Singer Laura Piazzai was performing in one of Clive Nolan’s productions and she suggested to Eric Bouillette that he ought to compose something for her. He thought this was a great idea, and in turn contacted Clive for assistance with the lyrics, but this soon changed into a more collaborative work with both providing the music together. The concept is based somewhat on the lives of Cosimo and Contessina De’ Medici, although this only represents a small part of their place in history. The result is something which in many ways feels like a logical progression from Clive’s ‘Alchemy’ and includes some of the same players, but there are also times where it is far removed and quite different showing the impact of Eric.
Laura and Clive of course worked together on the album ‘From The Outside In’ where Laura sang on new versions of some of his material, while Eric is best known for his work in Nine Skies and The Room. Here he provided guitars, keyboards, mandolin, and violin while he brought in bassist Bernard Hery and Clive provided keyboards and sang the part of Rinaldo and brought in drummer Scott Higham while Isabella Cambini provided harp. As for the singers, here Clive looked to people he had worked with previously, and with Laura taking the part of Contessina, he turned to Elena Vladyuk (who had previously been cast for a lead role in Clive’s ‘She’) to play the part of Lucrezia. For the other male singers, he looked no further than Twelfth Night with Andy Sears returning in a lead role to play the part of Cosimo while Mark Spencer takes on the low vocals of various monks.
I am not as familiar with Eric’s work as I am with Clive’s but can hear the impact of his collaboration as there are times when the guitar is very different indeed to what I would normally expect and the structures and arrangements showing depths in other areas. With a bassist recording in a home studio in one place and the drummer in another one would expect the rhythm section to be somewhat fractured given they had not previously worked together (at least I don’t think so), but these guys are locked as one. Scott has always been a very dramatic drummer who can provide insanely complicated fills where the need arises but also has a very powerful sense of the need for space so only plays when there is a requirement, and he adds to the music. Eric states that Bernard is one of the finest bassists there is, able to play in all styles, and he certainly shows that here as while he can often be tied in with the drums there are also others where he is far more prominent in the orchestration, adding depth and additional melody while bringing it all together.
Clive has been working in the theatrical space for some years now, and while it will always be heavily based in prog, he has adapted to the style incredibly well and in Eric he has found a kindred spirit and together they have created powerful music and lyrics which tell the story and allow all the singers to shine. All the singers are marvellous, but as with ‘Alchemy’, one of the absolute highlights is the performance of Andy Sears. That we have not heard more from him in the recorded scene in the last 30+ years is nothing short of criminal, and yet again he demonstrates just how he fits perfectly in this style as not only are his vocals of the very highest quality, but he captures the theatrical element so well, really bringing us into his character.
Sadly, Eric did not live to see the album released as he passed away in August, with the album not due to be released until the end of September (the version to get is the 28-page limited edition hardback book). However, it is possible to hear his thoughts on the album as Clive interviewed Eric (as well as Laura and himself) about the process, and these are available on the second disc along with different versions of songs which made it to the final edition. This is a fitting bookend to what Eric has undertaken musically and is an album which will be welcomed by many.