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NOVELLA

Renaissance

Symphonic Prog


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Renaissance Novella album cover
3.68 | 279 ratings | 42 reviews | 21% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection


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Studio Album, released in 1977

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Can you hear me? (13:39)
2. The sisters (7:14)
3. Midas man (5:45)
4. The captive heart (4:12)
5. Touching once (is so hard to keep) (9:22)

Total Time: 40:12

Lyrics

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Music tabs (tablatures)

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Line-up / Musicians

- John Tout / keyboards, vocals
- Annie Haslam / lead vocals
- Jon Camp / bass, bass pedals, acoustic guitar, vocals
- Terrence Sullivan / drums, percussion, vocals
- Michael Dunford / acoustic guitars, vocals

Releases information

LP Sire SA-7526 (1977) UK
Cd. Sire/WEA 7599-26516 (Ger 1996)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to clemofnazareth for the last updates
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RENAISSANCE Novella ratings distribution


3.68
(279 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(21%)
21%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(54%)
54%
Good, but non-essential (21%)
21%
Collectors/fans only (4%)
4%
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)
1%

RENAISSANCE Novella reviews


Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Folk
2 stars Boring-ella

As suspected with the previous album the inspiration is waning for the musician and boredom sets in for the listener. This album took incredible application as to actually LISTEN (and stay awake) to this as my mind kept wandering away into slumber.. Coming with an almost laughable medieval romantic fantasy artwork, it also brings back the Renaissance logo that was forgotten on the previous ones. It's prettu hard to understand how this album manged good sales, though.

I'll only mention the mid-length Midas Man and the longer Touching Once (interesting instrumental passage at its 2/3 mark) as the only two tracks pulling you out of your apathy, but even then, this is only an occasional occurrence as most of the time you hesitate between the boring; soporific or sleep-inducing qualifying terms to describe Novella. Definitely the last Renaissance album worth commenting as their slide into corniness will continue after, but I'd like to remain polite, so I'll stop here. Best avoided, but some (many) will say that of this sore example of a review ? I couldn't bring myself to make the effort of writing a better one.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#20064) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, February 26, 2004

Review by lor68
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Well there are a few weak moments, but "Can You Hear Me", with its wonderful dynamic parts and variations, plus the incredible voice by Annie Haslam, are alone well worth checking out...(naturally don't forget the other jewels such as "Touching Once...", the classic "Midas Man" and the sensible ballad "Captive Heart").

Recommended, especially the first and the last track which deserve an excellent score, but for the remaining folk prog numbers the average is 3 points anyway !!

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Send comments to lor68 (BETA) | Report this review (#20065) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, April 03, 2004

Review by greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Just another sublime Renaissance album! Following the marvelous "Song for Scheherazade", Novella still has many of its magical moments. There are wonderful orchestral arrangements, unforgettable melodic piano parts, and the bass is well played, sophisticated and absolutely not timid. Annie's voice is superb, as always, and the other musicians produce excellent backing vocals. There are harp, small bells, tubular bells and acoustic guitar. The keyboards fit well with the symphonic ensemble. The influence is, again, very baroque and progressive. There are some mellow, delicate, mystical & dreamy bits which are really addictive. If you like the previous album, then you should like this one too.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

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Send comments to greenback (BETA) | Report this review (#20062) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Review by Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
1 stars Novella lost it for me. It is in one word...boring.I am not sure how the band managed to lose it so quickley after Sheherazade. They had everything going for albeit they were much more vulnerable to the onset of Punk and all the new wave hype beginning as opposed to the other more solid bands like Genesis, Pink Floyd. They began to fade in a similar veain as Strawbs did in the late 70's. sad really but bottom line Novella is poor.

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Send comments to Chris S (BETA) | Report this review (#20075) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, September 06, 2004

Review by 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 ½ and 4 stars.

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Send comments to Cesar Inca (BETA) | Report this review (#20079) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, February 04, 2005

Review by Matti
COLLABORATOR Neo-Prog Team
5 stars (I had to change 4* into 5 as soon as I became collaborator. This IS one of my favourites and sure it deserves the highest rate!) I have seen that most fans don't rate Novella very high and I have always felt sad about it. It is somehow very introvert album and it calls for true dedication from the listener. I can understand that it may feel 'boring' to casual listener who expects more dynamic approach. But this is the most artistic of their albums.

Each track is full of emotion that you can dive into almost in a trance-like manner. I just love those quiet sections in Can You Hear Me, and the (almost-too-sweet) slow-tempoed sentimento of The Sisters is touching. Midas Man is delicious in its simplicity and the feel of Early Music. Piano melodies of Captive Heart are lovely. The majestic ending track is everything you can expect from a Renaissance song - it only gets TOO grand in the end the same way as large symphonies often do. All in all, this is real ART rock done with perfection. If you find classical music boring, this is not your favourite Prog style.

