“A highly creative art rock album with deeper themes and concepts? Yes please. What a clever little pair Suzy Starlite and Simon Campbell are. Pity there aren’t more like ‘em.” | Ross Muir - Fabrications HQ
As the title of Starlite & Campbell’s third album suggests, STARLITE.ONE is a space-age musical adventure of high concept (the world we live in, living every day to the utmost, shared humanity & shared experiences are all keystones).
Blues may have been the original foundation of the Portugese based British duo (heard to fine effect on award nominated debut Blueberry Pie), but it certainly isn’t the bulwark (rock, pop, folk and new wave all pepper the Starlite & Campbell experience); no one-dimensionality for lowest common denominator appeal for this ever-creative husband and wife team, where sound and instrumentation is as important as the songs.
Underlining the latter point are the recording processes that launched STARLITE.ONE out of the Supertone Studio in Samora Correia, Portugal – the album’s full-bodied and warm sound comes courtesy of a 48-channel CADAC analogue mixing console, along with a host of vintage outboard equipment and instrumentation.
(Nor can you fault the limited compression mastering from Jon Astley of Close to the Edge Mastering).
The results are a new wave meets art rock album where Simon Campbell has eschewed his six-string arsenal (although still present in cleverly treated forms, including a rare E1-M guitar) for a host of analogue synths and various other instrumentation.
Similarly Suzy Starlite, who has added a plethora of instrumentation to her considered bass lines.
(The pair are joined on the album by noted top-notch drummer, Hugo Danin; everything else is played by Starlite and Campbell).
Opening number and lead-off single 'Saving Me' is an ear-catching new wave number with a funky vibe and a nod to an 'Atomic' Blondie; additionally, holding Simon Campbell’s "Saving you! Saving me! Saving everyone!" tag line until the end is an impacting masterstroke on a song that lyrically condemns the darker underbelly of organised religion.
The dreamy and rhythmic synth-pop of 'The Voting Machine' (the title telling you the controversial story) features a clever and inspired blending of drum machine, Hugo Danin's groove and analogue synths, all of which provide the backdrop for Suzy Starlite's softer, yet lyrically forceful, lead vocal.
Dropping the tempo is 'Blow Them All To Pieces,' an analogue synth backed, acoustic ballad.
There’s something quite vulnerable about Simon Campbell’s softly-sung vocal, probably because the questioning lyricism, influenced by the invasion of Ukraine ("blow each other to pieces, is that what they’ll do?") plays counter-point to the charm of the music, acoustic chords sitting atop a blanket of synth textures before a lone fife flute flies in the face of crackling danger (in this highly creative case, a Xenon discharge tube).
'This Time (is Gonna Be the Last Time)' nods to new wave synth-pop of the late70s and early 80s, but with a contemporary twist (particularly in the short instrumental break and what is Simon Campbell’s only guitar solo on the album).
Campbell’s darker and deeper vocals also help to accentuate the song’s theme and title.
Hymnal love song 'Everything' (the first of two vignette pieces), features Suzy Starlite backed by what could be described as a church synth (in actuality a Sequential Prophet-5 keyboard); it also acts as a mid-album interlude between 'Programme A' and 'Programme B' of Starlite.One.
While not directly related, the lapping waves and darker synth textures of following number 'Shine the Light On Me' make for a perfect follow-on before developing into a dreamy, atmospheric number featuring Suzy Starlite and Simon Campbell in dual harmony.
The twist of such harmonising is revealed later in the track when it becomes clear the song is about a love affair between a man and machine, with Starlite playing the part of the AI on a captivating, if slightly disturbing, middle 8 ("I know everything that you know about, because I am you, and you are me").
Suzy Starlite's vocal on the highly personalised 'The Coat,' along with the delicate Prophet-5 chords and projected atmospheres, make you immediately think of (for the most poignant and saddest of reasons) the late, troubled but brilliant Sinead O’Connor.
Suzy Starlite’s beautifully phrased vocal (about the horrible and torturous disease that is Dementia – Starlite’s mother suffered from Alzheimer’s disease) only increases the poignancy of what is unquestionably her best and most heartfelt vocal performance to date.
The synth-vocal vignette 'Mother' then leads to closing number 'A Part of Me is Broken (Part 2).'
A near six-and-a-half minute cry for humanity, the song echoes some of the bluesier soundscapes of Starlite & Campbell’s previous work but goes much further in musical and lyrical exploration (Moody Blues meets stoner space-rock? Why not).
Flitting from dreamier passages to rock soundscapes (baritone guitar played through a valve Leslie 145, Prophet-5 chords and a pulsating drone bass all play significant roles), the song’s focal point becomes the concluding monologue from Suzy Starlite, which is philosophical, reflective and future-questioning.
A highly creative art rock album with deeper themes and concepts? Yes please.
What a clever little pair Suzy Starlite and Simon Campbell are. Pity there aren’t more like ‘em.
Ross Muir - Fabrications HQ