Album Review - Adrienne Osborn & S.T.A.R. - “The Phoenix, The Flame”

Tutelage Led By Vinny "Bond" Marini Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What do you call a band with a shared belief that “we can all access a multitude of other frequencies than the five senses allow,” one that has a mission to “encourage people to live truthfully and courageously?” A band that calls their fans SuperSTARS and encourages them to send in short inspirational stories by sending verses and will then cut additional versions of the song with those submissions?

In this case, you call them Adrienne Osborn &
S.T.A.R (which stands for Spontaneous Thin Air Radio), and they succeed in their stated purpose, “to engage and move you on multiple frequencies.”

Hailing from Boulder, Colorado and comprised of Adrienne Osborn on vocals, long-time collaborator Alec Sims on guitar and a rhythm section of Kyle Comerford on drums and percussion and Otis Landis on bass, they present their album The Phoenix, The Flame chock full of funk, rock and some Latin flavors that will draw listeners back again and again.

The album opens with a funky guitar lick added to by the rhythm section and then Ms. Osborn’s smooth vocals join the mix. Lyrically the song is an exploration of that person you think you know, but do you really? “You’re a jigsaw puzzle, baby, picture incomplete/Jigsaw puzzle, you’re missing a piece/You’re a jigsaw puzzle, is there something I don’t see?/You’re a jigsaw puzzle, baby – You want a piece of me?”

This song is only an introduction to the many flavors offered up by S.T.A.R. throughout the album. Alec Sims spent 15 years on the road honing his skills before hooking up with Ms. Osborn and he is talented in whatever style of guitar he plays. Whether it is a funky lick or a rocking solo, he hits the mark each time.

“Faster Disaster” is more of a straight ahead rock and roll song with Lande and Comerford laying down a solid bed for Sims to style and Osborn takes the reigns solid. Her vocals range from ballsy rock chick to sultry songstress, making you lean in closer and then blasting you back when she hits the chorus. Andrew Vogt’s saxophone solo is a perfect accompaniment to the overall song structure reminiscent of the Big Man playing with Bruce.

“Spark” brings the band back to the funky sound they do best. Powered by a strutting bass line and a staccato guitar line Osborn is given range to let the lyrics flow. She has a voice that will evoke thoughts of Joss Stone and Natalie Merchant and the later is certainly evident on “25 Years Gone.” The song is very 10,000 Maniacs in its structure and sound, though S.T.A.R. adds their own distinct feel.

With “Amnesia” the band lets the Latin out with a smooth salsa rhythm. Congas in the background add more of the Latin flavor. As with all the songs on the album, the lyrics tell a tale, but not in the most obvious way: “black and white and alone too long/I need some color, i need to belong/so i find a home in this sea of souls/all shedding lives, playing roles.” Sims takes the opportunity to lay out a Santana-esque guitar solo here and he hits the bull’s-eye, layering one run over another.

It is in songs like “The Chase” and “Star Shine” when the full musical power of S.T.A.R. hits its stride. The former is a jazzy number with the band empowered by the poetic reading of the lyrics by Osborn. In between verses they spin off into solo laden jams but it always comes back to Osborn tugging you into her world with her smooth delivery. The latter is the song mentioned in the opening. Each line or two is about actual people the band has encountered over their journey, and they are giving their SuperSTARS the opportunity to rewrite the lyrics with their own stories. Layered guitars give this one more depth. Again, Ms. Osborn’s delivery will evoke thoughts of Ms. Merchant.

The closing song on the album is “One” and it is the most different of all the songs on the album. It opens with Ms. Osborn over the minimal piano of Carmin Sandim and they are eventually joined by the rest of the band, but this is all Adrienne Osborn. She sings softly but with purpose, and as the song builds she shows her full vocal power. She is not going to blow Ella or Janis out of your brain, but she might just earn a place alongside them.

Adrienne Osborn & S.T.A.R. are at their best when they are in a funky rhythm. The two songs on the album which did not stack up against the others are “Alchemy” and “It’s Mine,” both are more rockers than the rest and this is the one area where S.T.A.R. did not make a connection as they did with the rest of the album. Overall, this is a keeper and makes one anticipate future endeavors from the band.

4 out of 5 turntables