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By Jay Roberts, Massachusetts Contributor
Friday, October 6, 2023 @ 10:24 AM

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Dream Higher

Frontiers Music Srl - 2023

Back when the PRIDE OF LIONS album Lion Heart was released in 2020, I had somehow missed the news that it was coming out. I had made myself a silent vow to not miss out the next time they put out a new album. A vow that ended in abject failure because three years on I managed to someone miss the news of yet another album from the band.

However, once I learned of the Dream Higher album's existence, I ordered a copy from my friend's record shop and set about listening to to it for this review. I've been spending a good amount of time with the disc so I could get as full an appreciation of the material as possible.

Singer/guitarist/keyboardist Jim Peterik (who wrote all of the songs on the album with the exception of two co-writes as well as co-producing the disc) and singer Toby Hitchcock have provided plenty of great sounding albums since they joined forces back in 2003. Dream Higher is their 8th full-length studio album (plus a live release) and it is packed with great melodic hooks and some powerful vocals.

The album opens up with the song "Blind To Reason", a fast paced rocking number that sets the listener up with a blood-pumping surge of adrenaline as the song plays through. It really gets things off to a good start and I quite enjoyed the guitar work on this song. The solo is good but the six-string work throughout will hook your ear easily enough. Unsurprisingly, the album's lyrical content has that aspirational feel on some (if not all) of the songs. The first example that stands out in that regard is the album's title track. Depending on your own personal outlook on things, your mileage will vary on just how you feel about that lyrical direction. For me, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. On the title track, it does work. I thought the song hit the sweet spot of being in the positive and/or uplifting vein without crossing over into that overly sweet and sugary territory that would make the song hit with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. The song isn't quite as fast paced as "Blind To Reason" but it still has a solid uptempo groove to it.

Now, if you want to talk about a song that just felt flat to me you could bring up "My Destiny". Blending a mixed tempo to the track, the song fell apart for me because it went overboard on being "overwrought". The vocals sound so pathetically desperate that I found myself thinking, "Man, cowboy up, will ya?" I'm sure there will be others who find the song to their liking but I just couldn't find my way to enjoying the track despite multiple times listening to it.

The middle portion of the Dream Higher album is positively killer! First you have the song "Find Somebody To Love" which despite it's title is NOT a ballad track. Instead it's a lively rocker that just "sings" out to you and I found that I enjoyed it so much that my foot was tapping along to the beat.

As good as that song is, the songs "Another Life" and "Renegade Heart" actually manage to up the game for the disc. "Another Life" starts off with the main verses in a mid-tempo delivery. But the song's pace increases dramatically during the chorus. And that chorus...well, I like the way the music shifts as it begins. There's this little hook right there at the start that I caught and the lyrics themselves are fantastic. Plus the delivery is superb. I think you'll really enjoy this one.

As for "Renegade Heart", that is likely the song I would say is my personal favorite on the album. It's got a real fire in the belly feel to the music and a real compelling intensity to vocals. And much like "Blind To Reason", the guitar work throughout the song was exceptional. While any number of the "rocker" tracks on Dream Higher will get you fired up, "Renegade Heart" is the one I found that kept repeating in my head after the album finished.

As for the latter portion of the album, PRIDE OF LIONS mixes up the subject matter of the last four songs quite a bit. "Driving And Dreaming" is a lively number that doubles as a road song. Well, at least the lyrics are set up like you are going on a road trip as the story unfolds as Peterik and Hitchcock sing about driving home to the one they love. And while you could imagine that this would be a song that might not be all that interesting, you'd be wrong. It's a strong track with great vocal performances and a really cool "story" in the lyrics.

I can't say the same for "Through It All" though. The song's pace is toned down a bit but while there's nothing overly negative about the song, I just didn't find it particularly able to catch my attention all that much. It took me at least five times before I could say I had much of an opinion of the track either way.

I have to say that I was thoroughly surprised with the song "Everything To Live For". It was written entirely by Jim Peterik and without being too nosy, I'd love to know if he wrote the track from any personal experience because it is incredibly powerful. The song's lyrics are searching for the unknowable answer to the question of "Why?" when losing someone to suicide. While I haven't had to deal with that kind of specific situation, you can't help but be moved by the emotions the song conjures up. It's a rather stunning piece of work, made that much more so with the vocal performance, and that the story is constructed inside of a superb musical score only enhances how much of a punch it packs.

The album closes out with the song "Generational" which returns the album's tempo to a more straight forward rocking tone. As I was listening to the vocals, I noticed how it felt like it was constructed as a "passing of the torch" kind of song. And when that phrase shows up as a lyric line, that feeling was kind of confirmed. Not sure if it is just in service of the song or if it has a deeper meaning but it did end up being a solid way to finish off the album.

When I first started listening to Dream Higher, I mentioned to a friend of mine that there were songs I liked but also that some songs just didn't do it for me. Now, two of the album's ten tracks still didn't end up hitting home regardless of how many times I played the album, but a couple other tracks ended up growing on me quite a bit. And I like that idea. Sure, liking every song from the first listen might make things easier but I like that I had to work at coming to appreciate the album as a whole.

Jim Peterik and Toby Hitchcock have had a superb partnership as PRIDE OF LIONS and the success of their pairing continues with Dream Higher as they combined talents let the lion roar loudly once more!

4.4 Out Of 5.0

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