Stardrive has been described as one of the greatest synthesizer albums of the 70’s, and I’d be the last person to disagree.
Written by: gdmonline
SERIAL: KC 33047
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
LINEUP: Robert Mason – synthesizer * Harvey Sarch – guitars * Howard Rego – drums
TRACK LISTING: 01 Funkascensions * 02 Ballad (I) * 03 Jupiterjump * 04 Pulsar * 05 Ballad (ii) * 06 Air Sauce * 07 Ballad (iii) * 08 Journey
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It’s been described as one of the greatest synthesizer albums of the 70’s, and I’d be the last person to disagree, being a keyboard tech-head myself. Stardrive – the mighty three piece led by synthesizer wizard Robert Mason is an album guaranteed to stun. The bombastic nature of the music 1974’s ‘Stardrive’ predates modern synth works by a full decade or so.
Mason having to make do with Moog and ARP synths as his lead instrument of choice, and he explores all sorts of cosmic and funky sounds that could be conceived as taking the synth instrument to the boundaries of possibility and potential circa 1974.
‘Stardrive’ is the trio’s second album, the debut ‘Intergalactic Trot’ released the year before. Many have compared the two albums and have come away with the feeling that this album is the better of the.. two. There is a lot of freestyle playing by the three members involved, so for those of you who enjoy heavy improvisation, then Stardrive will challenge your aural senses.
Jumping right in, ‘Funkascensions’ combines OTT playing with funky overtones and electric bombast. If you can imagine Emerson Lake And Palmer, Parliament and Miles Davis at his most outrageous, then you’ve got Stardrive down pat.
Lots of spacey effects introduce ‘Ballad I’, it starts out safe and serene. Before building itself via a series of fanfare brass parts, and intricate passages which sound as if they have developed from a film/soundtrack environment.
‘Jupiter Jump’ moves in all sorts of weird directions – the buzzy bee staccato effects at the start for instance, plus the big synth sweeps. Guitarist Harvey Sarch chucks in a few Steve Howe parts to give it a Yes flavour, though that soon disappears under a barrage of synth lead.
‘Pulsar’ is fantastic stuff, the sound reminds me of Herb Schildt’s work with early Starcastle, but of course Mason hams it up completely, a totally overblown pomp workout.
‘Ballad II’ is next, a two and half minute dabble, with mostly soft parts and a sine wave based synth lead. Confused would be the best way to describe ‘Air Sauce’, but once into it, the whole thing seems to make sense. Musical passages come from all directions and phase in and out like a kaleidoscope.
‘Ballad III’ has a cinematic structure to it, as if being soundtracked for a movie sequence, not quite Tangerine Dream but interesting nonetheless. ‘Journey’ is the last piece of the puzzle, and funks a merry storm just for funks sake.
As far as I can tell, Stardrive only released the two albums for Elektra, and it’s no doubt that Robert Mason was way ahead of his time. He is still held in high regard within the keyboard community, and it was great that Wounded Bird reissued this on CD back in 2009. Well worth picking up, particularly if you are a synth nutter.. like me.. lol!