Stardrive


Band members                             Related acts

- Robert Mason -- synthesizers

 

  backing musicians (1973):

- Jaime Austria -- bass

- Michael Brecker (RIP) -- sax

- Bruce Ditmas -- percussion

- Stephen Gadd -- drums

- Harvey Sarch -- guitar

 

  backing musicians (1974):

- Jaime Austria -- bass

NEW - Howard Rego -- drums

- Harvey Sarch -- guitar

 

 

 

- Blood, Sweat and Tears (Robert Mason)

 

 

 

 


 

Genre: progressive

Rating: 2 stars **

Title:  Intergalactic Trot

Company: Elektra

Catalog: EKS-75058
Year:
 1973

Country/State: US

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 2

Catalog ID: 6013

Price: $15.00

 

C'mon, admit it, you're just as fascinated by those cheesy 1970s-era covers as I am ...  

 

I don't know a great deal about this guy.  I know he was briefly a member of Blood, Sweat and Tears (one of the non-David Clayton Thomas line ups).  That notariety was apparently enough to get him signed by Jack Holzman's Elektra label resulting in the release of 1973's Robert Zachary Jr. produced "Intergalactic Trot".  So here's what the album liner notes have to say:  "One of the little known facts about currently available synthesizers is that their keyboards are very limited and are capable of playing only one or two notes at a time.  Using a few pre-constructed parts plus a lot of custom-designed electronic gear and great ingenuity Robert Mason has built the world's first multi-voice synthesizer that can be played like a real keyboard instrument with full chords and tonal clusters.  All the music on this album was performed live on the Stardrive synthesizer, thus accounting for the unprecedented fullness and spontaneity of the electronic sound,.  Never before have man and machine come so close together with such intimate rapport.  This instrumental, the most advanced of its kind on spaceship Earth, is the medium be which an intense new level of high energy music has been realized."  

 

Hum, Mr. Mason seemed quite pleased with himself.  Okay, okay that was snarky and uncalled for.  Looking at the back cover of the album and seeing the Stardrive synthesizer, with all the buttons, levers, and switches you have to wonder how in the world Mason managed to play the darn thing.  Even funnier, today my kid's $100 toy keyboard probably has the same power and capabilities.  Time marches on ...  

 

So what's this one sound like?  Well, it was nowhere as bad as one might have expected.  Offering up a mixture of original compositions and popular covers, the material was clearly intended to showcase the Stardrive synthesizer's capabilities, though on a couple of tracks the supporting musicians actually stole the spotlight (check out guitarist Harvey Sarch's performance on 'Everything At Once').  The seven tracks certainly had a dated 1970s sound which was underscored by some of the jazz-rock fusion moves ('Stardrive') and the occasional Atari-styled bubbles, burps and chirps that pop out of the machine ('Strawberry Fields Forever').  Imagine Walter Carlos ditching his classical moves for jazz-rock and you'll know what to expect.

 

"Intergalatic Trot" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Rushes (instrumental)  (Robert Mason) - 4:10   rating: *** stars

The opener 'Rushes' was probably the standout track with a cool, up-tempo melody that would have slotted well into a film soundtrack.  Elektra actually released a single off the LP, though I've only seen promo copies::

 

- 1973's 'Rushes' (mono) b/w 'Rushes' (stereo) (Elektra catalog number EK 45857)

2.) Strawberry Field Forever (instrumental)   (John Lennon - Paul McCartney) - 4:00   rating: ** stars

It took awhile for Mason to find the melody, but once he got there, his cover of The Beatles 'Strawberry Fields Forever" was interesting as one of the cheesiest Beatles covers you've ever heard.  Yes, it reflected the technological limitations of the time, but imagine a gifted teenager pounding away on one of those cheap Casio keyboards and you'll get a feel for this one.    

3.) Stardrive (instrumental)  (Robert Mason) - 9:45   rating: ** stars

Clocking in at over nine minutes, 'Stardrive' found Mason and company diving headlong into jazz-rock fusion.  Yeah, I'm sure it was technically quite impressive, but to my ears it came off as unfocused and rather dull (and long).   

 

(side 2)
1.) Dr. Tandem (Takes a Ride) (instrumental)  (Robert Mason) - 2:45

After slogging through the previous number, the breezy 'Dr. Tandem (Takes a Ride)' was like a breath of fresh air.  Quite commercial and almost radio-friendly, same it was so short.  

2.) Want To Take You Higher (instrumental)   (Sylvester Stone) - 3:22

Manson's cover of Sly and the Family Stone's ' Want To Take You Higher' was interesting for it's weirdness factor.  It was funky, but in a strange, dorky fashion ...  yeah this was one you just had to hear for yourself.  

3.) Everything At Once (instrumental)  (Robert Mason) - 6:15   rating: ** stars

Kind of a mid-tempo ballad, 'Everything At Once' was one of the more conventional performances on the album.  Modestly entertaining, but not really a lot to keep you tapping along with it.       

4.) Intergalactic Trot (instrumental)  (Robert Mason) - 9:00   rating: ** stars

Sporting a recognizable melody, the first third of 'Intergalatic Trot' was actually half decent.  And then the song morphed into this totally weird almost atonal, Tangerine Dream-styled Krautrock mode complete with phasers and a wide array of sound effects.  But Mason wasn't done yet.  The next segment set a funky bass line against an extended Michael Brecker sax solo and the track closed with a return to the opening melody.  Shame it took so long to make it back to that original melody. 

 

 

Mildly entertaining as a timepiece ...

 

 

 

 

 


Genre: progressive

Rating: 2 stars **

Title:  Stardrive

Company: Columbia

Catalog: KC-33047)
Year:
 1974

Country/State: US

Grade (cover/record): VG+/ VG+

Comments: --

Available: --

Catalog ID: --

Price: --

 

I've never bothered to track a copy down, but there's a sophomore Stardive LP - 1974's cleverly titled "Stardrive" (Columbia catalog number KC-33047)

 

"Stardrive" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Funkascensions (instrumental)   (Robert Manson) - 5:50

2.) Ballad (I) (instrumental)    (Robert Manson) - 3:16

3.) Jupiter Jump (instrumental)   (Robert Manson) - 7"40

4.) Pulstar (instrumental)   (Robert Manson) - 5:48

 

(side 2)

1.) Ballad (II) (instrumental)    (Robert Manson) - 2:36

2.) Air Sauce (instrumental)   (Robert Manson) -  5:37

3.) Ballad (III) (instrumental)   (Robert Manson) - 3:11

4.) Journey (instrumental)   (Robert Manson) - 6:54

 

I also stumbled across this piece of biographical information:   "Manson moved to Boston, where he has performed with ImprovBoston and The City That Sleeps, a sketch comedy group he helped found. Robert has always written screenplays and is currently producing and directing his short script, 'Wiped.'"

 

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