Starpoint: Restless/Sensational – Album Review

Starpoint – Restless/Sensational starpoint

SoulMusic

2CD/DL

Released 17th February 2017

Reissue of the Maryland Funk band’s most successful albums with the various 12″ mixes as bonus tracks…..LTW’s Ian Canty looks back at a time when big shoulder pads and big hair ruled the “Post Disco” dancefloor……

Though they are most associated with their mid-80s success in the US, Starpoint were actually formed more than 15 years prior to their big chart hit “Object Of My Desire”. Coming together when aspiring vocalist Kayode Adeyemo was introduced to the four brothers of the Phillips clan (by way of a parental link in the medical profession), they first formed way back in 1969 under the unpronounceable name of Licyndiana. Crucial additions were talented female vocalist Renee Diggs and keyboardist/arranger Marvin Ennis (who came up with the Starpoint name just before they signed their first recording contract), but even then it wasn’t until 1980 that they released their first record, a self-titled debut album on Neil Bogart’s Chocolate City Records.

Despite some success on the US R’n’B listings it wasn’t until a move to Elektra and “Restless”, their fifth LP and the first selection here, that they really made a breakthrough on the Billboard charts. It was the very catchy single and lead off track of the album “Object Of My Desire” that did the damage and it is not difficult to see why. Here they sound like a neat cross between Cameo and Change (who were both scoring chart-wise at the time), Hip Hop beats affixed to a solid Funk base and great female vocals, with a definite Prince influence in the wailing near Metal guitar break. It graced the US Top Thirty but unfortunately only put the merest dint on the UK Gallup 100. Still it’s a fine concoction and overall “Restless” is a strong Soul/Dance record of its vintage. The title track saw them get a little more US chart action, but “Don’t Take Your Love Away” (sturdy Dance Rock with a little 60s Rhythm and Blues in the background) and the uptown Synth-Funk of “Emotions” really take the plaudits as far as I’m concerned. In addition to Diggs fine work, Adeymo could also on occasion do a decent Prince/Rick James impression on vocals too (like on “What You Been Missin'”) which did add another dimension to Starpoint’s efforts.

Of the bonus tracks the “12 Inch Vocal Version” of “Object Of Your Desire” is a winner, extending things in a natural fashion thereby keeping the freshness of the original. There’s a neat attempt at Dub on the “Restless” remix and the other tracks add to the LP rather than detract from it, which is sometimes the case.

The sleeve photo of the follow up “Sensational” gives a clue to the direction of the album, with them looking a bit like Prince’s Revolution on a fag break. They obviously took some cues from the Purple one by moving their Electro-Funk into a ruder direction with “He Wants My Body” (actually cleverer than that looks written down, a bit of a smart send up-of sexists) and “DYBO” (Dance Your Butt Off) leading the charge. When this record was released in 1987 it was as good an example of exactly where Funk was at the time as any, both stylistically and aurally: big hair, shoulder pads that could have come direct from the NFL, spandex/coloured leather threads, clubbing synth-drums, fluttering rhythms with risqué lyrics. Apart from the fairly standard ballad “The More We Love” it’s all pretty sparky, but it was no real surprise that it didn’t repeat the success of “Restless” as I think the former had the edge and while Starpoint weren’t in decline they seemed to be running on the spot a little. Of the bonus tracks on this disc, the remake of “Touch Of Your Love” is very nicely done.

The band kept on going but around the time of the band’s greatest success Renee Diggins was diagnosed with MS. Showing incredible strength she kept on performing and giving it her all on stage until the band split in 1990. Renee and her long-time companion and bandmate Ernesto Phillips died within a year of each other in 2004/05, bringing to a sad end the story of Starpoint.

Starpoint were a perfectly good Funk/R’n’B group who didn’t make an impact in the UK in addition to their American success. Perhaps it was because of the surfeit of similar bands that were plying their trade around this time, or that they didn’t quite have enough individuality to mark them out for attention? Maybe it was just luck? However, “Object Of My Desire” wouldn’t have looked out of place at all on “Top Of The Pops” and in the charts over here, so it appears the fickle hand of fate was at play. At least they a long period of success in their home country which suggests they weren’t actually doing that much wrong.

Though obviously a long way away from the hard Funk roots of Parliament/Funkadelic axis, Starpoint are still good enough to enliven any 80s Disco that cares to look beyond the staid, tried and trusted. What we have here is two good albums with plenty of dancefloor fillers that will appeal to any fans of Soul/Funk and Pop from that much maligned decade. If I am feeling exceptionally harsh, perhaps bar “Object” they didn’t quite have anything catchy enough to break internationally, though there’s a surfeit of good stuff over these two discs. This new collection of their best two albums shows their strengths with some dynamic sounds amid the more standard “New Jack Swing”, some wry old lyrics in there and some of it is ruddy catchy to boot!

The official Starpoint Facebook page is here

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All words by Ian Canty – see his author profile here

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