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Send comments to Matti (BETA) | Report this review (#20080) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, March 24, 2005

Review by Eetu Pellonpää
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This charming little album introduced me to the sweet music of Renaissance, and I guess therefore I can't really feel strong negative feelings towards this LP. The first side is much better than the second in my opinion, "Can You Hear Me?" building from delightful operatic movements for singers and heavily orchestrated piano-driven rock band. I felt that the sound texture of this group is really "symphonic" especially when reflected to the tonal textures; massive vocal chorus, acoustic guitars on vast layers of (emulated?) strings, subtle drums escaping the basic backbeat rhyming, leaving only Jon Camp's powerful bass lines reminding the rock origins. The celestial voice of beautiful Annie Haslam is really adorable, and on the ethereal quiet sequences of the long starter it is crowned for its proper position. Grandiose orchestral masterpiece melts as a minor key painting from Spanish cloister, "The Sisters" reaching ultimate dramatics in the conclusion moment; Possibly overwhelming the capacity of accepting for many listeners. The second side of the LP is also decent, compositions not matching the richness of ideas and strength of drama from the first side though. "The Captive Heart" is quite nice tender ballad, melody which sticks easily to one's memory for decades. The music is maybe a bit naive, but it also gives some sort values of sincere romanticism for it, which I most happily adore. There are two versions of the album cover painting, which describes the essence of this music quite well: Annie telling lovely stories for little children listening very serious. The other version of the cover has more Slavic nun, the other one on the ProgArchives page at time of writing shapes the nun by emphasizing her figures with ideals of Walt Disney fascism. A lovely album for those open for kind happiness, also allowing to torment cool people with its drowning syrup.

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Send comments to Eetu Pellonpää (BETA) | Report this review (#20081) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, April 03, 2005

Review by daveconn
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars At a time when the epic storytellers were beginning to unravel (Genesis, Gentle Giant, ELP), Renaissance gave us the compelling Novella to consider. Among the handful of Renaissance albums I've heard (Ashes, Prologue, Live), this is the most effective at building and sustaining a magical mood. The opening "Can You Hear Me?" is one of my favorites from them, a blend of Genesis and Moodies and even a little Yes delivered in the band's by-now distinctive voice. In a sense, Novella signalled that the reinforcements had arrived. The original prog invaders had suffered dissension in their ranks, and while acolytes argued over what lineup constituted classic Yes or whether King Crimson and Roxy Music would ever regroup, Renaissance was quietly putting out some of the best progressive rock of the era. Not too quietly, thankfully, as Novella charted higher in the US than any Renaissance album to date. By keeping the lineup consistent, Renaissance had assembled an arsenal of sounds: Annie Haslam's voice, John Tout's refined keyboard passages and Michael Dunford's acoustic guitar (Renaissance was one of the few prog bands to forego electric guitars) had become readily identifiable. The songs this time are also uniformly excellent, augmented with tasteful orchestration from Richard Hewson. The way that "Can You Hear Me?" and "The Sisters" flow together is lovely, the echoes of Crimson's distant Court wafting in the background. The second side consists of three independent songs, beginning with the cautionary tale "Midas Man," anchored by Jon Camp's bass playing. "The Captive Heart" begins with a piano passage that recalls Tony Banks, though the lyrics (written by Camp?) err on the side of hyperbole. In fact, those lyrics not written by Betty Thatcher might be the only chink in Novella's armor. "Passing over timeless wastes of ecstasy" (from Touching Once) and "The captive heart has lost and won a thousand lovers" (from The Captive Heart, natch) are lines that sink despite Annie's voice. The fertile "Touching Once (Is So Hard To Keep)" closes the album on a magical note much as Novella began, including orchestral touches that invite favorable comparison to Tull's A Passion Play. If I'm tempted to rank Novella as top-shelf prog, others aren't (presumably those whose tastes veer from the pastoral side of prog). These are dulcet songs, belonging to a bygone age even in 1977, but a captivating chapter in the story of Renaissance.

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Send comments to daveconn (BETA) | Report this review (#47582) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Review by Zitro
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 3.75 stars

After an ambituous album with a 25 minute long song, it seems like the band, already matured, decided to release a "safe" prog album with minor experimentation and focused on the trademark sound of Renaissance with an emphasis on classical music over folk.

Let me tell you that while this album is not very fresh, it is excellently composed, has perfect production, has no weak spots, has Annie at her absolute best, and sounds grandiose. The inclusion of an ochestra works in their favour, even if it drows the band a bit. The orchestra is not used to amplify the sound, it melds with the music. In other words, Novella's orchestra inclusion was intended in the first place and doesn't sound like they just added bits here and there to amplify the sound at the last moment of the recording.

Can You Hear Me is the long song to make proggers happy and wanting to buy the album for reading 2-digit minute durations. While I admit that this song could have been cut a minute or two, it really is a great epic with soaring vocals, a full orchestra, and wild bursts of beautiful and energetic music in the middle part (especially that mind-blowing part in minute 10 that moves me as much as the immortal church organ part in Close to the Edge). The next song The Sisters just feels like the 2nd part of the epic as it is connected to it seamlessly. This may be my 2nd favourite Renaissance track (after Ashes are Burning). It has a melancholic sound, interesting chord progressions, beautiful melodies/harmonies , amazing acoustic guitar playing, and a thousand more things to talk about. This is a masterpiece of a song that may leave you in tears.

The second side of the album is very solid too. Midas Man is my favourite of the three. It is folky and classical and mostly acoustic, but it sounds threatening with the tubular bells, bass, and wild piano runs in the background. Overall, an effective haunting track. The Captive Heart is the least interesting song, but it succeeds at being a short ballad with beautiful vocals that rests the listener from the more intense previous tracks. Finally, Touching Once , has a lot to offer with its genre-mixing nature of folk, jazz, medieval, classical, prog, and probably a couple of other styles. It is dynamic, shapeshifting, and offers a satisfying climax full of power.

