Sq-Sta

 

Square Root Of Nine (USA): Square Root Of Nine (Pac-3 PA 88206, 1968?)
Folk
Barbara Rutledge (joint lead vocals)
This late folk boom artefact is rooted in the coffeehouse but has hippie undertones too, with a nicely dreamy atmosphere and occasional use of finger cymbals. A consistently enjoyable set, the album peaks on a beatific ‘Let’s Get Together’ and an unusual and dramatic seven-minute reading of ‘House Of The Rising Sun’. GRADE: C+.

St Aidan’s Folk Choir (UK): The Folk Choir (No label TMC LP 009, with booklet, 1974)
Folk
Rosaleen Coyne (joint lead vocals), Marie-Pierre Gaillard (joint lead vocals), Bridget Hallett (joint lead vocals), Helen Kennedy (joint lead vocals), Ella McDermott (joint lead vocals), Catherine Pilkington (joint lead vocals), Caroline Potter (joint lead vocals), Julia Torpy (joint lead vocals), Catherine de Saulles (joint lead vocals), Teresa de Saulles (joint lead vocals), Clare Reynolds (joint lead vocals), Deborah Rhodes (joint lead vocals), Pippa Todd (joint lead vocals), Catherine Toomey (joint lead vocals), Mary Toomey (joint lead vocals), Joanna Trick (joint lead vocals)
The average age of St Aidan’s Folk Choir, according to the liner notes, was 16½, and their album saw them performing to backing from guitars, bass and occasional tambourine. So far, so conventional – but two things set them apart. The first is the presence of mainly original material (notwithstanding a superfluous version of the tiresome old warhorse ‘Lord Of The Dance’) and the second is that most of the guitars are electric, giving this a garage feel that makes it quite distinctive. Overall, this should have considerable appeal for those who enjoy school project albums, with its innocent and sepulchral atmosphere and delicate female vocals. GRADE: C+.

St Aidan’s Folk Choir (UK): Down The Hill (TIRF TIRF 1, 12", 1982)
Folk/Rock
Mandy Potter (joint lead vocals), Beth Riley (joint lead vocals), Sue McLaughlin (joint lead vocals), Caroline Gut (joint lead vocals), Louise Harris (joint lead vocals), Cherina Franklin (joint lead vocals), Claudia Gut (joint lead vocals), Siobân McDonald (joint lead vocals)
This much later four-track EP, running for around 12 minutes, is in some ways typical folk choir fare, with gentle massed vocals and a Christian slant to the lyrics. However, the opening title track is performed as a duet between Mandy Potter (who also wrote it) and Beth Riley and the closer is a cover of ‘Let The Sunshine In’, whilst the backing, from electric and acoustic guitars, bass and drums, has unusual rock strength and even a slight garage edge. For most ears, this will still be far too twee, but those who like school project LPs could definitely get something from this. GRADE: C+.

St Elphege Folk Group (UK): Hosanna (No label SHE LP 100, 1975)
Folk
A host of Christian choral folk albums were released in the seventies; most need not trouble collectors, but this is a little gem. With gentle acoustic backing and tranquil, almost whispered, vocals, the band creates a spellbinding atmosphere on a broad range of material. It is, however, quite odd to hear ‘Curragh Of Kildare’ and ‘Once I Had A Sweetheart’ with new, religious lyrics (and retitled ‘Centurion’s Song’ and ‘Mothers [sic] Song’ respectively). GRADE: C+.

St George & Tana (USA): Is Now! (Kapp KL 1534, 1967)
Folk/Pop
‘St. George & Tana are in a bag of their own… They have a sincere message that makes them part of the “thinking” youth of today’, proclaims the sleevenote. It goes on to insist (somewhat tautologically) that they have ‘a unique individual style’, but in fact they’re a common-or-garden late sixties male and female folk/pop duo, and their LP is a pleasant studio confection rather than a profound work of artistry. Sometimes they resemble the Mamas & The Papas at their more theatrical (‘Country Cat’), whilst elsewhere they are simultaneously baroque and bluesy (an unusual reading of ‘High Flying Bird’). For those who like the style, this is a very good LP – well-composed, well-played and well-sung – but it’s nothing like what the liner notes promise. GRADE: C+.

