Lionville - s/t (2011/Avenue of Allies)
Lionville is a new AOR project based around Italian guitarist and vocalist Stefano Lionetti. The band includes Lars Säfsund (Work of Art) on vocals, producer/keyboardist Alessandro Del Vecchio (Edge of Forever, Glenn Hughes) and drummer Pierpaolo Monti (Shining Line), with help and contributions by top musicians such as Tommy Denander, Bruce Gaitsch, and Sven Larsson (Street Talk). An impressive line-up, that at least on paper should cause the mouth to water for any AOR or westcoast connoisseur.
What we get here is 11 well-produced tracks, most of which were written by Lionetti, although with the lyrics mostly provided by the other core members Säfsund, Del Vecchio and Monti. The music on this debut is radio-friendly, melodic and powerful, with its' heart firmly placed in the 80's - although wrapped up in a modern production. Lars Säfsund is excellent throughout, an exceptionally
gifted vocalist with a voice custom-made for AOR, but for those familiar with his other band Work of Art this of course comes as no surprise. Actually, putting the obvious vocal reference aside, the style here is practically identical to the one of Work of Art and seem to follow a similar pattern: one minute it's pure AOR, the next it's pure westcoast, and so on, and Lionville prove they can pull both styles off with ease. (of course, it doesn't hurt to have westcoast guru Bruce Gaitsch handling the guitars on most tracks!).
Putting the flawless musicianship aside, the song material is in all honesty not always top-notch. Basically the album has two sides, with the first half being the strongest, and the second one a little more AOR by numbers, although not bad. Among the goodies are the energetic opener "Here By My Side", a highly accessible AOR piece with a chorus made for radio airplay. Then we have a westcoast gem called "Center of My Universe", a duet between Säfsund and Lionetti, including some tasty guitar solos from Gaitsch. This track has a sound very similar to the Swedish band Time Gallery, and would have suited fine on their classic 1989 debut. "World Without Your Love" is another fine westcoast piece, written by Bruce Gaitsch and Richard Marx (with Amy Sky) and reminding of LA Cowboys and... well, Richard Marx. The album's "piece de resistance" comes in the form of a cover, namely "Thunder In Your Heart", a driving AOR anthem like taken from an 80's movie soundtrack...which of course, it actually is! (originally recorded by John Farnham for the movie "RAD")
So in conclusion, a well-crafted and all-around good release, that unfortunately lacks that real killer touch like so many of today's releases. But if you love the pure AOR sound and bands like Work of Art or Pride of Lions then Lionville is definitely worth investigating in.
Bob Wheeler - s/t
Fury - s/t