A brilliant record that will move you and amaze you. Renaissance are at their best and while this album is quite formulaic, it features Renaissance's strengths and none of its weaknesses.

Highlights: Can You Hear Me, The Sisters, Midas Man

Let Downs: None

My Grade: B

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Send comments to Zitro (BETA) | Report this review (#80653) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Review by Joolz
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Scheherazade And Other Stories was such an artistic peak for Renaissance that anything following is likely to compare unfavourably. And so it proves - Novella continues with the same formula of marrying intricate orchestrations with their unique 'acoustic' line-up, it is slick and professional, all songs are good and instrumentation is superb. Taken in isolation it is an exquisite experience, yet it doesn't excite or reach the soul in quite the same degree as its illustrious predecessor.

Make no mistake, though, this is still a marvellous Renaissance album, awash with all the trademark features in their proper places: Annie's clear voice, Sullivan's understated drumming and perfectly integrated orchestration courtesy of Richard Hewson. There are some subtle swings afoot: Dunford's acoustic guitars are far more prominent than previously, often as in Midas Man providing the dominant motivator of the song; by contrast, Tout's piano plays a smaller role, even to the extent of being completely absent from Can You Hear Me?; Jon Camp has also upped the ante a little, his bass playing more adventurous and melodic than before; and rich harmonies abound more than ever, in various combinations.

Overall the album has a smooth mellow feel with a lovely flow that washes the listener along on waves of bliss, sometimes surprisingly creating a mood of spacey atmospherics sandwiched between more dynamic and energetic sections. In old LP terms, the first side is the most successful, two tracks that seem to belong to each other. Even though they do not appear to have any lyrical connection they both deliver and develop a similar dark and broody mood: Can You Hear Me? deals with a figurative barren wasteland of city life and how it strangles the soul, while The Sisters paints a more literal and direct picture of despair and loss of faith. Yet, while Can You Hear Me? is a majestic shapeshifter full of classic Renaissance dynamics, the simpler Spanish-tinged The Sisters is a spiritual descendant of At The Harbour [Ashes Are Burning] and Ocean Gypsy [Scheherazade And Other Stories].

The remaining tracks are almost as good. Midas Man, a comment on capitalism and class differences, is not a complex song but massed acoustic guitars build a mood that is developed by various atmospheric devices. The Captive Heart is simply Annie singing a heart melting ballad accompanied by piano and inventive harmonies. Touching Once (Is So Hard To Keep) is a final Prog piece notable for a moody breakdown with some more spacey effects, and a faster workout including a sax solo amongst staccato and bombastic orchestration. Curiously, these last pair have lyrics written by Jon Camp rather than regular lyricist Betty Thatcher.

Novella represents the final flowering of Renaissance at their creative best before outside pressures caused a change of direction in succeeding works. It would not be recommended as a first choice for a Renaissance virgin, but is highly regarded nevertheless.

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Posted Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Review by NJprogfan
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars I would have to agree with one of the other reviewers of this album, it is very haunting and sublime. There are moments inside "Can You Hear Me?" where the melody shrinks to barely a whisper, then BAM, the choir comes roaring back which started out the song. Excellent! A very good, long composition which melds into the next song, "The Sisters", a spanish infused song with some of Annie's finest singing. "Midas Man" was a minor hit here in the states back in '77, very catchy and really aggresive, (mild compared to other bands :- ). The only song I'm not too fond of is the ballad, "The Captive Heart", very nice, but nothing more. The final song harkens back to the style of the first, bombastic and orchestrated to the max with horns no less. This album reminds me very much of Genesis's "Wind And Wuthering", autumnal and baroque. It is a solid 4.5 star album and their last really fantastic album. A must for symphonic fans!

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Posted Friday, January 12, 2007

Review by Tarcisio Moura
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars I guess I was a bit too hard on this one when I first wrote this review. I am probably Renaissance´s biggest fan (well, at least I feel like that), but there is no way to conceal it when they started to faulter, and to me Novella was their turning point, for the downfall. It is not bad, but simply a bit uninspired. It looks like they ran out of ideas after Scheherazade and kind of lost their strong sense of direction they had until then. And it seems overproduced, with lots of orquestrations and choirs that tries to bring some life to the long epics, but can´t help them that much.

There are very good moments like the opening track, Can You Hear Me, the beautiful and deceptively simple Captive Heart and some parts of Touching Once, although the feeling is a little forced sometimes on that last one. The best track however is the classic Midas Man. A truly magnficent song: full of power, inspiration and with a terrific instrumental arrangement that enhances its beauty. Oh, how I wish the whole album had that magic touch! No wonder this is the only Novella track that is present on most anthologies and compilations.

Novella is recommended for the ones that are already Renaissance fans. The band has done far better records, and the next one, Song For All Seasons, with all its flaws, is more inspired and convincing. I rate this one between 3 and 3,5 stars. Good, but not really essential.

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Posted Sunday, February 18, 2007

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars The end of an era

"Novella" was probably the last truly progressive album by Renaissance, although they would go on to find commercial success with the subsequent "A song for all seasons". As someone who found "Scheherazade" to be an over-ambitious release, for me this is a case of the band being back to what they do best. The album marked Renaissance's move to a major label (Warner Brothers) who must have been delighted with the product they were presented with.

