some fine material here. Sadly, this was Michael Dunford’s last venture with the band due to his untimely death. GRADE: B–.

Renaissance (USA/UK): A Symphonic Journey (Symphonic Rock Recordings SRRCD 3001, DVD plus double CD, with digipak and booklet, UK, 2018)
Progressive
Annie Haslam (lead vocals, percussion)
With Michael Dunford deceased and no other members of the sixties, seventies and eighties line-ups involved, it’s debatable how far this is a genuine Renaissance release. However, there’s no doubting the quality of the music: backed by a crack team of American musicians and a chamber orchestra (apparently for the first time since the seventies), Annie Haslam is in wonderful voice throughout. An unusual track listing (‘Island’ from the very first album, ‘A Song For All Seasons’, ‘Kalynda’, ‘Grandine Il Vento’, ‘Symphony Of Light’ and no ‘Northern Lights’) is also a huge bonus, and the filming and recording are excellent. GRADE: B.

Renaissance (UK): 50th Anniversary (Esoteric Antenna EANTCD 40188, Blu-Ray plus DVD plus double CD, with minisleeves, booklet and box, 2021)
Progressive
Annie Haslam (lead vocals, percussion)
There’s no doubting the quality of the performances here – Annie Haslam is in superb voice, the band and orchestra deliver note-perfect recitations of the seventies classics, and the set is both well filmed and recorded. They even manage to deliver a few mild surprises, including an appearance by Jim McCarty for ‘Island’ and an outing for the oft-overlooked ‘Opening Out’ from A Song For All Seasons. They also deserve some credit for avoiding the obvious and not playing ‘Northern Lights’, though whether they would have made the same decision in front of a British audience is moot. But whilst criticising something this good seems churlish, this lavish set – comprising the same show on Blu-Ray, DVD and CD – does make one wonder about the usefulness of such bands, which issue regular live DVDs but visit the studio about as often as Halley’s Comet visits the earth. GRADE: B.
Renaissance (UK): Live+Direct (Spiral SCD 924, CD, 2002, recorded 1968-1976)
Progressive
Jane Relf (joint lead vocals)
This fascinating archive release features four live tracks from 1970 (three cuts from Renaissance plus the unrecorded fourteen-minute ‘No Name Raga’), a rather good pop-ish outtake from Illusion (‘Statues’) and demos by Keith & Jane Relf and the embryonic Illusion recorded in 1968 and 1976. The live tracks are powerful and dramatic, even if ‘No Name Raga’ slightly outstays its welcome, whilst the demos are somewhat folkier. As a bonus, sound quality is more than acceptable throughout. This is certainly among the best of the many Renaissance archive releases. GRADE: B–.
Renaissance (UK): Past Orbits Of Dust (Troubadour TRBCD017, CD, 2012, recorded 1969-1970)
Progressive
Jane Relf
Featuring a different set of live recordings from Live+Direct, this has eight cuts, mostly from the first LP, plus the outtake ‘Statues’ making its second appearance. The sound quality is somewhat variable, and a couple of the performances don’t work well (notably a very hesitant ‘Wanderer’) but this is another very important historical document. GRADE: B–.

Renaissance (UK): Live Fillmore West (Repertoire, download, 2022, recorded 1970)
Progressive
Jane Relf
Much as I love the Annie Haslam incarnation of Renaissance, the original line-up fronted by the Relfs could play it into the proverbial cocked hat. This archive recording – which seems to duplicate some tracks from the earlier CD Live+Direct, though this features the whole show – could be used as exhibit A. Across a setlist spanning the entirety of the first album plus a few unrecorded pieces, the band offers a fiery masterclass in early progressive rock, with incendiary playing and incredible dynamics. The sound quality is less impressive, being slightly above that of a decent bootleg but somewhat below that of a professional recording, but the exceptional quality of the music still shines through. GRADE: A.

Renaissance (UK): De Lane Lea Studios 1973 (Purple Pyramid CLP 2115, CD, USA, 2015, recorded 1973)
Progressive
Annie Haslam (lead vocals)
Instead of touring to promote Ashes Are Burning, Renaissance opted to record a live set at De Lane Lea Studios before an invited audience and broadcast the results on national radio. The set consisted of nearly the entire album plus ‘Sounds Of The Sea’ and the title track from Prologue, and it remained officially unreleased for more than 40 years (though a bootleg appeared on the Japanese Tachiko label in 2009). With excellent sound quality, this captures the band at the peak of its powers and makes me wish a similar recording from a year earlier could resurface. GRADE: B.

