The Jeff Beck Group’s Truth was the other big deal British blues based hard rocking debut album of 1968 from an ex-Yardbird. Unfortunately for Mr. Beck, the more noted one came from Jimmy Page‘s new outfit Led Zeppelin, because as the history books now have it (and they’re not wrong) Led Zeppelin went on to conquer the known world and the Jeff Beck Group didn’t. Which really shouldn’t take anything away from Truth, because it’s all strong, all cool, all good, from lead off track Shapes Of Things (a smart rethink of a previous Yardbirds hit) onward. And yes, that’s Rod Stewart (still pretty much unknown in 1968) ripping up the lead vocal.
As evolutions go, the outfit known as Renaissance worked a weirder one than most. Originally formed out of the meltdown of the Yardbirds (Keith Relf and Jim McCarty wanting to try their hand at something a little more sophisticated) it would, in time, pull what’s known as a Ship of Theseus (the Theseus’ paradox being a thought experiment, first posed in the late first century, that raises the question of whether an object that has had all of its components replaced remains fundamentally the same object). In Renaissance’ case, that meant all the original members were long gone by the time 1973’s Ashes Are Burning came along. And that “more sophisticated” sound – it had evolved into a mostly acoustic progressive rock that was nevertheless managed to get very big and dramatic when required, with Ashes Are Burning (the song) about as epic as they ever got. And soaring above it all, you had the inimitable voice of Annie Haslam, classically trained and as strong and vast and high and ghostly and beautiful a sound as has ever been heard on any kind of so-called rock song.