There are just five tracks in total, the opening "Can you hear me" being a 13½ minute epic which gives our Annie the chance to display here vocal dexterity in full. The striking orchestration and choral arrangements complement the intricacies of the composition superbly. "The sisters" is a beautiful, slightly understated song with a desperate message.

Side two opens with the albums two shortest tracks. "Midas man" and "The captive heart" are typical Renaissance album tracks. They reflect the quality of both performance and song writing which the band have achieved repeatedly down the years. "Touching once" dominates this side though, and offers another fine if slightly predictable Renaissance epic.

While Michael Dunford and his writing partner Betty Thatcher dominate the writing credits again, John Camp is co-credited with no fewer than 3 of the tracks (and about two thirds of the album), and John Tout one.

An excellent offering from Renaissance who remain more than capable of providing the quality of music others can only aspire to.

Mention also needs to be made of the delightful sleeve, which includes fine illustrations by Pamela Brown (someone should have told her how to spell "Wembley"!) and a band portrait by Amy Tuttle.

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Posted Friday, April 13, 2007

Review by progrules
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars This is a short album, so it's going to be a short review. I already knew two songs by Renaissance before I bought this one in a final attempt to start liking this band. In vain, I should have known. And still.. I like classical music and Renaissance plays with an orchestra. But obviously that's too simple. I'd almost say: Renaissance abuses the orchestra, they don't come to impressive compositions and performances.

The female singer, Annie Haslam has a clear voice but she doesn't touch your soul; I don't know why, but I experience it every time.

Usually I like the longest songs best, it often proves that the most effort is put in them. But even that doesn't work with this album. It's the concept that causes that I have nothing with Renaissance and never will. So two stars only this time.

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Send comments to progrules (BETA) | Report this review (#140465) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars An excellent symphonic prog album with orchestra .!!

I have been searching the CD of this album for such a long time because the only version that I got in the 70s was just a cassette and I don't know where the cassette is right now. Lucky that during my business trip to Bandung (180 KM from Jakarta) I found this one and the "Azure D'Or" album in CD format from secondary market with a cheap price. So I bought these two CDs with other 18 CDs that I found very interesting "worth" owning CD, including The Battles "Mirrored". On "Novella", of course I have been familiar with Some of the songs like "Can You Hear Me" or "Midas Man" or the concluding track "Touching Once" from the compilation of live albums. But, for legendary prog bands like Renaissance, owning the full-fledge album ini a CD is a MUST for me, so . I have no doubt at all to purchase this CD especially with an unbelievable price!

The opening track "Can you hear me?" (13:39) was written by Jon Camp, Michael Dunford and Thatcher. It starts bombastically with an beautiful orchestra which remarks the grandiose side of this song. As far as taste concern, this is one of may favorite tracks by Renaissance for couple of reasons. First, I like the structure of the song where I can see some changes, even though not dramatic, in moods and styles to accentuate the story behind the lyrics. Second, I like its melody which flows beautifully from start to end. Third, I like Annie Haslam voice which turns very high (register notes) at interlude section when the music turns slow. Fourth, the music is very suitable for contemplation in search of God - the Almighty, the merciful. "Fly like a song, fly while you're singing. A song without you, is a bird without winging. Some city flights leave in the morning. Some city nights end without warning. Can you hear me cal?". What a great lyrical chorus line.

"The sisters" (7:12) was written by Dunford, Thatcher and Tout and it starts beautifully with a soft piano work followed in a wonderful ambient by floating singing style by Annie Haslam. This mellow opening has an excellent melody and I'm sure it will satisfy most of listeners as it's quite accessible. Again, the voice of Annie Haslam is really wonderful. The keyboard solo that accompanies piano during interlude is also stunning. Dunford's acoustic guitar fills provide excellent nuance to the song. It's truly an excellent song!

"Midas man" (5:46) was written by Dunford and Thatcher and it has a good combination of acoustic guitar, keyboard that accompanies Annie Haslam singing. The song flows naturally with a good melody and some enhancement of orchestral arrangement by Richard Hewson. This song is quite standard in terms of the kind of Renaissance music and I have been hearing this song regularly.

"The captive heart" (4:16) was written by Camp and Dunford with wonderful piano solo as intro part with classical style. Annie Haslam voice enters and the piano keeps playing as rhythm section. The main components of this song are basically just vocal and piano and it's a nice song.

"Touching once (is so hard to keep)" (9:26) was written by Camp and Dunford and it kicks off with an orchestral work, arranged by Richard Hewson. This is another excellent track by Renaissance with great accentuation in singing style where Annie's voice moves dynamically throughout the song from normal singing to the narrative style. The beauty of this song is on its orchestral arrangements and the melody. I am sure this song will favor most listeners as the music is accessible and enjoyable. I like the maneuvers created by the orchestra's string section in some transition pieces. It's really an excellent track.

