Review Summary: Starz third record was a play for more attention through compromise. It leaves a bitter taste for what could have been another outstanding record...and the commercial windfall never materialized. Lesson learned.
When I was fifteen years old I was not one to acknowledge disappointment in one of my favorite bands. I tended to look at their new releases and fixate on what was best about them and try to overlook their shortcomings. If I was your fan I was always willing to see your glass as half full. In 1978 Starz was definitely on my short list of favorite bands. As with Kiss, Aerosmith and Ted Nugent, I was unwilling to acknowledge that they could be fallible. Well, I'm not fifteen anymore, and I can say that Starz made a flawed record. In fact, of their four studio releases, this is the only one that was a failure on both artistic and commercial grounds.
Starz would never break it big as a commercial selling band, but up to this point they had put out two stellar releases that were the equal of bands who were outselling them. It could at least be said that they deserved more recognition. Apparently Capitol records thought so too and they would push the band to make the next one a more radio friendly record in hopes that the subsequent hits would lead to huge sales. The result was Attention Shoppers! This trick has been tried before. Sometimes (REO Speedwagon's High Infidelity) it even works. More often though, they not only fail to acquire the desired additional sales but also fail to achieve the level of sales they had already been achieving. Sort of like when a Democrat calls for tax increases only to be stunned that the higher tax rates brought in even less revenue. Politicians and record labels have a lot in common don't they? Attention Shoppers! is not a bad record...but it is not a good Starz record either. Here we get a tame Starz.
Did I mention that in 1978 I was fifteen years old? That is important because when I first played this record my immediate reaction was..."Good Ale We Seek" is an awesome song. Ok, I never use the word awesome, even back then, but that song rattled my world. Starz embraced their inner Blue Oyster Cult by imagining a world filled with Ale "as far as the eye can see...and let it all be for me." What's not to love about those sentiments? That song and an excellent blues number called "Johnny All Alone" comprise the sum total of my affection for this record. "Johnny" was an excellent vehicle for guitarist Richie Ranno to express himself...perhaps his best playing on record.
And yet there was more to the record...a lot more.
Unfortunately most of it was like the heart rendering ballad and single "Third Times The Charm." A sultry little number that had Michael Lee Smith swooning like...Debbie Boone? The record is full of competently performed and well written songs in that dastardly radio friendly style that has sucked the life out of virtually every rock band at one time or another...though this is apparently what the record company wanted. This is also the first Starz record not produced by Jack Douglas. The band themselves is credited with the production work...and quite a sanitized job they did. Even songs that should have been stormtroopers like "Don't Think" and She" are so watered down by the production as to remove all trace of danger from them. Danger and Starz previously had an outstanding partnership. A song like "X-Ray Spex" with a Jack Douglas production would have been a killer. Here, it comes off cartoonish in a 16 magazine kind of way.
I have a certain rule about things like this. If a band makes a move towards commercial viability and records a few songs to get that attention there is nothing wrong with it...so long as it works. It is why I have never had a problem with Kiss songs like "Beth" or "I Was Made For Lovin' You." They worked...big. Therin lies the rub: if you sell your soul to the Devil, make sure you get paid. Starz made an album full of hits and got none.
Attention Shoppers! was a gamble that failed. The record is not bad. Starz were incapable of making a bad record, but they did make a worst one. As a result this is the first and only of their records that I would regard as something of a failure. But hey..."Good Ale We Seek" is still an awesome song!
Good Ale We Seek
Johnny All Alone