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CD Review ...

Star Tracks
Compilation

MP3 Samples

CD Review
by J Charles

The Star Tracks compilation CD marks a huge step for local music. Conceived by Indianapolis Star columnist David Lindquist, this CD is a collection of central Indiana's 'best recordings' put together and distributed by Indianapolis' premier newspaper. Star Tracks is particularly relevant because it stands to help break a largely unknown local music scene to the city and state's general populous, and also shows that mainstream media is beginning to catch onto some of the great music being made around our state.

Upon my first listen of the CD, I found myself a little disappointed with the CD's content. It seemed like a few local acts that should have had a place on the disc were left out, and some of the tracks on the CD were somewhat sub par. I think these shortcomings can be attributed to the fact that this CD isn't aimed at the local rock hipsters, but the much more diverse readership of the Indianapolis Star, as well as the idea that the CD is billed as 'central Indiana's best recordings'. The latter raises the very important fact that the fast majority of local artists, great and not so great, don't have a professionally passable recording. I hope productions such as this will serve as a reality check and encourage artists to actually spend some time and money on the material they release.

Star Tracks starts off with 'Mix Tape' by Johnny Socko, one of the states longest running acts. I'm a fan of Socko's earlier work, but I've yet to hear any of their newer offerings including the recently released self titled disc from which 'Mix Tape' appears. To put it bluntly, I thought this track was one big cheese ball. I'm not sure what exactly has happened to the band since they were writing brilliant comedic pieces like 'Bitch Stole My Hat' and 'If I Didn't Have a Goiter', but 'Mix Tape' just wasn't doing it for me. The song is more power ballad with rapped bridges than the ska flavored rock of the band's past. The recording was definitely pro and sounded nice, albeit a little boring, which was only furthered by the songs repetitive nature. I don't think there is any doubt Johnny Socko deserves a place on this disc, but I sure hope they have some better songs in their bag of tricks.


Johnny Socko Performing at the "Star Tracks" Release Show

'Bullseye', Star Tracks' offering from Brit Pop kingpins Pop Lolita is one of my two favorites on the CD. This song sounds great and leaves me wondering where it was recorded. Hands down the best recording of a British sounding band I've heard from this state. Giving me some major Swervedriver vibes, this song flies by, and before I knew it I was hitting the back button on my stereo to listen to it again.

Indianapolis' favorite gravel voiced songsmith, Otis Gibbs can be found on track 3 with 'Bernadine', one of his many songs about women whose names end in 'ine'. Otis' songs are simple and elegant at the same time, and this one is no different. 'Bernadine' is the story of longingly watching a past love from a distance. The song has great character lent by Otis' distinctive voice and smooth guitar work. The recording sounded nice, but the vocals may be a little 'up front' for anyone listening at a significant volume.


The Otis Gibbs Band performing at the 'Star Tracks' release show.

I'm perplexed by 'Centralia', the track by Early Day Miners. It is exceedingly slow and minimalist.. So much so that I would be inclined to doubt this style is representative of the rest of their music. The tune has a backbeat, but played only by the snare drum, with the remains of the aural landscape filled with lush guitars and hushed vocals.

Track 5, 'I Heard an Owl', an acoustic piece with hints of country, folk, and a bit of gospel, by Carrie Newcomer is a good follow up for the Early Day Miners song. Carrie is another great Indiana artist with a long running career. This is a great sounding song with strong vocals and some tasty 'fiddle' licks.

The Fuglee's definitely bring the rock to this CD. Their contribution, 'Last Time' is upbeat with a sing along chorus. It's a great song and a good recording. I just can't shake the fact that the verse riff sounds a lot like 'Ballroom Blitz'. The Fuglee's must be Sweet fans.


The Fuglees (pic by Moxy)

Eeqwa is an act that I had not heard of before receiving this CD. 'Jack' is a xylophone laced song with breathe-y layered female vocals and vibrato guitar. From the first chorus the song has great momentum while maintaining a mellow vibe that makes me think Eeqwa would be an excellent opening act for a band like The Pieces.

Another of my favorites, 'Train Lights' by Citizens Band found a place on the Star Tracks album. Whether you call this style of music country-fried rock, y'alternative or roots rock, the fact of the matter is that Citizens Band is the best of the genre here in Indiana. You know you like the twang.

I have to admit, I really don't know what to think of the 2 minute, 49 second 'They Don't Like Me in This Town' by John Wilkes Booze. Their self professed 'Hoosier R&B' to me sounds like The Dead Milkmen meets The Greenhornes with a bunch of weird saxophone noises flying around. I just don't understand the relevance of this track other than the fact that it was recorded by Paul Mahern.

Middletown takes things back down a notch with their track 'This Time'. The song has a brooding, hand percussion based rhythm, soulful female vocals, and some slick guitar work. It's a little boring for me, the typical rock n roll reviewer, but it does sound good.


Middletown (pic by Kristen Leep)

I'm torn on this CD. It's a brilliant idea, but a disc with this track listing is just going to sit on my shelf. None the less, I suggest that everyone go out and buy a copy. Proceeds from the CD's sales go to the "Season For Sharing" charity, and I'm sure a lot of these will need to be sold to ensure that the star will do one next year. I don't think this is an album that most people will have in their CD player for a long period of time, but I don't think that's the point. It's a great way to turn people on to new music, and genre's they might not have otherwise heard. If nothing else. Grab the CD, check it out, and pass it along to other members of your family. It's all about spreading the word.

-- J. Charles

The compilation, a fund-raiser for The Indianapolis Star charity "Season for Sharing," is on sale at the Indianapolis Star's public service counter, 307 N. Pennsylvania St., and Luna Music, 1521 W. 86th St. and 433 Massachusetts Ave.

All money donated to "Season for Sharing" goes directly to local agencies that assist the hungry, homeless, elderly and children.

Links...
> Star Tracks Show Review
> Indianapolis Star Tracks

> IndyStar Top 10 Artists




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