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Articles Home » 2013 Articles » Charming Grace - 2013 Charming Grace
Charming Grace - 2013 Charming Grace

ARTIST: Charming Grace
ALBUM: Charming Grace
LABEL: Avenue Of Allies
SERIAL: 13-02-0050
YEAR: 2013


LINEUP: Lead Vocals and Keyboards - Davide Barbieri * Bass - Amos Monti * Drums - Pierpaolo 'Zorro' Monti * Backing Vocals - Jeff Paris, Michael Carrata, Franco Campanella, Tomas Borgogna, Dario Grillo * Guitars - Sven Larsson, Peter Friestedt, Roberto Priori, Mario Percudani, Stefano Lionetti, Mario Manzani, Steve De Biasi, Stefano Zeni, Tom Martin, Andrea Lanza, Carmine Martone, Matteo Serra * Keyboards - James Martin, Alessandro Del Vecchio * Saxophone - Boris Matakovic. Click here for track listing by personnel.

TRACK LISTING: 01 Everytime You Touch My Heart - Duet with Nick Workman (Vega) * 02 The Way You Feel Inside - Duet with Moon Calhoun (Michael Thompson Band) * 03 Shining Light - Duet with David Forbes (Boulevard) * 04 Just Take My Hand - Duet with Gui Oliver (Auras) * 05 Close Your Eyes - Duet with Michele Luppi (Los Angeles, Secret Sphere) * 06 Still Dreamin' - Duet with Thomas Lassar (Crystal Blue) * 07 The Sound Of Your Heart - Duet with Alessandro Del Vecchio (Edge Of Forever) * 08 Everybody's Broken - Duet with Josh Zighetti (Hungryheart) * 09 The Answer Was You - Duet with Bente Smaavik * 10 Run Away - Duet with Jesse Galante * 11 Through The Stars - Duet with Stefano Lionetti (Lionville) * 12 Endless Flame - Duet with Henrik Launbjerg (Toys Of Joy) * 13 Bring My Life Back - Duet with Kimmo Blom (Urban Tale) * 14 Leave A Light On (Bonus track) - Duet with Elena Aurė



Yes, it's another Italian project from the reliable AOR powerhouse label Avenue Of Allies. Bringing together a who's who of AOR and melodic rock on this somewhat different album; Charming Grace is a project which brings back reminders of that fabulous Shining Line CD from 2010. And here in lies the comparison; with Shining Line's bass player Amos Monti and drummer Pierpaolo 'Zorro11' Monti (not related by the way) joining forces with Wheels Of Fire vocalist Davide Barbieri. These three guys are the catalyst to a collection of songs which includes a stellar cast on each track. It's a different and varied album. Different because it's a collection of duets. Varied because there is no real shape or identity across the CD. In the comments section of the Shining Line article, it was mentioned that SL was closer to the 'Voices Of Rock' project than anything. I get the same impression here with Charming Grace. Loads of personnel with different ideas and styles which you would think makes for an uneven listen, but that's not the case here, because at the end of the day, it's all about class, and that's what you'll find here.

The Songs
Leading off with 'Everytime You Touch My Heart'; this is quite a beautiful track which combines Barbieri with Vega's 'Nick Workman, and they work real well with each other. The verses are quite heartfelt and the chorus is majestic. The piano solo from Vega's James Martin followed by his brother Tom's guitar solo would think this is a Vega benefit; not quite, but what a way to start an album!

'The Way You Feel Inside' features Barbieri and former The Strand and Michael Thompson Band vocalist Moon Calhoun. Both blokes sing up a storm, however I felt the arrangement was kinda lukewarm, the vocal shoutouts at the end were a good addition though.

'Shining Light' was a song I'd been hanging out for, because it involved the great David Forbes from Canadian heroes Boulevard. Though I'm not a fan of longer songs, I'll make an exception in this case. This one does take awhile to get going (2 minutes in fact), but when it does, the vocals between the two David's are worth the price of admission.

The melodic arrangement for 'Just Take My Hand' is very appealing, a bouncing happy go lucky feel with acoustic guitar and lush keys. Barbieri joins forces with Brazilian singer Gui Oliver from the band Auras, combining for a really nice Journey like number. The guitar solo from Danger Zone's Roberto Priori also deserves a mention too, short sweet and effective.

