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They had it all -- songs that managed to be both rocking yet melodic (think a merger of Cheap Trick, Aerosmith, and Kiss), a hunk of a frontman, a pyro-heavy stage show the featured lots of shooting sparks, the same management as Kiss -- but for whatever reason, Starz just didn't hit the big time. The group's roots can be traced back to the early-'70s pop band Looking Glass, which scored a number one hit single, "Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)" in 1972. And it was Looking Glass' rhythm section that would be transplanted to Starz -- bassist Peter Sweval and drummer Jeff Grob (who went under the colorful name Joe. X. Dube upon becoming a member of Starz) -- who were joined by guitarists Richie Ranno and Brendan Harkin, as well as singer Michael Lee Smith (brother of '70s teen heartthrob Rex Smith). Signed to Capitol Records, the label issued the self-titled debut from Starz in 1976, followed by Violation in 1977, Attention Shoppers! in 1978, and Coliseum Rock in 1979. Along the way, the group issued their share of arena-worthy anthems ("Detroit Girls," "Violation"), had some close calls with songs that should have been hit singles ( "Cherry Baby," "Sing It, Shout It"), opened for the era's biggest bands (Bob Seger, Ted Nugent, Rush), and Ranno even guested on Gene Simmons' 1978 solo album. But Starz just didn't translate to the masses, and by 1980, they were kaput. In the wake of their split, the group retained a sizable cult following, as quite a few hair metal acts later in the decade were quite vocal about their Starz fandom (Poison, Cinderella, Bon Jovi). A steady stream of releases from the vault appeared -- especially after the launch of the official Starz website -- including a live set recorded in 1978 that has been reissued several times over the years, Live in Louisville, which offers proof that Starz could easily stand alongside the era's big boys of rock (despite including some of the most ridiculous stage raps you'll ever hear on a live recording). The early 21st century saw all of the group's studio albums remastered and reissued via Rykodisc, which resulted in Starz reuniting for live shows -- something they've sporadically done ever since.
© Greg Prato /TiVo
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