Renaissance (UK): Academy Of Music 1974 (Purple Pyramid CLP 2116, double CD, 2015, recorded 1974)
Progressive
Annie Haslam (lead vocals)
Recorded in New York in 1974, with the band backed by an orchestra, this features the highlights of the Ashes Are Burning and Turn Of The Cards albums, plus ‘Prologue’. ‘Ashes Are Burning’ itself is breathtaking, performed in a powerful, rocking (not a word one normally associates with the Annie Haslam incarnation of the band) version featuring Andy Powell and pianist Howard Stein; the remainder is pretty accomplished too, bolstered by fine sound quality. GRADE: B.
Renaissance (UK): BBC Sessions (Wounded Bird WOU 1001, double CD, USA, 1999, recorded 1975-1978)
Progressive
Annie Haslam (principal vocals)
The bad news is that this covers basically the same material as Live At Carnegie Hall or any other live set issued by the Annie Haslam incarnation or indeed just about any gig they played after 1975. The good news is the versions here are very different, being recorded without an orchestra, which gives a much punchier and more dynamic sound. The recording quality is excellent too, making this perhaps the best of the Renaissance live retrospective releases. GRADE: B.
Renaissance (UK): British Tour ’76 (Major League Productions MLP11CD, CD, 2006, recorded 1976)
Progressive
Annie Haslam (principal vocals)
Capturing the band a few months after Live At Carnegie Hall, this interesting album sees them performing a similar set but without an orchestra. With good sound quality and fine musicianship, it offers an excellent cross-section of their mid-seventies work. GRADE: B–.
Renaissance (UK): Live At The Royal Albert Hall With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (Part 1) (King Biscuit Flower Hour 70710-88020-2, CD, USA, 1997, recorded 1977)
Progressive
Annie Haslam (principal vocals)
The title says it all: this is the first part of a 1977 Albert Hall set with the RPO providing orchestral backing. Aside from ‘Can You Hear Me?’ from the then-current Novella album, this features all the usual staples of the band’s live set (though ‘Prologue’ is rendered as an overture by the orchestra alone) and these excellent performances easily equal Live At Carnegie Hall. This was reissued as Can You Hear Me? on the Disky label with a different running order. GRADE: B.
Renaissance (UK): Live At The Royal Albert Hall With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (Part 2) (King Biscuit Flower Hour KBHFCD019, 1998, recorded 1977-82?)
Progressive
Annie Haslam (lead vocals)
Why the show was released in two separate volumes, I have no idea (unless it was simply a ploy to charge more). This features the final five numbers, all also included in Live At Carnegie Hall, plus two bonus tracks: ‘Prologue’ recorded live in 1979 and the eighties studio outtake ‘You’, which had already appeared on Songs From Renaissance Days. The latter number simply doesn’t belong here, bearing no resemblance to the rest of the material, but the live performances are excellent. Disky also reissued this set, again reordered, as Mother Russia.

GRADE: B.
Renaissance (UK): Dreams And Omens – ‘Live’ At The Tower Theatre 1978 (Friday Music FRM 1093, USA, 2008, recorded 1978)
Progressive
Annie Haslam (lead vocals)
Another good live set, featuring several of the usual suspects plus two A Song For All Seasons cuts (‘Day Of The Dreamer’ and the inevitable ‘Northern Lights’). Excellent sound quality throughout is also a bonus. GRADE: B.
Renaissance (UK): Live In Chicago 1983 (Floating World FLOATM6069, 2010, recorded 1983)
Progressive
Annie Haslam (lead vocals)
This is an interesting release, since Renaissance live recordings from the eighties are rare, but also a deeply flawed one. Apparently this was the soundtrack from a TV broadcast, and I have a sneaking suspicion it may have been recorded off-air as the sound is mono and very muted. Secondly, it sounds like some of the tracks were telescoped together, with between-songs dialogue removed, so I have no idea whether the long medley bookended by ‘Opening Out’ was actually played as such or assembled from snippets of individual songs. Either way, only one unusual number is performed here (‘Flight’), in keeping with the band’s practice of playing essentially the same set right up to their demise. GRADE: C+.
Renaissance (UK/USA): ‘Unplugged’ – ‘Live’ At The Academy Of Music, Philadelphia USA (Mooncrest CRESTCD 056 Z, CD, 2000, recorded 1985)
Progressive
Annie Haslam (lead vocals)
Recorded with an obscure later line-up including American musicians, this acoustic performance of a varied cross-section of material is a mixed bag. The more dramatic numbers such as ‘Black Flame’ and ‘Mother Russia’ are superb, but some other numbers are less than compelling in their new unplugged format. This is nonetheless an enjoyable album and a fascinating historical document of a line-up that never made it into the studio. GRADE: B–.
Renaissance (UK): Songs From Renaissance Days (HTD CD 73, CD, 1997, recorded 1979-1989?)
Folk/Rock
Annie Haslam (lead vocals)
This compilation of mostly unreleased recordings includes the obscure 1979 B-side ‘Island Of Avalon’, a few outtakes from Camera Camera, some post-Time Line bits and pieces and a couple of Annie Haslam solo numbers presumably recorded around the time of her 1989 album. The latter include a truly dreadful reworking of ‘Northern Lights’ with synthesiser and drum machine backing, but otherwise this is mostly folkish ballads with a more traditional Renaissance sound than the majority of Camera Camera or Time-Line. That’s not necessarily a recommendation, as most of the music here is very, very dull, with only their cover of ‘America’ really being worth a second listen. The opening ‘Africa’ is, however, amusing, basically being yet another rewrite of ‘Northern Lights’ with – you’ve guessed it – some African drumming at the beginning and end. GRADE: C.
Renaissance (UK/USA): Kings And Queens (Voiceprint VPDVD67, DVD, UK, 2010, recorded 1970)
Progressive
Binky Cullom (occasional vocals, tambourine), Jane Relf (occasional vocals, tambourine)
This remarkable release features two songs by the original Keith Relf line-up (from a German TV show) and four by the interim line-up with Binky Cullom, which never recorded (seemingly from a rock festival in France). The material is mainly drawn from the first two albums, and the performances are astounding, balancing beauty, complexity and dynamism. However, the best number is probably the closing version of ‘Widdiecombe Fair’ delivered with rock energy that the band never equalled on record. In summary, this is a wonderful DVD and a unique time capsule that makes one sad that the Cullom line-up didn’t continue (much as I like the Annie Haslam incarnation). GRADE: B+.

