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Renaissance Novella album cover
3.80 | 472 ratings | 46 reviews | 22% 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

Line-up / Musicians

- Annie Haslam / lead & backing vocals, percussion
- Michael Dunford / 6- & 12-string acoustic guitars, backing vocals
- John Tout / grand piano, synths, Hohner clavinet, percussion, backing vocals
- Jon Camp / bass, Moog bass pedals, cello (2), acoustic guitar, co-lead (4) & backing vocals
- Terence Sullivan / drums, percussion, tubular bells & timpani (3), backing vocals

- Richard Hewson / orchestra arrangements & conductor

Releases information

Artwork: Pamela Brown (both versions) w/ Amy Tuttle (band portrait) and Churchmouse (design)

LP Sire ‎- SA-7526 (1977, US) Initial edition distributed by ABC, w/ cover art (the one displayed here) different from the later adopted worlwide
LP Warner Bros. ‎- K56422 (1977, UK)
LP Sire - SR-6024 (1977, UK)

CD Sire ‎- WPCP-4218 (1998, Japan)
CD Sire - 7599-26516 (?, Europe)
CD Repertoire Records ‎- REPUK 1145 (2011, UK) Remastered (?) and w/ the cover art from the initial LP

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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Buy RENAISSANCE Novella Music

RENAISSANCE Novella ratings distribution

(472 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(22%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(54%)
Good, but non-essential (20%)
Collectors/fans only (3%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

RENAISSANCE Novella reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
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.

Review by lor68
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 !!

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.


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.
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 Ż and 4 stars.
Review by Matti
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.

Review by Eetu Pellonpaa
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.
Review by daveconn
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.
Review by Zitro
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

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.

Review by NJprogfan
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!
Review by Tarcisio Moura
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.

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 13Ż 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.

Review by progrules
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.

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

Review by Gooner
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.
Review by kenethlevine
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.

Review by ZowieZiggy
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.

Review by b_olariu
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.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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 and "Sisters" has, next to "A Trip to the Fair" (Scheherazade And other Tales), my favorite Annie Haslam work along with those incredibly effective horns and the wonderful Spanish guitar phrases. An amazing piece of music! I enjoy John Tout's original work so well and the spaces and the prominent acoustic guitars make this such a timeless collection of songs. And then, of course, you have Annie---the most beautiful voice ever to grace the grooves of prog music---here sounding very relaxed, yet mature and confident. Though "The Captive Heart" and even "Midas Man" both lack something---a vocal or melodic hook, if you will---they are so well performed, mixed and produced (at least on the CD I'm listening to these days) that I can be a bit forgiving. Also, "Touching Once" is lacking some lyrical power but musically the construction is definitive prog and contains absolutely mesmerizing interweaving of all band members with orchestra. (Love those horns, strings and choir after the Pearl-Jam-stolen guitar cord progression at the 5:35 mark.)

1. "Can You Hear Me?" (13:39) the intro of all intros--the one I've always used to identify prog and my progressive rock radio show. Some beautiful, flowing symphonic prog of the finest caliber make this one a sure-fire candidate for admission to Prog Valhalla's Hall of Epics. I just love the rich layers of strumming 12-string guitars. (30/30)

2. "The Sisters" (7:14) another flawless, gorgeous song that expresses such beautiful emotion with an astonishingly perfect Spanish feel. (15/15)

3. "Midas Man" (5:45) despite being a song that was obviously contrived to be a radio-friendly "hit", there are some really magical elements to this song: the wall of acoustic guitars strumming away, the Spanish acoustic guitar melody line that sets everything up, John Tout's "strings", and, of course, Annie's performance (even if the lyrics are a bit corny). The Sergio Leone like Western effects and plucked bass line melody are also a bit corny--as is the use of large tubular bells, but, still, it all works nicely. (8.75/10)

4. "The Captive Heart" (4:12) another pretty, classical-piano founded piece that attempts to display a chemistry between John Tout and Annie Haslem. Unfortunately, (once again) it turns out to be nothing so very special. The highlight actually becomes the arrangement, execution, and successful capture to tape of the intricate weave of multiple voices in the chorus sections. (8.5/10)

5. "Touching Once (Is So Hard to Keep)" (9:25) not a perfect song but a perfect example of the symphonic style of construction and organization for progressive rock epics. (18/20)

A/five stars; a masterpiece collection of symphonic progressive rock songs. A definitive album also for the subtleties which, IMO, are what distinguish prog: the fact that the music demands and deserves close and repeated listening. Music shouldn't have to bang you over the head to get your attention. IMHO, "Novella" is one of Prog's finest if final moments; one of the top 50 prog LPs of all-time.

Review by rogerthat
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, if anything.

Not that there's no growth or change. This is the only album of Renaissance Mk-ii that prominently utilizes acoustic guitars. Dunford always had some presence on their material but was usually buried deep in the background as Tout and the orchestra took centrestage. Whereas Sisters even has a solo by Dunford. Midas Man too has pleasing layers of guitar. There is some resemblance here with Roy Wood's approach on Annie Haslam's first solo album Annie in Wonderland released in the same year. That album too beautifully utilized acoustic guitar and harp, evoking a lush romanticism. The effect is not quite so ethereal on Novella but it's nevertheless an interesting development.

