49 cent wonders: Renaissance and U.K.

Sometimes I go to the Goodwill Outlet store and get utter crap and other times I get really lucky.  The advantage of the Outlet store is it’s cheap.  Records are 49  cents.  If the music is bad, or worse, the record is unplayable I’m out pocket change.  But the best part is it lets me take chances on bands I’ve never heard of.

I picked up a couple of records by bands I’ve never heard of.  The first is U.K., the other is Renaissance.  Both records and covers seemed to be in good condition, despite being about 40 years old.  They had full color liners, and I figured what the heck?

Whenever i don’t know something about the artist I always check allmusic.com.  I grew up with Rolling Stone’s album guides, and Musichound’s guide to music, but let’s face it, that’s just obsolete. allmusic is handy, it’s online, accessible by mobile devices and is a wealth of information for music old and new. There is a biography of each artists as well as a discography that usually includes reasonably fair reviews of each album.

U.K. is an important, if short-lived, band and its eponymously titled album is its best according to reviewer Mike DeGagne.  U.K. was aU.K. progressive rock supergroup including bassist/vocalist John Wetton of King Crimson, guitarist Alan Holdsworth of Soft Machine, drummer Bill Bruford of Yes and Genesis, and keyboardist/violinist Eddie Jobson of Roxy Music (in the interest of clarity, all of the artists played with multiple bands, some had long solo careers, and all played together in one band or another.)  Though U.K. was relatively short lived, this record was its best and it’s pretty good if you like prog rock.  Though the songs are well put-together by talented musicians it lacks the kind of commercial appeal of Wetton’s next band, Asia.  Worth a listen, but I need to listen again to give a fair evaluation.  Definitely a keeper.

Renaissance, likewise has some interesting roots. Formed by vocalist Keith Relf and Jim McCarty from the ashes of the Yardbirds in 1969, Renaissance began as a combination of classical and folk influences that was becoming popular in England at this time.  By 1971 Relf and McCarty were gone and replaced by bassist Jon Camp, keyboardist John Tout, drummer Terry Sullivan and vocalist Annie Haslam  My record is Turn of the Cards.  I found it to be lyrically interesting, sometimes focused on social issues.  “Mother Russia” was inspired by Alexander Solzhenitzen’s “One Day in the Life of Ivan Desnisovich.” Others were a bit more mystical.  Haslam’s vocals are astounding and I found the record thoroughly enjoyable.

Turn of the Cards

Records for half a buck certainly provide me the opportunity to explore, though they still take up space in my limited record storage area.  Even so, it would be silly if I ended up with the Rolling Stone Top 500 albums and didn’t make the time to follow rock music down its varied and interesting rabbit holes.


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