Starship - 'Loveless Fascination'

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Starship - 'Loveless Fascination'

Starship are no longer stuck in the 80s. If you are, you'll hate this album.

I've been a fan of Mickey Thomas' voice for years, and rate Starship's 'Love Among The Cannibals' as one of the best American AOR albums I own. Although they are best remembered for the hit duets 'Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now' and 'We Built This City', Grace Slick moved on before 'Love Among The Cannibals', resulting in Mickey being the only constant in the Starship story since. He re-recorded the hits and played them live... but has had with no new material to work with for two decades.

To make a new album after such a gap is a hard task, much like reviewing it is. I didn't seriously expect it to pick up where 'Love Among The Cannibals' left off, but nor did I expect the sound that came out of my speakers. This Starship is a completely different beast.

The band is completely revamped, with John Roth handling guitar duties, Jeff Adams playing bass and Darrell Verdusco on drums. They are augmented by keyboard player Phil Bennett and vocalist Stephanie Calvert. With Foreigner's Jeff Pilson in charge of production, the sound is completely revamped too – it's harder edged, with contemporary sounds and a lot less 'fluffy' than the 80s equivalent.

I must admit, the first time I played it, I hated it. Mickey's amazing range is used sparingly and he gives a grittier performance. 'It's Not The Same As Love' is bluesy and dark, with a pounding rhythm and heavy guitar sound. Distorted synths, drum loops and modern guitar tones kick off 'How Do You Sleep?' which takes some getting used to, but then Mickey gives you a chorus which suddenly comes to life. The title track has a hint of latter day Foreigner about it, albeit with a more contemporary production.

The driving 'Technicolor Black And White' is excellent, where Mickey shows what a great rock singer he is. Tracks like 'How Will I Get By' and 'You Never Know' are bang up to date in sound and arrangement, and the closing duet with Stephanie Calvert is a superb example of a modern day Starship duet, showing both Thomas and Stephanie can soar vocally when given the chance. The record is best summed up by Mickey: "Finally I just said - let's play it like we used to play it, but play it like it's today! Then everything fell into place."

After a second spin, I started to get into it, on my third go I was amazed how quickly it passed. Lose any preconceptions you have about how you think the band should sound. Starship are no longer stuck in the 80s. If you are, you'll hate this album. However, if you lose your preconceptions and embrace it as an album released in 2013, it may pleasantly surprise you. It's a grower, but it will certainly reward you, given the chance.

James Gaden

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