Overall, this is of course one of the best Renaissance albums that you should have. The composition is tight and it blends nice melody, vocal harmonies and orchestra arrangements into great music offering. It would best be enjoyed during night time with LOUD volume as you would get subtleties of the music perfectly. Highly recommended. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

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Posted Sunday, November 18, 2007

Review by Gooner
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars "Novella" by Renaissance is the band at their creative peak. Everything else that followed it was downhill, although "A Song For All Seasons" still has few gems - "Novella" is Renaissance at their prog, rock best! While its predecessor "Scheherazade and Other Stories" was a noble attempt to fuse orchestra and band, I found it to be a blueprint of ideas and a little too ambitious for its own good(or as the British say: "Twee!"). All those ideas come to fruition perfectly on "Novella". "Novella" has always given me the impression that this was Renaissance's Genesis - "Wind And Wuthering" LP. It has that same kind of mystique about it. The sidelong suite "Can You Hear Me?/Sisters" is reminiscent of the best parts on ELP's "Works Vol.1", while discarding the fluff. "Midas Man" was a minor radio hit in Canada and the U.S.A. but always seems to grow on you like ELP's "Lucky Man", whereas "Lucky Man" had that MOOG..."Midas Man" has a subdued moog and THAT VOICE! The remainder of the album is like a classical/jazz non-rock, which I believe is a showcase for Annie Haslam. Great album and an "almost classic". The vote for the Renaissance classic goes to "Ashes Are Burning", IMHO...but "Novella" is a 2nd best starter if you can't find the aforementioned. Recommended highly.

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Send comments to Gooner (BETA) | Report this review (#152257) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, November 22, 2007

Review by kenethlevine
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog-Folk Team
4 stars "Novella" sees Renaissance sticking with lengthy orchestral tracks even if there is no Scheherazade to be found. While the previous three albums possessed immediate appeal, here we find a more subdued Renaissance, a bit harder to get into and to really focus on. Yet ultimately, one's focus is well rewarded. Still no electric guitar is used, and it almost seems like the group is frozen in time.

The disk begins with the longest non-suite of the group's studio repertoire, the stunning "Can you Hear Me". The operatic flourishes that mark the song at several points contrast with more understated orchestral themes and even some intriguing organ over acoustic guitar. The vocal melodies projected by Annie are varied in tempo and harken back to "Can You Understand". In fact the album is like the shy sister of "Ashes are Burning". "The Sisters" is a beautiful Spanish folk tune in which Mike Dunford's appropriately spanish guitar solo is especially notable.

For me the masterpiece here is "Midas Man", a forboding tale of a man who turns all to gold and is irreversibly corrupted in the process. Arguably the best song they ever did, it is luxuriously layered in swaths of morose 12 string guitar, piano and orchestral effects. It is so atypical of Renaissance in almost every way, except for the elegance and class. I feel a seachange in myself when I really listen to this one. The rest of the album returns to a more standard Renaissance format. "The captive heart" is reminiscent of "Let it Grow" from "Ashes", but it demonstrates the band's growing interest in multilayering Annie's voice. "Touching Once" is like the opposing bookend for the album opener but is its poor cousin, in spite of some decent orchestration and even impressive brass arrangements.

Overall, the story of "Novella" is one of a band that pushed onward against all odds in 1977. Unfortunately, the audience for this form of music was dwindling and Renaissance didn't have the luxury of mega status to tie them over. Music had become bolder and more in your face, yet Renaissance sounded meeker. That would be wholly rectified with the followup, even if it only marginally prolonged their survival.

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Send comments to kenethlevine (BETA) | Report this review (#162668) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, February 25, 2008

Review by ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars I was not any longer with "Renaissance" in 1977. So, I discovered this album much, much later.

It is often tempting to recreate a great album. To conserve old fans, to be praised by the critics (although.) and maybe to get new ones (fans, I mean).

While you listen to "Can You Hear Me", it sounds as if it comes straight out of the great "Sheherazade.". It is amazing how well the band copes with orchestrations, classical passages and wonderful vocals of course. I have always admire Annie.

This band has lots of things I usually don't like (see above) in their style, but when I listen to them; I can't help : I just like the combination. Don't ask me why because I have no clue. The great opening track (Can You Hear Me) is absolutely on par with the best numbers out of their previous album. Did you say symphony? The highlight here.

The only thing I could reproach to "Renaissance" with this album is probably the lack of inventiveness, innovation. But lots of bands (the majority) are encapsulated into a specific style. "Renaissance" is just another one them. But so pleasant, so unique.

The good (but not excellent, let's be honest) "The Sisters", almost comes out of the same mould. Somewhat more melancholic and less inspired probably. The work on the Spanish guitar towards the end is an excellent addition but the closing part might appear as a soundtrack. I can understand that some people might get irritated by the pompous aspect of these "Sisters".

As usual, Annie's voice is magical (but I'm biased). She IS the reference for many female vocalists (mainly in the prog-folk genre). And that's only justice. She turns an average song ("Midas Man") into a good one. But there is nothing to do with "The Captive Heart". Mellowish to death. The first (and only) poor song from this album (and the shortest one as well).

The band gets back to better intentions with the closing and long "Touching Once". But this track is not as good as the brilliant ""Can You Hear Me". Too pastoral, uninspired. Still, as a whole this album is another good "Renaissance" effort.

Three stars.

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Posted Sunday, April 06, 2008

Review by b_olariu
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Inspiration is still present or????

Novella is a controversial album for me, because is among the most uninspired albums of them in the '70's, with all that is not a bad album, but to mellow and far from what they releases in the first half of the '70's. Anyway i prefer the next one over this and even Azure D'or is better in my opinion. The first track Can you hear me?? is a real winner, remainds me of some pieces from Turn of the cards or Ashes are burning, great symphonic prog, and why not the best track from this album. The rest are good but less enjoyble than on previouses albums. So a 3 star for this, Renaissance was and is one of the most important bands in history of prog music with a big contribution in developing the prog mouvement, but with an album like that is hard to keepit high , specially in the late '70';s when punk and disco was all over. So a good album but not something special either.

