RERemastered Studio Albums Reviewed
I spoke to Ritchie Ranno one evening for around a half hour and received a history lesson of Starz and what it was like to be in a band that almost ‘made it’ and what its like now…
Starz Today At A Reunion Gig
MuzikMan: This is a treat for me to interview you Richie. It is almost surreal for me to be doing this kind of thing these days. Who knew 30 years after buying the first Starz album in vinyl LP format I would be interviewing you! Does it seem possible to you that 30 years have passed since the release of the first album?
Richie: No, it's truly amazing to think that.
Lets get caught up, what have you been doing since the band split up?
Richie: Just laying around watching TV mostly. No, really, no time for TV. We split up around 1982 and I’ve played in bands since that time except for awhile – ’98-’01 when I took a hiatus from it. Then, we re-formed the band with the original lineup, except for the late Peter Sweval, in 2003. We've done 14 reunion shows since then and hope to do more this year.
MuzikMan: Ryko remastered and re-released the four Starz studio albums, which sound terrific by the way, did you have a hand in all of that? I see you are creating a Starz resurgence with your site http://www.starzcentral.com Offering some rare releases, solo offerings, and a DVD of a live performance, what else is planned for the future to keep the Starz machine running?
Richie: Yes, Ryko contacted me and I provided them with bonus tracks and photos for the new sleeves. We’re going to be releasing Starz/Live In Cleveland shortly and this time we’re on a major label – Sony/BMG. It’s a 24 track digital recording that we just finished mixing. We’re also hoping to do a short tour of the US and possibly the UK. After that, we're hoping to release the DVD's from StarzFest which was last November. We played 2 nights and played every song from every album and brought back Bobby Messano & Orville Davis who played on the Coliseum Rock album.
MuzikMan: Starz was right on the brink of making it big on the heels of your stellar debut and the follow-up album Violation, what happened? Starz was just as good as many of the other bands of that time getting all the attention and record sales. Where did the band go wrong in their decision making process? If you could do it all over again what would be different to change the story?
Richie: We didn’t go wrong other than signing with the idiots at Capitol Records. Just a lousy label at that time. It was all about marketing and airplay in the ‘70’s and Capitol just couldn’t get mass airplay for a hard rock band at the time. In 1979 the ‘new wave’ thing happened right as we got out of our Capitol deal. The labels were only signing those types of bands. We hung on a little while longer but it wasn’t going anywhere.
MuzikMan: I know we agreed on a few things during our conversation, one them being that the 60s and 70s were the best times for music, the 80s sucked and now its difficult to find anyone worth listening to with the vast pool of artists, or so called artists out there. Do you think its just overkill? Too much opportunity created because of modern technologies making it easy for anyone to record an album, the internet, people’s lack of taste, or a combination of all of the above or something else?
Richie: It’s definitely a combination of a number of factors. You hit on some of them, no doubt. I think that music just isn’t as important to younger people as it was in the ‘60’s, ‘70’s and even ‘80’s. That’s a big factor. When I used to tell someone that I played guitar during those years, their eyes would light up. Now, if and when I mention it, there’s just a zero reaction to it. People just don’t care about music.
MuzikMan: Getting back to the Starz remasters…I think Ryko did a nice job with the albums. Many folks think that Coliseum Rock was your finest hour, your thoughts? Personally, I think that is true in regards to the maturation of the band but my favorite is the first album. There is something magical and irreplaceable about a debut that makes an impact as Starz did.
Richie: I prefer debut albums of bands – Van Halen, Led Zeppelin, even Kiss so I probably would agree with you there. As for our best, I really can't say. There is something special about that first one. It might be my favorite but I really like Violation and Coliseum Rock quite a bit also.
MuzikMan: What are your plans now that you have seen a growing interest in the Starz output, any chance of the band getting back together to record another studio album?
Richie: Doubtful, really. People aren’t interested in new albums from old bands. Look at Journey. They released a new album. Think anyone cares?
MuzikMan: Do you think the Internet is the key component in the ongoing development of music as a viable business that no longer needs the big labels or the corporate mind set to make things happen?
Richie: Well, to really make an act big, you still need TV, magazines & radio but the internet is still growing.
MuzikMan: What is the about Richie Ranno that nobody ever knew. Is there anything that you would like music lovers to know about you that is important to the history of Starz and your future contributions to music?
Richie: I don’t know. That’s probably a good question. There were a lot of people who thought that we were another Kiss type band because we were managed by the same management company as them, Aucoin Management. In truth, we were nothing like them. They were/are 90% show, 10% music. We were/are 90% music, 10% show. The members of Starz were/are real musicians. We came up through the ranks practicing our instruments all day long and honing our musical abilities. We lived and breathed music. That’s why we achieved the level of success that we did. There’s no substitute for practice, practice, practice! I teach guitar today and I always tell my students, ‘If you want to get better, just practice a lot!” To this day, we are all dedicated musicians. I don’t know if that’s something no one ever knew about me or us but, just thought I’d throw it out there.
MuzikMan: Anything in particular you would like to add in closing?
