AOR is hard to do well nowadays. There are a number of reasons for this: firstly, the parameters you have to work within are somewhat limited in that there are a number of unwritten rules around the song structures, instrumentation, etc. The melodies have to be really strong with hooks everywhere.
You need stacked vocal harmonies and you must have a lead vocalist who sings like an angel. And of course, it’s already all been done before 30 plus years ago by monumental giants of the genre like Journey, Foreigner, Survivor, Toto and dozens of other bands with incredible back-catalogues against whom you’ll always be compared. So, if you’re doing AOR in the 21st century, you gotta do something special to really stand out![youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3hzaQI9c6mM&w=560&h=315]
Lionville are one of the bands who generally do an excellent job of modern AOR. Their first two albums are chock full of memorable songs, amazing vocals, pink and fluffy keyboards and smoothly effortless guitar work.
To my ears, their third album wasn’t quite as consistently strong, but still had its brilliant moments. They seem to take their influences from the softer end of the AOR spectrum, with the more commercial side of Toto being an obvious point of comparison.
After a gap of three years since their last album release, Lionville return in 2020 with a new single on the Frontiers label entitled ‘Nothing Without You,’ which is from their upcoming album ‘Magic Is Alive’ (expected in August.) Once again, they have been lucky enough to secure the services of Work of Art vocalist Lars Safsund, who has the kind of voice tailor-made for anthemic AOR. Powerful and smooth, with miles and miles of range, this guy could easily be the blueprint for ‘AOR lead singer’ and his performance here elevates this track as it has many Lionville tracks in the past.
This track does pretty much everything right. The keyboard/guitar combination is bang on throughout evoking memories of Seventh One era Toto – neither instrument dominates the other giving it a super-smooth sound.
There are a couple of interesting chord modulations in the bridges and the middle-eight to add melodic interest and the all-important chorus is suitably huge and memorable. Harmony lines add interest to the hooks in all the right places and the guitar solo makes all the right noises without over-staying its welcome.
Ok, the lyrical content is the usual pretty basic relationship fodder, but that’s what AOR has been built on for 40 years – if it ain’t broke…
Overall, if you like the softer end of the AOR spectrum and especially if you’re a fan of Lionville’s previous works, any of Work of Art’s albums or the current wave of Swedish AOR/Melodic Rock bands, there’s a good chance that this will be right up your AOR boulevard! It’s not breaking any new ground and is playing it pretty safe, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially when it’s done as well as this. If you’re a fan, it’ll certainly whet your appetite for the upcoming album.
Stefano Lionetti – guitars, vocals, keyboards
Lars Säfsund – lead & backing vocals
Michele Cusato – guitars
Fabrizio Caria – piano & keyboards
Giulio Dagnino – bass
Martino Malacrida – drums
Review by Andy Hawes for MPM