by Semjaza USER (5 Reviews)
January 29th, 2013 | 1 replies

Release Date: 1976 | Tracklist

Review Summary: An under-appreciated gem of an album from an under-appreciated late seventies band. If you love your rock delivered smokin' hard like Kiss and Aerosmith were serving it in 1976 then this record is for you. A perfect blending of the two band's styles.


In 1976 there just wasn't room for the volume of hard rock bands that would dominate the charts in the "hair metal" infested 1980's. Kiss, Aerosmith, Ted Nugent and Queen would dominate the late 70's market while Led Zeppelin slept in a state of virtual hibernation. There would be other bands fighting for their place in the spotlight. Some of them (Van Halen, AC/DC) would eventually push through. But the environment was strangely hostile, in spite of the huge success of the aforementioned bands. It's too bad. For Starz was as good as any of them.

Starz should have been a perfect fit for their time. They were a combination of elements that seemed destined for success. They had Kiss's Aucoin management behind them and Aerosmith's production ace Jack Douglas behind the mixing console for this spectacular debut record. They even had what must be one of the very best band logos ever designed. Ahh...but what of the music you ask? Well, fortunately, that is the best part. If you could literally mix Kiss and Aerosmith together in equal measure what would have resulted would sound exactly like Starz debut record.

"Detroit Girls" is as straight forward an ode to groupiedom as anything wrought by Kiss, however with the opening chords to "Live Wire," Starz announce themselves as having their own take on teenage rebellion that would stand up to anybody's. This track alone is worth the price of admission with one of the best chord progressions ever constructed. Songs about rebellion never sounded so...important. "Tear It Down" builds on the same theme but with even more aggression and with the next track, "Action," you arrive at, perhaps, the album's highlight. The song builds up to an ending that comes off as a runaway improvisation but with the control of an arranged piece. Think Kiss's "Black Diamond" only in reverse.

"She's Just a Fallen Angel" is as good as any of the power ballads you would hear endlessly played throughout the eighties however with "Monkey Business" Starz introduced us to something they would return to throughout their four studio releases: an impressive (and somewhat perverse) sense of humor. There is a powerful release here as stuttering verses give way to flowing choruses. Starz would also show a tendency to revel in the atmospherics surrounding the commission of crimes. "Night Crawler" is our first introduction into this arena of subject matter as vocalist Michael Lee Smith sounds downright impressed with the idea of robbery. In fact, he almost sounds too empathetic in his first hand account of the excitement of it.

When this record first hit my then thirteen year old ears, I instantly fell for the heavily Aerosmith influenced riff-o-rama that is "Over and Over." To this day I still think its the best track on this outstanding record. And yet, I have never seen any evidence to suggest that it ever made its way into the band's live set. How could they miss this?

The band managed to land themselves into a bit of controversy with the bluesy "Pull The Plug." In those days the name Karen Ann Quinlan was often in the news and the plight of her permanent comatose state sparked a lot of discussion about euthanasia. This track gave guitarist Richie Ranno a chance to work some excellent blues licks behind Smith's impassioned vow to "pull the plug on my love." It's all the more relevant to hear with fresh ears in this new era of "Obamacare" with all of its talk about death panels and end of life "compassion." Somebody is going to find this song again.

The record closes with what was always, to me at least, a strange sounding song. "Now I Can" is a powerful and original sounding rocker that bears witness to the wonders of a second chance. "I couldn't do it then, but now I can! Now I can! Now I can!" A fine way to end things.

In spite of the excellence of this record and being positioned to tour with the biggest bands of the time, Starz debut failed to put the band into the upper echelons of the rock establishment. It was, nonetheless, a fine introduction and they would soon follow it with an even better release.

1976 saw the release of a lot of classic Hard Rock rock records. Destroyer, Rock and Roll Over, Rocks, Agents of Fortune and Free For All certainly come to mind. If you own any of these records (and let's be honest, you probably own them all) you would do well to pick up a copy of Starz debut record. Both the band and this record deserve to be mentioned in such hallowed company.


Outstanding Tracks:
Over and Over
Pull The Plug
Live Wire

user ratings (10)

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February 17th 2016


Album Rating: 4.5

Good review of a great Album. 2nd album was even better

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