(updated 11 May 2005) South of Winter (TJSCD01, 2004) is the debut album by Terry Sullivan under the moniker Renaissant. Although Terry's musical career to date spans a number of memorable projects, most will recall Terry's work as drummer and percussionist extraordinare with the British progressive rock band Renaissance spanning eight albums beginning with Prologue (1972) and concluding with Azure d'Or (1979). Terry and the band's keyboard player John Tout left Renaissance in 1979. The band's lyricist Betty Thatcher Newsinger left the band after one further album.
While Terry was active in the Renaissance creative process, his songwriting was actually not credited for a contribution until A Song For All Seasons (1978) and it wasn't until Azure d'Or that his co-writing with Thatcher was recognized in "Opening Out." The long-awaited reunion of several Renaissance band members--Michael Dunford, Annie Haslam and Terry Sullivan--in 2001 produced Tuscany and their brief Japan tour left the double live album In The Land Of The Rising Sun in its wake. A vast array of compilations and live albums have emerged in the years following the band's "mainstream" period. Further information on Renaissance is available at Northern Lights.
The Renaissant South Of Winter album is comprised of nine soft progressive rock-styled tracks, naturally having strong allusions to Renaissance. Recorded primarily in Terry's studio in southern England, the material is sung primarily by Terry's wife, Christine Sullivan although two of the tracks are sung by Terry himself. Terry provided drums and percussion as well as some keyboard and guitar. John Tout is featured on piano and keyboards on several tracks. The album, which took a good number of years to write, record and produce, also includes contributions from members of Boa (review) including Lee Sullivan (keyboard), Jasmine Rodgers (backing vocals), Steve Rodgers (guitars) and Alex Caird (bass). Kristian Sullivan contributes guitars to many of the tracks. Betty Thatcher Newsinger wrote lyrics for four of the songs thereby contributing to the creative process. All music and the balance of the lyrics were written by Terry himself. While all the songs were engineered, produced and mixed by Terry and Lee, "Carry me Home" was co-produced with Mike Battisson and the album was mastered by Rob Aubrey at Orbit Studios. Further bass is contributed by Derrick Sullivan. Martin Orford makes a guest appearance on strings and flute in "Dove."
South of Winter opens with the dramatic mid-tempo symphonic Thatcher Newsinger ballad "Carry Me Home." Orchestral keyboards and lush backing harmonies provide the familiar Renaissance texture beneath Christine's vocals and John Tout provides melodic piano excursions during the instrumental breaks. Crisp yet rich percussion and acoustic guitar textures are contrasted by the blend warm keyboard washes in the tenderly delivered track "Alone." Tout's piano breaks and underlying melody in "Burning Bridges" blended orchestral keyboard washes evoke further memories of classic Renaissance. Christine's vocals work perfectly with the arrangements.
Terry makes his first vocal appearance singing the evocative "Cold Flames," which he co-wrote with Betty Thatcher Newsinger. Percussion, keyboard and guitar are gently mixed with Asian textures. The richly arranged "Dove," with flute and strings by Martin Orford (IQ) features Christine's tenderly delivered lead vocals and Terry's choral backing harmonies. Christine sings evocatively in the upbeat acoustic number "Morning." Lee's piano and supporting keyboard washes add additional warmth to the number. Terry sings lead vocal atop Kristian's acoustic guitar in the self-penned and upbeat rock track "Careless." Rich keyboard washes and crisp percussion contribute to the stunning arrangements that build within the number.
"The Sun Also Sets" is a richly arranged keyboard- and piano-driven masterpiece featuring the work of Lee Sullivan on piano with John Tout adding backing keys. Christine's voice is mixed especially warm. A truly progressive number, the vast tempo changes within the track and depth of arrangements featured in the upbeat and powerful chorus contribute to this track being one of the album's significant standouts. The album concludes with the title track, itself full of contrasts. As with many of the songs on this debut album, is is a slow paced number with arrangements of the verses contrasting the choruses. Choral harmonies provided by Dean Hurst, Terry and Christine add significant texture to the overall sound.
While Renaissance concluded their work for the third time with Tuscany, South Of Winter clearly shows the spirit lives on in Terry Sullivan's work. Joined by Christine and the other artists in the creative process and encouraged by longtime fans to complete this album, the well-produced material in South Of Winter embodies the lyrical content as well as musical themes, textures and rhythms that drew listeners to Renaissance in their mainstream period.