What should have been a celebratory album is now marked by immense sadness. Having completed this first album by the musical project, Imaginaerium, one of its creators, the composer and multi-instrumentalist Eric Bouillette tragically passed away in mid-August.
This is his collaboration with prog polymath Clive Nolan and vocalist Laura Piazzai in their musical interpretation of the tempestuous lives of the Italian Medici family.
It's told in the typically Nolan style of Prog theatre, verging at times on the operatic, in tandem with Bouillette's musical flourishes telling tales of Renaissance Italy when Cosimo and Contessina De'Medici ruled Florence.
This story of intrigue and power, double-dealing and treachery is interpreted through some stunning vocals and musical virtuosity to keep the listener in thrall for its entire 54 minutes.
Andy Sears (Twelfth Night), a regular contributor to Nolan's musicals, takes the role of Cosimo, his voice beautifully blending with Piazzai's.
A bell chimes at the start of opener Festina Lente (meaning “Make Haste Slowly”, the Medici family motto), after which the tensions rise and fall like the house of Medici itself.
The staccato Duty of Love begins with bells and Piazzai's haunting voice, and also features a choir, speeding up into a huge explosion of sound.
Sears and Piazzai sing House of Dreams over a harpsichord accompaniment and some lively orchestrated strings.
Nolan takes over vocal duties as the scheming Ronaldo degli Albizzi on The Tide Will Change which gallops along at cracking pace. It later slows down for a more reflective piano-led passage before it canters off again.
A choir beautifully complements Elena Vladyuk singing as Lucrezia on Never Close Your Eyes, Bouillette then making a beautiful moving contribution on mandolin on Glass Throne.
Treachery was chosen as the single and justifiably so, as it simmers with sublime menace, Nolan back as Ronaldo duelling vocally with Piazzai.
There's a very period feel to Fall From Grace sung by Vladyuk while the drama mounts again on Will I Ever Return, delivered in a fast and furious fashion with some fantastic drumming from Scott Higham, Bouillette's guitar also flying high.
The courtly Fortune's Reverse pushes up the tension levels again as Rinaldo realises he has been thwarted in his scheming and is joined by Contessina (Piazzai) in his lament.
The monkish chants on Return of the Medici are provided by Mark Spencer (Twelfth Night, Galahad) as all four main voices come in to bring the story to a fitting climax.
As the stately, dramatic final track ebbs away, its title Legacy perfectly sums up Bouillette's musical contributions both here and with his other prog ventures. Its beautifully illustrated story book is also another reason to add it to your 2022 CD collection.
**** Alison Reijman
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