Richie: Well, I’m still playing a lot. I’m pretty excited about the new live release and also this new band that Dube & I put together, Wheels Of Fire. It’s a tribute to one of the greatest rock bands ever – Cream. We have a great bassist – Gregg Hollister and we’re playing 18 Cream songs in a concert type setting. We have a gig coming up at Mexicali Blues, Teaneck, NJ on April 15th. Cream was one of the most important and influencial bands in rock history. Eric Clapton basically invented the modern guitar sound. Jack Bruce laid the groundwork for bassists & Ginger Baker pushed the envelope for what a drummer could do in a rock group. If not for them, no Led Zep, Deep Purple, you name it.
Interviewed by Keith "MuzikMan" Hannaleck 03/30/06 and Published With The Permission of Richie Ranno
STARZ REMASTERED ALBUMS REVIEWED
I was getting ready to graduate from High School when this album came out, good God! What a reminder of my rapidly, well, long gone youth. Actually, I am believer of the adage that you are young as you feel and when I hear this great rock music I am 18 all over again, it works well.
Starz was hot back in 1976 and this stunning debut got a lot of attention. This was the start of something big, you just knew it, but as we know now it did not turn out that way unfortunately. Now thanks to Ryko the band is getting their due with the remastering and reissuing of all four studio albums.
This band was every bit as good as Kiss and many others that outdistanced them at the cash register. It is too bad the label support was not there for them to put them at the top were they belonged.
Not all debuts are pure magic, this one was. This album is my personal favorite from their catalog. It has that raw energy that everyone strives for in the studio. Albums like this, particularly if they are a debut, can never seem to be duplicated. Even though this effort was not duplicated, the band did get better as time passed. I still hang on to this one as my most durable memory of Starz and if you listen today, it sounds just as good as it did back then, actually better now that it is remastered. The guitar is crisp, it bites, and the bass is out front and strong, every aspect of this album rocks. It oozes with that sexual primal energy that kicks in the later teen years of your life.
How could you miss with classic tracks like "Detroit Girls," "(She's Just A) Fallen Angel," and "Night Crawler." Nope it does not get any better than this.
01. Detroit Girls
02. Live Wire
03. Tear It Down
04. Boys in Action
05. (She's Just A) Fallen Angel
06. Monkey Business
07. Night Crawler
08. Over and Over
09. Pull the Plug
10. Now I Can
11. Sweet Jeremiah [*][Demo Version]
12. Fallen Angel [*][Demo Version]
13. Detroit Girls [*][Demo Version]
14. Live Wire [*][Demo Version]
I still love that song "Cherry Baby," we have some history. I had the 45 in yellow vinyl. Oh how I wish I had that now. I cannot remember if the LP was yellow vinyl as well. In any event, this was a great follow up to their self-titled debut. Violation picked up where Starz left off with a few different wrinkles and the band matured some more. They sounded more polished now and with "Cherry Baby" seemed poised to enter the charts and become America's radio darlings. Well, that did not happen although it should have. With another strong recording behind them, they had proven they were one of the best bands in the recording studio and on stage. They paid their dues and were ready for the stardom they so richly deserved. It was oh so close.
Besides a killer single, some of the other tracks really grabbed you. Starz was a kick ass rock band in their prime and they did not compromise their ideals or their sound on this album. The title track was a real killer, the best on the album in my opinion. "Subway Terror" was also a real scorcher. This band was cranking it out with conviction and nothing seemed to be in their way at this point. How could they get any better than this?
01. Cherry Baby
02. Rock Six Times
03. Sing It, Shout It
05. Subway Terror
06. All Night Long
07. Cool One
09. Is That a Street Light or the Moon?
10. Do It With the Lights On [*][Demo Version]
11. Cool One [*][Demo Version]
12. Rock This Town [*][Demo Version]
Coming off two very successful albums and avoiding the sophomore jinks was a plus for Starz going into the studio to record their third release Attention Shoppers. The band opted to go a little lighter to see if they could break radio airplay and get the notoriety they deserved with this release.
This is the only album that does not rate five stars in my opinion. I think giving in to the hope of making it commercially really put a damper on this band's style. They held back quite a bit on this release yet showed the real Starz more than a few times with some rockin' tunes like "X-Ray Spex." For me that was the band in their element. Thank god, they got back to business on the next release. "Third Time's The Charm" and "Johnny All Alone" were exceptional tunes as well.
Pop stardom was not the road for Starz, they were a great rock band with a fantastic live show and had to nothing to prove now. You have to give them credit for trying something different to see if it would break them big.
01. Hold on to the Night
03. Third Time's the Charm
04. (Any Way That You Want It) I'll Be There
05. Waitin' on You
06. X-Ray Spex
07. Good Ale We Seek
08. Don't Think
09. Johnny All Alone
10. Texas [*]
11. Wind [*]
Everyone should have been paying attention, the label totally dropped the ball, and I guess many of us music fans did too. Coliseum Rock was the apex of this band's career and if they were not going to make it after this recording, it was time to throw in the towel, which is what they did. This great release came in under the radar, it was totally underrated. When you listen to this album now you can hear how the band had matured into a stunning unit that was hitting on all their cylinders. This recording had the raw energy of the first album but it was more complex musically and much more polished and refined.
There is not dud on the album. This is as close to rock perfection as you could possibly get. "So Young, So Bad" rivals "Detroit Girls" and "Violation" for sheer power and veracity, what a great tune. And they just keep coming after that killer opener, one track after another of pure unbridled rock 'n' roll magic.
Perhaps now after people start to discover and rediscover Starz through all of these great remasters the band will feel compelled to go back into the studio to give it one more try, stranger things have happened...