Saturday, 27 September 2014

Symphony of Survival: Inside Annie Haslam's Artistic Renaissance

Courtesy of Leighton Media

Having a conversation with Annie Haslam, frontwoman of veteran Symphonic Rock act Renaissance, is an absolute pleasure.

Throughout our 90-minute chat, it was clear that this music industry veteran looks on the bright side of life. A wonderful conversationalist with a penchant for playful laughter, Haslam spoke from her Pennsylvania home about everything from her artwork to her upcoming touring plans. At 67, her infectious love of life is as impressive as her five-octave vocal range. And considering what it took her to get to this position in life, there are plenty of reasons to celebrate.

Change and challenge have been major elements of the Renaissance story for more than four decades. After all, just charting their evolution in personnel over the years would probably require three times the length of this feature. Heres the short version: The UK bands often-rocky story dates back to 1969, when former Yardbirds members Keith Relf and Jim McCarty put together the first incarnation of the group with Relfs sister Jane on co-lead vocals, pianist John Hawken (later of Spooky Tooth) and bassist Louis Cennamo. Although the bands lineage (as well as the strong single “Island”) helped Renaissances self-titled 1969 album score considerable attention from the masses,McCarty and both Relfs were out of the picture by the time the sophomore release, Illusion (featuring the debut of Renaissance mainstay Michael “Micky” Dunford on guitar) hit the shelves in 1971. 

After a brief stint with American singer Anne-Marie Binky Cullum, Renaissance recruited the operatically trained Haslam for 1972Prologue. From 1973 to 1980, the bands “classic lineup” included Haslam, Dunford, keyboardist John Tout, bassist Jon Camp and drummer Terry Sullivan. This configuration produced the 1978 UK Top 10 hit “Northern Nights” and a series of classic albums including Turn Of The CardsScheherazade and Other Stories and A Song For All Seasons. Reduced to a trio of Haslam, Dunford and Camp at the start of the next decade, Renaissance released two New Wave-flavored albums (1981Camera Camera and 1983Time-Line) before calling it a day in 1987. The 90s saw separate albums by both Haslam and Dunford under the Renaissance name until the duo (along with Tout and Sullivan) reunited for 2001’s Tuscany. Fast-forward to 2009, and Haslam gets a call from her old friend. 

Read on...

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