Stars of Heaven

Sacred Heart Hotel

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Following their very well-received debut single, Clothes of Pride, the Stars of Heaven signed to cult label Rough Trade. The first album, Sacred Heart Hotel, contains the first John Peel BBC Radio 1 session, consisting of all beautifully produced, classic Stars of Heaven tunes. Unfortunately, this session has three "recorded-in-a-wardrobe" songs on the flipside. Musical influences range from their native Irish folk to American country & western at its most basic. Stephen Ryan's tender vocals work best in the album's quieter moments -- of which there are plenty. The use of extensive guitar harmonics gives the album an almost spiritual feel that the Stars of Heaven never quite recaptured on future releases. At least three or four songs would rank highly when compared with contemporaries and followers (e.g., "So You Know" and "Moonstruck"). The stand-out track, however, must be the almost hymn-like campfire song "Talk About It Now." Lyrically, the album is well-crafted, with the two pillars of country music -- love and alcohol -- making many appearances. And who could better a song entitled "You Only Say What Anyone Could Say"?

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