Can You Hear Me has one of the most annoying 'time-wasting' sections in the band's repertoire, wih practically nothing happening for 2 minutes. It's almost as if they are waiting for a suitable opportunity to reprise the string-vocal motif and get back on verse. That excepted, their orchestration is more assured and effective here and also less cliched. Especially, Touching Once (Is So Hard to Keep) is fabulous, the best of their orchestral pieces (Trip to the Fair and Things I Don't Understand being piano oriented), passing from shades as varied as playful to mysterious to triumphant.

That they are able to achieve that quite seamlessly is also on account of the vocals of Annie, who is at her peak here. She turns in an unusually extroverted, bold performance on Touching Once and does all she can to lift Can You Hear Me to some memorability. She overcooks Sisters, one of the very few times that I've felt baffled by her approach to a song, but compensates well with the ballad Captive Heart. It is in fact on Captive Heart that her growth and maturity is most evident. Where she could be a touch flat or not adequately engaged on the pop ballads before, she sings with a lot of presence on this song, careful at the same time not to overpower it. The recording is the best for any of their albums, richer and fuller than Scheherazade but without the overproduced gloss of A Song for All Seasons. Annie's voice in particular sounds significantly richer, an aspect that actually turned me off the album initially.

Where this album suffers, though, is it needs some application from the listener. Even fans may not be won over immediately by this but over time, it turns out to be quite substantial, arguably the most substantial release of Renaissance mk-ii. Barring Touching Once, it is all downbeat which also can make it less appealing initially but this is the most satisfactory execution of the quintessential mk-ii style.

Review by Gerinski
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".

Review by octopus-4
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
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.

Review by ClemofNazareth
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.


Review by Warthur
4 stars Renaissance were able to squeeze four studio albums out of the style which they established on Ashes Are Burning, and which had stayed strong throughout Turn of the Cards and Scheherazade. Novella is the fourth album before A Song For All Seasons would herald a stylistic shift back towards shorter songs, and arose in somewhat murky circumstances as the result of them needing to shift record company for the UK release, as a result of BTM records going bust in 1976.

It feels like the production is a little off this time around too - the Esoteric reissue significant improves this, and made it more possible for me to appreciate the album's depths, but it feels like the longest epic on the album - Can You Hear Me? - should really be as powerful as Ashes Are Burning or Song of Scheherazade, and it has all the right ingredients, but the production doesn't quite give it the last bit of sparkle it should have.

The subdued production continues into The Sisters, though it is at least suitable to that melancholic, wistful track. Between that and the autumnal cover art, I can't help but think of this album as, when it's at its best, a sort of companion piece to Wind and Wuthering by Genesis - both albums have the same sort of chilly, autumnal feel to them.

The second side leads off with Midas Man, with includes synthesiser used a bit more prominently than on previous Renaissance releases; the band would use synths live when they were performing without the benefit of an orchestra, but their inclusion here feels like a new development. The other side 2 songs feel like more traditional Renaissance pieces.

Overall, Novella gives a sense of Renaissance's schtick still holding strong, but beginning to waver, though how much of this is due to the slightly off production is hard to say - certainly, several pieces from the album became concert mainstays going forwards. Recommended, but not recommended over the preceding four albums.

The Esoteric reissue of this also includes the full Royal Albert Hall concert from 1977 (previously put out as a King Biscuit Flower Hour release), which makes the overall package somewhat more tempting. My star rating is, as always with these things, based solely on the album itself, but tack on an extra half star for the purposes of the Esoteric release, since the inclusion of that extra certainly makes it a more attractive package.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury 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.

Review by GruvanDahlman
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!

Review by VianaProghead
4 stars Review N║ 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*)

Review by siLLy puPPy
4 stars The London based RENAISSANCE had an interesting journey early on but finally on the band's fourth album "Ashes Are Burning" hit upon a progressively infused symphonic folk rock type of sound fortified with Baroque pop. The album found the perfect mix of cleverly crafted tracks that teased addictive pop hooks into the progressively worked out epics. The album allowed them to move on to the bigger BTM (British Talent Management) label and with a larger budget, the following album "Turn of the Cards" allowed the band to go for broke and create a lusher orchestral sound that ultimately led to its pinnacle of perfection with "Scheherazade and Other Stories" in 1975 which found its way into the top 50 albums on the US Billboard chart, no small feat for a symphonic prog band in the prog's waning years.

After three albums with a similar approach the band decided that there is no need to fix something that ain't broken. It took two years to record and release the following NOVELLA with the lauded "Live At Carnegie Hall" released in between but the musical landscape had changed dramatically in that short time. Progressive rock was no longer fashionable and punk rock was having its day in the sun however RENAISSANCE was not the ordinary prog band and managed to stay relevant even as Johnny Rotten and the Sex Pistols were calling for anarchy in the homeland. NOVELLA was released in January 1977 and succeeded in hitting the top 50 album charts in the US mostly because of the loyal following that the band had attracted outside of the influence of radio, TV and other popular forms of media.