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Posted Thursday, July 31, 2008

Review by Gerinski
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars The benchmark had been put very high with the 3 previous albums "Ashes Are Burning", "A Turn of the Cards" and "Scheherazade" and surely this is why "Novella" is frequently rated quite lower, but in truth this is also a wonderful album and a worthy enough successor of the "magic 3".

The opener "Can You Hear Me" is archetypal of the music Renaissance was making in that period, what we can call "orchestral symphonic pop" (nothing at all of commercial pop, but I do not dare using the term "symphonic rock" since there is nearly nothing of rock in here, not even one clean electric guitar, the only electric instruments being the bass and soft keyboards). A long suite with plenty of classical influences, many dynamic changes with the drums constantly coming in and out, alternating very soft passages with more upbeat ones, in the same style as the previous albums. As usual the bass of Jon Camp is also very good.

"The sisters" is a soft orchestrated ballad featuring all the instruments and nice nylon guitar fills, with a slightly melancholic feeling. Musically it is not outstanding but the vocal melody is very beautiful and the absolutely gorgeous voice of Annie makes it shine.

"Midas Man" became the most played song of the album but for my taste is the weakest. It's based on strung acoustic guitar supported by the other instruments and orchestra, the drumming limited to a bass drum marching beat.

"The Captive Heart" is a very soft ballad featuring only piano, the lead voice of Annie and some backing vocals by the guys. The classical piano intro is superb and the vocal melody and Annie's angelical voice are again extremely beautiful.

The last song "Touching Once" retakes the style of the opening track, again a long symphonic suite with substantial orchestration, but this one with a more theatrical, Broadway-musical feel. Some sections sound like it could be a song from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar. Again good dynamics with many mood and tempo changes, vocal interplays and also a sax solo.

Maybe the compositions are a bit less memorable than those on the previous 3 albums and less catchy than those on the follower "A Song For All Seasons" but this is still a great album full of beautiful melodic orchestral symphonic music with unbeatable vocals.

The production is good but not bright enough for my taste, something that would be much improved in "A Song For All Seasons".

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Posted Saturday, May 29, 2010

Review by octopus-4
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
4 stars I listened to "Can You Hear Me" for the first time from a tape in a car. The album was just released and I had never heard anything of Renaissance before. I asked him who the band was, he picked the tape out of the reader, and told me Renaissance..... The day after a copy of Novella was in my hands.

Later I purchased the whole discography (I took some years) and this means that this is a good album. Without knowing anything of their previous masterpieces this has been good enough to make me search for other albums of the band.

Now that I'm more deeply into Renaissance I can see the differences between this album and Sheherazade, for example. The music here seems to be more inspired to British folk and medieval music than to Russian classics. It's still symponic, anyway. I have to admit that Can You Hear Me is surely not at the same level of things like Ocean Gipsy, Mother Russia or Ashes Are Burning, but it's a good symphonic prog long track in any case. The long slow volume instrumental part could have been shorter, but it's not much boring. It contains a lot of good moments.

"The Sisters" is a slow song with a Spanish touch given by the trumpets.It has sad and dramatic lyrics. I don't know who the sisters are. It's one of the rare tracks on which Mike Dunford reserved some room for his guitar. His classical training is evident in his touch on the classical guitar.

"Midas Man" is the song that I like less. It's question of tastes, not that it's a bad song. Effectively the chorus is everything but bad, but this song doesn't work a lot on me.

"The Captive Heart" is another of the "Piano and Voice" songs that Renaissance were used to place at least one for album. Somebody could find it too mellow, but I like Annie Haslam's overdubbed vocals on the chorus and the piano base.

At the end of the album a quick return to Russia. "Touching Once" is the only song on this album that's fully reminiscent of the previous great works, even if the chorus reminds more to the flower power. Probably the fact that the bass is played on this track at high volume as Jon Camp was used before is the reason why it sounds like the old good songs.

In few words, Novella is an excellent album which suffers of the fact of being preceeded by three masterpieces (I include the Live at Carnegie Hall). It's not a masterpiece itself, but not so bad as it could seem if you arrive to it after Turn of the Cards or Song of Sheherazade.

I'm not ashamed of rating it with 4 stars.

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Send comments to octopus-4 (BETA) | Report this review (#379255) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, January 13, 2011

Review by ClemofNazareth
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Folk Researcher
3 stars This is one of three Renaissance albums I picked up a few years ago at a small New England used record store. At the time I was passingly familiar with the band don't recall ever setting down and listening to this entire album anywhere around the time it was released. Not surprising this slightly worn copy was in a New England record store though, as the band was quite popular in that part of the U.S. back in the seventies. In fact, that seems to be about the only place in the States they were popular, as this sort of music was not at all en vogue on the West Coast, and certainly not in the Midwest where arena rock was becoming something of a tour de force by 1977.

I've played this thing numerous times over the past couple of years and so far it just hasn't clicked with me or at least to the extent some of their other albums from the same period have. To be fair, following 'Turn of the Cards' or 'Scheherazade and Other Stories' would have been quite a tall order given the novel blend of pop, folk and classical music the band put forth with those albums. 'Scheherazade' in particular was almost an overly ambitious undertaking with its sidelong epic retelling of the 1001 Arabian nights story. And it doesn't seem that the band tried to top those records with this one, but instead simply put together a half-dozen comparatively short works that showcased their immense technical talents but failed to capture the same sense of majestic artistry of their prior two records.

