Image © Kissing Spell Ltd. 2001
(31 December 2001) The history of the progressive rock group Renaissance is presented in detail at
Northern Lights and needn't be reviewed again here. Through The Fire, released by Jim McCarty under the monniker "Renaissance Illusion" (Kissing Spell / Spiral (UK) SCD 923, 2001) is a ten track collection of material written and performed in the original Renaissance style, albeit fronted by McCarty's voice rather than Jane Relf's. John Hawken (piano and keyboards), Louis Cennamo (bass) and Jane Relf (vocals) from the band's original lineup all perform on the recording. Click on the album cover to visit Jim McCarty's website.
Jim McCarty (voice, drums, keyboard) is clearly the mastermind of the recording. He writes, "It became clear to me that some of the lyrics and compositions had the distinct quality of the earlier work of Renaissance and Illusion and so I began to contact the former members. The outcome of this for me was a new realisation of the particular and unique musical talent that John, Louis, Jane and I have together and the ideas gathered impetus." He further commented on the album's other musicians, "On guitar I enlisted Dzal Martin, an underrated guitar player, who contributed to the Box of Frogs album in 1984/85, together with John Idan, now bass player and lead singer with the reformed Yardbirds, Jackie Rawe and Mandy Bell contributed on backing vocals, Emily Burridge on cello and my Canadian friend Ron Korb, the excellent player of flutes."
While much of the early Renaissance and Illusion sound is evident in each of the album's tracks, a clear standout is the title track "Through The Fire" where John Hawken's classically-influenced piano riffs perfectly compliment the art rock style arrangement. We loved the way Jane Relf's backing vocals broke through and complimented McCarty's lead. An stunning acoustic guitar solo is featured during the bridge.
The tracks are serious, evocative and moody. "Blowing Away" perhaps typifies the darker side while "Mystery Of Being" is brighter, spritual and more upbeat with Jane's voice and Hawken's piano adding lovely textures to the sound. Jim's lead vocal style, John's piano and Danny Relf's orchestral keyboards effectively capture the 70s sound in "Beat Of The Earth." We adored the harmony vocal arrangement.
The new millennium's resurgence of progressive rock has brought a renewed interest in both the McCarty/Relf- and Dunford/Haslam-eras of Renaissance. While we would have liked to hear Jane Relf sing lead, this new release captures the band's earliest sounds. The newly recorded material is worth a journey. The album can be obtained from the label; click on the link under the album cover to visit them. An essential for Renaissance enthusiasts, it is a very nice listen.