Starlite Campbell Band – Live!
Supertone Records (Independent Label)
CD: 8 Songs, 59 Minutes
Styles: Contemporary Electric Blues Rock, Live Album
I am most definitely a night owl. 6 AM is when I get up in the morning – to go to the bathroom and then back to bed. Not only that, but sometimes I have a Czech language lesson at 1 AM my time (8 AM in Prague). I need more than caffeine to keep me up. How about music? If it’s blues, it fits the bill, especially when I work by “Starlite.” The newest Live! album from the Starlite Campbell Band, a fresh import from the UK, is just what I require for an eventful eve. It features seven original numbers and one cover: “A Whiter Shade of Pale” by Reid, Brooker, and Fisher. Several of the songs run over five minutes, for a total of nearly an hour. Will this grate on one’s nerves? Hardly! This is ensemble / jam blues at its finest, starring not only Suzy Starlite and Simon Campbell, but a trio of outstanding organists: Josh Phillips, Jonny Henderson and Christian Madden. Steve Gibson stars on drums. Together, they make magic in the nighttime.
The duo had been recording, playing and touring independently in bands for many years until they met in 2012, when Starlite asked Campbell, who was a British Blues Awards Nominee, to join her band as the guitar player. The love extended past each other’s playing, and the duo were wed in 2014 after a whirlwind romance, forming their new joint band, Starlite Campbell, in January 2016.
As prolific singer-songwriters, they started writing together immediately and built up a large collection of songs in a variety of styles, from Americana, folk music, electronic music, progressive rock to British blues. They fly in the face of disposable music – writing, recording and producing their work and then releasing on their independent label Supertone Records.
Let’s say you only have twenty minutes to spare instead of an hour. Which tracks are most electrifying? I’d pick the opener, “Brother,” with the jauntiest keyboard solo I’ve heard this year – a staccato telegraph-style rhythm of notes that’ll make your nerves tingle – and the ten-minute follow-up, “Cry Over You.” It’s intense without being intrusive, dramatic without being a downer. Heartbreak is one of the most popular blues themes. Here it gains a freshness tinged with rage as well as regret. If you’re in it for the full 59 minutes, “Take Time to Grow Old,” number three, features blink-and-you-miss it lyrics that land a gut punch: “Take time to grow old. There’s no need to fade away. ‘Don’t give up,’ they always say before you’re gone.” Vocally, Simon Campbell reminds me of Tom Petty, sounding like a sage on shred guitar. Suzy Starlite’s singing is warm and savory. Sustaining too, like the one friend that will stick by you, thick or thin. “Said So” is a shot of hard-rock espresso (or whiskey) with some Hendrix-style psychedelia in the middle. Lovers of torch-singer blues should try “Guilty,” a smoldering mid-tempo ballad where Starlite takes center stage. “A Whiter Shade of Pale” is a strong, smooth finish, the perfect ending to a near-flawless performance.
From beginning to end, this CD proves that a Live! concert can be as brilliant as any studio album. Even more so, for the skill on display is that of consummate blues professionals.