Bridget St John (UK): Ask Me No Questions (Dandelion 63750, 1969)
Singer/Songwriter/Folk
Bridget St John (lead vocals, guitar)
Bridget St. John’s debut is the disc on which the frequently-made comparisons to Nico are most valid: her deep, dark voice and sparse, melancholy songs strongly recall the Velvet Underground chanteuse circa Chelsea Girl. She’s clearly a talented singer and songwriter, and the material is of an excellent quality throughout, but – like most voice-and-acoustic guitar albums (plus occasional second guitar, bongos and sound effects) – this would have benefited from some variety in the arrangements. GRADE: C+.
Bridget St John (UK): Songs For The Gentle Man (Dandelion DAN 8007 / K 49007, 1971)
Singer/Songwriter/Avant-Garde
Bridget St John (lead vocals, guitar, harmonium)
With most tracks featuring slightly avant-garde orchestrations from Ron Geesin (plus a classical choir on one number), this is by far her most adventurous and original album. It's also her best, with a haunting, sepulchral and rather eerie mood that more closely resembles Chelsea Girl, even though her voice sometimes recalls Judy Dyble in its purity. She accompanies herself on harmonium on the brief final cut, but this actually serves to confirm her differences from Nico, rather than their similarities: St John has a much more melodic voice, and a far more conventional songwriting style. GRADE: C+.

Bridget St John (UK): Thank You For… (Dandelion DAN 2310 193, 1972)
Singer/Songwriter/Folk/Rock
Bridget St John (lead vocals, guitar)
Dark, elegant and beautiful, with mainly acoustic and occasionally electric settings, this is easily her best album, confirming her as both a sensitive singer and a highly capable songwriter. However, the finest cut of all is a non-original – a dark and sinister reading of the traditional ‘Lazarus’. GRADE: B–.
Bridget St John (UK): Jumblequeen (Chrysalis CHR 1062, 1974)
Singer/Songwriter
Bridget St John (lead vocals, guitar)
More mainstream than her previous albums, this sees St John turning her songwriting to everything from acoustic ballads to pop/rock to quasi-reggae. It’s all veryprofessionally done, but this sort of fare leaves me rather cold unless performed by someone the calibre of Véronique Sanson. The haunting, richly orchestrated ‘Want To Be With You’ aside, Jumblequeen isn’t really in the same league. GRADE: C.

St Tropez (Italy): Icarus (Mellow MMP 105, CD, 1992, recorded 1978)
Progressive/Psychedelic
Lady Mantide (principal vocals)
This project by former Celeste leader Ciro Perrino evolved out of another short-lived project, SNC (in which the clearly pseudonymous ‘Lady Mantide’ was credited under another pseudonym, ‘Madame de Mistival’). St Tropez, like SNC, never released any music during their brief lifetime, taping only this demo album, which remained unreleased for 14 years. Musically, this is rather similar to You-era Gong, minus the jazzy edges and surreal humour; instead, the album substitutes lots of synthesisers, some well-judged tuned percussion and a few pop elements, though the emphasis is on long, trippy jams. As an added bonus, it’s extremely well recorded, with the odd exception of some of Lady Mantide’s vocals, which sound like they were taped at the foot of a well. The band subsequently evolved into La Compagnia Digitale, who also had a posthumous release on Mellow, whilst this album was included unaltered in Celeste’s boxed set. GRADE: B–.
See also Celeste, Compagnia Digitale, SNC

Stack Medeiros Band (USA): Chilly Cold Morning (Alma Record Production ARP-30, with insert, 1977)
Rock
Claudia Stack (joint lead vocals, guitar, keyboards)
This laid-back guitar rock album immediately recalls the Grateful Dead, though Claudia Stack and her brother Ron Medeiros don’t appear to share their predilection for jamming. Nonetheless, this is a pleasant, unassuming local LP, though I’d dispute the insert’s claim that they were ‘the band on the rise’. GRADE: C+.

Stage 101 (Japan): Akai Yane No Ie (Express ETP-8172, with poster, 1972)
Pop
This obscure album appears to be the soundtrack to a stage show, and offers nice hippie pop with a late sixties American feel. The arrangements range from horns to fuzz guitar and most of the material is self-penned, although there are Japanese language covers of John Lennon and Joni Mitchell numbers. As is often the case with Japanese LPs, this is beautifully packaged, with a colourful book sleeve and giant 36" x 24" poster. GRADE: C+.

