Review Summary: Starz final record was a triumphant return to form and an excellent example of how far ahead of their time they were. It comes off as the perfect late 80's "Hair Metal" record... only it was released in 1978!
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.
So Young, So Bad
My Sweet Child
Last Night I Wrote A Letter