Piazzai, Laura - From The Outside In

Kev Rowland

Piazzai is a new name to me, a singer I haven’t previously come across, but apparently, she is an Italian born singer raised in Sweden who originally concentrated on the dance scene before becoming involved with UKD Project and recording two albums with them. In 2016 she met up with one Clive Nolan, taking part in 2017’s Beyond The Veil festival where she performed with Paul Manzi (Arena). That led to discussions which in turn has led to ‘From The Outside In’, which is subtitled ‘Laura Piazzai sings the songs of Clive Nolan’. In so many ways this reminds me of the Nineties when Clive seemed to have a million different projects on the go at the same time and kept bringing in musicians to add their bits and pieces. Very few of them actually featured his own vocals (which I always felt was a shame), but he had a knack of bringing in the right musicians at the right time. Here he is revisiting many of those songs which the current music buying public will have never heard, with new arrangements, and allowing Laura to put her own vocal styles on the top.

A quick glance down the musicians revealed no real surprises, and it is wonderful again to see Karl Groom’s name linked with Clive’s, but for the most part Clive used different guitarists in Mark Westwood, Roberto Barcellini and Oscar Mapelli so there is a different approach to the originals. No album like this would be complete without Mr Bass himself, John Jowitt, although Gokhan Ince also provides bass and both Scott Higham and Sergio Quagliarella are on drums. Most people will have never heard these songs before, but that is down to the mass media refusing to recognise music like this even existed. That Tracy Hitchings’ 1991 album ‘From Ignorance to Ecstasy’ is not more widely acclaimed is nothing short of shocking and is still very much one of my favourites. Three songs from that album are featured here, as well as songs from projects such as Strangers On A Train (note to Clive: I have vivid memories of us discussing this as a trilogy, so isn’t it time for the third?).

Laura has a great voice, and she is coming from a totally different background to people who have normally been involved with Clive’s material, with more of a Mariah Carey approach. Clive has also  taken the opportunity to record some vocals on material where he previously brought in other singers. I have always enjoyed Clive’s vocals, and felt that Shadowland were one of the best bands around (further note to Clive: 2021 will be 25 years since the last new Shadowland studio album, must be time for another?), yet it is only with his more recent works that he has had the confidence to really shine. There is one other name I must mention in regard to this recording, and that is the appearance of Andy Sears on “Sensing a Presence”. Here is another singer who has never gained the acclaim he deserves, and his presence on ‘Alchemy’ was nothing short of majestic. Maybe the next project should be ‘Andy Sings Clive’? Just a thought.

Clive and I have been friends for more than quarter of a century, yet he is fully aware that if I felt he had produced something which was not worthy I would say so publicly. But that is certainly not the case here, as songs long forgotten by some, and not even heard by many, have been given a new lease of life with a singer who is dominant and determined with great presence. Clive knows when to pull back and provide simple backing, and this album is all about the singer, but there are times when the guys let loose, and that just makes me smile.

I have gone back and pulled out the SOAT albums and listened again to music I hadn’t played for years, still enjoying the original, yet feeling the new versions had taken that base and turned it into something else. This is for all fans of Clive’s original music, plus those who have come to him from his musicals, or those who juts like hearing powerful female vocals in a progressive melodic rock setting. Awesome.

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