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Renaissance - Novella CD (album) cover

NOVELLA

Renaissance

 

Symphonic Prog

3.73 | 367 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Following in the footsteps of "Scheherazade", although not getting as brilliant in terms of overall musical quality and artistic magic, "Novella" still deserves a place of honor in the history of Renaissance, mostly because it is full of so many good ideas, the habitual exquisite performances (typically featuring Haslam's captivating singing and Tout's keyboards, including more synth than ever before), and excellent arrangements for band and orchestra. IMHO, the most interesting aspect of this album is that the melody lines are a bit more somber than usual, particularly in the first two tracks. 'Can You Hear Me?' is the almost mandatory opening long opus (just like 'Trip to the Fair' and 'Can You Understand?' in previous albums), which conveys a dark mood fitting properly the almost dramatic call to conscience portrayed in the lyrics. Next, 'The Sisters' shines like a kaleidoscope of multi-varied gray tones, including some dense keyboard and string orchestrations, eerie chorales, an air of delicate exotic flavours, and even some Flamenco-like acoustic guitar soloing - one of the finest Renaissance pieces ever, as disturbing as it ever can get. But there is also a low point to this album, which is not very serious really. This low point is not related to what is contained in the album, but to what is announced: the listener may easily notice that the band have reached a certain artistic peak with their two previous albums, so in perspective the repertoire of "Novella" can be perceived as somewhat formulaic. Like I said before, the musical ideas are still very good (when not great), so there's nothing wrong here - it's just that the band are taking their initial step in their downhill road of musical exhaustion in front of our ears. But let's go on with the repertoire itself. 'Midas Man' is an anti-capitalist folkish ballad with clever twists provided by dark sounding synth, a wicked bass, and oppressive percussives (tympani, tubular bells), which seem to portray the destructive nature of greed. 'The Captive Heart' is more frontally delicate: Haslam's voice is featured due to the overdubbed various vocal parts (except for a couple of verses sung by her partners on backing vocals), which she delivers as majestically as always. 'Touching Once (Is So Hard to Keep)' closes down the album, starting with a similar sense of delicacy to that of the previous track, but it doesn't take long before it's developed further with the inclusion of exquisite orchestral arrangements, some tempo shifts and motif variations, pretty much like the opening title - there's even a sax solo during one of the instrumental interludes which provides some jazzy stuff to the fold. The strong, almost abrupt ending serves as a perfect climax. All in all, "Novella" is business as splendorous as usual, full of musical intelligence; and so, despite the fact that the band's musical ideology doesn't feel as fresh as it did in previous albums, it deserves a very good rating - somewhere between 3 and 4 stars.
Cesar Inca | 4/5 |

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