Stained Glass (UK): Open Road (Sweet Folk & Country SFA019, 1975)
Folk
Sylvia Miles (principal vocals, bells, bouzouki)
With slightly unusual instrumentation (acoustic guitars, electric piano, bouzouki and mandolin), this folk trio offers some excellent original material in a vein similar to Dando Shaft or to a much lesser extent Folkal Point. On ‘City Song’ they vaguely resemble Tudor Lodge without the orchestrations and pop edges, whilst the album also takes in an Incredible String Band cover and three traditional numbers at the end. The latter material is both good and sensitively performed, but rather more generic as their wistful original songs lend them a distinctive edge. GRADE: C+.

Stainless Steel (Belgium): Stainless Steel (Fischer & Fischer FLP 001, 1971?)
Folk
Viona Westra (joint lead vocals)
This is a lovely, relaxed hippie-folk album with well-crafted songs and backing from acoustic guitars, congas, mandolin, banjo, violin and flute; the opening ‘Don’t Walk Away’ is especially good. Viona Westra had previously been with the very different Mad Curry and would go on to sing on bandmate Sonny Zandueta’s solo album. As a footnote, this is one of the rarest and most sought-after Belgian albums, with a pressing limited to 150 copies. GRADE: C+.
See also Wim de Craene & Viona Westra, Mad Curry, Sonny Zandueta

Stairway (UK): Aquamarine (New World Cassettes NWC143, 1987)
Progressive/New Age
Jane Relf (occasional vocals)
This may reunite three former members of Renaissance – albeit that Jane Relf guests on just two of the six tracks – but don’t expect Jim McCarty and Louis Cennamo’s new age project to sound anything like late sixties or early seventies Renaissance (or even Illusion). Instead this is low-key instrumental music, combining acoustic guitar, keyboards and programmed percussion – melodic, relaxing and mildly hypnotic but not exactly the equal of their earlier work. GRADE: C+.
Stairway (UK): Stairway (New World Cassettes NWC168, 1988)
Progressive/New Age
Jane Relf (occasional vocals)
Relf is credited as a full band member here but doesn’t contribute all that much in the way of vocals, even though this is more song-based than its predecessor. Otherwise it’s rather similar to its predecessor – nice, relaxing stuff that doesn’t quite feel like the heir to early Renaissance. GRADE: C+.

Arturo Stàlteri (Italy): Rings – Il Decimo Anello (Materiali Sonori MASO CD 90132, CD, 2003)
Progressive/Folk
Jenny Sorrenti (principal vocals)
This solo set by the Pierrot Lunaire keyboardist is largely instrumental, but Saint Just’s Jenny Sorrenti provides vocals here and there. Inspired by ‘The Lord Of The Rings’, this is very folky, very classical and very Italian, pairing Stàlteri’s intricate piano playing with violin, cello and a variety of wind instruments. The end result is a beautiful, delicate and decidedly haunting LP. GRADE: B–.
See also Curva Di Lesmo, Saint Just, Jenny Sorrenti

Stamp Heat Band (West Germany): Meine Welt (WK WK 30.144, 1982)
Rock/Progressive
Veronika Busch (joint lead vocals)This rather schizophrenic album boasts some fine progressive moments, including a couple of decent instrumentals, plus an ornate quasi-mediaeval ballad on side two. However, it is also has a foot in the mainstream rock camp, with everything from reggae rhythms to Kraftwerk-like robotic voices, adding up to an odd and unfocused set. GRADE: C+.

Stanley Steamer (USA): Stanley Steamer (Jolly Rogers JR 5002, 1973)
Soul/Rock/Progressive
Holly Vaughan (lead vocals, percussion)
This horn-driven soul/rock band had clear progressive ambitions: the opening cut is divided into two very different movements, the last three tracks on side one form a conceptual suite entitled ‘The Legend Of The Innominate Bone’, and side two is given over to the eighteen-minute ‘Three Humours Of Man’. In reality, side one is straightforward R&B with jazzy edges, with the prog moves being reserved for the long number; overall, the album is well put-together, but lacking in really outstanding material. In fact, the main point of note is singer Holly Vaughan, whose voice is so uncannily similar to Elkie Brooks’s that I would happily have accepted that these were outtakes by Dada or early Vinegar Joe if played them blind. As a footnote, Jolly Rogers may sound like a private label, but it was in fact an imprint of MGM. GRADE: C+.

