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Renaissance - Novella CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.75 | 396 ratings

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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 passages. The vocal melodies projected by Annie are varied in tempo and hearken 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 foreboding 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 sea change 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 multi layering 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.

kenethlevine | 4/5 |


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