This is one for those of you who like your AOR smooth, very melodic and west-coast influenced. This is the kind of music for cruising down boulevards in open-topped cars, for small-town girls and city boys who never stop believing and for those who think that Toto are, and have always been, the best band in the world. If that’s you, then read on, because chances are you’ll love this album!
AOR can be tricky music to do well. The genre has some quite tight limitations on its structure and as a result, it can come across quite formulaic and samey. Its fans often want the bands to sound like the greats of the genre from the 80s which can limit the genre’s growth.
In order to make it work, bands need an exceptional vocalist, and songwriters who really know their way around a great hook. They also need a producer/arranger who fully understands how to layer everything up to maximise the power of the guitars and keyboards in particular.
Fortunately, Lionville are lucky enough to have all these elements in spades on this album! They have created a classic AOR sound on ‘Magic is Alive’ and as such should have what it takes to keep the genre’s fans happy.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3hzaQI9c6mM&w=560&h=315]
Opening track ‘Nothing Without You’ sums up exactly what this album is about. Everything is in the right place, with hooks galore. The guitar and keyboard combination is perfect, the lead vocals courtesy of Work of Art’s Lars Safsund, are stunning as usual and the stacked harmonies are colossal. The production is tight, sharp and saccharine-sweet, enabling everything to be heard in its full glory and this is kept up throughout the album.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBlY344T00I&w=560&h=315]
Lionville cover all the AOR bases here. They excel on the big up-tempo tracks like ‘Every Little Thing’ and ‘I’ll Never Give My Heart Away’ by ensuring that everything sounds huge, with massive vocal and instrumental hooks and a ton of classic 80s-esque keyboard sounds.
The guitars rock along powerfully yet politely and the solos have just the right mix of bite, melody and shred. They have the ballads too, like ‘Finally You’re With Me’ and ‘Into the Night’ which tug on the heartstrings like only AOR ballads can.
Lionville also channel their inner Toto on ‘If You Don’t Know Me’ with an instrumental mid-section that clearly shows the influence that Toto have had on their sound. This and the superb ‘Reaching for the Sky’ are the times that they push the envelope a little on their version of the very tight classic AOR blueprint.
The latter track is heavily influenced by Toto and is a particular standout; its style is an area that Lionville would benefit from exploring still further in future releases.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cOyvXZj4zlA&w=560&h=315]
Overall, this is a superb piece of modern European west-coast-influenced AOR, but that may well limit its appeal a little.
For fans of that particular sound, it’s a truly excellent listen, but for those who like their AOR with a bit more ‘bite’, it may well be a little too ‘polite’. If you like Lionville’s previous albums, especially the debut and its follow-up, or bands like Work of Art and ‘Seventh One’ era Toto, Magic is Alive comes very highly recommended!
Line-up: 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