Renaissance (UK): Live At The BBC Sight And Sound (Repertoire REPUK 1288, DVD plus triple CD, with slipcase, 2016, recorded 1975-197)
Progressive
Annie Haslam (principal vocals, percussion)
Compiling a January 1977 TV broadcast (on both DVD and CD) with CDs featuring additional gigs from 1975 and 1976 plus a few numbers from 1978, this is a superb overview of mid-seventies live Renaissance. The 1977 show is decent enough, but the 1975 set is far livelier and the three bonus cuts from 1978 are the most energetic of all, in keeping with the more rock-oriented turn the band took around that time. The 1976 set on the fourth disc is no slouch either, and everything has excellent sound quality; the only drawback is that all three of the main set lists are virtually identical (a trait that the band continued until its dissolution in the eighties). GRADE: B.
Renaissance (UK): Song Of Scheherazade (Cherry Red Films CRDVD174, DVD, 2009, recorded 1976 & 1979)
Progressive
Annie Haslam (lead vocals, percussion)
It’s not widely known, but there were actually two bands called Renaissance. The early one pioneered a remarkably sophisticated form of progressive rock back in the twenties, and this DVD captures them live at two shows in New Jersey, one from 1929 and the other from 1932. Although filmed with the most sophisticated technology available at the time, the black-and-white picture quality is inevitably dreadful, although the sound is remarkably well recorded. Joking apart, I have no idea how such bad footage could have been shot in the seventies: the back cover disclaimer ‘due to the age of these, there contains [sic] some loss of technical quality compared to normal broadcast standards’ doesn’t even begin to cover it. Musically, this is about a B, with an interesting tracklisting, but given the picture quality I have to downgrade it. As a final footnote, Cherry Red managed to issue the first batch with the sound mastered at completely the wrong pitch, making the release doubly dreadful. GRADE: C+.
See also Akio Dobashi, Michael Dunford’s Renaissance, Annie Haslam, Illusion, Nevada, Renaissance Illusion, Stairway

Renaissance Illusion (UK): Through The Fire (Spiral SCD 923, CD, 2001)
Rock/Progressive
Jane Relf (backing vocals)
As the name suggests, this venture was a four-piece comprising Jim McCarty, Jane Relf, Louis Cennamo and John Hawken (of Renaissance, Illusion and Stairway). As the name deliberately doesn’t suggest, this is essentially a Jim McCarty solo album, with Cennamo and Hawken playing some instrumental parts but neither composing nor arranging and Relf merely providing backing vocals. Musically this has more in common with Illusion than Renaissance, although it’s a lot less progressive and ultimately pleasant rather than interesting. GRADE: C+.
See also Illusion, Renaissance, Stairway

Renaissant (UK): South Of Winter (No label TSJCD01, CD, 2004)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Christine Sullivan (principal vocals)
Drummer Terence Sullivan rarely composed in Renaissance, so it’s surprising to see him return with his own offshoot group, including wife Christine on vocals, sons (I presume) Kristian and Lee on guitar and keyboards respectively, old Renaissance colleague John Tout on keyboards, and Betty Thatcher providing most of the lyrics. But the biggest surprise is that this is the best of the Renaissance offshoot projects – better than anything Haslam or Dunford ever achieved and a clear cut above most Renaissance recordings made since Sullivan and Tout quit at the end of the seventies. Musically, it’s a faithful evocation of the style of the shorter songs on Ashes Are Burning or A Song For All Seasons, and well worth a listen. GRADE: B–.

