My first exposure to Shooting Star goes back to my school years, January 1980 was when this album first appeared, though recorded in 1979.
Written by: gdmonline
ARTIST: Shooting Star
ALBUM: Shooting Star
LABEL: Virgin UK
SERIAL: VA 2130
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
LINEUP: Gary West – vocals, keyboards * Van McLain – vocals, guitars * Charles Waltz – violin, vocals * Ron Verlin – bass * Bill Guffey – keyboards * Steve Thomas – drums
TRACK LISTING: 01 You Got What I Need * 02 Don’t Stop Now * 03 Higher * 04 Just Friends * 05 Bring It On * 06 Tonight * 07 Rainfall * 08 Midnight Man * 09 Stranger * 10 Last Chance
WEBLINKS: Site Link
My first exposure to these legends of AOR goes right back to my school years. January 1980 was when this album first appeared, though it was recorded in 1979. I won’t go into too much details about the bands history, you can read a good summary of it over at WikiPedia.
In short, the band became the first American band to be signed to Richard Branson’s Virgin label. Looking to break into the USA, the label, who were already strong in Europe with a number of punk/new wave and electronic artists on their roster, needed fresh blood. Shooting Star were part of a three-way bidding war back in 1978 for their services, Virgin winning out against Atlantic and A&M Records.
Produced in England with Elton John producer Gus Dudgeon at the helm, the band laid down some innovative symphonic rock for its time, with obvious comparisons being made to Kansas because of the violin parts provided by Charles Waltz.
Their sound was far more accessible, and less stricken by complex structures than what Kansas were attempting, and therefore made it easier for people to digest. Certainly during my high school years, Shooting Star’s debut was never too far away from my turntable, and thankfully because of the Virgin Records connection, the album was readily available in New Zealand at the time.
‘You Got What I Need’ is possibly the best introduction the band could’ve made. A lovely slice of melodia with terrific keys and a scorching solo at the tail. ‘Don’t Stop Now’ is played with a power-pop angle, not surprising considering 1979 was a boom year for that genre. The next track ‘Higher’ is a punchy number, with a strutting bass line and a tirade of vocal harmonies.
‘Just Friends’ is one of two predominant acoustic numbers, the other is ‘Rainfall’. Both are glorious affairs, again the vocal harmonies are a standout. ‘Bring It On’ is a high-energy workout, a great live sounding track judging by its qualities, while ‘Tonight’ ebbs and flows in symphonic fashion, with the violin and guitar interplay working well together.
Another up-tempo number combining acoustic and electric guitars is ‘Midnight Man’, the guitars are swinging all over the place on this one! ‘Stranger’ has all the hallmarks of harder-edged southern AOR, a style that a guy like Johnny Van Zant would do so well at in the next few years.
The closing song ‘Last Chance’ is without doubt one of the best songs they’ve ever written. The epitome of symphonic rock, the extended playing time, soaring violin and booming drums (sounding at times like kettle drums) make this track a hands-down classic!
With America sitting up and taking notice, the band hit the road buoyed by radio airplay of their songs culled from this album. This would continue on over the next few years, with another four albums worth of tunes being generated, and a schedule of live performances right up unto 1985.
The band have been in semi-retirement for some time, but as of the current day, they are still in existence. The band made sporadic comebacks over the decades including releases in 2000, 2006 and their final album in 2015 prior to Van McLain’s passing.
You Got What I Need