Renaissance
Novella


4.0
excellent

Review

by e210013 USER (110 Reviews)
November 4th, 2016 | 34 replies


Release Date: 1977 | Tracklist

Review Summary: It represents the final flowering of Renaissance at their creative peak. This is the last truly progressive album of Renaissance.

“Novella” is the seventh studio album of Renaissance and was released in 1977. The line up on the album is Annie Haslam, Michael Dunford, John Tout, Jon Camp and Terence Sullivan. The album has also the participation of Richard Hewson.


When we talk about the years of 1976 and 1977 we mustn’t forget the arising of the punk movement. So, those years were a big problem for all progressive rock bands. Those were times of great turbulence and obscurity 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, Renaissance managed to come up with a great progressive album “Novella”, in 1977, and one very good album “A Song For All Seasons”, in 1978.

While AOR radio and to a lesser extent punk were undermining the creative licence of many other progressive rock bands, Renaissance managed to escape relatively unscathed, for a few years, at least. Why did it happen" It’s really quite simple. It happened because in fact Renaissance had a different audience base than many other progressive rock bands. In reality, they didn’t need to go through the channels of “rock and roll” or “hit radio” to keep their audience. And, as such, they were able to keep going with elaborate musical ventures even while Yes were being pared back to “Tormato” with “Don’t Kill The Whale”. However, the band doesn’t pass unscathed to that and Renaissance begun to experience certain problems by 1979. Perhaps no band can outrun the market forever. But the fact remains that they kept their credibility longer than most of their compatriots. And it was a blessing for all their progressive fans, indeed.

“Novella” has somewhat of an ambiguous place in the Renaissance’s catalogue. Some consider “Novella” as a retreading of earlier paths, having the form of the previous Renaissance’s material, but lacking the spark that made it all worthwhile. And it must be admitted that the album doesn’t break any new ground territory for the band, despite its great musical quality, nor is it as good as “Turn Of The Cards” and especially “Scheherazade And Other Stories”, probably their best release. And probably, we even can’t say that it’s as good as “Prologue” or “Ashes Are Burning” are. But “Novella” is undoubtedly an album which stands up well in comparison to the rest of their musical catalogue.

Musically, “Novella” followed in the footsteps of the previous albums, but the mood was slightly mellower. The material was maybe also a bit less accessible, and the album requires several listens before you’re able to grasp the melodies. But once you’re into it you’ll find that it has almost all of the qualities from the band’s best albums. It was also the last album where Renaissance still remained a pure progressive band. The 13 minute opener “Can You Hear Me"” has a kind of a melodramatic feel to it, and the instrumental passages are a lot more muted and humble than before. This track glides straight over in the beautiful and atmospheric “The Sisters” that maintains the mellow mood. The acoustic “Midas Man” features one of the last examples of Tout’s sparse use of synthesizers before he unfortunately would take over much of the band’s sound with it. “The Captive Heart” is a piano dominated ballad with some fine harmonies, but the closing epic “Touching Once (Is So Hard To Keep)” is a lot more interesting. It builds up from a medieval styled tune to a symphonic and dramatic crescendo before it gets back to the start again. This is very striking indeed.

But by 1977, Renaissance had just, like most other progressive groups, almost starting to lose their progressive roots and they were almost ready to starting a more commercial appealing style. Unfortunately, it would be more evident, a gradual change of style, on their next two studio albums “A Song For All Seasons” and especially on “Azure D’Or”, an album with very few progressive lines. But this is another story. I’ll tell you what I think in my reviews of those albums.


Conclusion: “Novella” represents the final flowering of Renaissance at their creative peak before outside pressures caused a change of musical direction in their succeeding workings. It wouldn’t be recommended as a first choice for a Renaissance virgin, but is highly regarded nevertheless. It represents an excellent offering from the band that remains more than capable of providing the quality of music that many others can only aspire to. This second incarnation of Renaissance has released four great studio albums and they were able to release another great one, “Novella”. It was probably the last truly progressive album of 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, which is, making really good progressive rock music.


Music was my first love.
John Miles (Rebel)



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Comments:Add a Comment 
e210013
November 4th 2016


2213 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Finally I decided review this album. It deserves that. I'm sure that KILL will pleased with that.

As usual I count with your comments.

TheIntruder
November 4th 2016


405 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Another nice review man. Still, I never paid much attention to this album. You woke up on me an interest to it. So, I'm going to listen to it in the next weekend. Have a nice weekend, pal.



This time I was the first to do a comment about your album, ah, ah, ah.



MrSirLordGentleman
November 4th 2016


12366 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This one really needed a review. Good work m8



Haven't checked it in a looooong time though

e210013
November 4th 2016


2213 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

@ Intruder

Thanks, dude. I'm very glad that somehow I'm a bit responsible for your attention to this great album.

