Hollins and Starr
Band members Related acts
line-up 1 (1971)
- Chuck Hollins -- vocals, guitar, keyboards
- Dave Starr -- vocals, flute, recorder
- Bobby Christian -- percussion
- Pat Ferrara -- guitar
- Ross Salomoni -- drums
- Ron Steele -- guitar
- Bob Surga -- bass
- John Titak -- sound effects
- none known
Rating: *** (3 stars)
Title: Sidewalks Talking
Country/State: Chicago, Illinois
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Comments: minor ring wear; promo sticker on back cover
Catalog ID: 4930
These guys are kind of a mystery. Ovation Records' promotional adds provided the following blurb on the pair:
"David Starr learned piano when he was three, began composing when he was four. At twenty-one he was playing flute with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Chuck Hollins picked up a guitar one day and just started playing.... by the time he left Northwestern with his creative writing degree he was turning his poetry into music.'"
Now you know as much about them as I do.
First let me warn you that Chuck Hollins and Dave Starr are folkies at heart and much of 1970's Norm Christina produced "Sidewalks Talking" showcases those musical tendencies. I also have to admit that I'm surprised I like this album as much as I do. The first couple of times I played the LP Dave Starr's omni-present flute proved a major stumbling block to my ears, particularly those segments where he's give the spotlight to cut lose. Examples included the opener 'Talk To Myself,' the end of 'Hard Headed Women' and on the band's odd decision to cover Bach's 'Vivach.' Luckily I tend to play an album at least four times before making a decision as to whether its a keeper or not. By the fourth spin the flutes remained a source of irritation, but the album's other charms compensated for that particular distraction. With the pair splitting writing duties, acoustic material like 'Twin City Prayer', 'John Hurt' and 'Lovable' (the latter recalling something Nick Drake might have done) was pretty and quite listenable. Hollins and Starr were both gifted with pretty voices and on tracks such as the ballads 'Cry Baby Cry' and 'Feelin' Good' they turned in some truly gorgeous harmonies. That said, the collection's highlights came courtesy of their occasional discordant, psych and rock splashes - if you want to hear all three genres collide at once then check out the wild anti-draft/anti-war statement 'Hard Headed Woman.' It's like holding on to an aural roller coaster. Equally impressive were the surprising fuzz guitar propelled 'Home?' and ''. A real charmer that rewards repeated visits ... okay, okay you might want to skip 'Digress'.
Technical note - the album was also released in quad format (Ovation catalog number OV-1407).
In 2008 Jake Plummer's Fallout label released an unsanctioned CD pressing (Fallout catalog number FOCD2084) In 2011 Lion Records released an approved CD pressing (Lion catalog number LION 653). The CD included four bonus tracks:
- 'Feelin' Good' (single version) (Dave Starr, Chuck Hollins) - 2:53
- Lovable (single version) (Chuck Hollins, Dave Starr) - 3:18
- Hard Headed Woman (outtake) (Dave Starr, Chuck Hollins) - 9:10
- Sound Effects - 3:33
The following year Lion released the LP (without the bonus tracks) on vinyl (Lion catalog number LION LP-115).
Talking" track listing:
1.) Talking To Myself (Chuck Hollins) - 4:22 rating: *** stars
To my ears flute and rock and roll don't meld very well. So, that's a problem with the ethereal ballad 'Taking To Myself.' The fact Starr's flute seems to fill in every crack and cranny just makes it worse. Equally puzzling is Ross Salomoni drumming. He chugs along quite capably in the background, but he just sounds out of place surrounded by the rest of this fragile ballad. Enough of the flute ...
2.) Krishna Dov (instrumental) (David Starr) - 2:15 rating: ** stars
Geez, talk about a title that screams early-'70s ... The instrumental 'Krishna Dov' opened up as kind of a improvised jazzy piece, or maybe it was just the band warming up. Unless you were hopelessly stoned, I can't imagine circumstances where you would find this interesting.
3.) Cry Baby Cry (Doug Macomber - Chuck Hollins) - 3:17 rating: **** stars
Yeah, it's sappy and the lyrics aren't going to win them a Pulitzer. At the same time there's something soothing on this one. I can easily picture playing 'Cry Baby Cry' to lull a toddler to sleep. Interesting the vocal reminds me a bit of Smokey Robinson. One of the album highlights.
4.) Twin City Prayer (instrumental) (David Starr) - 1:36 rating: ** stars
Songs that open with wind chimes are always a source of concern. Add in more Dave Starr multi-tracked flute and this brief instrumental had kind of an oriental feel. Peaceful, but not particularly exciting.
5.) John Hurt (Chuck Hollins) - 2:12 rating: *** stars
Hollins' acoustic guitar and pastoral vocals were very pretty and calming. Fell that blood pressure drop. The ballad 'John Hurt' has always reminded me of a John Denver song. Well, if Denver loved flute like these guys do.
6.) Hard Headed Women (Dave Starr - Chuck Hollins) - 5:21 rating: **** stars
Sh*t what happened here? Just as I was getting accustomed to their pretty, acoustic ballads they went off the deep end with the blazing 'Hard Headed Women.' Opening up with Hollins' wicked piano figure, Ron Steele's fuzz guitar and some completely with discordant orchestration, this one sounded like razor blades being unleashed on a country-who-done-the-wrong. In spite of the title, this was clearly a statement aimed at the ongoing military draft. Musically it got even stranger about two minutes in when the song shifted into an extended percussion section spotlighting percussionist Bobby Christian and drummer Salomoni in some sort of battle of the drums. Next came the jazzy BS&T-styled horns. Totally unexpected and jarring - extra star for being so weird.
Opening up with some interesting synthesizers splashes and a full rock sound, 'Home?' was another atypical performance and all the better for it. The abrupt shifts to the softer sections weren't necessary, but the song picked back up with the rock melody each time. Great Bob Surga bass line and another album highlight.
2.) Vivach (2nd Movement from Unaccompanied Sonata A Minor) instrumental) (Johann.Sebastian Bach) - 2:07
Showcasing Starr's dexterity on the flute, if you love classical music then this one should appeal to you. If you don't like classical music, this should still appeal to you. Beautiful performance.
3.) Lovable (Chuck Hollins) - 3:50 rating: *** stars
Hollins' performance on the ballad 'Loveable' was best described as ethereal. Always wondered what instrument was responsible for the ghostly sounds in the background.
- 1971's 'Lovable' b/w 'Feelin' Good' (Ovation catalog number OV-1021)
4.) Digress (Chuck Hollins) - 2:50 rating: ** stars
A goofy spoken word track, 'Digress' initially sounded like a Cheech & Chong effort. I'm guessing it was meant as a joke at Starr's inability to get to the point of a story. Courtesy of John Titak the explosion and thunderstorm sound effects were kind of cool. Needless track.
5.) Staying High (Dave Starr - Chuck Hollins) - 2:23 rating: ** stars
Is there such a thing as soul-jazz? I know they were from Chicago, so that might explain the contrast between the smooth melody and the urban decay background noises - gunshots; ambulance sirens, more thunderstorms.
6.) Sidewalks Talking (Chuck Hollins) - 3:32 rating: *** stars
The title track had an urban soul flavor with some nice Bob Surga bass.
7.) Feelin' Good (Dave Starr - Chuck Hollins) - 2:10 rating: *** stars
The combination of Hollins' finger picking acoustic guitar,Salomoni 's steady drums and some uncredited trumpet gave 'Feelin' Good' a bouncy, up-beat feel. The children's' choir was kind of a cute touch.
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