The band was first formed in the late 1960s by Keith Relf and Jim McCarty. Relf and McCarty were former members of The Yardbirds. Additional musicians were added, and the band released their first album entitled Renaissance in 1969. In 1971, Annie Haslam joined the band. Anni Halsam’s first recording with the band was the group’s third release entitled Prologue.
From 1969 to 1983, the band released eleven studio albums. There were a few releases in the 2000s but the majority of their recorded output stemmed from the decade of the nineteen seventies. Their Live at Carnegie Hall album released in 1976 has been hailed as one of the greatest live albums ever released. The band went through major lineup changes throughout their career.
Every track on this top 10 Renaissance Songs list is so powerful, beautiful and brilliant. The magnitude of all of these Renaissance Songs makes an argument that the order of the songs listed really is not essential. Whether a track is listed as number six, two or one is really insignificant. These are all great pieces of music and our point is just to add another avenue to showcase these great Renaissance Songs.
# 10 – Running Hard
Starting out our Top 10 Renaissance Songs List is the live version of the Renaissance song Running Hard. The song was originally released on the Turn Of The Cards album in 1974. The song “Running Hard,” was the album’s opening track. The version below was taken form the great live album Renaissance LIVE. The album was recorded at New York’s Carnegie Hall and released in 1976.
# 9 – A Song For All Seasons
The epic musical journey and composition “A Song For All Seasons” was the title track from the band’s A Song For All Seasons album. The LP was released in 1978. It’s impossible to describe this music. The depth of the composition, arrangements, production and performances on this one is stunning. The fact that we have to endure the pop music of 2018 when society has a history of producing music like this is hard to bear.
The musical piece “A Song For All Seasons” featured the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The piece was written by Annie Haslam, Michael Dunford, Terence Sullivan, John Tout and Thatcher. “A Song For All Seasons” was the closing piece on the album.
# 8 – Bonjour Swansong
“Bonjour Swansong,” is n outlier in this list of Renaissance songs. The album and style of music is reflective of the musical era in which it was released. The early 1980’s were a turning point in music. The industry had not yet erupted into the big hair band sounds of Bon Jovi. Bands like U2 were just arriving on the scene and creating an interesting new landscape of sound. There was no orchestra on the Camera Camera LP. This was a different sound for the band and they still pulled it off brilliantly.
# 7 – Prologue
Prolouge was the third album released from the band Renaissance. It was in essence a brand new band as the line up had dramatically changed from the band first two records. It was also the first album to feature Anni Haslam. This is the album’s title track
# 6 – Can You Hear Me
The Renaissance song “Can You Hear Me,” was released on the band’s LP Novella. The Novella album was issued in 1977. It was the follow-up album to their very successful Live at Carnigie Hall album.
# 5 – Mother Russia
There are so many great versions of the classic Renaissance song “Mother Russia.” Choosing which one we wanted to showcase on our top 10 Renaissance songs list was tough. This version is from the Academy of Music CD recorded in 1974. The original “Mother Russia,” track appeared on the Turn of the Cards album, which was released also in 1974.
# 4 – Song of Scheherazade
Well if there ever was a Renaissance song we should not really call a song it would be the “Song Of Scheherazade.” Even though the band itself titled the piece with the song in the description, it is in fact an epic piece of music. The piece “Song Of Scheherazade,” clocked in at 24 minutes and filled up an entire album side. This was 1970’s progressive rock music at its best.
# 3 – Northern Lights
The Renaissance song “Northern Lights” was one of the most popular pieces in the band’s catalog. The song was released on the Songs for All Seasons album. It was, in essence, the band’s hit single. The average Renaissance song ran close to 10 minutes in multiple parts, so hit singles were challenging to come by for the band.
# 2 – Can You Understand
The amazing musical piece “Can You Understand” was released on the band’s Ashes Are Burning album. The Ashes Are Burning album was released in 1973. The composition “Can You Understand” serves as the album’s opening track. Many Renaissance fans, including this one, have claimed the Ashes Are Burning LP as their favorite Renaissance album. The album featured Anni Haslam on lead vocals, Jon Camp on bass and backing vocals, John Tout on keyboards and backing vocals, and Terence Sullivan on drums, percussion, and backing vocals.
# 1 – Carpet of the Sun
Renaissance fans will never forget the soaring melody of the chorus of the classic Renaissance song “Carpet of the Son.” This incredible piece of music perfectly defines the sound of 1970s progressive music, mixing the genres of classical music and rock. The song “Carpet of the Sun” opened the second side of our favorite Renaissance album, Ashes Are Burning.
In the end, Renaissance was one of the most unique bands of the progressive rock music era. While Annie Halsam’s vocal delivery lay at the center of the band’s sound, one can not ignore the incredible piano skills of John Tout. Most critics always point to Keith Emerson of ELP and Rick Wakeman of Yes as the classic rock era’s dominant pianist and keyboard player. However, listening to any John Tout performance would convince anyone that he was in the same league as those legends.
Updated Nov 10, 2023
Top 10 Renaissance Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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