Innocents & Illusions

Label: Castle
Duration: 1:47:36
Genre: Progressive Rock

AllMusic Review of Innocents & Illusions
Innocence and Illusion, the first two Renaissance albums (by the early incarnation of the group) had their moments, but each promised slightly more than it delivered. This double-disc set, Innocents & Illusions, offers the two albums in state-of-the-art sound, which is a big help, but also a lot more than that -- the producers have augmented the group's self-titled debut album with the single edit of "Island," and the B-side "The Sea," a good piano-driven piece that's a killer showcase for Jane Relf's falsetto, as well as the backup singing of Keith Relf. Much more important is the addition on disc two (devoted mostly to the Illusion album) of the four songs that Keith Relf and Jim McCarty recorded before and after the early history of the group, as a duo. "Shining Where the Sun Has Been" is one of the most charming pieces of sunshine pop since the 1960s. The pair of 1970 McCarty-Relf sides (which feature McCarty singing), "All the Fallen Angels" are excellent pieces of spaced-out psychedelic folk-pop, and "Prayer for Light" is a bravura Jane Relf showcase. These additions add immeasurably to the appeal of the two albums, and also give us a much better picture of some of what McCarty and Relf were doing beyond the finished first album and the thrown-together second album by the group. The annotation also presents the fullest account yet given of the early history of Renaissance, leading up to the establishment of the group's second incarnation. [The 2004 Castle reissue comprised the first two Renaissance albums and five bonus tracks.]

AllMusic Review of Renaissance
The first Renaissance album features what today would be considered almost a legendary lineup at its core. At the time of the Yardbirds' split in mid-'68, Jimmy Page walked away with the blues and hard rock side of the band, plus whatever heavy metal influences they'd ever manifested, while lead singer Keith Relf and drummer Jim McCarty -- who'd represented the more folk-oriented, creative side of the old band in earlier years, and their trippier, spacier side in more recent times -- decided to get experimental in those directions, initially under the name Together as a duo, and then forming an entirely new group. Ex-Herd/Jimmy Powell & the Dimensions alumnus Louis Cennamo joined on bass and John Hawken, late of the Nashville Teens, came in on piano, with Relf picking up the guitar as well as singing, and his younger sister Jane Relf sharing the vocals. The resulting group, working from Relf and McCarty's compositions, proved greater than the seeming sum of its parts as Hawken and Cennamo quickly began expanding on the basic songs, developing their own classical-style cadenzas -- at the time, in 1969, there was just enough adventurousness left from the psychedelic era to hold their audience to what they were doing, even as a new art rock audience began coalescing. The resulting album is a strange mix of psychedelic, classical, folk, and jazz elements -- "Kings and Queens" has elements of freakbeat and art rock, steeped in a musical romanticism (complete with a rippling Hawken piano solo, and some of McCarty's best drumming ever, as well) in between a pounding opening and closing section. In contrast to a lot of the art rock groups that followed, however, the music here is still very much the work of a rock band -- there's a lean texture to the playing that tells you this was a performing ensemble that was used to working clubs, with Relf turning up his amp on occasion to get a nice crunchy sound on his guitar and lending his instrument to the classical-style cadenzas on pieces such as "Innocence"; Jane Relf's crystal pure, soaring alto added a hauntingly beautiful element that was unusual in rock at the time.

AllMusic Review of Illusions
The second Renaissance album is the least-known in the group's entire output, having originally failed to get released anywhere except Germany. Although it is a much less bold, more smoothly commercial album, Illusion was also the work of at least three distinctly different lineups representing the group, Jim McCarty dropping out from playing after an illness, and Keith Relf and Louis Cennamo exiting the performing lineup soon after, while Jane Relf played some gigs with John Hawken acting as leader of a new ensemble. It was around this time that the words of lyricist Betty Thatcher started turning up in the group's work and on this album, and guitarist Michael Dunford started writing as well. The results here aren't quite as hard rocking as the previous album -- acoustic guitars supplant electric and Jane Relf's vocals are hooked around a mix of art rock and art pop melodies, without any trace of the psychedelic or freakbeat echoes of the previous album's work. One song, "Mr. Pine," contains an instrumental bridge that Dunford later folded into "Running Hard" in a more developed guise. The lighter textures anticipate the sound of the later lineup of the group, while some of the pop-oriented material harkens back to what Relf and McCarty had in mind for a sound in 1969.

Amazon Review
UK twofer combines the British progressive rock act's first two albums, 'Renaissance' (1969) & 'Illusion' (1971), with six bonus tracks, Island' (Single Version), 'The Sea', 'Shining Where The Sun Has Been', 'All The Fallen Angels', 'Prayer For Light', & 'Walking Away'. Slipcase. Castle. 2004.

Kings and Queens11:02
Island [Bonus Track] (Single Version)3:39
The Sea [Bonus Track]3:04
Love Goes On2:55
Golden Thread8:19
Love Is All3:43
Mr. Pine7:02
Face Of Yesterday6:08
Past Orbits Of Dust14:45
Shining Where The Sun Has Been [Bonus Track]2:51
All The Fallen Angels [Bonus Track]5:28
Prayer For Light [Bonus Track]5:26
Walking Away [Bonus Track]4:24
Original Release: 1969-03-01
Composer: Renaissance
Arranged By: Renaissance
Producer: Paul Samwell-Smith