In January 1969, former Yardbirds members Keith Relf, and Jim McCarty organised a new group devoted to experimentation between rock, Folk, and classical forms. This quintet вЂ” Relf on guitar & vocals, McCarty on drums, plus bassist Louis Cennamo, pianist John Hawken, and Relf's sister Jane Relf as an additional vocalist вЂ” released a pair of albums on Elektra (US) and Island (UK), being produced by fellow ex-Yardbird Paul Samwell-Smith. ............................... The band had begun performing in May 1969, before recording had begun for the debut LP, mostly in the UK, but with occasional forays abroad, including festivals in Belgium (Amougies, October 1969) and France (Operation 666 at the Olympia in January 1970, and Le Bourget in March 1970, both in Paris). In February 1970, they embarked on a North American tour, but this month-long trek proved a mitigated success, as because of their Yardbirds credentials they found themselves paired with bands like The Kinks and their new classically-oriented direction didn't always go down well with audiences. ............................... The band developed a unique sound, known for Hawken's elaborate piano arrangements, Louis Cennamo's powerful and melodic bass lines, Keith's fluid guitar scales, Jim's powerful drumming and Jane's haunting voice. The sound fused elements of classical, folk, rock and blues -- along with elements which years later would be tagged "World Music" . For their first recording, the band worked with producer Paul Samwell-Smith for the group's album for Island Records. The self-titled 1969 album drew interest on both sides of the Atlantic -- with two different covers for the British (Island Records) and American (Elektra Records) audiences -- and across the English Channel where it was released as the "Kings & Queens" album by Island Records for much of the rest of Europe.
The songs were created, at least in part, based on Keith and Jim's songs which were then interpreted by John Hawken and Louis Cennamo. Regarding the process, bassist Louis Cennamo recalls: "We were just pushing the music in any way that we could. It was a lovely time and one in which there were no real limits. It was very creative and we were free to take the music in nearly any direction we wanted. John's classical training was the basis but the rest of us explored any ideas that added to the sound. It was a wonderful time and John and I worked very hard to add many new interpretations to the melodies and ideas that Keith and Jim brought to the rest of the band. Some of their ideas were quite developed when they brought them to us but some were not. So, John and I were free to create the kind of elaborate melodies that were so integral to the sound of Renaissance. Other times, everyone would just experiment and we'd test any and all ideas that came to us. The band was getting on quite well and we were developing a strong bond and admiration for one another. It was a beautiful time really..."Here