Reviews from March/00

Dakota / Little Victories / DAK 002-Thoughtscape Sounds


Dakota - Little Victories. On that fine line between AOR, westcoast and plain rock! Tracklisting:Don't count me out; Hearts on fire; Brother to brother; I.O.U.; The Deep; Praalude; Little Victories; Let go; Go easy; Rescue me; Wish; Next in line; Friday on my mind; Workin' hot.

I didn't really knew what to expect from the band Dakota - they have been around since the 70's and the independent "Little Victories" is just their 5th album!
But I have to say that the album is far beyond my imagination - it features a unique blend of excellent musicianship, great songwriting and superb production.
The album is one big highlight of hard edged AOR-tunes, intelligent and smooth westcoast ballads and jazz-influenced rock. The band teamed up with Chicago-main-man Bill Champlin on the track "Brother to brother" which is just one of 14 great tracks - only dull one though is the cover of the old Easybeats' "Friday on my mind".
If I can sum 20 years of musical career up this have to be that Dakota this time has released a very mature and refined record that doesn't care to much about trends and billboard charts. Songwriting- and producer-duo Jerry Hludzik (bass, vocals) and Rick Manwiller (keyboards, vocals) cuts to the bone and gives each song just the right doze of melody, smooth production and guitarist Jon Lorance. Jon Lorance is all over this release - he gives me and other air-guitarist rich opportunity to swing the arms. On hard rockers "The deep", "Next in line" and "Working hot" he plays fast and hard but on the more balladesque "Little victories" and "Go easy" he almost made me cry - he is very good - but Dakota works first and foremost as a unit, where all members very obvious had their own position! And Eli Hludzik on drum is very stabil and refreshing too.
"Little victories" appeals to all fans of AOR, westcoast and even hard rock. From the grand opener "Don't count me out" there are only few dull moment and i now understand my friends in a small club of westcoast-fans and their enthusiasm on some of Dakotas previous works! Its a very fine, mature record that values integrity and musical fun more than everything else - and for that I hope they will be rewarded!

Stratovarius / Infinite / Nuclear Blast NB464-2


Stratovarius - Infinite. A Masterpiece by Finnish melodic/prog metallers. Tracklisting:Hunting high and low; Millennium; Mother Gaia; Phoenix; Glory of the World; A million Light Years away; Freedom; Infinity; Celestial Dream.

This is absolutely heaven! - Melodic, powerful, symphonic, progressive metal with musical skills beyond imagination.
This must be the most integrated work of art by the hands of three Finn, one Swede and a German! I liked some of their previous albums - especially "Episode" from 1996 because of its very melodic attitude and less progressive elements. But this time around Stratovarius has it all. They appeal to a varied crowd of people and fans of Helloween, Queensr’che and even Queen will dig this!
The album starts up with 1. single "Hunting high and low" and its melodic approach sticks to me all day - I even hummed it in my bathroom while showering.
While listening to the nine tracks Stratovarius takes their audience through a whole universe of musical genres all performed in a way that leaves me breathless. Drummer Jörg Michael is a human powerhouse and masters the slower sides as well as the quick ones. Keyboard-wizzard Jens Johansson must have at least 20 fingers - on every hand - it goes that fast! Combined with vocalist Timo Kotipeltos highpitched vocals it sometimes sends chills down my spine.
But Stratovarius were not the same without guitarist, producer and mastermind Timo Tolkki. His guitarplaying leaves Yngwie Malmsteen as a lame old man and his "duels" with Jens Johansson has a classic stint to it and brings the best up in both of them.
My favorite track is the almost epic "Mother Gaia" - with its more than 8 minutes of pure pleasure Stratovarius shows all sides of their musicianship and takes us on a journey where all senses are stimulated - it is stunning.
In my humble opinion "Infinite" is a masterpiece, after a time with a couple of dull releases Stratovarius is back with more power and obvious joy by playing. The tracks has a hard edge from time to time but the musicians never forget the melody - and their musical abilities I must say are incredible.
See and hear them if you get the chance on a scene near you - Stratovarius is on European tour in April and May with Rhapsody and Sonata Arctica.

Love Hunter / St. / Sportin' Sammy's Record Co.


Love Hunter - Oneman project by Kelvin Fisher Tracklisting:Love Hunter; In my heart you'll stay; All I want is you; Lonely night; You gotta love it; You took a piece of my heart; Hold on to yesterday; Waiting for me.

After the rather good start with first/title- track this album has partly highlights but unfortunately also a few downers. The over-all impression is very positive though.
The project is multi-instrumentalist Kelvin Fishers' - and he handles the vocals, guitars and drums himself! - Pretty amazing, and for an independent release it has a very good production too. It allows the music to breathe and develop.
My favorite tracks on this one are besides the titletrack also the slow and partly acustic "In my heart you'll stay" and the beautiful "You took a piece of my heart" and through the record I can hear influences from the more symphonic bands like Styx and Kansas but also AOR and straight-forward rock acts like Alias and Journey.
This album was originally released back in 1997, but is very Y2K-compatible! Check the project on the web - Mr. Fisher deserves it!

© Steen Peitersen 2000