John Renbourn Group (UK/USA): A Maid In Bedlam (Transatlantic TRA 348, UK, 1977)
Folk
Jacqui McShee (principal vocals), Sue Draheim (violin, backing vocals)
With an interesting line-up (Jacqui McShee and John Renbourn from Pentangle, Sue Draheim from the Albion Country Band, Any Old Time String Band and Gwydion & Sheela-Na-Gig, and Keshav Sathe from Magic Carpet) this is a beautiful and delicate folk album. Less like Pentangle than one might expect, this has less intricate music and a more traditional folk flavour, with some complex multi-part harmonies and quite a few renaissance (the era rather than the band) elements. Perhaps surprisingly, there is no bass, either acoustic or electric, in any of the arrangements. GRADE: B–.
John Renbourn Group (UK): The Enchanted Garden (Transatlantic TRA 356, 1980)
Folk
Jacqui McShee (principal vocals)
Recorded with a slightly different line-up, their second and final studio album is broadly similar to their first. In parts this is more traditional (the acapella ‘A Bold Young Farmer’) and in parts closer to folk/rock (‘The Plains Of Waterloo’) whilst the closing ‘Sidi Brahim’ mixes folk with raga-like elements. The absence of female harmonies is a slight loss, but overall this is another excellent LP. GRADE: B–.
John Renbourn Group (UK): Live In America (Flying Fish FC 27103, double, 1982)
Folk
Jacqui McShee (principal vocals)
Their live album offers a good cross-section of material, with a more traditional feel than the studio sets. The highpoint is probably an extended ‘Sidi Brahim’, though there are several fine cuts. GRADE: B–.
See also Albion Country Band, Any Old Time String Band, Jacqui McShee’s Pentangle, Pentangle

Resurrection Band (USA): Awaiting Your Reply (Star Song SSR-001, 1978)
Rock/Metal
Wendi Kaiser (joint lead vocals)
This influential Christian band owe an obvious heavy debt to Led Zeppelin, but their own brand of bluesy hard rock and metal is much more stripped-down. In fact, some interesting arrangement touches (including synthesiser and dulcimer) and a few progressive moments notwithstanding, this is rather bonehead stuff, although it’s enjoyable enough. As a footnote, this was not (as is commonly believed) the band’s debut album: they had previously issued two very rare cassettes, 1973’s All Your Life and 1974’s Music To Raise The Dead. GRADE: C+.
Resurrection Band (USA): Rainbow’s End (Star Song SSR-0015, with inner and insert, 1979)
Rock/Metal
Wendi Kaiser (joint lead vocals)
In one of the oddest dealer descriptions I have encountered, I once saw this compared to Fusion Orchestra; the two bands couldn’t be more unalike if they tried. Like their debut, this is fairly straightforward hard rock and metal, with occasional diversions into folk and ethnic music, but it’s both better and heavier. However, its most notable feature is the stunning packaging, compromising a gorgeous die-cut sleeve, full colour inner and separate lyric sheet. GRADE: C+.
Resurrection Band (USA): Colours (Light LS 5783, 1980)
Metal
Wendi Kaiser (joint lead vocals)
Album number three is their heaviest to date, with a much-more stripped down sound and instrumentation consisting solely of electric guitars, bass and drums. It’s impressively dynamic and powerful, but tends to confirm the impression that they’re no great shakes in the songwriting department. As a footnote, Wendi Kaiser has a much higher profile this time around. GRADE: C+.
Resurrection Band (USA): Mommy Don’t Love Daddy Anymore (Light LS-5803, 1981)
Rock/Metal
Wendi Kaiser (joint lead vocals)
Reflecting a greater influence from the new wave, the album concentrates on speedier songs with an almost punkish edge. These don’t work particularly well, with a few more relaxed numbers providing some respite, but despite improving distinctly from the fifth song onward this isn’t a hugely compelling LP. GRADE: C+.
Resurrection Band (USA): DMZ (Light LS-5816, with insert, 1982)
Rock/Metal
Wendi Kaiser (joint lead vocals)
Slightly better than its predecessor, this is a solid hard rock and metal album with some good guitar histrionics, though (as expected) it doesn’t break any new ground. GRADE: C+.
Rez Band (USA): Live Bootleg (Sparrow SPR 1086, with insert, 1984)
Rock/Metal
Wendi Kaiser (joint lead vocals)
The band’s first live album, issued under a variant name, is mostly pretty good and easily outclasses the majority of their studio recordings. However, I do question the wisdom of attempting a techno-pop number on the utterly unexpected ‘Playground’. GRADE: C+.
Rez Band (USA): Hostage! (Sparrow SPR 1099, with insert, 1984)
Rock/Metal
Wendi Kaiser (joint lead vocals)
Unfortunately ‘Playground’ wasn’t a one-off experiment, as the opening ‘SOS’ is absolutely dreadful techno-pop and they try to integrate robotic synthesisers and electric drums with their usual hard rock style on several other numbers. Not only has this material dated very badly, but it’s also utterly incongruous with the throaty vocal style of Glenn and Wendi Kaiser. GRADE: C.
Rez Band (USA): Between Heaven ’N Hell (Sparrow SPR 1111, with insert, 1985)
Rock/Metal
Wendi Kaiser (joint lead vocals)
There’s only one techno track this time around (the truly dreadful ‘Save Me From Myself’) with the rest being solid hard rock. As a footnore, on ‘Zuid Afrikan’ they sound remarkably like Bryan Adams. GRADE: C+.
Rez (USA): Silence Screams (Ocean/Grrr 7018123690, CD, 1988)
Rock/Metal
Wendi Kaiser (joint lead vocals)
Dropping the techno trappings altogether, this is a straightforward hard rock album. It’s rather a good one too, making for one of their better outings. GRADE: C+.
Rez (USA): Innocent Blood (Ocean/Grrr 7018125693, CD, 1989)
Rock/Metal
Wendi Kaiser (joint lead vocals)
For the most part, this is among the band’s heaviest albums, but they also manage to include some country blues (‘Rooster Crow’ and ‘Great God In Heaven’), a few nods towards techno-pop (‘Right On Time’) and a well-executed Pete Townshend cover (‘Bargain’). The result is one of their most varied, as well as one of their most accomplished, LPs. GRADE: C+.
Rez (USA): Civil Rites (Ocean/Grrr 7018136695, CD, 1991)
Rock/Metal
Wendi Kaiser (joint lead vocals)
The biggest surprise this time round is their cover of ‘Somebody To Love’ – Wendi Kaiser can play the part of Grace slick to a tee, but I’m really not sure what they imagined they brought to the song. Elsewhere, it’s their usual solid, accomplished bluesy hard rock. GRADE: C+.
Rez (USA): Twenty Years (Ocean/Grrr 701814697, double CD, 1993)
Rock/Metal
Wendi Kaiser (joint lead vocals)
Their second and final album is much more comprehensive than their first – a lengthy double set filled with powerful and passionate performances. In many ways, this is probably a better introduction to the band than any of their studio sets. GRADE: C+.
Rez (USA): Reach Of Love (Ocean/Grrr 7018157692, CD, 1993)
Rock/Metal
Wendi Kaiser (joint lead vocals)
You wouldn’t expect this to break any new ground, and it doesn’t – but it’s another solid bluesy hard rock set, with one short but effective ballad (‘Mannequin’s Dream’) thrown in for good measure. GRADE: C+.
Resurrection Band (USA): Lament (Grrr/REX GRRR44009, CD, 1995)
Blues/Rock/Metal/Progressive
Wendi Kaiser (occasional vocals)
It’s no accident that they’ve returned to their original name: this is their most seventies-sounding album since the seventies. In fact, with wide-ranging instrumentation and lots of different elements mixed in, taking them far beyond straight hard rock, it’s probably their best release overall. GRADE: C+.
Resurrection Band (USA): Ampendectomy (Grrr D3500, HDCD, 1997)
Blues/Rock
Wendi Kaiser (joint lead vocals)
The final Resurrection Band album consists of unplugged re-recordings of material from across their career, with the only electric instrument being bass. Nonetheless, the feel of the music is decidedly blues/rock rather than folk, suggesting the direction leader Glenn Kaiser would follow in his subsequent work. GRADE: C+.
Resurrection Band (USA): Music To Raise The Dead 1972-1998 (Grrr GRD1021, triple CD plus DVD, with minisleeves, booklet and slipcase, 2008, recorded 1972-1997)
Rock/Metal
Wendi Kaiser (joint lead vocals)
Despite a well-chosen selection of tracks, excellent liner notes and a generous running time, this overview of the band’s career is disappointing in that it includes only one rare track: ‘Quite Enough’ from the Music To Raise The Dead cassette. However, the live DVD, featuring selected songs from the 1993 show that produced Twenty Years, confirms them to be powerful and compelling onstage, so overall this a fitting tribute to their pioneering work in Christian heavy rock. GRADE: C+.

