Tom King / The Starfires

Roots of the Outsiders

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A not-bad 14-track assembly of the Cleveland-based group's better sides, unfortunately made from less-than-ideal sources but nicely cleaned up. The ballads veer a little toward the sappy side of Ricky Nelson material of the same era, but the instrumentals are fairly hot, with a pleasing "dirty" sound, similar to Paul Revere & the Raiders' early material, with occasional elements of Duane Eddy-style guitar flash from lead guitarist Walter Nims. The Starfires were one of the top bar bands in Cleveland at the time, only lacking for a stronger, more charismatic lead singer and some better original material -- when they got both, in the guise of Sonny Geraci's pipes and "Time Won't Let Me," they easily made the leap to a national audience as the Outsiders, but there's nothing embarrassing about these early efforts by Tom King and some of the same musicians. None of it is essential, except maybe to Outsiders or James Gang fans (their future founder is playing drums in places here, and this music was Jimmy Fox's introduction to rock & roll), but it's all fun and worth hearing even 40 years later. There are no recording dates, alas, and no precise credits about which members played on which sides.

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