The Hollywood Stars

Shine Like a Radio: The Great Lost 1974 Album

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It's said that Kim Fowley was trying to fashion a West Coast version of the New York Dolls when he assembled the Hollywood Stars, but thankfully he failed at that impossible task. Instead, Fowley came up with a killer power pop band whose sound -- lean but polished rock & roll with equal portions of guitar, hooks, attitude, wit, and energy -- was a pretty cool approximation of Cheap Trick, no small accomplishment since Cheap Trick didn't yet exist. Among pop obsessives, the Hollywood Stars are often cited as a cautionary tale, the great band that should have been huge but crashed and burned due to mismanagement and poor promotion, but while the sole album they released in their lifetime didn't quite capture what they could do, Shine Like a Radio: The Great Lost 1974 Album sounds like a gem, a more eccentric but equally pleasurable companion to the Raspberries, Badfinger, or Big Star, and with consistently tougher guitars than any of them. Taken from the Hollywood Stars' first stab at making an album in 1974, Shine Like a Radio is a bit more stripped down than the LP they released on Arista in 1977, and that works in their favor; while overdubbed harmonies and keys fill out the sound, for the most part this is straight-ahead guitars/bass/drums rock & roll, and the sweetness of the pop-infused melodies only reinforces the swaggering rock action of the tunes, served up with the bare minimum of seasoning. The lyrics often point to Kim Fowley's well-documented eccentricities (it's hard to imagine "Russia," "Supermen Are Always Gentlemen," or "Satisfied Electric Fingers" would have appeared in this form if he hasn't been on board), but "King of the Nighttime World" and "Escape" were strong enough to be recorded by Kiss and Alice Cooper, respectively, while these sessions sat on the shelf. Since the original masters appear to be lost, Shine Like a Radio was mastered from a quarter-inch listening copy, and there are a few noticeable sonic flaws on this release, but no one who digs classic '70s power pop is likely to mind -- this isn't quite a lost classic, but it's top-notch first-generation power pop and shows the legend of the Hollywood Stars wasn't just hype.

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