Monday, 13 April 2009

Music's lost poet has a site

My most important recent discovery has been the music of 1970s band Renaissance, since the "punk revolution" reviled and generally ignored by just about every modern critic or seen as overblown and overtly virtuosic.

Having been curious merely from a list on of female vocal albums I was looking at when seeking a few limited-edition Laura Nyro reissues, it has loomed upon me that Renaissance, like Laura Nyro, were an artist whose innovation and influence has been obscured by the "punk revolution" because they moved so far from the "simple, loud and fast" criterion that too many (including people whose skill makes me actually admire them, like "janitor-x"). In a sense, what Renaissance did was even further than Laura Nyro from what the music press admires, at least in terms of the political incorrectness of songs like "Mother Russia" and "The Sisters". I also fell Annie Haslam's survival from breast cancer could have prevented Renaissance from enjoying the rehabilitation and revival of interest Laura Nyro has enjoyed since she died of ovarian cancer in 1997.

The lyrics of these songs, which like so many Renaissance pieces yearn for a simpler past, were penned by Betty Thatcher, a professional poet who never was involved with music. This may be why they are so different from often fantasy-oriented the lyrics on finds on other progressive rock albums or the "streetwise" tone of underground music.

Recent days have seen fans of Renaissance inform me that Betty Thatcher has been very ill. I sympathise very much with these people, although almost all I imagine as being much older than me and having seen the band when it was active. Very little is actually known about Betty Thatcher in spite of the fact that the beauty of her musical poetry deserves more attention than it gets - for instance, "Cold As Being" is an amazing meditation on ecological catastrophe. The surprise today was to find a YouTube site by Betty herself. Though incomplete, I hope the site can draw some attention to a group who, almost if not quite as much as Roxy Music, showed ecstatic, mystical beauty was not necessarily exclusive of working as a tightly-knit group.

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