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Lionville - 2012 II

ARTIST: Lionville
LABEL: Avenue Of Allies
SERIAL: 12-10-0048
YEAR: 2012
SPONSOR: Gregor Klee


LINEUP: Stefano Lionetti - lead and backing vocals, electric & acoustic guitars, keyboards

Main Musicians: Lars Safsund - lead and backing vocals * Alessandro Del Vecchio - keyboards, backing vocals * Mario Percudani - electric guitars * Bruce Gaitsch - electric & acoustic guitars * Anna Portalupi - bass * Alessandro Mori - drums, percussion

Guests: Bill Champlin - lead & Backing vocals 'Higher' * Tamara Champlin - backing vocals 'Higher' * Robert Sall - guitars, keyboards 'All This Time' * Sven Larsson - guitars 'One In A Million' * Peter Friestedt - guitars 'Another Day' * Joe La Viola - sax 'Waiting For A Star To Fall' * Herman Furin - percussion 'Open Your Heart'

TRACK LISTING: 01 All We Need * 02 The Only Way Is Up * 03 Another Day * 04 Higher * 05 No Turning Back * 06 All This Time * 07 Next To Me * 08 Waiting For A Star To Fall * 09 Don't Walk Away * 10 One In A Million * 11 Shining Over Me * 12 Open Your Heart



In preparation for this review, I had to look back at the debut Lionville review I wrote last year. I'll admit I was unfairly critical of Stefano Lionetti, and only awarded an 8/10 for that CD. It might have seemed a bit harsh at the time but with the release of 'Lionville II', all is repaired. Well it is in my way of thinking. I had a great time listening to the new CD, courtesy of Avenue Of Allies boss Gregor Klee. All of the material ticks my boxes in a big way, suffice to say this will head into my top 10 CD's of the year without question. Sorry.. top 5. Again, we are met with the same Italian dream team as musical accompaniment (read the credits as above), and with Stefano's input, plus a bevy of guest musicians including the fabled Lars Safsund from Work Of Art, there is consistent quality and a few change-up moments to keep listeners attention at the ready.

The Songs
Everybody is on form, but for me the standout is that pulsing bass of Anna Portalupi which underpins this album with power and fluidity. Lionville deliver a sound that has immediate appeal to the tried and true AORster. Believe me, after listening to thousands of AOR albums over the years, I can say that with some authority. Does it get any better than the opening trio of 'All We Need', 'The Only Way Is Up' and 'Another Day' (featuring Peter Friestedt)? In terms of a 2012 triumvirate probably not. Magnificent is an understatement. Hubbie and wife team Bill Champlin and Tamara Champlin hook up for the uptempo 'Higher'. Written by Lionetti and Alessandro Del Vecchio, the song is highlighted by a cool synthesizer part which is straight out of Toto's bag of tricks. The exquisite ballad 'No Turning Back' has the Richard Marx seal of approval all over it.. listen to this under a set of headphones. Next up we take up residence once again with the immensely good 'All This Time', this track features Work Of Art's Robert Sall, so by default it has the WOA influence all over it. And in a year where WOA aren't represented by their own album, I'll take this as a compulsory stand-in! It keeps getting better with 'Next To Me' cruising effortlessly in fifth gear, while the change-up moment is a cover of 80's hit 'Waiting For A Star To Fall' originally performed by Boy Meets Girl. An inspired choice if ever there was one. 'Don't Walk Away' integrates acoustic and electric guitars, strong synth parts and rich harmony vocals. The next starring role goes to ace guitarist Sven Larsson who joins in on 'One In A Million'. I'd get excited if Larsson was competing in a game of twiddly-winks, his guitar style a great favourite of mine. Keyboards and guitars are combined beautifully for 'Shining Over Me', a song which pulses over the soundscape with melody streaming off the canopy like plumes of heat on the horizon. Gotta love the Toto like keyboard solo from Del Vecchio. Winding down the album is the ballad 'Open Your Heart', with a shuffly drum beat a la Toto (think 'It's Not The Same Without Your Love') but this one is more heartfelt.

In Summary
Wow what a collection of tunes. It's been on repeat-play for weeks now, and deservedly so. Easily one of the best AOR albums of the year, perhaps the new decade. It's taken two years but we can easily see the class arrangements put forward by Stefano Lionetti. Inspired indeed! I won't spin any more rhetoric other than to pass on that age-old chestnut.. 'BUY OR DIE!!'

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#1 | george_the_jack on December 26 2012 17:23:44
This is a masterpiece indeed! Best album of 2012 by a country mile IMO. Top quality arrangements offered with the ideal production. After several listens I still can't get enough of this genial release. It has rather turned out to be the soundtrack of this Christmas for me. Well done to Stefano and the rest of the team!
#2 | jeffrey343 on February 06 2013 01:23:13
I have to admit that after the first listen I put this in the "good but not great" category. Well, it's moved so far into the "great" category that it's probably gonna end up my favorite 2012 release. I've been playing this and the debut 2 or 3 times a day for the past two weeks, and I'm nowhere near being tired of it.

I think releases such as this take a few listens for me for some reason. Maybe it's because they frequently don't have those one or two songs that I immediately latch onto, or the guitar riffs or keyboard parts that implant themselves into my brain, or the lyrics that speak directly to me. Not that this is samey - I could differentiate the songs pretty quickly, and having a cover of a well-known 80's pop song helped. But my patience with this one has been rewarded greatly.

I think one issue led to the lack of immediacy here. The vocals are lower in the mix than in a lot of albums. I mentioned this same issue on the second Work Of Art album. That combined with lyrics that are maybe a bit deeper and poetic than typical rock lyrics can make it a bit harder to sing along to these songs at first. And since I bought this digitally, I don't have the lyrics yet (I'll get around to ordering the physical CD though). But I've absorbed the lyrics now (and great lyrics they are), so the lower vocal mix is no longer an issue.

This has also given a halo effect to the two Work Of Art albums. I can't say I was a huge Toto fan back in the day, so the WOA albums didn't stick with me as much as they did for many of you. They were good for sure, but I liked other stuff better. Well, I've been playing both of them a lot the past week too, and I now appreciate just how good they are. Whereas they are more like Toto, Lionville reminds me more of Survivor. I know that's a cliche that a lot of AOR fans throw around without much thought, and I'm not saying they sound just like them, but I do think the comparison is more valid here than in most cases.

And concerning "Waiting For A Star To Fall" - that was one of the cheesiest late 80's pop songs of them all. But it was catchy, and I liked it. These guys totally own that song here though.
#3 | jeffrey343 on February 06 2013 01:52:15
One good comparison for this one is that great 2008 Elevener album 'When Kaleidoscopes' Collide'. This of course has more traditional vocals, but the style is very similar. Man, I wish that second Elevener album was as good as the first one...

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