Everyone handles grief in their own way. When Joey O lost his younger Start Me Up bandmate Scott Starr last November, he decided to honor him with the kind of album they would have listened to growing up together, an album that was diverse yet cohesive, culling the best from rock’s last few decades. And for some reason, Joey O decided to make it an instrumental album as well, writing engaging hooks to serve as a foundation for impromptu soloing. He also decided to mourn in solitude and thus played every instrument as well as handling engineering, mastering and mixing duties.And what fantastic decisions those were. Some of rock’s greatest hits are instrumental numbers and the 11 tracks on Wish Upon A Starr fit quite comfortably among such classics as “Jessica”, “Walk Don’t Run” and “Pipeline.” For instance, the opening track, “Starr Power,” is a bluesy upbeat rocker that evokes memories of Stevie Ray Vaughan with scorching solo after solo. “S.M.U. Stomp” is a perfect summertime feel-good song that brings the 50s into today while “Turtle Bay” utilizes a ringing mandolin to underscore its breezy melody. At 3:48 the ballad “Wish Upon A Starr” is the longest track on the album (most scream by in under three minutes) but its gorgeously aching melody makes one wish it were longer, likewise for the chiming clean guitar tones of “Scotty” which form a warm and endearing memory in notes.
Not all the memories are mournful, though, as “See You Again” is a cheery, upbeat recollection of good times spent just hanging out, couched in a peppy melody that had me thinking of the perennial classic “Winter Wonderland.” Another stellar cut is “One in a Billion,” a heavier rock song that contrasts excellent guitar tones with passages of clean mandolin.
Wish Upon A Starr fits right in with the high quality one expects from Joey O, blending impressive technical chops with memorable pop-rock melodies. My condolences go out to Joey O on his loss, and I can’t help but imagine that Scott would be pleased by this impressive tribute.
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