Starz – Violation (1977)

FrontCover1Violation is the second studio album by the late-1970s American hard rock band Starz, released in 1977.

Starz’ sophomore album, Violation, was quite similar to its predecessor. Jack Douglas was still the band’s producer, and Starz continued to favor the type of slick, commercial hard rock that would be called pop-metal in the ’80s and early ’90s. This 1977 LP didn’t establish Starz as major players in the pop-metal field; the New Yorkers did have a small following, although not a huge one. Nonetheless, this is an enjoyable record. It doesn’t contain any pop-metal masterpieces like Kiss’ “Shout It out Loud” or Sweet’s “Ballroom Blitz,” but tracks like “Cherry Baby” and “Rock Six Times” are certainly decent. Most of the time, Starz vocalist Michael Lee Smith sings about the same things that Kiss and Sweet were singing about in the ’70s; namely, all-night parties and wild young women in tight dresses. Starz’s lyrics, as a rule, were meant to be fun, not profound, and while Violation didn’t go down in history as one of pop-metal’s all-time classics, it’s worth hearing if you’re a fan of the style. (by Alex Henderson)

A dystopian nightmare that became one of the best records of the 1970’s. And what an album cover! This is the best record in the Starz catalog.

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Starz avoided the fabled sophomore jinx with the 1977 classic Violation, arguably the best album in their entire catalog. Ok, so there’s only four records in their catalog, but nevertheless this would have to be regarded as their best statement. It is also the closest they came to a commercial breakthrough. The lead-off track, “Cherry Baby,” climbed its way into the US top 40 albeit for only a brief stay. That song, along with its equally accessible follow up single, “Sing It Shout It,” should have been enough to break Starz into the top tier of late seventies rock bands. Alas, it was not to be. However it wasn’t from a lack of quality.

Historically we are told that Violation was supposed to be something of a concept record relating a story about some dystopian future where rock music has become a criminalized form of expression. Unfortunately Capitol records saw things differently and had the songs re-sequenced and removed any other hints of a unifying plot. Like another famously abandoned concept record, Who’s Next, This one is no worse for its re-purposing…and may even be the better for it.

The two singles that were released could lead you to believe that Starz was making a move towards a more radio friendly commercial viability, however the other tracks are as combustible as anything on their debut record…and then some!

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“Rock Six Times” is a ferocious rocker that, more than any other track, reveals the elements of the abandoned story line. Michael Lee Smith sings of his discovery of a “scratchy old record called Walk This Way” that apparently is the beginning of a life of delinquency. This, of course, is frowned upon by a committee convened to decide how to handle such young hooligans in the excellent title track. The accusatory choruses of “No that’s a Violation!” reverberate over the decades into our world that itself is all too willing to embrace censorship in the name of political correctness. This song should be required listening on every college campus.

The record’s best track is the ultra-violent “Subway Terror.” Another of Starz excellent odes to the excitement of committing crimes. This riff-rocker seems all too relevant considering the recent NYC subway homicides that resemble the one committed in this song a little too closely. I have always thought this song and Thin Lizzy’s “Killer on the Loose” deserve to be coupled together as some sort of homicidal celebration.

“All Night Long” is a straight-forward song that would have seemed perfect for their first record with its’ Kiss-alike nature. With “Cool One” Starz injects their always dependable sense of humor into things and the results are fabulous. The “cuckoo” sounding choruses are unlike anything you would hear in this style of music and the story conveyed in the lyrics is equally delightful…and quite a bit nasty for the moral sensitivities of the late Chartsseventies. They wouldn’t be playing this one on the radio! It has been suggested that the band was not too pleased with this version of the song, instead preferring the more straight-forward arrangement of the original demo recording. The demo version has been subsequently released over the years and I have to disagree. Though the original version of the song is fine, the final studio version as we have come to know it is highly original by comparison, and if producer Jack Douglas is the one who made this call…he made the right one.

“S.T.E.A.D.Y.” has an ominous sounding beginning that does not portend the rollicking rocker that quickly evolves out of it. The album ends with a somewhat strange ballad called “Is That A Street Light Or The Moon”” Singer Michael Lee Smith was always a strength for this band and his voice lends an atmospheric feel to the song. It is said that this track was a leftover from the first record but the solemn atmospherics give this record a fitting end.

Violation comes across as Starz best and most aggressive record. However, in spite of having a legitimate top 40 hit with “Cherry Baby,” the album failed to sell the number of units their record company was anticipating. One can only wonder why. This album, as well as any released in the decade of the seventies, is representative of the best of American Hard Rock. Drastic changes would be made on their next record in an attempt to crack the American market. (by Semjaza)

Indeed … one of the finest albums from the hard & heavy scene in this decade !

