Depending on who you talk to, this sophomore album from Shooting Star is considered by many to be their best representation. What do you think?
Written by: gdmonline
ARTIST: Shooting Star
ALBUM: Hang On For Your Life
LABEL: Virgin UK
SERIAL: V 2221
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
LINEUP: Van McLain – lead vocals, lead guitar * Gary West – lead vocals, keyboards, acoustic and rhythm guitar, drums, percussion * Ron Verlin – bass * Steve Thomas – drums * Bill Guffey – keyboards * Charles Waltz – harmony vocals, violin, keyboards
TRACK LISTING: 01 Flesh And Blood * 02 Hang On For Your Life * 03 Are You On My Side * 04 Teaser * 05 Hollywood * 06 Breakout * 07 You’re So Good * 08 She’s Got Money * 09 You’ve Got Love * 10 Sweet Elatia
WEBLINKS: Site Link
In over a decade of reviewing AOR albums, it would seem strange that we missed out this LP from one of the genre’s most endearing bands: Shooting Star. Depending on who you talk to, this sophomore album is considered by many to be their best representation, capturing their energy at a time before the arena rock circus sucked most of the lifeblood out of this band thanks to constant touring and little time to deliver quality songs while on the road.
True that their third album ‘III Wishes’ was a pale imitation of the band’s first two records, which probably confirms my theory (above), while the fourth album ‘Burning’ was slightly better. Still signed to Virgin Records during 1981, ‘Hang On For Your Life’ continued the commercial Kansas like style generated from this Kansas City outfit, while the cool (but ultimately silly) cover art looks as if it came from the hallowed halls of Hipgnosis!
One of the band’s more popular songs from their back catalog is the evergreen ‘Flesh And Blood’. At a touch under 6 minutes, it’s an adventurous and expansive opening with all the familiar SS attributes we heard on their debut.
The title track ‘Hang On For Your Life’ is a kick-ass rocker, a real rebel rouser and arena favourite. Pomp rock is the order of the day on ‘Are You On My Side’, where Gary West’s ivory tinkering is offset by some gruff guitar work and an overall tougher sound. The song stops/starts like an old chevy stuck in traffic on the freeway.
Another of the rough ‘n’ ready rockers is ‘Teaser’, though you can hear violin traces on the chorus which opts to drop out into the slow lane rather than shoot for gold in the outside lane.
‘Hollywood’ is a track which features heavily in SS later compilation albums, it’s a grandiose affair to start out with – where Charles Waltz finally gets room to breathe. The song cranks up on the choruses but resumes its meandering ways for the most part. ‘Breakout’ has similarities to 70’s era Foreigner circa ‘Double Vision’, so too ‘You’re So Good’ which is stuck in a 70’s groove, thanks to the keyboard/organ work making it sound like Bad Company with keyboards.
‘She’s Got Money’ is a straight forward rocker with a bright chorus, but ‘You’ve Got Love’ is a bit of jumbled mess with the drumwork and percussion moving into tribal territory. Some may like it, not me though. ‘Sweet Elatia’ winds things up in ballad mode, it’s slower than slow, and not particularly strong compared to their ballads that have gone before (i.e. ‘Just Friends’ and ‘Rainfall’ from the debut).
This album would hover in the lower reaches of the Billboard Top 100 albums, and despite seeing no songs in the top 40, radio continued to play a slew of songs from this album during 1981 including ‘Flesh And Blood’, the title track, ‘Are You On My Side’, ‘Hollywood’ and ‘Breakout’. The band would continue on with Virgin Records (in the UK at least) and use the bigger profile American label Epic for their local US releases.
‘Hang On For Your Life’ has been released thrice on CD. Once in 1991 as a 2 on 1 with the debut, and then again in 1999 as a standalone album, plus Renaissance Records have a CD reissue on their books as at 2007. Shooting Star would eventually become arena favourites during the early 80’s, despite the ‘III Wishes’ debacle the following year. Still, you can find much solace in their discography, in particular their first two albums.