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Articles Home » 2003 Articles » Dakota - 2003 Deep 6
Dakota - 2003 Deep 6

ARTIST: Dakota
ALBUM: Deep 6
YEAR: 2004


LINEUP: Jerry G Hludzik - vocals, bass * Jon Lorance - guitars * Rick Manwiller - keyboards, vocals * Eli Hludzik - drums

Guests: Bill Kelly - backing vocals * Bill Champlin - backing vocals

TRACK LISTING: 01 Brother In Arms * 02 Holdin' Your Own * 03 Back To Me * 04 Not So Much In Love * 05 What Were You Thinkin' * 06 That Awful Day * 07 Eye Of The Storm * 08 Not Just The Night * 09 Right This Minute * 10 Shut Up And Drive * 11 The Ride * 12 Luck, Time And Mind * 13 Deep 6


It's been suggested that the AOR scene is in decline. I'm not so sure that's true - it seems instead that AOR fanatics around the world are getting tired of the endless stream of 'new breed' AOR bands whose albums make up most of the European AOR labels' catalogues. The fans hunger for the real thing - the classic American bands from the 1978 to 1985 era who made AOR great in the first place. Many of these legends are still recording albums, and by 'legend' I'm not referring only to those who enjoyed multi-platinum success. Great songs with big hooks and melodies over a period of time is what makes a true legend, no matter what the sales looked like. Look no further than Hobbit for proof of this. Or likewise, to Pennsylvania's resident AOR heroes Dakota, who've been thrilling fans around the world since 1979/80. They, like Hobbit, are in the process of making all their 70's/80's music available to their fans through a series of ongoing cd reissues, but still found time to record a brand new album in 2003. The success and quality of the Hobbit release is established ... now for the Dakota experience we're diving down to level Deep 6.

The Songs
From the opening bars of 'Brothers In Arms', you know it's time to brew a strong pot of coffee and settle down to what's likely to be a journey through exactly what AOR fans have been yearning for - the real McCoy delivering the goods. After a progressive/pomp tinged intro, 'Brothers In Arms' settles into the classic Dakota rhythm and melody structure - a big hook over 4/4 backbeat, vocal melodies flowing from Jerry G and the boys like coffee down a thirsty throat! (I think they'd perfer a Budweiser Lee!!.. Ed). It's subtle enough to not get tired quickly, but also hard hitting enough to be memorable from first listen, a theme that runs through the album. 'Holdin' Your Own' brings on the staccato keys like Survivor circa 'Vital Signs', and continues down that crisp stream through the midtempo verse, and into a traditional big chorus with pulsing synth from Rick Manwiller and vocal melodies straight out of the Peterik/Sullivan songbook, yet with the Dakota stamp of individuality evident throughout. It's also the first of 3 tracks which signal the return of Bill Kelly on backing/shadow vocals - emotionally charged and a great song!

Back To Me brings out the restrained class that has resulted in Dakota being unfairly labelled a 'west coast' band over the years, and features Chicago's Bill Champlin augmenting the vocals with considerable style. Laid back verses give way to the kind of smooth/flowing chorus that proves Dakota don't need to take a step back from anyone in the melody stakes, in fact reminiscent of Journey/Shooting Star at their best. 'Not So Much In Love' brings Rick Manwiller to the vocal mike, revealing a big similarity with Jim Jamison or even Don Barnes. This is a big rocker in the classic 1984 vein, liquid guitar fills from Jon Lorance augmenting the hypnotic 4/4 backbeat and cascading melodies. The guitar solo in this one sounds like Neal Schon on jet fuel! Incredible stuff! It's power ballad time as Bill Kelly returns to augment 'What Were You Thinkin'?' - a track of high class and restraint at times, then bringing on the power at chorus time like Le Roux circa 'So Fired Up'. The magic extra bridge adds further to that comparison. Next up is a short instrumental called 'That Awful Day' which leads into 'Eye Of The Storm', a pair of tracks reflecting upon the cowardly acts committed on 09/11/01 and their consequences. The intrumental reflects the sadness beautifully, while 'Eye Of The Storm' rises angrily from the floor, big riffs and fills weaving around the anthemic vocals - the keys taking a supportive role on this one. Inventive tempo changes courtesy of Eli Hludzik reflect the demise of trust that has resulted from cowardly acts.

'Not Just The Night' returns us to more traditional AOR subject matter, and you'd swear it was the mid 80's again, when melody came first and every hook and chorus was something to cherish - once again it's a melodic master class at midtempo. 'Right This Minute' returns Bill Kelly to share the mike for the final time on this album, so much like any mid 80's Survivor power ballad it's uncanny - and yet Jerry G keeps it Dakota all the way. Comparisons are only guidelines, the great bands rise above them with their own style, no matter how reminiscent they are of other great bands. This could've been a big track if it was 1984 right now, with all the magic AOR ingredients of the era. 'Shut Up And Drive' is a high octane guitar slinging rocker in the 38 Special tradition when Donnie Van Zant takes the mike and cranks up the attutide. Here it's Rick Manwiller, paying tribute to those wild lasses who just refuse to be boring! 'The Ride' returns us to the time honoured Dakota style, and like most of this album, with more of an 80's feeling in the melodies and production than the previous two studio albums. Awash with synth, weaving around guitar licks and riffs at a brisk uptempo - vocals so effortlessly melodic and subtle, yet hitting you right between the eyes (or ears !?) at chorus time: a classic AOR song. 'Luck, Time & Mind' sets off at a trance-like 4/4 midtempo backbeat, allowing Manwiller to sprinkle some pomp rocking synth magic for over a minute before the verse kicks in with Rick now at the vocal mike as well, evolving into a track with a massive chorus, with supporting synth adding up to yet another anthemic winner, all on a foundation of crisp backbeat. The album closes with the title track, which is in fact a medley of all the album's choruses - vocals only. This accapella setting confirms once again the consistency and 80's vibe across the whole disc - what better way to start 2004!

In Summary
To sum up, if Hobbit made sure the 2003 AOR scene closed off with a bang, then Dakota have launched 2004 in equally spectacular style - it really does take a classic band to record a classic album. While I admit that younger bands are neccessary for keeping AOR alive in the long term, nothing compares with the real thing. To find out what I mean, surf over to and secure your dose of Dakota ... and get that coffee ready !!

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#1 | Jez on June 16 2008 02:19:41
No nonsense AOR Release. Slightly Westcoast in places, with a .38 Special feel on a couple of other tracks (which is no bad thing). Good set of songs and a really good production this time (a point which has let a couple of thier previous releases down).
#2 | roadrunner158 on October 10 2012 15:11:19
My favourite Dakota CD. "Not Just The Night" and "Right This Minute" for me are the standout tracks.
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