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Personnel:
Joe X. Dubé (drums)
Brendan Harkin (guitar)
Richie Ranno (guitar)
Michael Lee Smith (vocals)
Pieter “Pete” Sweval (bass)

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Tracklist:
01. Cherry Baby (Dubé/Harkin/Ranno/Smith/Sweval) 3.48
02. Rock Six Times (Dubé/Harkin/Ranno/Smith/Sweval) 3.14
03. Sing It, Shout I (Dubé/Harkin/Ranno/Smith/Sweval/Parrot/Delaney) 5.14
04. Violation (Dubé/Harkin/Ranno/Smith/Sweval) 4.28
05. Subway Terror (Dubé/Harkin/Ranno/Smith/Sweval) 3.44
06. All Night Long (Dubé/Harkin/Ranno/Smith/Sweval) .29
07. Cool One (Dubé/Harkin/Ranno/Smith/Sweval) 3.41
08. S. T. E. A. D. Y. (Dubé/Harkin/Ranno/Smith/Sweval) 5.41
09. Is That A Street Light Or The Moon? (Dubé/Harkin/Ranno/Smith/Sweval) 3.19
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10. Do It With The Lights On (demo version) (Dubé/Harkin/Ranno/Smith/Sweval) .35
11. Cool One (demo version) (Dubé/Harkin/Ranno/Smith/Sweval) 3.22
12. Rock This Town (demo version) (Dubé/Harkin/Ranno/Smith/Sweval) 2.47

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And this song (“Violation”) was for many, many years one of the soundtracks of my life:

Empty pockets, empty bed
Empty bottles, empty head
The committee says shape up
Or they’ll fix me quick enough

(we are with you everywhere)
(we protect you from yourself)
(we are watching)
I wanna rock an’ roll
(no, that’s a violation)
I wanna lose control
(no, that’s a violation)
I wanna love someone
(no, that’s a violation)
I wanna have some fun
(you better not try it)

Lousy jobs, down in holes
Join the union, learn to bowl
Lovely houses of cement
The committee pays the rent

Thank you for electing us
We appreciate your trust
There’s a problem we’re aware
That many of your children share
But we’ve developed new techniques
The process takes about two weeks
It”s based upon electroshock
A daily dose of microwatts
And when we’re through with what we do
We’ll ship the begger back to you
And then he’ll be as good as new

Doctor says i’m almost fine
And they’ll let me out in time
I’m a very stubborn case
And my tapes not quite erase

No, no, no

Starz – Live In Canada (1985)

FrontCover1This album captures Starz live in their prime. Four albums into their career, Starz were a big concert draw. They had the logo, the look and their music bridged a gave between the 70’s heavy metal of Aerosmith and Ted Nugent and the lighter rock fare of Foreigner and Cheap Trick. They had Aerosmith producer Jack Douglas behind the knobs and opened for everyone from Ted Nugent to Judas Priest to Peter Frampton. They even had a few minor radio hits (“Fallen Angel” & “Detroit Girls”). Yet despite all this going for them they never quite broke out to the mainstream like many of their contemporaries. Despite this, they left us a legacy of four great rock albums. This live album takes some of those songs and gives them a boost by capturing their live energy. Because they were one of those bands that toured endlessly, they were especially tight on the stage, which this album is a testament to.

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Peter Scance & Richie Ranno

“Live In Canada” contains a Live recording of a STARZ concert the band gave in Toronto, Canada back in 1978. Only released as ‘Live in Canada’ on LP by Heavy Metal Records in 1985, never on CD. The band has released many Live discs, but I think this one is their best, also the sound is pretty good and this must have been a great concert including the best songs of the band. Great to hear the best STARZ song ever, “Last night I wrote a letter”, in a live version. This is really fantastic 70s Melodic Rock. Also great to hear are those classic 70s rockers such as “Outfit”, “Subway terror” and “Waitin’ on you”. The whole LP is full of that typical 70s Rock’n’Roll. So, if you want to hear that good-old-time rock’n’roll from the 70s, I can really recommend this great live LP of one of the best rockbands from the 70s. (by yperano.com)

Live1Personnel:
Joe Dubé (drums)
Brenden Harkin (guitar)
Richie Ranno (guitar)
Michael Lee Smith (vocals)
Peter Scance (bass)

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Tracklist:
01. Rock Six Times (Smith/Ranno/Harkin/Sweval/Dubé) 4.12
02. Subway Terror (Smith/Ranno/Harkin/Sweval/Dubé) 3.58
03. Where Will It End (Ranno/Smith(Dubé) 4.31
04. Night Crawler (Ranno/Smith) 4.36
05. Outfit (Smith/Ranno/Davis) 5.03
06. Last Night I Wrote A Letter (Ranno/Smith) 5.20
07. No Regrets (Ranno/Smith/Messano/Davis/Dubé) 4.47
08. It’s A Riot (Ranno/Smith) 3.49
09. Waitin’ On You (Smith/Ranno/Harkin/Sweval/Dubé) + Coliseum Rock (Ranno) 8.17
10. Take Me (Ranno/Smith) 4.37

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