Angel Air 2018
Late warbler’s entire output for English label that failed to elevate him back to higher ground.
By 1983, when Edwin Starr relocated to Albion, his hits had dried up, yet there still was too much honey in the veteran’s voice to stop – and he tried, again and again. The American’s association with Hippodrome Records didn’t even result in a longplay, but it brought about a handful of ’45s that are collected on a single disc now as a snapshot of his creative state at the dullest of times.
Presumably mastered from vinyl singles, these numbers lack bottom end, an essential characteristic for dancefloor-bound tracks, which – together with cheap arrangements, so typical for their period – takes a lot of edge from Edwin’s vocals and makes most of the pieces paradoxically soulless and, thus, pointless. Such an approach jars on socially charged “Missiles” – especially the B-side version of the song, one loaded with sharp guitar licks – that picked up where Starr’s Motown classic “War” had left off, and on “It Ain’t Fair” whose blissful disco might sound celestial, wrapping his still powerful voice in an sympathetic choir, yet when synthesizers move to the fore it’s getting worse.
Drum-machine beats and almost 8-bit electronic effects smother the funky fire of “Red Hot” and a flat return to “Eye To Eye Contact” from the previous decade. But if Edwin’s epically long rendition of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” is best to avoid, the 12″ mix of it not even featuring Edwin, and “Land Of 1000 Dances” has lost its impetus, it would be impossible to stop Starr’s sweet roar on “I Need Your Love” and the collection’s title track which sees him namecheck fallen heroes: Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, and Jackie Wilson. More of songs like these, and the veteran could have had hits again; instead, he hit the road and played on for 20 more years before passing away in 2003 and keeping the ’80s singles in a curio status.