The opening "Can You Hear Me?" may qualify as a mini-epic in length at more than thirteen minutes, but while John Tout's piano and Terence Sullivan's percussion are quite good, the overall arrangement consists mostly of instrumental ebbs and flows with Annie Haslam delivering fairly repetitive vocals. The orchestral arrangement, and particularly the strings, adds depth to what is mostly piano, bass and drums, but in the end the song comes off sounding more like something befitting a musical score more than a rock album, even a progressive one.

The segue into "Sisters" is a smooth one though, and the two songs almost meld together as a single work thanks mostly to Tout's lead-in piano and the choral backing that augments Haslam's angelic singing. The keyboards carry the middle portion of the song before Michael Dunford finally makes his presence known with a lengthy passage of outstanding acoustic guitar fingering. Once again the piece is technically near perfect, and even Haslam's somewhat forced vocals toward the end are carefully measured and were probably meant to sound slightly strained and tense. This is one of the stronger songs on the album thanks to Haslam's vocals and Dunford's guitar, but not at the level with their finest work.

"Midas Man" is a well-known Renaissance tune that again benefits greatly from Dunford's acoustic guitar work and orchestral backing, but even after many times listening to it I don't feel particularly inspired. And "Captive Heart" demonstrates the power in the harmony of Haslam's singing and Tout's playing, but at just over four minutes this barely qualifies as a complete Renaissance work.

The band finally kicks up the tempo with a rocking rhythm and an almost dizzying array of tempo shifts on the closing "Touching Once (Is So Hard to Keep)", but again there is not enough musical or emotion depth to really capture the listener's imagination.

I really do love this band and am enjoying (re)discovering their music decades after it was recorded. The group spared little expense in creating this album and the production quality is outstanding. I believe it was also their highest-charting record. But compared to their debut and the two that preceded this one, 'Novella' doesn't quite make the cut at the same emotional level. A very solid three star effort but unfortunately not one of their best.

peace

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Send comments to ClemofNazareth (BETA) | Report this review (#516564) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Review by Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Renaissance were able to squeeze four studio albums out of the style established on Ashes Are Burning, and whilst I personally consider Turn of the Cards and Scheherazade to be rather inessential, I can see why those who are particularly taken with their classic-era approach might be inclined to prize them highly. I can't say the same about Novella, the fourth album in this style, which sees the band out of ideas and - to my ears - playing without much in the way of flair and enthusiasm. The acoustic guitar lines, the dramatic, operatic vocals, the bold and brassy piano - it's all present and correct, but good god is it tired by this point.

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Send comments to Warthur (BETA) | Report this review (#552370) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams
4 stars Here is yet another in a string of excellent symphonic prog albums from Renaissance. But I'm sorry to say that at this point they were nearing the end of their excellence. Oh well.

The album starts out with it's best track. Can You Hear Me finally veers away from Renaissance's usual piano intro, and substitutes it with a great orchestral start. This is one of those essential songs from the band.

The remainder of the songs are very good, but cannot match the intensity of the opener. However, Midas Man is still an excellent track, with it's eerily placed minor notes. And Touching Once (Is So Hard To Keep), is another powerful track, although something about the melody reminds me of something that I just can't place.

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Send comments to Evolver (BETA) | Report this review (#707502) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Review by GruvanDahlman
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Truth be told I have never bothered much when it comes to the post-Turn of the cards albums. Somehow the band seemed to reach their climax on TOTC. That may be true enough but when I started to really examine the albums after TOTC I found there is much to treasure and enjoy. The voice of Haslam is for sure one of the finest in prog or even popular music, with it's crystal clear tone and remarkable diversity. Coupled with musicianship extraordinaire you can't really go wrong. Well, you can but that's not the point I am trying to make. My point being simply that Renaissance delivers, in one fashion or other.

Novella is by the looks of things a medieval album. That is bogusand untrue. Surely, there are folk inclinations alongside the rock and classical music but that's all part of the Renaissance trademark. I do like the cover. It's sort of classic prog pomp. The music is the main thing, obviously. From the opener Can you hear me (which is an epic tour de force) to the closing Touching once it all comes together seamlessly, creating a marvelous tapestry of sounds and magic. The majestic Midas man is alongside the opener the albums greatest tracks but the others are stunning in a regal form.

Novella may not be the obvious choice when you are about to explore the band but it is not a bad way either. The album bears are all the trademarks of this glorious band. Maybe it was their last true masterpiece and if that's true, they sure did go out with a bang. Renaissance kept on producing fine music but this is where they sort of came to a halt, focusing somewhat more on pop oriented stuff, albeit with a progressive touch. Never mind that, the album is great and deserves a listen or two. Do give it a try!