Ret Marut (Finland): Ret Marut (Kumibeat GULP 1, with inner, 1984)
New Wave
Rea Peltola (lead vocals)
This dark, rather gothic new wave album is exactly the kind of thing dealers could hype as ‘eighties psychedelia’ (and I’m sure many have done so). In reality, this is little more than a sort of poor man’s early Dead Can Dance or Siouxsie & The Banshees (‘Into The Light’ from Juju being a good reference point). Overall, it’s a pretty dull and one-dimensional record, and very dated to boot, although it’s perfectly well put together. GRADE: D.

Retroheads (Norway): Retrospective (Unicorn UNCR-5017, CD, Canada, 2004)
Progressive
Ann-Kristin Bendixen (occasional vocals)
No prizes for guessing from the band name and album title that this outfit aimed to recapture an early seventies progressive rock sound. They mostly succeed, with some fine instrumental passages hinting at a more symphonic Pink Floyd. Along the way, they weave in a few songs with folky and pop edges; these are pleasant too, but the disc is a little tentative in parts and the band definitely shines most during the long instrumental breaks. GRADE: C+.
Retroheads (Norway): Introspective (Unicorn UNCR-5033, CD, Canada, 2006)
Progressive
Ann-Kristin Bendixen (occasional vocals), Deborah Girnius (occasional vocals, flute)
Like their first, this is good-natured Pink Floyd-inspired rock, with some nice chunky guitar and keyboard riffs. Throwing in lots of sound effects and a few mild experiments, they achieve a solid step forward from their debut, but this isn’t what you could call groundbreaking. GRADE: C+.

