STARZ


"Live at Jaxx!!" DVD (Starz Central; 2004)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

This DVD was recorded live at Jaxx in Springfield, VA on June 6, 2003. Despite the fact it's a low-budget production, "Live at Jaxx!" works for several reasons:

1) "Live at Jaxx" features Starz during their 2003 reunion tour. The band is obviously having a blast and their charisma and delight at being back onstage is infectious. You'll wish you were there; it looks like everyone - band and fans - is having a great time.

2) It rocks to hear some of the classic Starz tunes performed live once again. "Subway Terror," "Night Crawler," "Violation" and the combination of "Waitin' On You," "World's Greatest Guitar Riffs," "Coliseum Rock" and "It's a Riot" are definite highlights. The band is strong and confident and deliver a fine performance throughout.

3) Despite the fact this is not a multi-million dollar Hollywood production, the camera work is crisp and clear and there are many close-ups of each bandmember.

4) George Lucas would never THX certify the sound on this disc but it's a decent soundboard recording that sounds even better when you use speakers larger than the ones built into your television set.

Fans of Starz will definitely want to see their "Boys in Action" (which also happens to be the DVD's last track). 

Starz: Michael Lee Smith - vocals; Richie Ranno - guitar; Brendan Harkin - guitar; Joe X. Dube - drums; George DiAna - bass.

For more information, check out http://www.starzcentral.com


"Requiem" (Drastic; 1992)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

This collection of tunes from the popular 70s rock band consists of music recorded in the early 90s for a comeback CD that never made it to stores (thanks to the sudden interest in rap), some rare B-sides, live tracks and music by the Hellcats (the band STARZ morphed into) and guitarist Richie Ranno's solo album.

STARZ fans don't need to be told twice about what the band sounds like. It's been said that the 70s rock sound was solidified by three bands: KISS, Angel and STARZ. While KISS's music was the perfect soundtrack for their outrageous show and Angel's sound a kind of progressive glam, STARZ struck the standard hard rock formula: solid guitars, melodic choruses and a playful attitude.

The first five songs on "Requiem" are from the previously unreleased STARZ album. Each song is a solid rocker with razor-sharp guitars and melodic choruses. It was called 'heavy metal' back then but you wouldn't call it that now. Now, it's just hard rock - like The Who. It's unfortunate this CD wasn't picked up by a major label and properly promoted. STARZ have the same sound and feel as Bon Jovi, Poison and others. This CD may have done well for them.

Track #6, "Texas," is a bluesy (and we mean bluesy) tribute to the Lone Star state with soaring harmonicas and Southern guitars. Tracks #7 #8 and #9 are three of the band's more popular songs - "Fallen Angel," "Nightcrawler," and "Hold On to the Night," performed live in 1978. Here you get a great taste of the band's charismatic live stage show. (Another release, "Live in Louisville," contains the entire concert performance). 

Track #10 is "Can't Take It No More" by the Hellcats and it's a so-so rocker that tends to plod along easily enough. It sounds a little like a song from an Ace Frehley solo album. "Waitress" from guitarist Richie Ranno's solo EP is up next and it's a keyboard-heavy number with a sci-fi / Frank Zappa sound (believe it or not). Strange, but not uninteresting.

Richie Ranno also provides "Fannin' the Fire," up next, a Joe Walsh-type ballad that's comes from the heart. The CD ends with a rap parody, "I Ain't No Einstein," that sprang from the band's disappointment and frustration at not being able to score a record deal without rapping their way to a contract.

For fans of STARZ, "Requiem" is a terrific collection of rare and unreleased stuff. Most of it won't be familiar, but that's what makes it so interesting. It's a little piece of history from a band that left it's mark on rock'n'roll.

STARZ is: Michael Lee Smith - vocals; Richie Ranno - guitars; Bendan Harkin - bass; Doug Madick - drums; Peter Sweval - bass.

For more information, please visit Starz Central at http://www.starzcentral.com


"Hellcats I and P*ss Party"(Drastic; 1983)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

This nine track CD contains five cuts from the band that spawned Starz, the Hellcats, and four tracks from a rare, banned-in-some-places Starz EP called "P*ss Party" (that's their "*", not ours). 

The five Hellcat tracks are the pure, simple rock'n'roll that Starz fans have come to expect. In fact, you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference between the Hellcats and Starz. The vocals are the same, the songwriting is the same and the guitar twang is the same. That's not a bad thing by any means - it's like finding five new Starz songs that you've never heard before.

The four Starz tracks are - strangely enough - a little weirder. "Reggae Plug," as you might expect, is a Starz version of a Reggae song, containing the usual irreverent humor. "P*ss Party" is a live version of the track that made headlines way back when, thanks to its raunchy lyrics. Of course, these days, this kind of song appears on children's cartoons. (Okay, it's not that tame, but you get the idea). The last song track on the CD is a cover of the classic "Devil With The Blue Dress" and it rocks properly. 

Rounding out the CD is an interview with the band on Cape Cod radio circa 1976.

Another in the great collection of rare Starz materials that are being made available, "Hellcasts I and P*ss Party" is a fine addition to the collection of any Starz fan.

Hellcats: Michael Lee Smith, Richie Ranno, Peter Scance, Doug Maddick.

Starz: Michael Lee Smith, Richie Ranno, Joe Dube, Bobby Messanno, Orville Davis.

For more information, please visit Starz Central at http://www.starzcentral.com


"Coliseum Rock" (Rykodisc; 1978)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

"Coliseum Rock" was the last studio album by the popular (but never famously so) Starz, and that's too bad because it's easily the band's best album as well.

