The original line-up of Renaissance was: Keith Relf (guitar, vocals), Jim McCarty (drums, vocals), Louis Cennamo (bass), John Hawken (piano) and Keith’s sister, Jane Relf (vocals). The band was formed in the Spring of 1969 and just a year later it was falling apart. Through various personnel changes, the band quickly morphed into a second generation Renaissance, and by the end of 1970 all five of its founding members had left. In 1977, though, the members of the original line-up planned to reform, reinstating all five musicians. By this time, the other Renaissance was having considerable commercial success, which gave them an unassailable claim to the name, so the old band was reincarnated as Illusion.
Unfortunately, before Illusion could record their first album under that name, Keith Relf died, triggering more personnel changes. Jim McCarty moved from drums to acoustic guitar, Eddie McNeill took over on the drum stool and John Knightsbridge was recruited as lead guitarist. This six-piece recorded two albums, Out of the Mist (1977) and Illusion (1979), before splitting up again. There was also an album of demos intended for a third album (Enchanted Caress, released in 1990) and an album of new material by Relf, McCarty, Hawken and Cennamo using the band name Renaissance Illusion (Through the Fire, 2001).
As you would expect, Out of the Mist sounds exactly like the early Renaissance albums. A mellow female voice over classically-inspired piano and bass lines, enlivened with light percussion and filled out with incidental strings. There is some guitar work, too, both acoustic and electric, but Relf and McCarty have come a long way from their Yardbirds roots. I know it doesn’t appeal to all my followers, but for this old blogger, it’s very much a combination to savour.
Burning Shed tells me that a re-pressing of the CD of the first of Illusion‘s albums is due to be released on 3rd March. Or it might be a remastering, or an updated version of their first two albums. It’s not exactly clear. But this band and their work had eluded the Crotchety Team until now, so I am grateful to the Shed for bringing it to our attention.
In some ways, everything we experience is an illusion. What we see, hear, touch, taste and smell is filtered through a biological neural network and evaluated against a mental model of the world around us. When I look at the picture of Corfe Castle rising above the mist of the Dorset countryside, I see in my mind’s eye a school trip. 10- and 11-year-old kids from a primary school clambering over grassy hillsides among castle ruins, waving imaginary swords and firing ghostly cannons. And it triggers a flood of other reminiscences from 60 years ago, too. Fond memories peeping out of the mists of time. An illusion it may be, but it’s a treasured one.