Retrospective (Poland): Spectrum Of The Green Morning (No label, 2007)
Progressive/Metal
Beata Łagoda (keyboards)
This Polish band’s debut album offers a pleasant mix of neoprogressive and hard rock elements, with mellow vocals and effective classically-influenced keyboards. There’s nothing particularly distinctive here, but this is nonetheless a solid enough set. GRADE: C+.
Retrospective (Poland): Stolen Thoughts (Lynx Music LM 42 CD, CD, 2007)
Progressive/Metal
Beata Łagoda (keyboards)
Their second is far more eccentric than its predecessor, mixing dramatic vocals, Pink Floyd-like atmospherics, metal touches and sound effects on some unusual songs. Parts of the album work better than others, with the instrumental sections generally impressing (partly due to vocalist Jakub Roszak’s pronounced Polish accent), and the overall effect is mildly intriguing. GRADE: C+.
Retrospective (Poland): Lost In Perception (Progressive Promotion PPRCD009, CD, with digipak and booklet, Germany, 2012)
Progressive/Metal
Beata Łagoda (occasional vocals, keyboards)
Roszak’s pronunciation has improved considerably, and Beata Łagoda’s occasional counterpoint singing also helps to lift and deepen their sound. Musically, this offers far more straightforward symphonic rock than its predecessor, channelling Pink Floyd (and occasional hard rock guitars) through a song-based prism. As such, it is more consistent than Stolen Thoughts, but also a good deal less ambitious. 

GRADE: C+.
Retrospective (Poland): Re:search (Progressive Promotion PPRCD046, CD, with digipak and booklet, Germany, 2017)
Progressive/Metal
Beata Łagoda (occasional vocals, keyboards)
Everything comes together for Retrospective here: finally integrating the symphonic and metal elements of their sound, they produce a powerful progressive album with a much more contemporary sound. I can hear clear echoes of bands like Anekdoten and Provenance, though Pink Floyd still looms large in their lives (at one point they almost pastiche the coda of ‘One Of These Days’), with a great deal more passion from Roszak and drummer Robert Kusik. Had they stretched out once or twice more, or shown a little more personality of their own, this would have been a solid B–; as it is, it’s by far their best to date. GRADE: C+.

Retrospective (Poland): Latent Avidity (Progressive Promotion PPPRCD073, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2019)
Progressive/Metal
Beata Łagoda (occasional vocals, keyboards)
Listening to this, it’s obvious how much ‘Retrospective’ is a misnomer – this is thoroughly modern atmospheric rock that’s not-quite-prog and not-quite-metal yet clearly draws from both. They’re undeniably good at what they do, and the music here soars and flows in all the right places, but I’m not sure they could even identify their own boundaries, much less push them. GRADE: C+.

ReVamp (Holland/Poland): ReVamp (Nuclear Blast 27361 25750, CD, with digipak, Germany, 2010)
Metal
Floor Jansen (principal vocals)
Floor Jansen’s post-After Forever outfit operates in a similar symphonic metal vein, but this is much more stripped-down and low-budget, without the epic orchestrations and choirs. It’s nice enough, and quite varied to boot, but they don't attempt anything you won't have heard many times before. GRADE: C+.
ReVamp (Holland): Wild Card (Nuclear Blast 27361 31500, CD, with digipak and booklet, Germany, 2013)
Metal
Floor Jansen (principal vocals)
According to a review cited on the cover sticker, this is ‘doubtlessly [sic] a musical gem!’. However, to these ears it’s solid identikit metal like its predecessor, and a marked step down from both of Jansens’s other bands. GRADE: C+.
See also After Forever, Nightwish

Revelry (UK): Revelry At Cambusnethan Priory (Priory PRST 0001, with insert, 1977)
Folk/Rock
Delia McKerr (joint lead vocals, tambourine)
The title may call to mind tacky souvenir albums from stately homes, mixing hey-nonny-nonny medieval folk nonsense with narration and other trivia. In fact, this is an accomplished Scottish folk/rock LP with tasteful reworkings of traditional material featuring subtle electric instrumentation, though a couple of cuts are throwaway knees-ups. Only a handful of copies are known, making it an expensive collectible. GRADE: C+.

