Album review: LIONVILLE – Magic Is Alive

LIONVILLE – Magic Is Alive

Frontiers Records [Release date 07.08.20]

Fourth album from Lionville, an emphatically Westcoast Rock band. Each new release confirms that guitarist/songwriter Stefano Leonetti couldn’t have found a more suitable front man than Lars (Work Of Art) Safsund. What this celebrated vocalist does with these songs is amazing. He takes the fragile quality of the music and amplifies it several times, giving it a robustness and flexibility that shows just how much he’s plugged in to the history of the genre.

Leonetti’s version of Westcoast Rock has all the ingredients of Melodic Rock and AOR, but on a much more nuanced, intimate level. At first glance it looks like soft rock, but Leonetti coats it with a veneer of sophistication. This credits his audience with musical intelligence, which means they’ll give the songs time to work.

Underpinned by the distinctive shading of Fabrizio Caria’s Paich like keyboard fills and frills, ‘Runaway’, ‘Living With The Truth and ‘I’ll Never Give My Heart Away’ have a welcome sense of familiarity, creating an instant emotional connection with genre enthusiasts. In old fashioned cinema-going speak, this is where they came in. It’s Bruce Gaitsch, Tommy Denander territory, with echoes of Joseph Williams in Safsund’s intonation on opener, ‘Nothing Without You’.

‘If You Don’t Know Me’ and ‘Reaching For The Sky’ have a derivative, Steely Dan/Boz Scaggs shuffle, with Leonetti’s jazzy interludes riding Caria’s keyboard swells, but it’s grounded in precision and solid songwriting. In fact, the band seldom try to colour their music outside the lines. Which can make it sound overly formulaic at times. You could argue that Leonetti is keeping a tight rein on the arrangements, and that it’s this discipline that makes the songs work. And you would probably be right.

It’s only when he loosens up a little … ‘You’re Not Alone’ has the breezy crispness and melodic rock fire and thrust of Stan Bush in its makeup, and on ‘Finally You’re With Me’, an elegant ballad, completely shorn of bloat and bombast, that you truly appreciate Leonetti’s skill as an arranger and a producer. ****

Review by Brian McGowan

David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 20 September 2020.

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