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Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Stardust - 'Highway To Heartbreak' Album Review

 

Stardust – Highway to Heartbreak



Lockdown has been a bitch eh? For me cancelled gigs and no Solid Rock in Glasgow has been the hardest part of the “new normal”. Let’s be serious it is not the new normal, it’s a temporary state. Anyway music for me has been a lifeline but despite that I’ve wallowed in nostalgia and not reviewed anything new for months. I couldn’t be ar*ed and when I gave myself a massive kick up the butt I was too late for the new Perfect Plan album, I was a bit in despair and then Frontiers via Gary Levermore sent another chance. Well let’s just say the wait for me personally was worth it and I was intrigued by the first album by a Hungarian band called Stardust.

As an enthusiastic amateur I review bands by just listening to the tracks, will read the Frontiers blurb but do nothing else than just listen rather than a forensic search which will undoubtedly influence my listening.

Well thank you Gary (and Paul Chesworth for nagging me to actually write something). Stardust is the AOR/Melodic album of the year, name a year it will be still be up there. A stunningly wonderful piece of music.

The Frontiers promo said “hooky choruses, beautiful keyboards and vocal harmonies”. Hooky to me reminds me of Only Fools and Horses as meaning “dodgy, not quite legal”. Well I would describe the choruses as being sublime, pristine and more catchy than a disease off a hooker. I played the album the first time working from home to drown out my wife doing her contact centre job. Headphones in, sound turned up and BANG. What the actual fu*k was I hearing? I was blown away and after 3 or 4 songs thought that this has to bottom out but no, it just kept coming and I repeated it numerous times. My wife took the huff, “Would you rather spend your lunchbreak listening to that stuff rather than talk to me?” – Er yes.

So don’t feel the need to read my clumsy attempts to describe each track, just buy the bloody thing, you will not be disappointed.

I’m left with a few questions and thoughts:
- Since when did Hungary name kids: Adam Stewart, Ben Martin, Dave Legrand, Facey and Tim Keeley?
- After finally tracking the band on Google how are they not better known?
- Also I now understand how good the sound is, they’re basically classically trained musicians. Every one of the band contributes to make this album a classic.
- I also now get the Toto vibe.
- Ben Martin the bass player’s first album was ACDC – Black Ice, I have underpants older than that album.
- Oh and my wife saw the promo pics and now thinks she might want to visit Hungary.

Anyway my thoughts on the tracks are as follows:
Runaway – A dramatic intro of atmospheric haunting sci-fi effects launches into classic melodic rock vocals over a heavier than expected bass and guitar although the keyboards are used to great effect to layer the song nicely. And we’re off, a touch of multiple melodic sounds and it’s better than decent.


Heartbreaker – Yes, that ‘Heartbreaker’ by Pat Benatar. Its got nice drum intro, menacing “Heartbreaker” chant and again a heavy guitar and bass line with the drum intro setting the tone, with drum driven vibe. “Heartbreaker, Dream maker, love maker, don’t you mess around with me”.

Bullet To My Heart – wow by now I’m getting seriously into this band, the screaming guitar note reminiscent of a Van Halen guitar scream before the song slams into some AOR layered sounds, the vocals wouldn’t be out of place on a Journey track and the chorus is as catchy as f..k. The vocals of Adam Stewart sit nicely and rule the roost.

Perfect Obsession – Acoustic sounding guitar with a wonderful jangle to the riff and smoky vocal that would sit comfortably on any melodic masterpiece, I’m racking my head to link it to other bands, it certainly has the 80’s US AOR vibe and I’m loathe to mention the likes of Toto, Age of Reflection, Poison, Warrant etc but I will.

2nd Hand Love – a lovely gentle guitar solo beginning and then we’re away again. I still think of Don Henley and Bryan Adams feel especially the lead into the chorus. The lyrics are cleverly written not clichés. Another guitar solo that compliments the song and doesn’t take over.


Shout It Out – rockier but with a classic chorus as if a title like Shout It Out could have anything else, catchy with the backing vocals pure class. It did remind somewhat of Myke Gray and his track Shout which is no bad thing in my book. It will be a classic played live.



Can’t Stop Loving You – a solid ballad with Stewart’s vocals just perfect. The harmonies again, are spot on.

Eye To Eye – let’s rock. A full on blast of rock, keyboard and guitar solo and a real quirky vibe.

Hey Mother – Styx/Toto feel with the real melodic feel of the guitars in the background. Top guitar solo and to me it reminded me of Work of Art as the keyboards are superb. “Hey Mother can you rescue me”, well sorry Mum, that ship has sailed. It as if Lars Safsund, Tommy Shaw and Steve Lukather had a ménage a trots and the resulting baby would be this!

Blue Jeans Eyes (Bonus Track) – I always wonder what a bonus track is. To me it fits in nicely, “time after time” as a lyric reminds me of Cyndi Lauper but that’s where the comparison ends. The guitar sound is punchy and the chorus is nearly as good as the wonderful guitar solo. Blue Jeans Eyes is a great description to use

The River Is Rollin’ – As there is no “G” on Rollin you know this gonna have a real Americana vibe, it doesn’t disappoint. A great end to what is a wonderful piece of AOR/melodic rock. If you close your eyes you are back to Boys Of Summer and the lyric of a young girl growing up with the attention of jerks in leather jackets who just want to jump her bones but she’s independent and is uninterested is wonderful.

Stunning stuff and cap doffed.

10/10 – it’s a classic.

Review by Lawrie

Track list:
Runaway
Heartbreaker
Bullet To My Heart
Perfect Obsession
2nd Hand Love
Shout It Out
Can’t Stop Loving You
Eye To Eye
Hey Mother
Blue Jeans Eyes (Bonus Track)
The River Is Rollin’

Line-up:
Adam Stewart - Vocals, rhythm guitars
Ben Martin - Bass
Dave Legrand - Keyboards
Facey - Guitars
Tim Keeley - Drums


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