Rêverie (Italy): Demo 1998 (No label, CDR, 1998)
Progressive
Fanny Fortunati (lead vocals)
The prospect of a demo album from a progressive duo (female singer plus male multi-instrumentalist contributing guitars, synthesisers, drum programming and effects) didn’t really fill me with confidence. Nonetheless, this is lovely stuff, creative and varied, being firmly rooted in classic Italian prog. For sure, the thin arrangements and slightly amateurish feel are something of an issue – this could have been wonderful with full band backing – but it’s still a very enjoyable album as it stands. GRADE: C+.
Rêverie (Italy): Demo 2002 (No label, CDRM, 2002)
Rock/Progressive
Fanny Fortunati (joint lead vocals), Fulvia Borini (flute)
This short second demo (four songs and an instrumental in around 20 minutes) is a definite step down from their first. This time they’ve gone for a simplistic neoprogressive sound dominated by chunky guitars, cheesy keyboards and tinny drum machine, with alternating male and female singing. It still has its moments, and the instrumental and the closing song ‘Principe Di Un Attimo’ are particularly solid, but this is a pretty anonymous and undistinguished record. GRADE: C.
Rêverie (Italy): Duemila4 (No label, CDR, 2003)
Progressive
Fanni Fortunati (lead vocals, percussion), Eleonora Flore (violin), Fulvia Borini (mandolin, flute)
Album number three drops all the rock and neoprog elements for a folky neoclassical sound similar to Opus Avantra without the experimentation or Analogy’s The Suite without the ambition. The result is a lovely LP, and a significant improvement on their previous work, but with 14 short tracks it’s not particularly expansive or visionary. GRADE: C+.
Rêverie (Italy): Shakespeare, La Donna, Il Sogno (No label, CD, 2008)
Progressive/Folk
Fanny Fortunati (lead vocals, percussion), Fulvia Borini (mandolin, flute)
Their fourth release is the soundtrack to a stage play quoting Shakespeare sonnets, as its title suggests. Its short songs and instrumentals, with acoustic instruments and a baroque feel, hint in the direction of both Analogy’s The Suite and Bakadi’s Bardolini Songs, but are rather amateurish and hesitant. In fact, the two ‘bonus tracks’ – one with electric guitar, the other sounding like a hybrid of RIO and something from a school project LP – are far superior. GRADE: C+.
Rêverie (Italy): Revado (DownBridge Publishing DWN-POP/016, double CD, 2011)
Progressive
Fanni Fortunati (lead vocals, percussion), Fulvia Borini (mandolin, flute)
What at first appears to be a lengthy double album actually isn’t – the material is the same on both discs, but once with lyrics in Esperanto and the second time with lyrics in Italian. Notwithstanding, this is their best album by far, blending acoustic and electric instrumentation and with a nice balance of songs and instrumentals. Arabic music influences are more pronounced than on their previous LPs, and there’s a definite RIO influence at play, with some programmed percussion being the only obvious drawback. GRADE: B–.

Rêverie (Italy): Gnos Furlanis – Il Timp Dal Sium (Smayra Publishing DWN-POP/046, CD, 2015)
Progressive
Fanny Fortunati (lead vocals, percussion)
Even more than their previous work, this quintessentially Italian album strikes me as a much straighter step on from Opus Avantra, though Fanny Fortunati’s voice reminds me of Annie Haslam more than Donella Del Monaco. For the most part, her beautiful singing is backed by lush woodwinds, though some jazzier and heavier electric rock passages also work well. Once again, the only significant drawback is the unwelcome appearance of a drum machine, but at least it’s used sparingly. GRADE: B–.

Revival (USA): Revival (Kama Sutra KSBS 2047, 1972)
Country/Rock
Michelle Conway (joint lead vocals, piano, percussion)
Lively but forgettable country/rock with mainly original tunes, the best of which are the delicate ballad ‘I Was, You Were’ and the long jam ‘Barbara’. Fans of the genre could enjoy this, but others will find its only noteworthy feature the strikingly ugly gatefold sleeve. GRADE: C.

Révolution Française (France): La Révolution Française (Vogue LDM 30166, with book sleeve, 1973)
Pop/Folk/Rock
Noëlle Cordier (joint lead vocals), Françoise Boublil (occasional vocals), Elisabeth Vigna (occasional vocals)
This rock opera about the French revolution offers a pleasant collection of pop songs and ballads, with full electric band backing. It’s not too bombastic for the sort of thing, though a few jaunty numbers with kids singing are unlikely to delight many listeners. GRADE: C+.

Revolutionary Army Of The Infant Jesus (UK): The Gift Of Tears (Probe Plus PROBE 12, 1987)
Folk/Rock/Progressive/Psychedelic/Avant-Garde
Sue Boyce, Angela Mounsey
One of the most astonishing LPs of the eighties, this features material based around Gregorian chant, but unlike Enigma they mix it with elements of folk, free jazz, industrial, avant-garde, psychedelic and progressive music to create long, slowly developing tracks with an eerie, sacred atmosphere. Most copies of the 500 pressed were reputedly sold to a religious organisation in America, meaning that it rapidly became a sought-after collectible. Contrary to earlier reports, which suggested that this was a studio project masterminded by Cabaret Voltaire’s Richard H Kirk, further research indicates that it was the work of a real band, led by a couple of college lecturers. The 1993 CD reissue (Probe Plus PROBE CD 12) adds a bonus EP of about 25 minutes, with the pidgin French title ‘Le Liturgie Pour Le Fin Du Temp’. This is also excellent, with a more apocalyptic and industrial feel. GRADE: B.
Revolutionary Army Of The Infant Jesus (UK): Mirror (Probe Plus PROBE CD 32, CD, with tracing paper wrap, 1989)
Folk/Rock/Progressive/Psychedelic/Avant-Garde
Sue Boyce (joint lead vocals, flute), Angela Mounsey (joint lead vocals, accordion, flute), Britta Freimuth (joint lead vocals)
Album number two is in a similar vein to their first, whilst making their industrial and avant-garde roots more obvious. Once again it’s a varied and very creative set, containing some moments of extreme beauty, but I don’t find the songwriting quite as compelling as on The Gift Of Tears. GRADE: B–.
Revolutionary Army Of The Infant Jesus (UK): Paradis (Apocalyptic Vision AV 014 CD, CD, with digipak, Germany, 1995)
Folk/Rock/Progressive/Psychedelic/Avant-Garde
Sue Boyce
The band’s belated third album (although at 27½ minutes, it could also be considered a long EP) is another superb release. The opening title track gradually builds from tranquillity to manic intensity over the space of nearly eleven minutes, whilst their version of ‘She Moved Through The Fair’, backed by accordion and fuzzed cello, is both remarkable and unsettling. As a footnote, an oft-repeated story that the album was intended to be titled Paradise but the cropped artwork missed off the last letter is clearly apocryphal: ‘Paradis’ is also stated on the spine, back cover and label, and the band had used French titles and lyrics on the two previous discs. GRADE: B.

