Renaissance – Live At The BBC review

Progressive folk pioneers enjoy box set glory.


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Formed in 1969 by ex-Yardbirds Keith Relf and Jim McCarty, the original Renaissance proved ahead of its time with its ethereal classical rock. After they split, 1972 saw another Renaissance, led by Annie Haslam’s five-octave voice, keyboardist John Tout and bassist Jon Camp. Under manager Miles Copeland, they released 1972’s Prologue and joined “second wave” prog outfits like Camel on the UK gig circuit. While their symphonic folk went largely ignored here until 1978 hit Northern Lights, Renaissance found audiences in the US for 1973’s Ashes Are Burning and 1974’s Turn Of The Cards, becoming the first British band to sell out Carnegie Hall for three nights. They were about to release 1977’s Novella when, clad in shiny period fashions, they took to the stage of Golders Green Hippodrome that January, to launch the BBC’s Sight & Sound series. The set mostly comprises pristine renditions of earlier faves bereft of any improvisational danger, including Mother Russia, Carpet Of The Sun and Ocean Gypsy. The “classic line-up” of these overlooked prog evangelists split in 1987, leaving this DVD and three Sight & Sound-recorded discs their attractively time-locked monument.

Kris Needs

Kris Needs is a British journalist and author, known for writings on music from the 1970s onwards. Previously secretary of the Mott The Hoople fan club, he became editor of ZigZag in 1977 and has written biographies of stars including Primal Scream, Joe Strummer and Keith Richards. He's also written for MOJO, Record Collector, Classic Rock, Prog, Electronic Sound, Vive Le Rock and Shindig!