Finnish artist Erja LYYTINEN have been a presence in her native music scene for almost two decades by now, and I understand that she is quite the well known artist at home and in select circles abroad as well. “Stolen Hearts” is her tenth studio production, and was released by Finnish label Tuohi Records (an imprint of Bluesland Productions) in the spring of 2017.
As one would imagine from the opening paragraph, Lyytinen is one of the numerous artists that have been drawn in to the good, old blues. As with many other artists, she has her own take on this style of music, and sees to it that variety is something of a key word to be applied: There are multiple facets of her take on the blues to enjoy.
First and foremost, this is an album that puts the lead vocalist in the limelight. Lyytinen is a strong vocalist, and her voice is used to good effect throughout, and does indeed dominate this production. Other than an elongated solo run on the album’s longest cut, Black Ocean, I’d describe this album as one geared towards highlighting the vocals. Those fond of guitars do get their fill, as plenty of guitar details is a constant presence in most songs and there are some cases of truly spirited guitar solo runs to enjoy as well, but this is a vocals dominated and vocals driven affair as far as I’m concerned. Those who enjoy quality lead vocals explored in a broader blues context should know their visiting time with this one.
As far as the blues itself goes, there aren’t too many purebred blues or blues rock creations at hand here. ‘Slowly Burning’ is a perfect companion track to Gary Moore’s ‘Still Got the Blues’, and the driving, intense blues rock on ‘Rocking Chair’, complete with liberal amounts of energetic slide guitar, should find favor among all aficionados of blues rock as a style I’d imagine. But otherwise I find this production to be one with half a foot or more inside a more mainstream oriented pop/rock landscape. The blues is a constant but at times subtle presence, even on the concluding piano ballad ‘Broken Eyes’ there are some whispering details floating that ensures that a touch of blues is present. More often than not the songs have just as much of a radio friendly pop/rock touch to them as a variety of blues however, and subtly funk-tinged elements do find their way into several cuts as well. And as far as variety goes, there’s also a bit of Americana tossed in on ‘City of Angels’, and unless I’m much mistaken there’s something of a honky tonk feel to the piano motif on that particular cut.
There’s no denying that this is an extremely well made album. Professional quality can be heard on all levels: This is the production of an established artist that has the resources and connections available to her to deliver a top quality production, from performance to mix and production. For my personal taste it gets to be a bit too smooth and too pleasant at times, but it is easy to hear that this is a production that have all the qualities needed to be a broadly appealing album. If promoted in the right channels in the US, this is an album that have all the ingredients needed to conquer quite a few of the Billboard charts in my personal opinion.
By and large my opinion is that Lyytinen’s latest solo album is one that should have a broad general appeal among those who enjoy artists blending a blues foundation with a mainstream pop and rock orientation, and also an album that should appeal quite a bit to those who know and love the kinds of pop and rock music you encounter on the main FM radio channels. A well made, highly professional production on all levels, a quality production of the kind that a few decades ago most likely would have propelled the artist into a greater sphere of fame and recognition.
My rating: 73/100
Stolen Hearts, Rocking Chair, Love Laboratory, 24 Angels, Black Ocean, Slowly Burning, Lover’s Novels, Silver Stones, Awakening, City of Angels, Broken Eyes