Revolutionary Army Of The Infant Jesus (UK): Beauty Will Save The World (Occultation LOGOS7DF042CD, CD, with gatefold minisleeve

and inner, 2015)

Folk/Psychedelic

Jess Main (joint lead vocals), Ellis Egan (joint lead vocals)

The return of Revolutionary Army Of The Infant Jesus after two decades was a huge surprise. What’s equally surprising is that Beauty Will Save The World is as haunting, as weird and frequently as dark as their stellar earlier work. It starts off gently enough, gradually becoming stranger as it progresses and weaving all kinds of found voices into its eerie, repetitious liturgical sound. It’s perhaps a little more neoclassical than their earlier albums, but for the most part it’s business as usual – and it really is the business. GRADE: B.

Revolutionary Army Of The Infant Jesus (UK): Songs Of Yearning (Occultation LOGOS7E4072CD, CD, 2020)
Folk
Jessie Main, Eliza Carew, Hannah Harper
This doesn’t have the surprise value of their earlier work – achieved in the case of their first three albums by melding radically different musical traditions and achieved by Beauty Will Save The World by appearing at all. Nonetheless, it’s undeniably haunting and extremely beautiful, with some superb orchestrations. GRADE: B–.
Revolutionary Army Of The Infant Jesus (UK): Nocturne (Occultation LOGOS7E4072CD, CD, 2020)
Folk/Psychedelic
Jessie Main, Eliza Carew, Hannah Harper
Oddly, the bonus album included with Songs Of Yearning – featuring alternate versions of two tracks plus quite a number of exclusive compositions – is decidedly the better of the two. Weirder, darker, more varied and more organic, this is the Revolutionary Army Of The Infant Jesus I love. GRADE: B–.

Revolving Paint Dream (UK): Off To Heaven (Creation CRELP 018, 1987)
Pop/Psychedelic
Christine Wanless
This indie/psych crossover places more emphasis than I expected on the ‘psych’ part, with lots of squalling acid guitars and an impressively trippy ambience. The programmed (I presume) drums are less impressive, pinning this firmly to its era, and the soupy mix (possibly intended to create psychedelic ambience) is also a minus, but there’s still plenty enjoy here. GRADE: C+.
Revolving Paint Dream (UK): Mother Watch Me Burn (Creation CRELP 039, 1989)
Pop/Psychedelic
Christine Wanless
This is much more retro-sounding than their debut, for better and… well, just for better. For sure, its mixture of breathy sixties ballads (complete with faux-mono recordings), acid-rock instrumentals and a few moments of avant-gardism is pure pastiche and utterly derivative, but it’s admirable that a label like Creation was releasing something like this in the first place. It’s just a pity that it was Oasis and not Revolving Paint Dream that brought in the big bucks. GRADE: B–.

Fitnete Rexha (Albania): F Rexha (Shqipetare, 10", 1974?)
Folk/World Music
The only album I have ever encountered from Albania, this offers folk music with backing from a small orchestra. The results are similar to traditional Turkish or Balkan music, though for all I know this could have been considered pop in seventies Albania. There is no actual artist credit on the label or die-cut sleeve, but all the songs are credited to Fitnete Rexha, who was a popular Albanian singer. I suspect that the sleeve, which has colourful communist graphics, was generic for the label, but could be wrong. GRADE: C.

Tony Rey & The Librarians (USA): At Ramada Inn Northline (Kelly TS-101, 1973?)
Lounge
Kathy Petro (joint lead vocals), Judy Kaufman (joint lead vocals)
This is a pleasant lounge pop set, without the prominent horns that often mar this kind of album. Admittedly their versions of ‘We’ve Only Just Begun’, ‘Snowbird’, ‘Fire And Rain’ et al aren’t going to set any pulses racing, but for anyone who likes the genre this is a worthwhile LP. In any case, the best cut is the last: an excellent, languid organ-led version of ‘For What It’s Worth’. As footnote, the label is credited as ‘Todd’ rather than ‘Kelly’ on the sleeve. GRADE: C+.