Stantonbury Campus Drama Group (UK): All Change (No label SCDG 001, with booklet, 1977)
Folk
Ruth Goldberg, Rita Boggeln, Linda Roberts, Karen Webb
This concept album about railway building in the Victorian era was a school project, with almost all-original material, but this isn’t immediately obvious from listening to it. With very professional singing and playing, mainly from adults, it offers excellent traditional folk with a restrained and often quite mournful feel. I’ve seen it compared to Mountain Ash Band, which broadly makes sense given the theme, though this is completely unplugged. GRADE: C+.

Star Drive (USA): Galactic Power (Tribute WS322, 1977)
Rock/Country
Issued on an exploitation label (quite possibly as a tax scam), this probably consists of tracks by two different bands. The first seven cuts are light rock, with slight fifties influences in places, fronted by a lugubrious male singer. On ‘The Sky Is Blue’, the music resembles a folk/rock twist on the Smiths, with the singer a dead ringer for Morrissey. Meanwhile, the final four cuts are country with either male or female vocals. Overall, this is an odd and schizophrenic set, but that’s par for the course for the genre. GRADE: C–.

Starcrossed (USA): Starcrossed (Electric Palm 634479226854, CD, 2006)
Rock
Laura Allen (joint lead vocals, dulcimer, belltree), Sherry Fox (joint lead vocals)
It’s not clear from the packaging whether this is a duo or a band – only Laura Allen and Sherry Fox get their pictures on the cover, but Fox’s former Oasis/RJ Fox colleague Joel Siegel writes everything, plays guitars and produces (with some help from Oasis/RJ Fox producer Stephen Barncard). Unsurprisingly, given Fox’s distinctive voice and Siegel’s equally distinctive playing and writing style, the results sound like Oasis/RJ Fox refracted through a modern AOR prism. This is by no means bad, and it’s interesting to hear Fox and Siegel in this contemporary setting, but the predictable power chords and leaden drumming merely make me realise how much I’d prefer to hear them in their original style. GRADE: C.

Starcrossed (USA): Live (Electric Palm 837101184540, DVD, with digipak, 2006)
Rock
Laura Allan (joint lead vocals, tambourine, flute, dulcimer), Sherry Fox (joint lead vocals)
I was underwhelmed by Starcrossed’s studio album, but I do like this brief (five songs in 21 minutes) live DVD, which appears to have been filmed without an audience. Maybe that’s because of the superb sound quality; or perhaps it’s because there’s something inherently appealing about watching a middle-aged band play charming, unpretentious, mellow rock for its own sake. In fact, this makes me believe that there’s a damn good jam band hidden inside Starcrossed: if only they could relax and let it out. GRADE: C+.

See also Cookin' Mama, Indigo, Oasis, RJ Fox

Starcrost (USA): Starcrost (Fable T 301, 1976)
Jazz/Rock
Liza Farrow (joint lead vocals, piano)

I initially underrated this supple, virtuostic jazz-fusion album due to its slick, funky nature and profusion of horns. Listening again, it’s top-notch for its genre and may just have enough appeal for Canterbury fans, though I suspect its reputation (and high price) owes more to hip DJs than progressive rock buffs. GRADE: B–.

Stark Naked (USA): Stark Naked (RCA LSP-4592, 1971)
Rock/Metal/Progressive
Lyne Bunn (occasional vocals, percussion)
Bridging the hard rock and progressive genres, this would be a classic if it contained a really strong set of songs. But, despite the powerhouse opener ‘All Of Them Witches’, the band clearly put more effort into the riffs, solos and time changes than the actual lyrics and music. Nonetheless, there’s plenty to enjoy here. GRADE: C+.

Starless (Japan): Silver Wings (Nexus/King K28P-596, with insert, 1985)
Rock/Progressive/Metal
Yoshiko Miyamoto (lead vocals)
Displaying heavy influences from Queen and other seventies stadium-rock acts, this offers a mixture of majestic symphonic rock and metal with a polished, radio-friendly sound. This was in fact the band’s second album, following on from their demo cassette Welcome To The Starless World, recorded the previous year with original singer Hiroko Nishigaki; unsurprisingly, I have never encountered a copy.