'Close Your Eyes' features power vocalist Michele Luppi, a regular name here at GLORY-DAZE. And yes, you could call this song a power anthem veering on the ballad side. Luppi can sing the side off a farmer's barn and he does so here dragging Dave Barbieri along for the ride!

The power ballad moment arrives with 'Still Dreamin', the vocals from Swede Thomas Lassar though pleasant needed a bit more oomph, though admittedly was a hard act to follow after Michele Luppi. There's some flashy guitar from Gunshy's Steve De Biasi though the arpeggio styled soloing sounded a bit overplayed for this type of song.

If there was a song that sounded close to the beautiful Lionville, then 'The Sound Of Your Heart' is it. The keyboard motif from Del Vecchio is classic stuff, and this type of AOR is (in the words of Charlie Sheen) a 'winning' style for mine!

The first cover on this album is Bon Jovi's 'Everybody's Broken', a track which can be found on their 2007 'Lost Highway' album. This is quite an enjoyable track, which is something that can't be said for much of BJ's material beyond the 80's if truth be told. However, Barbieri and Hungryheart's Josh Zighetti do a good job, so too the rest of the track's personnel. Very good effort.

'The Answer Was You' has an intro melody similar to Richard Marx's 'Right Here Waiting', but the song develops into something beyond a piano ballad. Our good Norwegian friend Bente Smaavik is the co-lead vocalist for this power ballad oriented tune.

Next to turn up is former Fire lead singer Jesse Galante, whose powerful R&B voice is the edgier contrast to Barbieri on 'Run Away'. I wasn't totally convinced with this one, a point of difference being the inclusion of saxophone from Human Zoo's Boris Matakovic.

Stefano Lionetti from Lionville is the next guest on 'Through The Stars', a melodic affair which sees the ideas from Lionville and Charming Grace combined with seamless precision. Nice.

'Endless Flame' sees the inclusion of Toys Of Joy singer Henrik Launbjerg and the distinctive guitar tone of former Xinema and Street Talk six-stringer Sven Larsson. The song itself doesn't move heaven and earth with its arrangement, the chorus tends to go around in circles while Larsson's familiar solo style provides the change-up moment.

Former Urban Tale, Heartplay and current Boys In The Band vocalist Kimmo Blom joins up with Barbieri for the ballad 'Bring My Life Back'. It's good to hear Kimmo again, though the song itself doesn't really allow either singer to really stretch out, not to say this isn't a great ballad, just too formulaic for my tastes.

The finale is a cover of the Belinda Carlisle hit 'Leave A Light On' and sounds pretty good actually. The female lead is sung by interesting newcomer Elena Aurė, who has a pretty decent set of pipes. The chorus captures the essence of the original. I'm not really a fan of cover songs but the two on this album sound great. Good choices!

In Summary
Charming Grace is a worthy project from my perspective. It has numerous points of difference, and as mentioned earlier, even though there are constant change-up's from song to song, the overall style/theme has been retained throughout. There's not too much in the way of pacy rockers that many of the participants have been involved with, especially their own bands/projects; Charming Grace keeping to a low-speed to midrange speed boundary mostly. You could call this 'designer AOR', and it really is one for the melodic rock and AOR fans out there, less so for prog and heavy metal types who strangely, have decided to review it knowing full well it's not really a good fit for their site demographic. They must be desperate to review material if they have to resort to this. Go figure. If you enjoyed Shining Line and Lionville, then Charming Grace makes for a logical continuation.

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#1 | gdazegod on May 06 2013 12:23:59
YouTube Video:
#2 | gdazegod on May 06 2013 12:25:37
YouTube Video:
#3 | gdazegod on May 06 2013 13:38:42
The comment about 'no real shape or identity' was mainly focused on the fact that there were so many people involved. The structure of the songs are in fact quite close to each other. I probably should've pointed that out a bit more clearly in the article.
#4 | Zorro11 on May 06 2013 13:40:20
Thank you very much George for the amazing review! drummer
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