Monday, June 13, 2011

LIONVILLE: "Lionville"

Rating: 9/10

Avenue Of Allies 2011

Review by Kimmo Toivonen

It's not only Frontiers who can put together these AOR "project albums", the people of Avenue Of Allies label have stepped up to the plate, ready to hit a homerun with their project LIONVILLE. The musical backbone of the project is one Stefano Lionetti, a Genova-based musician. Most of the music is written by him, with a couple of exceptions, but more of that later. The musicians on the album include such AOR luminaries as Tommy Denander, Bruce Gaitsch and Alessandro Del Vecchio, and the production is handled by Alessandro Del Vecchio as well. The star of the album might still be the main lead vocalist, Lars Säfsund of Work Of Art and Enbound fame.

There's a fine line between generic and great AOR music. Most of the new music released in the genre offers nothing more than recycled melodies and lyrics, and in a way, that's the case with Lionville too. There's a strong sense of familiarity in these songs, but thankfully there's a certain spark of excitement that makes them fall mostly on the "great" side of the fine line. Let's face it, everything's been done before and it's been like that for years - the trick is to take influences, mould them and present them as a new, fresh piece of music. Lionetti and co. manage to do just that quite a few times.

"Here By My Side" starts the show in an upbeat fashion, sounding like an escapee from Nelson's "After The Rain" album. In my books that's a good thing, this song has all the right ingredients of a summertime AOR classic. Very Bad English-like keyboards start the next song "With You", which is another smooth and solid AOR track, if not quite as good as the opening track. The Toto-isms of "Center Of My Universe" don't really appeal to me, but the hard-hitting (well, in an AOR sorta way) "Thunder In My Heart" is an instant success for me. Apparently it's a song from an eighties' soundtrack, originally sung by John Farnham. Co-written by Lenny Macaluso, Gloria Sklerov & Joe Esposito , the song sounds unmistakebly like the sporty anthems that Stan Bush has recorded, and I was sure I'd find Stan's name in the credits. I didn't.

The Richard Marx/Bruce Gaitsch composition "The World Without Your Love" is a nice, moody ballad, but the real highlights of the album are elsewhere. "Power Of My Dreams" is one of those, an energetic melodic rocker with Lionetti sharing vocals with Säfsund. "The Chosen Ones" is another excellent duet, Säfsund dueting with Arabella Vitanic, the new Alyson Avenue singer. The song is blessed with a rather awesome chorus and some tasty guitarwork from Tommy Denander, who also co-wrote the track. I've got to mention the bouncy "Dreamhunter" too, if only for a thinly disguised tribute to "Don't Stop Believin'"...

The remaining few songs are all ok, slightly closer to generic than great but enjoyable enough, and Säfsund's stellar performance is worth some extra points. All things considered, I've got to say that we have one of the better AOR releases of 2011 here.

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