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Dakota - 'Dakota' / 'Runaway' http://rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/20/58/82/2537_Dakotadakota_1343926291.jpg Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     August 02, 2012    
 
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Re-issues of the first two albums from the hugely underappreciated Dakota.

With the mighty Roadmaster finally making it onto CD for the first time, it’s kinda fitting that Rock Candy should continue the pomp theme this month (albeit in a much more commercially focussed AOR vein) with the first two albums from the hugely underappreciated Dakota.

Starting life as the Jerry-Kelly Band (under which somewhat androgynous soubriquet they cut the ‘Somebody Else’s Dream’ album for CBS in 1978), the Pennsylvania based Dakota was in essence the creative alter ego of its founder members Jerry Hludzik and Bill Kelly (both previously of The Buoys whom some of you may recall had a huge hit in the early 70’s with the Rupert Holmes penned ‘Timothy’). Convinced by then drummer John Robinson that the Nashville connotations of their name wasn’t really the best way to launch a career in rock ‘n roll, they subsequently decided on Dakota ... and who can blame them given the levels of success then being enjoyed by the likes of Kansas, Boston and Chicago!

Recorded in Montreal and originally released through Columbia in 1980, debut album ‘Dakota’ saw the band radically overhaul their earlier sound, enriching it with pompously overblown harmonies and a slick AOR sheen engineered to seduce FM radio. Led by the contrasting vocal styles of both Hludzik and Kelly, the intoxicating blend of Chicagoesque pomp/pop melodies peppered with crisp guitar licks that at times just screamed Boston made tracks like ‘If It Takes All Night’, ‘It Gets Easier’ and ‘You Can’t Live Withouit It’ a joyous celebration of the songwriters art. And despite the dour ‘hicksville’ overtones of the album cover, it still remains a deliciously uplifting slab of early 80’s Americana some thirty odd years later.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine For Melodic Rock Music

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Sadly sales were modest at best, and finding themselves dropped by Columbia it would be a full four years before Dakota emerged again. Picked up by MCA for sophomore album ‘Runaway’, only bassist Bill McHale remained from the sessions that produced the aforementioned debut, but with the Hludzik/Kelly songwriting nucleus still very much intact this newly revamped version of Dakota promised to eclipse everything that had gone before.

Downplaying a lot of the pomp pretentions from last time, ‘Runaway’ was a much more commercially focused, full blooded AOR record; its guitars pushed higher into the mix as the band sought to gain a foothold in a market already richly exploited by the likes of Journey, Survivor, Toto and Foreigner. Thankfully despite its leaner, less cluttered sound ‘Runaway’ still showcased a songwriting partnership literally awash with inspiration ... an inspiration personified by the wonderful hooks and melodies woven into the fabric of tracks such as ‘Into The Night’, ‘Love Won’t Last’ and ‘Runaway’ itself’.

Both albums have been completely remastered, have had a couple of bonus tracks added and come wrapped in Dave Reynolds’ pearls of wisdom. It’s probably too late for Dakota to become a household name, but with these two albums alone it’s easy to see why they’re so revered amongst the diehard AOR fraternity.

Dave Cockett

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