GRADE: C+.
Starless (Japan): Unpublished Live Selection 1984-1988 (Made In Japan MHD-25012, CD, 1991)
Rock/Progressive/Metal
Yoshiko Miyamoto (joint lead vocals), Hiroko Nishigaki (joint lead vocals)
This retrospective live set is something of a misnomer, since according to the booklet everything was recorded during either 1986 or 1987. Musically it’s a bit more interesting than the preceding studio set, being more progressive (in a typical eighties Nippon way) and creative. GRADE: C+.
Starless (Japan): Song Of Silence (Made In Japan BBD-1001, CD, 1992)
Rock/Progressive/Metal
Mayumi Minimatsu (lead vocals)
Mixing bombastic heavy rock with symphonic ballads, all shot through with typical Japanese neoprogressive stylings, this is unlikely to rate among anyone’s favourite albums from the genre. Nonetheless, it’s perfectly solid and listenable, even though it’s not a disc anyone would need to go out of their way to hear. GRADE: C+.
Starless (Japan): Wish (Made In Japan BBD-1002, CD, 1992)
Rock/Progressive/Metal
Mayumi Minimatsu (lead vocals)
This short album or long EP (the running time is around 27 minutes, so take your pick) basically offers more of the same; it’s perhaps marginally better than Song Of Silence but there’s really not much in it. GRADE: C+.
Starless (Japan): IV – Story Never Ends (Planet ZSCA-1001, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2007)
Rock/Progressive/Metal
Mai Araki (lead vocals)
Recorded with yet another female singer, this comeback effort is their best studio album, containing a few really majestic moments. In particular, the closing ‘Stage’ has a wonderful orchestral climax. As a footnote, they also issued a couple of live DVDs that I have not come across. GRADE: C+.

Starless (Japan): 20th Anniversary Live (Planet PLDP-201, DVD, 2006)Rock/Progressive/MetalMai Araki (lead vocals)Their brand of neoprog-meets-pomp rock isn’t any more impressive on stage than it is in the studio, but this is a solid (if short) live document. I could have done without the lengthy between-songs monologues, though for all I know they could have been imparting considerable wisdom. GRADE: C+.

Starless & Bible Black (UK/France): Starless And Bible Black (Locust Music L85, CD, USA, 2006)
Folk/Rock/Psychedelic
Hélène Gauthier (lead vocals)
From the band name, I expected this to be dark, heavy King Crimson-style progressive, but it’s actually melodic folk/rock with mainly acoustic full band arrangements and some avant-garde edges from Raz Ullah’s keyboards and electronics. Whilst the album starts slowly, it improves as it progresses and contains some lovely material with just the right balance between beauty, atmosphere and complexity. GRADE: B–.
Starless & Bible Black (UK/France): Shape Of The Shape (Static Caravan van192, CD, with digipak, 2009)
Folk/Rock/Psychedelic
Hélène Gauthier
Easily the equal of its predecessor, this continues their atmospheric folk/rock style, but it’s pretty varied: the superb, lengthy ‘Les Furies’ builds into a majestic climax recalling early Pink Floyd, whilst ‘Popty Ping’ sounds strongly influenced by Pentangle. Meanwhile, the closing ‘Year Of Dalmations’ has more than a hint of early seventies Sandy Denny, with some very Richard Thompson-like guitar work. GRADE: B–.

