Starz – Violation (1977, Capitol) – (2005 reissue, Ryko)
- Cherry Baby
- Rock Six Times
- Sing It, Shout It
- Subway Terror
- All Night Long
- Cool One
- Is That A Street Light Or The Moon?
- Do It With The Lights On (demo)*
- Cool One (demo)*
- Rock This Town (demo)*
(* bonus track)
Michael Lee Smith – Vocals
Richie Ranno – Guitars
Brenden Harkin – Guitars
Pete Sweval – Bass
Joe Dube – Drums
Total Time – 46:21
Starz came from the New York glam scene in the early to mid-70s and served up a Hard Rock feast like KISS and Angel. KISS and Angel shared labels, KISS and Starz shared management…..the seeds were planted for Starz to be big.
VIOLATION is Starz’ second album and it is a ’70s Hard Rock classic. ’Cherry Baby’ is a Pop Rock radio hit if I ever heard one. Very simple and direct with a fat bass and decent guitar lines. Michael Lee Smith crooning into the catchy chorus for us to sing along. ‘Rock Six Times’ is a riff rocker full of power and punch. Some interesting guitar tones on this track as well as heavier drums.
Starting slow and easy with a basic rhythm tracks and basic guitar riff, ’Sing It, Shout It’ slowly builds into the chorus. Michael Lee Smith has a knack for melody and the hooks keep you singing right along. It’s a “feel good” Rock tune. The odd thing come solo time is that Ranno does a great Ace Frehley impersonation instead of doing his own thing. The title track starts with a drum intro that kicks into the guitars. This is the anthem, the mission statement for the band. Just take the first line of the chorus:
“I wanna Rock’n Roll….
No….that’s a Violation”
This could have been a big single as the Seventies were a time of anthems, a definite fist-pumper.
‘Subway Terror’ is another muscle rocker that has a pounding bottom end with some great guitar fills. The bass really drives this song and gives it a sinister quality. The lyrics are out of the party realm and more toward a evil vibe. ‘All Night Long’ is my least favorite on the record. I’m not into the gang vocals on the chorus and the slower pacing just doesn’t do it for me. It sounds clumsy and plodding.
A ’60s feel comes through on ‘Cool One’. The band writing like KISS to appeal to the teenage primal urges. Absolutely brilliant lyrics about getting together with a girl in a movie theater:
“She reached over and squeezed on my rocks
I lost it all in the popcorn box!”
‘S.T.E.A.D.Y.’ starts off slow and boring but picks up come the chorus and turns into another solid Hard Rock track. Ballad time comes with ‘Is That A Street Light Or The Moon?’. I don’t like the attempt at singing ultra high, it comes off silly. Smith already has a higher range but this sounds like a shrill cat. Towards the end. he does come back to his usual singing style but the song is already a wash. I like the orchestration and strings, just not the vocal.
The demos are pretty good. ‘Do It With the Lights On’ is the original version of ‘Rock Six Times’. The demo sounds almost exact until the chorus comes and it’s totally different. The ‘Cool One’ demo is almost exact to the final version but it’s a bit too bubblegum and fast. Smith uses that silly high range instead of his normal voice. ‘Rock This Town’ has a Southern Rock feel to it and it turns out to be a decent forgotten song.
Starz is low-grade KISS with a touch of Aerosmith, Ted Nugent, and Cheap Trick rolled into one. The album is full of solid Hard Rock and the lyrics bring a laugh while retaining their melody and rhyme. Ritchie Ranno sounds like Space Ace on more than one occasion but he delivers a unique guitar attack. Well worth checking out if you like ’70s hard Rock about partying and getting chicks. Favorite songs: ‘Cherry Baby’, ‘Violation’, ‘Cool One’, ‘Sing It, Shout It’, ‘Subway Terror’. If I had to rate this album on a 10-scale, I’d give it 8.5.