Year : 1978 (Rykodisc Reissue 2005)
Style : Hard Rock , Power Pop , Heavy Metal
Country : United States
Audio : 320 kbps + all scans
Size : 200 mb
Starz is a heavy metal and power pop band from New Jersey, United States. Despite a lack of big commercial success, the band has a lasting cult following and has been cited as a major influence by bands such as Mötley Crüe, Poison and Twisted Sister.Starz was formed out of the ashes of an early 1970s pop music band, Looking Glass, which had the No. 1 hit single "Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)" in the summer of 1972. After lead singer Elliot Lurie left Looking Glass in 1974, the three remaining members (keyboardist Larry Gonsky, bassist Pieter Sweval and drummer Jeff Grob, who adopted the stage name Joe X. Dube) teamed up with Michael Lee Smith (vocals) and guitarist Brendan Harkin to continue the band and soon changed their name to Fallen Angels. In September 1975 they were joined by former Stories guitarist Richie Ranno. After keyboardist Gonsky was dropped from the group, they changed their moniker once again (to Starz) and pursued a more heavy metal direction. Kiss manager Bill Aucoin was introduced to Starz via his right-hand man Sean Delaney, who had befriended Pieter Sweval, and Aucoin began handling Starz in late 1975, helping them to get signed to Capitol Records in early 1976.Their major hit single "Cherry Baby" in the spring of 1977 came from the album Violation, produced by Jack Douglas of Aerosmith fame. Jack Douglas produced their first two albums Starz and Violation. Most fans consider Violation their best album and compare it stylistically to Kiss and Aerosmith output.Their third album, the self produced Attention Shoppers!, was more in the vein of power pop than heavy metal and featured a Cheap Trick influence in songs like "X-Ray Spex". Brendan Harkin and Pieter Sweval were asked to leave the band after Attention Shoppers!, reportedly since they wanted to continue in that record's musical direction, while the others favored a return to the harder sound of the first two releases.On their final Capitol album, Coliseum Rock (produced by Guess Who producer Jack Richardson), Harkin and Sweval were replaced by Bobby Messano on guitar and Orville Davis on bass. Previously Orville was the bassist for the southern rock band Hydra who released multiple LP's in the mid 70s. His contributions can be heard on the first two LP's: 1974's "Hydra" and 1975's "Land of Money". After leaving Hydra, Davis joined in Rex, a hard rock outfit fronted by Michael's brother Rex Smith, who went on to TV and pop stardom in the late 70s and early 80s.After leaving Capitol, Starz split up in 1979 and Dube and Ranno put together a trio with bassist Peter Scance called Hard Core. In 1980 Starz reunited with a lineup of Smith, Ranno, Harkin, Orville Davis and Doug Madick (later with Prism), a drummer who was working with Smith at the time. The group played clubs up and down the East Coast in what amounted to a farewell tour.In 1981 Smith, Ranno, Madick and Peter Scance regrouped. At first they were to continue as Starz but decided to change their name to Hellcats. Hellcats recorded five new songs and released them as an EP on the small Radio Records label in 1982. Radio Records, unfortunately, went out of business not long afterward. Another mid-80s lineup of Hellcats with Ranno and Scance, this time with Perry Jones on lead vocals, also went nowhere after putting out another record in 1987 on the King Klassic label as well as a 4-track EP in 1988.Brian Slagel of Metal Blade Records contacted Ranno in 1989 telling him of his longtime admiration of the band and asked if Ranno held the rights to any of the band's material. Ranno stated he owned two unreleased live shows and allowed Metal Blade to compile them as Live in Action, which contained cuts from a 04.08.1976 Cleveland show and a 30.03.1978 radio promotional show in Louisville, KY previously known as Live in Louisville. The release of Live in Action was a precursor to the 1990 release of the four Starz studio albums on compact disc as the inaugural releases by Metal Blade's "Classics" imprint. The albums have subsequently been re-released on CD (by other labels and the band themselves) several times, most recently in 2005 with bonus tracks primarily made up of material from the band's days as Fallen Angels, as well as a few songs from the 1992 reunion independent album, Requiem.Ranno eventually ran into their former producer, Jack Douglas, at an Aerosmith concert and he expressed an interest in doing another Starz record. So in 1990, Michael Lee Smith and Brendan Harkin came to NY to join Ranno in writing and recording five new tunes. Doug Madick played drums on the new project as Dube had left the music business to work as an architect and Harkin played bass, since Pieter Sweval had died of AIDS earlier that year (on January 23). Since the band was unable to acquire a new record deal, the songs were put out (with some live tracks and other odds and ends) on their own label, Drastic CD, in 1992 as the aforementioned Requiem. After this, Ranno continued on his own with the Richie Ranno Group, which put out a CD, RRG, in 1996.Ranno was approached in 2003 by a British promoter who wanted to bring Starz over to the U.K. This failed to pan out but the surviving original members (Smith, Ranno, Harkin and Dube), with new bassist "Insane" George DiAna, regrouped that same year for a number of successful club dates, culminating in the two-day 2005 "Starzfest" held in Teaneck, New Jersey, which featured the entire band joined by Bobby Messano and Orville Davis. They played their entire album catalog, including songs which had never been played live before. Two concerts in California were also performed in late 2005, one recorded for a television special. In addition, a show recorded in Cleveland, Ohio in 2004 was released on CD in late 2006. The Ohio show was done as a 4 piece since Harkin had missed his plane flight to Cleveland. In 2005 Messano once again replaced Harkin as guitarist and Ranno also did shows with DiAna and Dube as the Richie Ranno All Stars.Former Ted Nugent drummer Cliff Davies filled in for Joe X. Dube for a Starz show in San Francisco in October 2007; for additional shows in California in April 2008, Billy Howe filled in on guitar for Messano. Former Kiss guitarist Bruce Kulick did the honors at that year's Kiss Convention on May 3 in Secaucus, NJ. But in 2012 Messano was replaced by new guitarist Steve DeAcutis. Then Alex Kane took over the second guitar slot from DeAcutis in 2013. And Kane played guitar and Ginger Wildheart subbed on bass for a one night only gig in the UK at The Garage, London in London's Highbury section on December 18, 2013.