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Send comments to GruvanDahlman (BETA) | Report this review (#984936) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, June 24, 2013

Latest members reviews

4 stars There's no doubt this is an exquisite album. I have read reviews complaining that sonically 'Novella' has the same old sound as Renaissance's previous albums, but I have always felt it is different and has more of a diversity of moods, even more so than on other releases. I totally agree that ... (read more)

Report this review (#1132250) | Posted by Frankie Flowers | Sunday, February 16, 2014 | Review Permanlink

3 stars I bought this lp some days ago and now I realize I got the american cover, but it's also nice. This is Renaissance's seventh album and it was recorded 1976 and sold next year. The group consisted that year of the same people like on amazing "Scheherazade". What makes Renaissance interesting it tha ... (read more)

Report this review (#958782) | Posted by DrömmarenAdrian | Monday, May 13, 2013 | Review Permanlink

3 stars This "novel" by Renaissance starts with some notes wich could have been an intro of a gothic rock song. And so I asked myself if Renaissance could have been an inspiration for what later became known as rock/metal; the metal scene whereby female vocalists are the cornerstone of the genre. The s ... (read more)

Report this review (#485509) | Posted by the philosopher | Monday, July 18, 2011 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Novella is certainly not as original as their previous albums, but that, by no means, implies an general drop in quality. The production is impecable, the band is precise, the piano and vocals, as usual, superb and, most important, most of the songs themselves are excellent, with beauty and va ... (read more)

Report this review (#418992) | Posted by bfmuller | Sunday, March 20, 2011 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Probably "Novella" is more a Folk prog album that other. But my perception is also that "Novella" isn't a Prog album, but a POP album with some Folk moments with Prog treatment of songs because with big structure and various times and atmospheres changes. In this sense this album is also Prog ... (read more)

Report this review (#373283) | Posted by 1967/ 1976 | Wednesday, January 05, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars It is generally held that Renaissance slipped into decline from the late 70s onwards. And for some reason, this album gets clubbed with those releases that are supposed to be less than edifying. Yet, it is very much in keeping with the style of music of the previous albums, almost a bit too much, i ... (read more)

Report this review (#194584) | Posted by rogerthat | Sunday, December 21, 2008 | Review Permanlink

5 stars My favorite album from one of my favorite prog bands. "Can You Hear Me?" followed by "The Sisters" comprise, IMHO, one of those rare events in music: a perfect side. (Side A from the vinyl LP). And prog at its very finest. "CYHM?" has one of those unforgettable intros Tout et al are so known for an ... (read more)

Report this review (#192570) | Posted by BrufordFreak | Wednesday, December 10, 2008 | Review Permanlink

5 stars wot can you say: pure melodic genius from first to last: Can you hear me call is a stunning opener-john touts keyboards, mike dunfords guitar work and annie haslams vocals blend perfectly on this opener. it is a beautifully constructed track, a pearl. The Sisters follows the same lin ... (read more)

Report this review (#148036) | Posted by Byron73 | Monday, October 29, 2007 | Review Permanlink

4 stars A criminally underrated album. Not as good as the two studio efforts to preceed it but certainly it isn't the indication of a downward slide that most fans take it to be. The albums has a lovely mix of loud, orchestrated pomposity and brooding tones not usually heard in Renaissance's work. Th ... (read more)

Report this review (#83314) | Posted by gunmetalsky | Monday, July 10, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars So, is this the best Renaissance album? It's difficult for me. There are so many other great ones, my favorites ranging from Scheherazade/Carnegie Hall/Novella/A Song For All Seasons. All are straight five star albums, no doubt about that. What makes Novella so special is that is has this long ... (read more)

Report this review (#73155) | Posted by eduur | Sunday, March 26, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This album is probably the peak of the 'classical' era of Renaissance. Just six songs on the album. They all flow into each other quite nicely. It is quite different listening to it on CD. I suspect that the formatting was intended for the vinyl LP where one has to turn over the record after t ... (read more)

Report this review (#54181) | Posted by | Tuesday, November 01, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Good release. Perfect for grey days. I've enjoyed all of the band's recordings from the 1970s and find myself usually reaching for this one first because of the dark old-world mood prevalent throughout. "Can You Hear Me" starts dynamically enough, then settles in to become an apparently un ... (read more)

Report this review (#46017) | Posted by | Thursday, September 08, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars The sixth work of announcement in 1977 "Novella". Symphonic rock work by which mixed chorus supports clean Vorcal with orchestra. There is no big change in the style. This music has a more universal, more solemn image.The sound of this work is solemn music where even a kind of mutable feeling ... (read more)

Report this review (#43642) | Posted by braindamage | Sunday, August 21, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Enough cannot be said about "Novella". Not only was this the album I was introduced to Renaissance with, but it absolutely has stayed with me as their most excellent to date. The music is absolutely HAUNTING, its so good! Execution, musicianship, songwriting... what else could your heart desi ... (read more)

Report this review (#20084) | Posted by | Thursday, May 19, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Novella is perhaps the best, and most progressive, album by the band Renaissance. It is also the first of several albums that represent the peak era from the band. This 1977 release is the first to not sound obviously dated, like Ashes Are Burning and other early releases. It also showed an ... (read more)

Report this review (#20083) | Posted by | Monday, May 09, 2005 | Review Permanlink

1 stars A cross between the preciousness of "Ashes Are Burning" and the pretentiousness of "Scheherzade and Other Stories." Starting with this album, Renaissance became all but unlistenable to anyone over the age of 20. We also hear Annie Haslam becoming the Mariah Carey of progressive rock: a prett ... (read more)

Report this review (#20078) | Posted by | Sunday, January 30, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Being my personal favourite by this band, I'm having a hard time trying to understand why it generally gets such mixed or unfavourable reviews. Though "Can You Hear Me?" overstays its welcome a bit (ten minutes would have been sufficient), it's still well written and flawlessly executed. "The Sist ... (read more)

Report this review (#20063) | Posted by | Monday, February 02, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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