Have a nice weekend too.

e210013
November 4th 2016


2213 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

@ SirLord

Thanks dude. I'm very glad too, because somehow I'm also a bit responsible for you can remember again of the existence of this excellent album.

Cheers and have a nice weekend.

MrSirLordGentleman
November 4th 2016


12366 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

The closer is one of the band's very best

e210013
November 4th 2016


2213 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Agreed.

Divaman
November 4th 2016


3378 Comments


Nice to see somebody reviewing Renaissance, and nice historical perspective. Not familiar with this album, so I'll have to check it out.

Digging: John Boswell - Night Magic

e210013
November 4th 2016


2213 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks, Divaman. Do it man. Anyway, if you want you can read my other three reviews about this band, if you have patience and time.

Cheers.

Jethro42
November 4th 2016


15642 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I think that Novella is a good listening, but it's much less innovator than the four albums prior to it. They kind of ran short of ideas for me. It contains great instrumental breaks here and there, but it seems they didn't know how to conduct them, plus either they underused Annie's vocals, or her melodies were rather tedious and uninspired. It's kinda good background music though, but with very few hooks to find. Need to spin it again though.

Good review, buddy, very informative, mainly when you talk about the decline of progressive rock when punk and new wave have taken pretty much all the floor in the end of the 70's. Have a pos.

e210013
November 4th 2016


2213 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"I think that Novella is a good listening, but it's much less innovator than the four albums prior to it."

I agree with you, but as you said, it still has some really good tracks. I even can't find really weak tracks on it. As I said in my review:

"The material was maybe also a bit less accessible, and the album requires several listens before you’re able to grasp the melodies. But once you’re into it you’ll find that it has almost all of the qualities from the band’s best albums."

Probably is an acquaring taste and it represents definetely their last truly classic prog album.

Thanks and cheers, dude.

Jethro42
November 4th 2016


15642 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

The Sisters is such a poignant song... Annie brings the feels. It's easily my favorite one.

Divaman
November 5th 2016


3378 Comments


I agree completely with your assessment of the live album.

e210013
November 7th 2016


2213 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

@ Jethro

"The Sisters is such a poignant song... Annie brings the feels."

I agree, dude. However, I'm not sure what is my favouriite song on the album. I always loved "Midas Man" and "The Captive Heart" is a very beautiful song. Anyway, the last track is the most prog of all and is maybe my favourite. I always had a very special weakness to the epic tracks. What can I do?

Cheers, dude.

e210013
November 7th 2016


2213 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

@ Divaman

Thanks, man. "Live At Carnegie Hall" remains as one of the best live albums from a progressive rock band in the 70’s and one of the best postcards of the group, indeed.

I'm not sure if know this group very well. So, I will do some tips to you. Their four previous studio albums are all great. First you must check "Scheherazade And Other Stories", their great masterpice and one of the best prog albums ever. Then, you must check "Turn Of The Cards" and "Ashes Are Burning". The opinions are divided from what is the best, but i think they're very similar in terms of quality. Finally, you must check "Prologue", another great work. "Novella", is definetely their fifth best working.

However, all these albums belong to their second and best line up. Anyway, this is a very special group. It isn't a common thing a band has two different line ups. But in this case it's true. Their two debut studio albums were released with two completelly dfferent line up. Both are also great, especially their first one. You can read my reviews about those albums, if you want. I ask your attention to the female voice on those albums. The voice isn't from Annie Haslam but of Jane Relf. Both voices are great despite I prefer the voice of Annie. Still, some times the voice of Jane reminds me very strongly the voice of Annie. It's a pity the voice of Jane be so few used on both albums.

I hope that you aren't very bored with my big explanation.

Cheers dude and welcome to Sputnik.

KILL
November 7th 2016


81233 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

dude omg you rock so hard, while its prob only my 5th fav renaissance album it still rules hard, i'll never get tired of jons bass playing

also plz check my periphery review dude it took me ages i'm rly happy with it, need ur constructive criticism

e210013
November 7th 2016


2213 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"dude omg you rock so hard, while its prob only my 5th fav renaissance album it still rules hard"

I completelly agree. This is my 5th favourite album from them too.

I knew that you will be very pleased to see it finally reviewed and I'm very glad you liked my review.

Cheers, dude.

P.S. The bass of Jon is really amazing.

MrSirLordGentleman
November 7th 2016


12366 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"also plz check my periphery review dude it took me ages i'm rly happy with it, need ur constructive criticism "



hahahah i love you kill

e210013
November 7th 2016


2213 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I agree SirLord. KILL has a very special humour.

TheIntruder
November 7th 2016


405 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Surprisingly an excellent album. The album has no weak points. Perhaps I also prefer the last track of the album too. It's much more elaborate. My 5th fav album from them, indeed. Have a pos, man.



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