Listening to Searching for a Thrill, a label debut from the latest incarnation of Georgia’s Starbuck, I’m struck by how closely its assets, shortcomings, and musical styles parallel those of its two predecessors. I’m almost tempted to dig up one of my earlier Starbuck reviews, change a few words and save myself some work. But that would be a little too much like what the band itself has done.
Besides sounding quite similar to past Starbuck LPs, at any rate, Searching for a Thrill proves just as inconsistent. Like a large portion of what you find in bargain bins, it contains a few minor gems and a preponderance of filler.
Still, if you enjoy such previous Starbuck hits as “Moonlight Feels Right” as much as I do, you might find it worthwhile to buy this record for its high points. Songs like “The Coldest Night of the Year” and “Go Wild” may indicate little artistic growth, but these atmospheric, seductive ballads, which offer distinctive phrasing and lilting melodies, charmingly achieve their modest goals.
To hear the aforementioned cuts without suffering excessively, however, you may have to do a lot of needle-jumping. “Y’all Come Here and Rock and Roll,” which indicates that writer Jimmy Cobb ought to stick to his bass, proves even more prosaic and longwinded than its title. The equally cliched “Take My Hand,” by new member John Fristoe, sounds like a bad outtake from Traffic’s first LP. And the title cut, which United Artists terms “a witty look at today’s new wave rockers,” actually melds mundane music to some of the most witless lyrics I’ve heard this year.
A best-of-Starbucks package, which would theoretically be cleansed of such garbage, would find its way onto my turntable on a regular basis. But I’m afraid that only a few cuts save my copy of the present LP from a much more permanent resting place.
80% the reason why this LP is a significant downgrade from their first two (make that, 90% the reason), is plain-and-simply obviously because…the ABSENCE of BO WAGNER!! Starbuck IS NOT Starbuck without BOTH its founder Bruce Blackman, and the very MAN who single-handedly helped re-surface mallet players abroad! Starbuck never gets on the map without that Legendary MARIMBA-SOLO (UNREHEARSED, UNPLANNED-OUT and done on just ONE TAKE, mind you) from that breezy Bicentennial Summer Top-5 hit!
That said, this LP does have its moments. Just like Bob Griese and Troy Aikman could have put up insane passing numbers and stats like Dan Marino and Peyton Manning if they really wanted to, the Little Feat-esque “Y’all Come Here and Rock and Roll” is solid proof that if Bruce and the boys REALLY wanted to rock and roll southern-fried, they could have easily delivered and been at least peers with Atlanta Rhythm Section, Marshall Tucker Band, Molly Hatchet, .38 Special, etc in the late-’70s instead of the other route they chose.
I agree that the title track is quite Toto-like; a bit Pablo Cruise as well. Same can be said for the final track that allows noticeable guitar as well (in either event, shouldn’t Bruce be singing ALL lead-vocals?). I also agree that “Coldest Night” is a positive – soothing as the opening track that comes before it, and also needed of mention is the easy-breezy hypnotically romantic “Nothing to It” with its pulsating note that plays after each verse sung and spacey choruses. Perhaps “too” good an example of a typical late-’70s summer night ballad.
Yes, “Take My Hand” (again with Bruce should be singing all leads) and “Screw You” not real bright spots. But in either event, the KEY problem here with this album is … NO BO!!