… are the personages in this "Christmas Cantata" written in 1712 for performance at the Vatican. The notes with the CD suggest a burden of historical and political allusions in the libretto, quite interesting in their way but utterly imperceptible to modern ears. Really, the recitativos and arias of Caldara's Vaticini di Pace sound remarkably like Handel - the same broad but expressive melodies, the same robust instrumental accompaniment, the same treatment of the voice as a thing apart from the instruments, so unlike the hard-to-sing instrument-like vocal lines of JS Bach. To listeners of 1712, of course, it would have been vice-versa, Handel who sounded like Caldara, since Caldara was fifteen years older and well established.
Seeking a U.S. breakthrough, A&M Records held Black's second album, Comedy, back from release until a re-recorded 1989 version of his U.K. hit "Wonderful Life" could be added as the leadoff track. There is also a remixed version of the U.K. hit "Sweetest Smile," which, like "Wonderful Life," previously appeared on Black's debut album, Wonderful Life. Also included were the more recent U.K. chart singles "The Big One" and "Now You're Gone." All of which means that, in its U.S. version at least, Comedy was almost more of a hits compilation than a formal second album. That, however, lent it a certain consistency, and in its newer songs, the album showed Black moving away from the cocktail jazz and doomy lyrics of his debut and toward a more eclectic sound, as well as lighter, more romantic sentiments.
VDGG's second step on the mid-'70s comeback trail saw Peter Hammill attempting to meld the introspective and the cosmic throughout, though this did not stop him from taking a dead run at a grandiose concept or two - the consequences of immortality on the title track, and the grand fate of humanity on the epic "Childlike Faith in Childhood's End." The theme of humane cooperation informs the opening "Pilgrims," while "La Rossa" is an epic tale of desire fulfilled (a story that would be concluded on Hammill's solo album, Over). The true highlight, however, is the beautiful, pensive "My Room (Waiting for Wonderland)," with its echoes of imagination and loss. Hammill did not achieve such a level of painful beauty again until "This Side of the Looking Glass" on Over.