Great music is simply great music no matter what label or genre tag you apply to it so we’ll be having none of that “but is it Prog?” debate with this one!
A side project for Anne-Marie Helder and Jonathan Edwards of Panic Room, Luna Rossa is a far more low-key outfit with emphasis on the acoustic and Secrets & Lies, their second album after last year’s Sleeping Pills & Lullabies, sees the project develop. This is a truly beautiful set of songs including two covers – and if you are going to cover anyone you can’t do much better than Randy Newman and Todd Rundgren!
The songs feature multi-layered arrangements that aren’t so much stripped back as well spaced out in a production of clarity and depth which allows the instrumentation to shine, the generally acoustic nature focusing on the interaction between Jonathan’s piano and the gorgeous vocals of Anne-Marie, augmented by strings, double bass, flute and harp to wonderful effect. The arrangements are sumptuous and warm and as a collection this is a great set of songs delivered with style and care.
Unexpectedly the opener acts as a kind of overture, beautiful piano and double bass with harp adding its magic before Anne-Marie’s wordless vocal. This is a lovely intro that sets the tone for the rest of the album. The title track is a melancholic tale of a relationship falling apart, again beautifully rendered with the bittersweet harp a lovely touch, while Disappointment features Edwards’ electric piano, the weary and emotional vocal perfectly pitched against the occasional introduction of slide guitar and double bass. The somewhat bleak subject matter is offset by the warmth of the setting as the songs draw the listener in.
The acoustic guitar driven The Black Dog is more upbeat and Anne-Marie is, as always, excellent while Flowers in my Hair brings back the piano and beautifully works in the strings and an unexpected variation to the tune of Frère Jacques. There’s a real change of pace with the self-explanatory Happy Little Song which is, er, a very happy little song, quirky and cheeky with nice additional textures from flute and woodwind.
The first of the covers is a lovely piano version of Todd Rundgren’s Tiny Demons, a smoky feel coming from the vocal, with a lovely flute solo. Harp gives a lighter than air feel to Fly Away and the subtlety of all of the contributions is central to making Secrets & Lies work so well, it is a beautifully put together recording.
The second cover is of a Dusty Springfield song written by Randy Newman. As with the Todd Rundgren song, this is a lovely choice which suits Anne-Marie’s delivery and she is particularly impressive here supported by strings and piano. A similar soundscape is used for the next song, The Harmony, which is very different but no less impressive.
The variety of the songs makes Secrets & Lies a particularly well rounded collection and underlines the skills and talents of those involved, Anne-Marie being a particularly appealing centrepiece as those already familiar with her work will attest. Finally, No Chords Left is an exquisite closer, stark piano with emotion just oozing out of Helder’s wonderful vocal. The perfect way to finish.
I first played Secrets & Lies in the car on the long journey to work. It was dark and freezing cold but the music warmed me and lifted my spirits in a way I didn’t expect and made the whole experience a much more pleasant one than it normally is. This is the kind of album that you can curl up with, relax and enjoy. It deserves attention and will certainly reward you for your time.
A lovely listening experience, this album comes highly recommended to anyone who enjoys songs of real quality performed by talented musicians who know what they are doing. The results are compelling.
01. Aurora (4:47)
02. Secrets & Lies (6:01)
03. Disappointment (4:05)
04. The Black Dog (3:44)
05. Flowers In My Hair (5:36)
06. Happy Little Song (2:51)
07. Tiny Demons (5:09) Todd Rundgren
08. Fly Away (4:41)
09. I’ve Been Wrong Before (2:34) Randy Newman
10. The Harmony (4:11)
11. No Chords Left (4:13)
Total Time – 47:50
Anne-Marie Helder – Vocals, 6 & 12-string Acoustic Guitar, Flute, Grand Piano
Jonathan Edwards – Grand Piano, Electric Piano, Acoustic Guitar, Backing Vocals
Andy Coughlan – Double Bass
Sarah Dean – Celtic Harp
Tim Hammill – Guitars, Rhythm Programming
The Luna Rossa Quartet:
– Artem Kotov – Violin
– Rebecca Brown – Violin
– Ronan MacManus – Viola
– Leah Evans – Cello
Record Label: Firefly Music
Year Of Release: 2014