It is a strange but true reality that in the realm of rock music most bands will follow a similar trajectory. At some point, any band or artist that is fortunate enough to make more than one record will make a career move that will stun their long-time fans. This is especially true of bands who feel they should be selling more records. Sometimes it leads to a big breakthrough record but more often than not it only leaves the fans of that band feeling betrayed. When that happens, there can be only one move...the redemption album. It's the record that brings the band back into line with their fans expectations. Coliseum Rock, Starz fourth and final studio album, is just such a record.After they reached for, and failed to grasp, the commercial success they so desired on their previous record, Attention Shoppers!, Starz returned to the venue of their best and most successful music...straightforward, no-frills hard rock. Coliseum Rock is brimming with top notch compositions delivered in the somewhat bawdy manner that we had grown accustomed to on their first two outstanding records. However this record isn't quite up to those lofty standards. The reason for this could probably be fairly laid at the feet of producer Jack Richardson. Oh, he does a fine job here, by far surpassing the antiseptic work done by the band themselves on the previous effort. However the results here are still a little too "clean" for my ears. Jack Douglas left the band with a few more rough edges that I think complimented their style. As it is, this sounds a lot like what would become common in the late 1980's when this style of music would dominate the US charts. In some ways Coliseum Rock was a fore-runner of what was to come. Unfortunately by the time the world caught up to them, Starz would be long gone.Lead-off track "So Young, So Bad" is definitive Starz and immediately signifies a return to form. Its' "Christine Sixteen" style lyrics also indicate a return to a kind of nastiness that had been left off the previous record. It was also the records first single that, all too typically, failed to chart...perhaps because of its lyrical excesses."Take Me," "No Regrets," "Don't Stop Now" and "Outfit" are all capable, well written rockers typical of what can be found on their first two records. "My Sweet Child" is an excellent down tempo-power ballad that finds the band drifting into sentimental territory but without the saccharine after-taste that most songs so labeled tended to leave. Its also better than the ones they tried so hard to make work on the previous record. A truly standout track.It is however, a power packed trio of songs near the end of the record that put Coliseum Rock over the top. "Last Night I Wrote A Letter" is packed with chordy guitar phrases that deliver a punch rarely seen in songs expressing this level of sentimentality. The dichotomy at play here is infectious and leaves an almost pop feel to the song. Once again attaining the desired results from the previous record without the compromises. The instrumental title track follows and comes off as almost symphonic as it gestures to and fro and builds up from a slow burn to a rocker that drives headlong into the next track...the excellent "It's A Riot." I have always loved Starz sinister sense of humor and this song about sleeping with the police chief's wife certainly delivers on that."Where Will It End" both asks and answers its own question as this would be the last song on the last Starz record. Starz left the stage on a high note though, and left fans like me wanting more. After the disappointment brought on by the Attention Shoppers! record, it could truly be said...all is forgiven.There would be subsequent releases over the years of unreleased demos and other recordings (the legendary "Piss Party" is worth seeking out) and even a live record but the party ended for Starz after only four studio records.
Michael Lee Smith - vocals
Richie Ranno - guitar
Bobby Messano - guitar
Orville Davis - bass
Joe X. Dubé - drums
Jack Richardson - producer
Cub Richardson - engineer, mixing, mastering
Robert Hrycyna, Mike McCarty - recording technicians
01. So Young So Bad
02. Take Me
03. No Regrets
04. My Sweet Child
05. Don't Stop Now
07. Last Night I Wrote A Letter
08. Coliseum Rock
09. It's A Riot
10. Where Will It End
11. Vidi O.D. (Bonus Track)
12. You Called His Name (Bonus Track)
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