Saturday, May 4
Along with Eddie Van Halen, Kiss' Ace Frehley inspired numerous up-and-coming rockers to pick up the guitar in the 1970s, and by the next century he was listed by just about every contemporary rock guitarist as an important influence. Operating under the glossy, platform boot-bolstered persona Spaceman (sometimes Space Ace), Frehley played with Kiss from the group's inception in 1973 to 1982, when he embarked on a successful solo career. He rejoined the group in 1998 for their international reunion tour, and stayed with them through 2002, eventually returning to his solo work in 2009 with the release of Anomaly. Having beaten his addiction to drugs and alcohol in the interim, Frehley enjoyed a creative surge in the 2010s, issuing a string of well-received albums like Space Invader (2014) and Spaceman (2018), and releasing a popular 2011 autobiography, No Regrets: A Rock 'N' Roll Memoir.
Formed in Washington, D.C., Angel are perhaps more widely recalled for their outrageous image and stage shows than for their musical prowess. Their self-titled 1975 debut, recorded for the flamboyant Casablanca Records label with a lineup comprising Frank DiMino (vocals), Edwin Lionel "Punky" Meadows (guitar, ex-BUX), Gregg Giuffria (keyboards), Mickie Jones (bass, ex-BUX), and Barry Brandt (drums), was an excellent slab of heavy pomp-rock, with lengthy songs swathed in Giuffria's atmospheric keyboards and featuring the longtime stage favorite, "Tower." Helluva Band continued in a similar vein, although the longest track, "The Fortune," was exceptional, and thus tended to obscure the rest of the material. The band's famous white satin stage clothing made its debut on the album sleeve. On Earth as It Is in Heaven saw a distinct change in musical direction, as the band adopted a pop/rock sound, and introduced a clever logo that read identically when upside down. Brandt and DiMino re-formed Angel in the late '90s to record 'In the Beginning', with the help of guitarist and songwriter Richard Marcello. They staged an Angel reunion of sorts by persuading former colleagues Robinson and Meadows to play on the track "Set Me Free."
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, and the same management as Kiss. 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. 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.