Starofash (Norway): Iter.viator. (Jester TRICK010, CD, 2002)
Progressive
Heidi Solberg Tveitan (principal vocals, keyboards, programming)
Heidi Tveitan’s pseudonymous solo project unsurprisingly sounds like Peccatum without the heavy metal elements, instead concentrating on atmospheric and rather eerie keyboard-based arrangements. Surprisingly, it’s as disjointed as any Peccatum LP, indicating that this approach stemmed from her writing style as much as from the disparate elements the band attempted to blend. GRADE: C+.
Starofash (Norway): The Thread (Candlelight CANDLE219CD, CD, UK, 2008)
Progressive
Heidi Solberg Tveitan (principal vocals, keyboards, programming)
It all comes together on the second Starofash release: a rich tapestry of songs and instrumentals with well-judged instrumentation and melancholy atmospheres. For the most part, this is keyboard-based music with a somewhat ambient feel, but a couple of melodic rock songs work very well too. GRADE: B–.
Heidi S Tveitan/Starofash (Norway): Ulterior (Mnemosyne Productions mnem009, CD, with gatefold minisleeve and obi, 2009)
Classical
Heidi Solberg Tveitan
Limited to 300 hand-numbered copies, this soundtrack to a low-budget film mostly consists of short instrumental tracks of solo piano displaying a strong classical influence. Overall, this is an eerie and sometimes quite experimental album that offers some very fine music. GRADE: B–.
Heidi S Tveitan/Starofash (Norway): Lakhesis (Mnemosyne Productions mnem011, CD, with gatefold minisleeve, 2010)
Metal/Progressive
Heidi Solberg Tveitan (principal vocals, keyboards, programming)
Introducing significant metal elements into Starofash’s sound for the first time, this is rather more song-based than earlier works. Once again, it is a striking, atmospheric and frequently quite powerful album. GRADE: B–.

Starofash (Norway): Ghouleh (Mnemosyne Productions, download, 2014)

Pop/Progressive

Heidi Solberg Tveitan

Slightly different yet again, Ghouleh sees notable pop elements creeping into Starofash’s music, with a more song-based style and some hints of artists like Björk. It’s all pleasant enough, if a little insubstantial, but perhaps unsurprisingly I prefer the more ambient instrumental numbers. GRADE: C+.

Starofash (Norway): Skógr (Mnemosyne Productions, download, 2016)

Progressive

Heidi Solberg Tveitan

Whilst this occasionally displays the same pop leanings as Ghouleh, it’s a much more creative and diverse album. There’s everything here from borderline dance music to metal to avant-gardism, adding to a curious, intriguing set that never goes quite where you’d expect. GRADE: B–.
See also Hardingrock, Peccatum

Ruby Starr & Grey Ghost (USA): Ruby Starr And Grey Ghost (Capitol ST-11427, with inner, 1975)
Rock
The former Ruby Jones singer’s new band plays amiable rock with Southern, blues, funky, heavy and occasional progressive influences. It’s all fairly generic for its era but listenable enough, with Starr’s somewhat odd voice (like a shrill cross between Maggie Bell and Elkie Brooks) being the most distinctive feature. GRADE: C+.
Ruby Starr (USA): Scene Stealer (Capitol ST-11549, with inner, 1976)
Rock
Ruby Starr (lead vocals)
This is a touch more polished and mainstream than its predecessor, but it’s still a fine rock album with some strong original songs and energetic band performances. Her cover of ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ is also pretty good, but I can’t see what she hoped to achieve with ‘Be My Baby’. GRADE: C+.
Ruby Starr (USA): Smokey Places (Capitol ST-11643, with inner, 1977)
Rock
Ruby Starr (lead vocals)
This is composed almost entirely of cover versions, including a rather mediocre interpretation of Buckingham-Nicks’s ‘Don’t Let Me Down Again’. Overall this is a bit different from her last couple of albums, being a mildly funky, polished soft rock set – well done and pleasant, but hardly playing to her strengths. GRADE: C.
See also Grey-Star, Ruby Jones

Starship (USA/UK): Knee Deep In The Hoopla (Grunt BXL1-5488, with inner, USA, 1985)
Pop/Rock
Grace Slick (joint lead vocals)
The opening ‘We Built This City’, which gave the former Jefferson Airplane/Starship its first American number one, is widely reviled as one of the worst hits of all time. In fairness, it’s not that bad, although it’s hardly a classic, and mostly this is anodyne AOR with notable pop edges (as the gruesome cover of the band leaping around in gaudy clothing confirms). Grace Slick is underused here, taking only about a third of the vocals and writing nothing, but she fronts the album’s best cut: an effective hard rocking version of Kimberley & The Waves’ ‘Rock Myself To Sleep’. Some CD reissues feature a bonus cut ‘Emergency’ that also features one of Slick’s rare lead vocals with Starship.

