Luna Rossa – the ‘side-project’ of keyboard maestro Jonathan Edwards and singer / songwriter and vocalist Anne-Marie Helder, is fast becoming in danger of usurping their main band, Panic Room.
The creative force behind both bands, Luna Rossa is a vehicle for the pair to indulge their acoustic leanings, and Secrets & Lies – the follow up to their excellent 2013 debut Sleeping Pills & Lullabies – once again majors on Jon’s marvellous grand piano playing, with Andy Coughlan (Cerys Matthews) supplying double bass throughout, harpist Sarah Dean accompanying on several numbers and engineer and co-producer Tim Hamill contributing some exquisite electric guitar lines. Together, they provide the perfect stage to showcase Anne-Marie’s songwriting and sublime vocals.
‘Aurora’ opens the album and sets the scene for a series of beautifully poised performances – piano and double bass building, almost Tubular Bells like in its structure, with Anne Marie’s vocals gliding in as the piece swells to a gently restrained crescendo.
It’s followed by two of the best numbers you’ll hear this this year – the title track ‘Secrets and Lies’ with its delicate acoustic guitar, piano, and sensual vocals is simply haunting, while the bluesy Fender Rhodes and lead guitar lines of ‘Disappointment’ provide a smouldering foundation for a vocal performance by Anne-Marie that is guaranteed to send shivers down your spine.
The gentle ‘Black Dog’ is folk like in its construction with Helder’s acoustic guitar providing the mainstay around which Edward’s piano lines dance, while ‘Flowers In My Hair’ is almost choral with its Frere Jacques motif.
Edwards and Helder often like to throw a curveball into the mix and on this occasion it arrives in the form of ‘Happy Little Song’ – a fairground ride of a number that strikes a chord with the juxtaposition of ‘A Sailor’s Hornpipe’ within Tubular Bells.
But then it’s back to business with a wonderful cover of Todd Rundgren’s ‘Tiny Demons’ featuring some inspirational vocals, piano, flute and guitar, ‘Fly Away’ floats ethereally in the manner of Kate Bush at her finest, and ‘I’ve Been Wrong Before’ – a Dusty Springfield song written by Randy Newman, is given an almost Bond-like quality by the beautiful Luna Rossa Quartet string arrangement.
A pair of graceful laments – ‘The Harmony’, and ‘No Chords Left’ – close the album out in poignant style, the latter another number that wouldn’t be out of place in a Kate Bush set and which, as the final chords fade, feels a fitting finale.
Recorded at Sonic One in South Wales and mastered at Abbey Road in London, and with artwork hand painted by upcoming artist Karl James Mountford, the band will be launching the album with a short series of gigs at the beginning of November in Cardiff, London and Bilston.
Like Sleeping Pills & Lullabies before it, Secrets & Lies is a very lovely album in every sense, and a subtle reminder that some of the finest moments in rock are the quiet transcendent ones where space is as important as the notes that surround it. An album you’ll want to listen to time and time again. Exquisite. *****
Review by Pete Whalley
Album review (Sleeping Pills & Lullabies)
UK dates (2014)
Saturday Nov 1st – The Gate, Cardiff
Sunday, Nov 2nd – The Borderline, London
Sunday, Nov 9th – The Robin 2, Bilston
Details/tickets at www.lunarossa.co/tour
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