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Renaissance - Novella CD (album) cover

NOVELLA

Renaissance

 

Symphonic Prog

3.75 | 379 ratings

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VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Review Nš 171

"Novella" is the seventh studio album of Renaissance and was released in 1977. When we talk about the years of 1976 and 1977 we mustn't forget the arising of the punk movement. Those were times of great turbulence for all the progressive rock music. Renaissance was able to manage and to last longer, than most of the other progressive rock bands, before beginning their period of musical decline. During the period of 1977 and 1978, when bands such as Yes, Genesis, Gentle Giant and Emerson, Lake & Palmer fell part way or whole way into pop mediocrity, Renaissance managed to come up with a great album "Novella", in 1977 and one very good album "A Song For All Seasons", in 1978.

The line up on "Novella" is Annie Haslam (lead and backing vocals), Michael Dunford (backing vocals and acoustic guitars), John Tout (backing vocals and keyboards), Jon Camp (vocals, backing vocals and bass) and Terence Sullivan (backing vocals, drums and percussion). The album has also the participation of Richard Hewson.

"Novella" has five tracks. The first track "Can You Hear Me?" written by Betty Thatcher, Michael Dunford and Jon Camp is an excellent song to open the album. It's a kind of a mini epic track extremely well performed especially by John Tout's piano and Michael Dunford's acoustic guitar, and once more the beautiful voice of Annie Haslam is absolutely perfect. The musical arrangements, which consist mostly of instrumental parts, are superb, and the addition of the orchestral arrangements is fantastic and complete perfectly well this piece of music. The final result of this fantastic work is a great progressive track. The second track "The Sisters" written by Betty Thatcher, Michael Dunford and John Tout is a soft orchestrated ballad with a very melancholic feeling and with a superb angelical vocal work by Annie Haslam with a great dramatic interpretation, very well supported by a nice choral work. It's a very beautiful song with a very special Spanish touch done by the performance of Michael Dunford on his acoustic guitar. Musically, it's a very simple track but with an extremely beautiful melody and where the gorgeous voice of Annie Haslam shines brilliantly in all its magnificence. This isn't a typical song of Renaissance, because in reality, this is very distinct to everything the band had done before, but it works perfectly well and once more we are in presence of a great Renaissance's song. The third track "Midas Man" written by Betty Thatcher and Michael Dunford is a beautiful classical track with a folky touch. It's mostly an acoustic song very well performed and with nice musical final result. This is mostly a song performed by the acoustic 12 string guitar of Michael Dunford and where we can hear, in some parts, the sound of the tubular bells. Because is essentially a repetitive song is considered by many a boring song. However, I think that is perfectly unfair because it has a very good musical arrangement which can be perfectly audible on any good audio system. The fourth track "The Captive Heart" written by Michael Dunford and Jon Camp is another beautiful track of Renaissance and represents, in my humble opinion, one the most beautiful songs made by them and where the voice of Annie Haslam is absolutely superb and unforgettable. It's a track with wonderful piano work with a classical style introduction. The main components of this song are the piano of John Tout and the voice of Annie Haslam supported by male voices on the back. This is a typical Renaissance's song strongly influenced by classical music and with a very nice touch of folk music. This track represents how a song composed with a simple musical structure can be as superb as it is. Only few bands can do that, and Renaissance is for sure one of them. The fifth and last track "Touching Once (Is So Hard To Keep)" written by Michael Dunford and Jon Camp can be considered the epic track on the album. It retakes the style of the opening track, a long symphonic suite, very classical and with great orchestration. This is another excellent song once more with great accentuation in the style of the voice of Annie Haslam. This is a very progressive track with several musical changes all over the song and where we can listen to, the sound of a saxophone. The main beauty of this song is on its nice melody and also on its superb orchestral arrangements. This is another great progressive track.

Conclusion: Despite "Novella" isn't as good as "Prologue", "Ashes Are Burning", "Turn Of The Cards" and especially "Scheherazade And Other Stories", it's without any doubt, a great album. At least it's at the same quality level of their first two studio releases, "Renaissance" and "Illusion". However, we mustn't forget that "Novella" was released in 1977, at the height of the punk movement. That movement would have, in a short time, disastrous consequences in Renaissance, as happened with Genesis, Gentle Giant and Emerson, Lake & Palmer, for instance. "Novella" can be considered the beginning of the end of an era in Renaissance's music. "Novella" can be also considered, perhaps, the last great studio album of Renaissance and also the last truly progressive album released by the group. Unfortunately, soon another great progressive band would be defeated by the immediate commercial interests of the record labels.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

VianaProghead | 4/5 |

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