GRADE: C–.
Starship (USA/UK): Superstar Concert Series (Westwood One SS86-10, triple, with inserts and box, USA, 1986)
Rock
Grace Slick (joint lead vocals)
This radio show is interesting, offering a virtually complete Starship live set, and representing the only live recordings I have heard from the band. The set unsurprisingly mixes much of Knee Deep In The Hoopla with Jefferson Starship hits (‘Jane’, ‘Find Your Way Back’, ‘Stranger’ at al) plus the inevitable ‘Somebody To Love’ and ‘White Rabbit’. The performances are solid enough, though reflect their era with heavy steamhammer drumming and a few plinky-plonk synthesisers. However, ‘White Rabbit’ fares appallingly, being delivered in a dreadful version somewhere between synth-pop, heavy metal and neoprogressive, with more of the plinky keyboards and some synthesiser impersonating a harmonica. It’s no wonder Slick escaped the band a couple of years later and threw in her lot with her former Jefferson Airplane colleagues. GRADE: C.
Starship (USA): No Protection (RCA 6413-2-G, CD, 1987)
Pop/Rock
Grace Slick (joint lead vocals)
Grace Slick again doesn't do much here, but she does get to co-write two cuts: one of them, ‘Babylon’, is the single really good recording of Starship’s career. Elsewhere, this is even poppier and more eighties-sounding than its predecessor, and once again the band barely bothers to write anything. This time round, the transatlantic hit was the ubiquitous ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now’. Following the album’s release, Slick sensibly grew tired of being marginalised by her talentless co-vocalist Mickey Thomas and joined a reformation of Jefferson Airplane.

GRADE: E+.
Starship Featuring Mickey Thomas (USA): Loveless Fascination (Loud & Proud LNPD-5, CD, 2013)
Rock
Stephanie Calvert (occasional vocals)
The return of Starship – inevitably now comprising Mickey Thomas plus a number of new musicians – to recording after more than two decades is quite a surprise, but the actual music isn’t. This is straightforward AOR and melodic hard rock that’s better crafted than either Knee Deep In The Hoopla or No Protection but still pretty generic. Oddly, none of the material is written by the band, with almost everything being penned by producer Jeff Pilson. GRADE: C.
See also Great Society, Jefferson Airplane, Paul Kantner, Grace Slick

State Express (Japan): Let’s Escape Out Of This Dreadful World! (Slaver Enterprize DDT-0002, with insert, 1975)
Rock/Psychedelic
Rosy (lead vocals, piano)
State Express’s biggest influence was clearly early seventies Grateful Dead, and their sole album offers the same kind of good-natured, rootsy guitar rock. The best cuts are the longer and more psychedelic ‘Cotton Doll’ and ‘Every August Afternoon’ and the worst by some margin is the underwhelming country/lounge opener ‘Please Don’t Worry’. As a result, the grade here is more an average than a summation, though aside from that opener the album is enjoyable throughout. As a footnote, this is one of the rarest Japanese albums, with just a couple of copies known. GRADE: C+.

Status Cymbal (USA): In The Morning (RCA LPM / LSP 3993, 1967)
Pop
Florence Warner
This band spent several years together, but only got to cut one album. It’s a relaxed and rather lovely harmony pop LP, given a contemporary feel by electric sitar on a couple of cuts, and decidedly above-average for the genre. However, collectors favouring heavier or more experimental sounds will find absolutely nothing to hold their interest here. GRADE: C+.

Stauz (USA): My Stars! (Stauf Enterprises 5432, 1981)
Rock
Laura Nissinen (occasional vocals)
This is an enjoyable biker rock effort, with catchy melodies (often borrowed from other songs) and a loose, amateurish vibe; the crude cover adds to the ‘real people’ feel of the affair. To me, the heavy rock tracks (notably ‘No More Lies’ and ‘Biker’s Lament’) are clearly superior, but this is enjoyable all through. In many regards, the vibe could be compared to a much more stripped-down and less musically proficient Jade Stone & Luv. GRADE: C+.

Staverton Bridge (UK): Staverton Bridge (Saydisc SDL 266, 1976)
Folk
Tish Stubbs
Sometimes resembling the Tickawinda LP, this excellent album is chiefly notable for its unusual arrangements – several tracks are acapella, others make heavy use of percussion, and (almost uniquely for a folk set) there is no guitar whatsoever. GRADE: C+.
See also Tish Stubbs & Sam Richards