Boasting unabashedly straight-forward power chords and blistering leads and empowered by epic production and stellar songwriting, "Coliseum Rock" is ten tracks of pure late 70s rock'n'roll at its very best. Combining the best of crisp guitar sound and the cheesy but oh-so-fun lyrics of bands like KISS, "Coliseum Rock" delivers throughout its entire running time.

It's impossible not to crack a sly smile during flat-out sex anthems like "So Young, So Bad" and "Outfit," but it's just as impossible not to be impressed when the band gets serious as on "No Regrets," "Last Night I Wrote a Letter" and "Where Will It End." The perfect balance between fun and introspection is so subtle that you don't even think about it until the tenth time you've heard the record and it's impossible to think of the album as anything but a whole piece.

The standout here has got to be the double-whammy of the "Coliseum Rock" instrumental and the song it blends into, "It's a Riot." The instrumental couldn't have a more apt title and the way it morphs into the fist-pumping "It's a Riot" makes the two songs inseparable. If you ever hear anybody play just one of those two songs separately, do me a favor and whack them upside the head, will ya?

Rykodisc has added a couple of bonus tracks to this, the 2005 re-release of the classic CD. "Vidi O.D." and "You Called His Name" are solid, interesting tracks but, when added to an album as excellent as "Coliseum Rock" is already, they seem hardly necessary.

"Coliseum Rock" is a mostly undiscovered gem of the era and the genre. 

Starz: Michael Lee Smith - vocals; Richie Ranno - guitars; Boby Messano - guitars; Orville Davis - bass; Joe Dube - drums.

For more information, check out www.starzcentral.com


"Live in Louisville!" (Drastic; 1978)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

This double CD set was originally recorded on March 30, 1978 and contains 18 of the veteran band's most popular hits. It's also a solid demonstration of what made Starz so popular almost twenty-five years ago and an audio record of the charisma the band brought to their live stage show.

Disc 1 has the most tunes on it and also boasts the most best-known songs. "She," "Rock Six Times," "Subway Terror," "Nightcrawler," "(She's Just a) Fallen Angel," "X-Ray Spex," and "Cherry Baby" are all included on this first disc and all are performed with that Starz magic. The production is also amazingly crisp and clear.

Disc 2 may not have as many of the band's hits on it, but it does contain some great examples of the band's guitarist's great work. The second track on the CD, "World's Greatest Guitar Riffs," is a collection of instantly recognizable guitar riffs from the likes of the Rolling Stones's "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" and Mountain's "Mississippi Queen." This blends perfectly into Starz own killer guitar riff song, "Coliseum Rock." Very cool.

"Live In Louisville" is a must-have CD for Starz fans and a great beginning point for those unfamiliar with the band. Its cross-section of popular songs taken from the band's several albums makes for a great introduction for a band that was this close to becoming the next KISS or Montrose.

Starz is: Michael Lee Smith; Richie Ranno; Joe Dube; Brenden Harkin; Peter Sweval.

For more information, please visit Starz Central at http://www.starzcentral.com


"Violation" (Rykodisc; 1977)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

"Violation" is the kind of hard rock that the 70s were famous for - bands like KISS and Sweet were probably the best known while Starz succeeded in their own, admittedly smaller way. They never achieved the superstar status of those bands, but they have inspired their own legions of musicians as well as boast a strong fanbase even today.

"Violation," the band's second CD, was smoother and more radio-friendly than the grittier first CD and some of that may be attributed to the presence of legendary producer Jack Douglas. Songs like "Sing It, Shout It" were made to generate radio airplay, while harder rocking tunes like the politically charged "Violation" and the menacing "Subway Terror" show the band in their best light. The shrill "Is That a Streetlight or the Moon," however, will have you reaching for the "next" button on your CD player.

Not quite as addictive as the band's "Coliseum Rock," "Violation" is another strong Starz record. Fans of the band already have this CD in their collection, although this, the remastered Rykodisc version, also contains a number of bonus tracks featuring demo versions of "Do It With the Lights On," "Cool One," and "Rock This Town" (demo). Those unfamiliar with the band can do worse than start their exploration of Starz with "Violation."

Starz is: Michael Lee Smith; Richie Ranno; Joe Dube; Brenden Harkin; Peter Sweval.

For more information, please visit Starz Central at http://www.starzcentral.com


"Back in the Day"(Drastic; 1975 / 1976)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

Starz fans will eat up this collection - 8 tracks (plus three bonus tracks) that comprise the actual demos that got the band their original recording track with Capitol way back in 1975/1976. How cool is that? This is the stuff that you only find in way-too-late box sets or on bootlegs. Here, however, are the actual demos, recorded and released on CD by the band themselves. 

As one might expect, Starz's shining hard rock pop quality is bright here. Their blues-tinged yet rock-heavy guitar, the irresistible choruses, the brilliant songwriting and, perhaps most importantly, this band's infectious party rock attitude. As I said, this is the CD that got the band their Capitol contract and, one listen here, and it's obvious why.

Featured here are an early demo of the band's later big hit, "(She's Just A) Fallen Angel" and a feisty cover of "Devil With the Blue Dress." The CD begins with "Do It With the Lights On" which is just as much raunchy fun as it sounds. The other songs are just as addictive. "Cool One" should even give you a belly laugh or two.

Yeah, the recordings themselves sometimes sound a little rough. How could they not? It's been 26 years since they were first recorded, technology's come a long way since then. And, remember, these are just demos! (They sound pretty good even by today's "demo" standards). Still, this is a great CD for fans of the band to see what they sounded like in the beginning. "Back in the Day" is definitely an important part of the history of Starz.

STARZ is: Michael Lee Smith, Richie Ranno, Joe Dube, Brenden Harkin, Peter Sweval.

For more information, please visit Starz Central at http://www.starzcentral.com


Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.


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Copyright 2005 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 24 Sep 2017 15:29:52 -0400.