Van McLain - vocals, guitar; Gary West - vocals, guitar, keyboards, kettle drums; Charles Waltz - violin, keyboards, vocals; Ron Verlin - bass, vocals; Steve Thomas - drums
Shooting Star, the melodic hard rock quintet which came out of Kansas City, Missouri in the late 1970s, had all the earmarks of what should have been a massive AOR act. They had good songs, exceptional musicianship, and a well-financed label deal with Virgin Records. And while Shooting Star did make some inroads on FM radio and had a strong regional following, they failed to have a major commercial breakthrough.
This recording, done as a simulcast on WEBN-FM in Cincinnati for distribution nationally on the King Biscuit Flower Hour radio series, features Shooting Star as the momentum from their early period was in full swing.
The show opens with the upbeat "Straight Ahead," and moves quickly into "Hang On For Your Life," which was a moderate hit when released as a single. The set list also features "Flesh and Blood," "Are You On My Side," "Hollywood," "Burning," and other tracks that appeared on the band's first two discs. They close the show with "Last Chance," which became a huge FM radio hit, and remains a staple on album-oriented formats. The band encores with "Reach Out (I'll Be There)," the 4 Tops/Motown classic, which is performed with considerably energy, but sounds out of place with the other songs.
Much of the material here blends accessible hard rock with more melodic vocal, keyboard, and violin segments. The band borrows heavily from mid-'70s period Kansas, who were an obvious influence, having originated from the same geographical area. The origins of the band date back to 1960, when Ron Verlin and Van McLain, both age five, moved into the same neighborhood and became fast friends. The friendship intensified when the pair witnessed the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. That experience caused both boys to beg their parents for guitar lessons.
By the time they were in junior high, they had moved to different neighborhoods and the relationship did not resume until both ended up in the same high school. They formed their first band, the Shooting Stars, a '50s tribute band modeled after Sha Na Na, who had risen to prominence after appearing in the film, Woodstock. The Shooting Stars eventually shortened its name to Shooting Star and began writing contemporary, original rock.
Although they were signed to Arista in 1976, the label ended up dropping them, but they did secure a management deal when the band played a date at New York's legendary punk club, CBGBs. After showcasing for a number of labels in the late 1970s, the band became the first American band signed to Virgin Records, which was eager to establish a strong U.S. presence. Ironically, the label paired the band with a U.K. producer, the late Gus Dudgeon, best known for having produced the first decade of Elton John albums and working with David Bowie during the Space Oddity-era.
After the initial blast of FM success in the late '70s and early'80s, the band failed to see any significant radio or chart hits, despite constantly touring with acts such as ZZ Top, Cheap Trick, Todd Rundgren, Jefferson Starship, and Journey. Shooting Star has broken up and regrouped with different members a number of times, and released a dozen albums since 1978.