Ruby Starr

Scene Stealer

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    9
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AllMusic Review by

The late Ruby Starr, born Constance Mierzwiak, was a "de facto" member of Black Oak Arkansas and sang on their Top 25 hit "Jim Dandy" in 1974. This is an excellent collection of songs, many written by keyboard player Marius Penczner, displaying Starr's vocal range and dominating personality. Far more commercial than Black Oak Arkansas, that band and their lead singer, Jim "Dandy" Mangrum, appear on "Fistful of Love" -- a fun and disciplined performance. You can't really call her version of "Be My Baby" reggae, but you can say it is one of the more interesting takes on the song, with Andrew Love of the Memphis Horns slipping in a wonderful sax at the end of it. "Drift Away," a Penczner original, has the band emulating early Deep Purple, especially the songwriter's keyboard riffs. "Mass Transit" is an interesting instrumental, but what is it doing on an all-too-short album by a vocalist? There are six words in the song, which Starr cameos several times; it's funky stuff that adds to the intrigue, but more activity from the star of the show would have been preferred. "Mass Transit" is one of the best sounding tracks on the record, the band no doubt showing off, but this lady can sing and should've been given an equal chance to vamp. "Maybe I'm Amazed" is a wonderful opening for this album, with Starr -- Ruby, not Ringo -- possessing that Kim Carnes/Bonnie Tyler rasp, giving the woman's point of view. She gives the McCartney classic a gospel feel without the help of a choir or additional vocalists. Impressive. Penczner proves to be a formidable writer; "Morning Glory" is a solid pop tune, and a nice break before the heavy "That's It," the only tune on the disc co-written by Starr. She works well with Penczner, and her overpowering voice makes it feel like she's co-written the rest of his originals. "I'll Meet You Halfway" changing moods again, giving the band a chance to be dramatic, and letting Starr soar. "Love On Ice" brings the album back to heavy pop with more of that Deep Purple keyboard sound, only a little more up-tempo. Scene Stealer is a complete and varied recording by an artist who should have made a bigger impact on rock & roll.

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