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Shooting Star - 2006 Circles

ARTIST: Shooting Star
ALBUM: Circles
LABEL: Frontiers
YEAR: 2006


LINEUP: Kevin Chalfant - vocals * Van McLain - guitars, vocals * Dennis Laffoon - keyboards * Shane Michaels - violin * Ron Verlin - bass * Steve Thomas - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Runaway * 02 Without Love * 03 Trouble In Paradise * 04 George's Song * 05 Borrowed Time * 06 Everybodys Crazy * 07 Temptation * 08 I'm A Survivor * 09 We're Not Alone * 10 What Love Is



Another of the GLORY-DAZE favourites returns in 2006 with a new album and new line-up. Shooting Star have offered the album to Frontiers to license in Europe, and it presents an interesting proposition. Will they go the way of ill-fated and ill-timed returnees Survivor and their release 'Reach', or perhaps follow in the successful footsteps of perennial wannabes House Of Lords and their great 'World Upside Down' platter? Let's put it this way, I didn't expect any miracles with 'Circles', and so - preparing to be underwhelmed I am pleasantly surprised to report that this is a very good effort. Not exactly AOR nor symphonic rock as such, but hard-edged rock with a (excuse the pun) straight-ahead approach. The vocals of Steve Perry soundalike Kevin Chalfant is a surprise. After hearing his recent work I thought his voice had gone to the pack. But no, he is back sounding better than ever. His style is a contrast from the previous warblers with the band. The violin work of Shane Michaels isn't as prominent as guys like Charles Waltz or even when compared to Kansas bowstring-benders Robby Steinhardt or David Ragsdale. However he is effective in an understated way. So, what do the band have to offer in 2006?

The Songs
Opening up with 'Runaway' (now isn't that an original AOR-oriented song-title?), the band zero in on the style of sound that made them popular during the early eighties. It features big choruses and well timed guitar excursions by Van McLain, with the resident violin just sitting in behind the mix. Gotta listen to 'Without Love', this one features some nice subtle piano/keyboard lines, but the chorus is straight out of The Storm songbook which Chalfant helped write some fifteen years earlier. Trouble is indeed the operative word on 'Trouble In Paradise', the song alternates between mid-paced moments on the verse, but causes heat and friction on the chorus and solos. A Beatles-ish ode to George Harrison is represented on 'Georges Song', the song providing something different on the album. The Shooting Star musical themes are familiar on 'Borrowed Time', and though the song doesn't quite hit the mark, the solo lifts it a notch higher then where it could've ended up. The energy levels get revved up on 'Everybodys Crazy', the bar-room rock is something Aussie rocker Jimmy Barnes could get his teeth stuck into. 'Temptation' is an unusual offering from the band, veering into Travelling Wilburys territory. It's not as bad as it sounds, as Chalfant manages to rescue the song long before the end. I quite liked the modernistic approach to 'I'm A Survivor'. The keyboards roam all over the soundscape, while those legendary rolling drums from Steve Thomas make a welcome return. The end of the album finishes up strongly with the pairing of 'We're Not Alone' and the soaring slow-burner 'What Love Is', showing us exactly what the band gave us at the beginning of the album.

In Summary
All in all a solid effort. Great to see the band back and sounding timeless. The addition of Chalfant, which initially sent some scepticism out through the AOR Underground when it was first announced, has proved unfounded, as he sounds OK here, though hearing him with all those violins going on around him will take a bit of getting used to. The mix was undertaken by Kevin Elson, and though he comes from an illustrious pedigree and has worked with Shooting Star before, he has kept things to a modicum. Nothing too brash, nor underdone.. well to these ears at least. A good return, but with more time to gel for a new album, perhaps they'll deliver us the ultimate package next time around. Just don't leave it another six years thanks guys!

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#1 | Jez on June 16 2008 13:06:46
Initially very disappointed, but after a few spins some of the songs are sinking in (Without Love, What Love Is).Pretty much all the typical SS sounds are on here, except Chalfant's vocals (which it has to be said aren't the best recorded ever) and in general the band sound pretty good together again. My main worry about this release is that some of the material isn't that great it has to be said, solid & Well written - yes, but no really big choruses.
#2 | jeffduran on June 21 2008 04:53:41
OK....Not as consistent as previous platters imho.

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