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Novela - La Songerie CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.58 | 25 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars "La Songerie" (also known as "Miwakugeki") is the first album of very prominent Japanese prog rock band Novela and it's also definitely their best one. Compared with its successors this record presents the most symphonic side of the group so classical music influences are very audible here. We can't also forget that's the very first album featuring phenomenal keyboardist Toshio Egawa, which later became first class star in Gerard formation. It's really a miracle that so young musician could already made so big impact on this material. In fact it's the most "Egawa-driven" release from the whole Novel's discography! Maybe he doesn't presents so many flashy organ runs (from which he became famous in the future) here, but his mellotron, piano and especially synthesizers (digital & analog) skills are extremely evident all over the place. Guitar presence of Hirayama & Yamane is also very good.

Let's describe album's songs:

1. "Illusion" - 1st Novela's album id divided into 2 parts. At first we can listen to 3 heavy-prog/hard rock tracks and after that 3 truly symphonic prog suites. First harder edged song in the set-list is "Illusion". Unfortunately it wasn't a good choice to place this one in the beginning of the record. It's a decent hard rock tune clearly influenced by such UK bands as Uriah Heep. Rainbow or Deep Purple but somehow more pop-sounding. It's rather guitar-driven song but Egawa plays some nice synths and organ rides in the background. Not bad at all, but later will be much better. P.S. Good, metallic guitar solo included.

2. "Night With No Name" - fantastic heavy prog track with more sinister, aggressive atmosphere than "Illusion". Fantastic thundering double guitar & bass attack! Keyboards mostly not audible here but in the middle Egawa wakes up and plays great interlude solos together with guitarists. Truly rockin' synthesizer sound! Igarashi's vocal delivery is excellent too!

3. "Unbelieving Words" - the shortest track on "La Songerie" is much better than its length would suggest. Really nice hard rocker based on Hammond/guitar leads and Igarashi's vocals (including some typical for him high-pitched shrieks :-). Very enjoyable.

4. "Letticia" - for ultimate progheads this is a point where this album really begins - first epic of the album. Really splendid piece of symphonic prog dominated by Egawa's various synthesizers & piano work. You can listen also lots of inspired guitar solos and - what's very important - few mellotron moments! We can't also forget about Igarashi, who sings in a very melodic way with true passion and sense of melody. It can be easily compared with Genesis and Yes recordings.

5. "The Boyhood - The Cliff" - it's the shortest epic track, but it's still more than 9 minutes long so you can expect full blown prog rock. At first mood of this suite is very laid-back and atmospheric with Gilmour influenced guitar weeps and Bardens-like synthesizers. However in the middle tempo suddenly changes into organ & guitar driven, fast-tempo rocker full of "AAAAAA" harmonized vocals in the vain of Uriah Heep in their golden years. Kudos to Egawa for his blistering, 70's sounding Hammond organ solo! As you see you can hear many different influences here, but they are far away from ripping-off. I can assure you about it.

6. "La songerie" - it's definitely my favorite composition of Novela. It's rather slow tempo epic with extremely beautiful mellotron eruptions and acoustic guitar passages. We can clearly see Egawa's melancholic side during his classical sounding Grand piano play which almost dominate the suite. and the most important: melodies are gorgeous and Igarashi's delicate voice fits perfect here! I especially love this long instrumental fragment which started with acoustic guitar passages over charming glockenspiel sounds, followed by brief Baroque-like harpsichord (clavinet?) solo, then jazzy piano section and with flute-like mellotron sounds and finally nostalgic acoustic guitar solo spot (a la Steve Howe). Sheer beauty! Last 4 minutes are also brilliant. All of these "AAAA" harmony vocals, "fanfare" keyboards, catharsis-inducting guitar solos and overall dramatic tension atmosphere which culminates in eruption of mellotron created (thrilling sounding!) choruses. Goose bumps!

+ Bonus:

7. "Shoot a burning arrow" - bonus track included on most of CD issues of "La Songerie" isn't as good as the main album. It's just decent hard rock track with constant guitar bashing and cocky screams plus Wakemanish Moog solo. Similar to first 3 songs of "La Songerie" but weaker. But as a bonus it won't count to my overall rating.

In general I have to admit that "La Songerie" is a damn fantastic piece of art which every progressive rock lover should know. Its diversity is very obvious: 3 heavy prog songs (with sometimes slight pop influences) and 3 long symphonic rock suites which create perfect album altogether. This album should be equally regarded as Japanese prog masterpiece together with such records as Cosmos Factory "An Old Castle of Transylvania", Food Brain "Bansan (aka Social Gathering)", Shingetsu "Shingetsu" or Hiro Yanagida "Milt Time".

If you want to check only one Novela's album, let it be this one, but in fact whole discography of this band which featuring Toshio Egawa (1980-1984 period) is worth your time (and don't forget about Scheherazade's self-titled album with the same vocalist, guitarist and keyboardist, so it can be almost treated as another Novela's record)

Music on "La Songerie" reminds me such classic 70's bands as Genesis (mainly), Camel, Yes, Uriah Heep, Rainbow and even Queen.

If you like Japanese symphonic prog in the vain of Novela you can also check bands which were clearly influenced by them: Teru's Symphonia, Gerard, Vienna, Mugen, Magdalena, Pale Acute Moon, Providence, Pageant and Outer Limits.

My rating for Novela's debut: 5 stars (maybe more like 4,7 than full blown 5, but...)

ozzy_tom | 5/5 |


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