South Of Winter

Ren Records

In the ’70s, musicians had basically free range to rehearse and record whenever their muse tapped their shoulder to dance. Today’s artists suffer from the restricting ticking of corporate wrist watches as they try in vain to create and develop something good while working in an over-turned hourglass. The end result is usually the same: a paper-thin product with all the memorable qualities of a roadside meal.

Terry Sullivan, from the brilliant ’70s band Renaissance, knows what the freedom of those golden days were like and took his time recording his first solo record, South of Winter. Those of you familiar with the music of Renaissance know the meticulous structure and grace of their songs. This trademark commitment to perfection defined them as one of the forerunners of progressive music. From the resonating opening notes of the perfectly titled opener, “Carry Me Home” into the lush verse and chorus it becomes apparent that this dedication to strive for perfection has not been diminished over the years.

Knowing this was to be his most personal project he enlisted the people dearest to him. Terry assembled a close circle of family and friends including his wife Christine on vocals and the magnificent John Tout of Renaissance fame, not just reliving but reviving his legendary keyboard work. This results in a familiar and welcomed homecoming of sorts for the listener, leaving them wrapped in a blanket of their fondest memories.

Christine Sullivan’s soothing and alluring vocals beckon the listener to lean a bit closer to the fire and be warmed by her caressing tales of love and loss. “Alone” addresses the universal humanness of closing oneself off from emotional contact with the ones we are closest to with the questioning chorus of, “Tell me why…why build a wall so high?” lingering in full regret.

Bands such as The Coors, Enya and even Kate Bush owe a dept of gratitude if not a small weekly deposit into Terry’s bank account as thanks for his groundbreaking work in helping to develop this intricate style of music. The production warmth of this record is wonderfully layered with each musical brush stroke helping to create an aural masterpiece.

Terry handles the vocals on several songs such as “Careless” and “Cold Flames” both with themes of desperation and delivered with all the pathos and wisdom of a lover lost in a maze of reflection. Hearing John Tout play keyboards once again is likely to be some of my favorite moments on a record filled with many special reunions. Betty (Thatcher) Newsinger returns to contribute some of the sparkling lyrics that propelled Renaissance into popularity back in the ’70s with such progressive staples as “Carpet of the Sun,” “Northern Lights” and “Ashes are Burning.”

Is it any wonder that with this entourage comprised of both familiarity and family that the end result would be nothing short of magical? The themes here are passionate and, more importantly, personal and real. Quite a “renaissance” from what passes as music on the radio these days.

Terry Sullivan:

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