In many ways, NOVELLA sounds like a "Scheherazade Part 2" as the same lush orchestrated pop hooks find themselves twisted into lengthy progressively infused creations with different movements although there is nothing even close to the epic scope of the previous album's title track. NOVELLA is sort of easy listening prog with easily digestible melodic hooks, soft acoustic guitars, careful displays of piano arpeggios and lush orchestration and as usual Annie Haslam's vocals bring an angelic heavenly presence to the whole thing. The music sounds like it could be the soundtrack at the pearly gates to heaven! Whereas the previous album had only four tracks, NOVELLA had five with the opening "Can You Hear Me" approaching 14 minutes and the closer "Touching Once (Is So Hard to Keep)" at nine and a half.

It's easy to understand why so many are turned off by this album. It is recycling the whole narrative theme with the female story reader recounting tales only this time to children rather than kings however there is no doubt that this album was playing it safe and milking the formula for as long as could be tolerated. Apparently for some it was one too many of this style but for others it was a welcome return to the familiar and after all, the sounds that emerge from these tracks are quite pleasant even though the album may lack the dynamic flair of its predecessor. It has been stated that Annie Haslam could sing the phone book and it would sound like a gift from angels and there is probably some truth to that but personally i find this album to be a nice breezy listening experience despite everything said about it pretty much being quite true.

While RENAISSANCE would hang on for a couple more years with their unique brand of classically infused progressive pop and far outlive many of the majority of the prog universe, the band would ultimately succumb to the inevitable gravitational pull of the burgeoning new wave scene, however on NOVELLA all of the sugary sweet melodies and unthreatening orchestrated melodic hooks are still on display as if the world was the same exact place as when they hit upon this formula in 1973. While i'll admit this is a major step down from the sheer perfection of "Scheherazade and Other Stories," i can't help but loving this album despite it all. The instrumental interplay is just as tight and Haslam's vocals are soothing and as brilliantly displayed as what came before. While the tracks are less compelling than the three albums that preceded, they are still catchy as hell with all the RENAISSANCE mojo still firing strong. Yeah, not the band's best but certainly not as bad as many claim it to be.

Review by Progfan97402
4 stars Aside from the 1969 debut which was essentially a totally different band bearing the Renaissance name, Novella, was, for all practical purposes, the first Renaissance album I ever bought, in 1996, for $1 (it was the true original US Sire pressing with ABC distribution). What I didn't realize was this album was never thought of in a high of a light as previous one, but after getting familiar with those albums as well, I really can't see why this is not as highly regarded. Try listening to Camera, Camera (a later offering from them, from 1981, never a good year for prog), that's pretty awful. Novella pretty much sticks to the same 1970s formula they did before, but to my ears it may have not offered anything new to the table that you hadn't already heard on previous albums. The opening song, "Can You Hear Me" simply blew me away. It starts off orchestral, but then the acoustic guitars kick in and Annie Haslam sings and it's pure heaven. The strange thing is I swore up and down I've heard this song years before I ever bought this album or even heard of Renaissance (or Annie Haslam, for that matter). At that time, me and my family were living in rural Oregon some 20 miles outside Eugene, Oregon (living like hippies complete with split-window VW microbus minus the Grateful Dead stickers) and getting their local FM rock station KZEL 96.1 (which is still around to this day) and there's a chance they had played "Can You Hear Me". Maybe that's why I swore I've heard that song before, but KZEL, like just about all the progressive underground FM rock stations after 1975, too succumbed to the commercial AOR format (you're far more likely to hear "Carry On Wayward Son" by Kansas in early 1977 on that station than you would "Can You Hear Me" by Renaissance).

OK, on to other songs, the rest of the album never reaches the mighty heights of "Can You Hear Me", on the other hand they are still very good songs, particularly "Midas Man" and "Touching Once (Is So Hard to Keep)". In fact nothing on this album makes me want to move the tonearm of my turntable, which is great. Remember: try listening to one of their albums of the 1980s, which are far worse, then come back to Novella. It's miles better. Renaissance newbies probably should try Scheherezade or Turn of the Cards as they're generally regarded higher, but Novella is still worth having, and oh, by the way, "Can You Hear Me" is by far my very favorite Renaissance songs.

Latest members reviews

4 stars High Quality, if Slower. Building on the symphonic approach they developed on their previous album (Scheherazade and other stories), Novella continues with extended pieces that develop over multiple sections, and that use the interaction between the music and lyrics to wax philosophically about l ... (read more)

Report this review (#1706956) | Posted by Walkscore | Friday, March 31, 2017 | Review Permanlink

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 Dr÷mmarenAdrian | 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 5, 2011 | 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 1, 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 8, 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 9, 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 2, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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