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Luna Rossa - 'Secrets & Lies' http://rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/3e/92/5e/Luna-Rossa-Secrets-And-Lies-52-1430766273.jpg Hot

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A wonderful album by any standards.

I've the utmost admiration for musical talent and that's something both Anne-Marie Helder and Jonathan Edwards possess in abundance. Not content with Panic Room, which sits firmly in the Progressive genre, they started Luna Rossa as a side endeavour to concentrate on music driven by acoustic instrumentation. Helder also has a solo career and performs with other artists including Mostly Autumn which all goes to accentuate the aforementioned talent.

Arriving swiftly after their debut album ('Sleeping Pills & Lullabies'), 'Secrets & Lies' is another exquisite collection of beautifully created songs which are played superbly and arranged with melodies that are to die for. In fact I'd venture that this surpasses the debut. Helder has a superb voice which enables her to deliver vocals with incredible passion, feeling and pathos on every song.

The use of Celtic harp (Sarah Dean), strings (Luna Rossa Quartet) and double bass (Andy Coughlan) all add immensely to the delicate beauty of the music, providing both a sophisticated edge and a wonderful warmth and depth to the arrangements.

'Aurora' opens the album delightfully as it builds in inspirational fashion; the unspoken vocal melody is quite gorgeous. It's an uplifting theme like the dawning of a new day, hence the title I guess. The title track is another triumph albeit bittersweet in that the lyrical content is bleak. It's storytelling at its very best and incredibly poignant, the beauty of the melody belying the lyrics. The grand piano is replaced by the distinctive tones of the Fender Rhodes electric piano on 'Disappointment' for what is a slow Blues number while 'The Black Dog' is led by acoustic guitar giving a jolly feel to yet another dark lyrical theme.

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'Flowers in My Hair' features Edwards' piano and the strings with more wonderfully singing from Helder; the melody from 'Frere Jacques' is brilliantly interposed into the song. The mood changes with 'Happy Little Song' and bizarrely, for me, it's the least impressive track on the album with it coming across as rather throwaway and twee.

A cover of Todd Rundgren's 'Tiny Demons' is up next, it's outstanding with the theme being played by electric piano and a subtle double bass along with grand piano that appears later in spine-tingling fashion; it's a wonderful song, beautifully played. Harp then leads the way on 'Fly Away'. 'I've Been Wrong Before' is a Randy Newman song previously covered by Dusty Springfield and Cilla Black, neither of whom delivered it as well as Helder does here. 'The Harmony' and 'No Chords Left' are both terrific, but I'd have switched them round so the album closes on the more upbeat of the two; that aside this is a wonderful album by any standards.

Gary Marshall

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