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Seeing Stars was supposed to be All About Eves 5th album but various problems including the split of the band left a lot of material partially recorded but with no Julianne Regan to sing the rest of the band had sort out different musical roles for themselves. The albums title had already been decided so they decided to also call the band Seeing Stars and this is their one & only album.
The band comprised of Andy Cousin on bass, Mark Price on drums & Marty Willson-Piper on guitars & lead vocals. Despite being recorded in 1993 it took 4 more years of wrangling to eventually get a release through the Swedish record label Border Music. I actually couldn't find a single review of this album anywhere at all on the internet so its highly possible this is the 1st one that has ever been written.
So whats on Seeing Stars then?
1. "Salome" - 4:08
The intro is quite Gothic but also has the feel of early 90s indy so Seeing Stars were doing the "baggy" sound quite well. The vocals are heavily mixed into the reverbed guitar line so the lyrics aren't exactly easy to hear clearly or follow. Its quite a cool a tune though, it reminds me of Lenny Kravitz.
2. "I Can't Hate You" - 3:43
Another fairly Gothic intro with vocals mixed down low into yet another overly reverbed guitar line, its does have the indy feel in the chorus but it feels more like Iggy Pop in the main lyric lines. I'm not sure if Marty Willson-Piper meant it to come off that way but it certainly feels that way, it also has the essence of Marc Bolan in places as feel as the sound of very early Kurt Cobain. You do get the feeling they might have been listening to a tad too much Nirvana (circa "Come As You Are") when this was made.
3. "Where the Rainstorm Ends" - 4:39
A rather nice clear acoustic guitar with an even clearer vocal had me thinking about Radiohead (circa "High & Dry") as well as Pink Floyd (circa "Welcome To The Machine/Wish You Were Here"), its quite a down tempo song and the strings section is rather laid back.
The Pink Floyd influences positively ooze out of every pore of this song and I could easily see Dave Gilmour hearing it & saying "Didn't I write this already?" but thats quite a good & positive endorsement for the song.
4. "Staring at the Sun" - 4:39
A rather U2 style anthemic guitar opening also worthy of The Foo Fighters but yet again that vocal is mixed right down & you can barely hear Willson-Piper, its almost as though he had absolutely no confidence in his vocal abilities so deliberately chose to have his vocals mixed as quietly as possible whilst still being audible.
The song itself reminds me a lot of a really down tempo version of "The Cutter" by Echo & The Bunnymen with bits of Crowded House (circa "Fall At Your Feet") in there for good measure. The tune is rather enjoyable, I just wish the vocal were a tad more loud over the instruments.
5. "A Drink to Drift Away" - 5:21
Which featured Anna Nyström (of The Lucy Nation) on piano playing a great Evanescence style intro way before they were even thought of, again Willson-Piper is very quiet with Nyström providing some backing vocals so its good to see they didn't waste her vocal talents but I am surprised they didn't ask her to sing lead on this.
The tune has a very dark Gothic feel, you get the feeling Evanescence had heard this track and based their entire sound around it. Which is quite easily possible as they didn't break big until 2000 after the 2nd release of this album.
6. "Ugly and Cruel" - 3:23
Also featuring Anna Nyström on piano again and if that intro doesn't immediately have you thinking of Bob Dylans "Lay, Lady, Lay" I'd be quite surprised as Willson-Piper & the guitar line sound so much like that song. It does remind me a lot of "November Rain" as well as a LOT of Cat Stevens stuff but the vocals on this are seriously excellent and the incredibly simple & minimal arrangement does such a lot but then you find so often the addage "less is more" is so true.
This would have made an excellent single for sure & it would be interesting to hear All About Eve possibly re-do this with Julianne Regans lead vocal it'd make for a seriously haunting piece of music.
7. "Venus of Prose" - 3:38
I cant decided what genre this wants to be, the intro has so many different feels. From Gerry Raffertys "Baker Street" to The Mission to The Byrds, its all over the joint. Another low mixed vocal over more acoustic guitars so its Gothic unplugged to be honest. Personally I would have sold this tune wholesale to either The Mission or Sisters Of Mercy who could have done a MUCH better job with it.
8. "Come" - 2:36
Wow, this song reminds me SO much of Cockney Rebel (circa "Mr Soft") and Willson-Piper even sounds a bit like Steve Harley to be honest. Its quite a mixture of old 70's rock & early 90's grunge with bits of Nirvana & The Foo Fighters in there too with the classic jarring guitar line & drums smashed to hell. Most grunge or garage bands would be happy for a song like this to add to their setlist. It stops a bit suddenly though, did they run out of tape?
9. "Mesmerized" - 3:20
That intro is so old style All About Eve its unreal (circa "Shelter From The Rain") but the over reverbed guitar & too quiet vocal totally ruin it. This probably gets my vote as most annoying song on the album, I bet it would have really hurt listening to that on headphones.
10. "Pendulum" - 3:34
Is the drummer having a stroke or some sort of epileptic fit at the start of this, he's so badly out of time its unreal. The rather weird vocal opener sounds more like Spinal Tap but with a lot less talent if thats even remotely possible. I do like the guitar line & the drum track is ok when it settles down.
Clearly the Willson-Piper couldn't hit ANY of the notes he was aiming at in this track, he was just reaching WAY too far beyond his vocal ability and you can really tell this was written for someone with a much better vocal range than him.
Summing up:- Its pretty clear from Marty Willson-Pipers vocals across the whole album he really was NOT happy or comfortable singing on any of these tracks. The tunes are decent enough but they really should have hired themselves a session singer who was happy to be heard over the music.
Is the album any good? Musically yes, its like some 90's indy as well as some grunge in places. Vocally no, frankly Willson-Pipers performances are awful to be honest. There are a couple of tracks worth listening to but this album is so hard to get hold of and is so expensive I don't really think its worth the money even if you are a massive All About Eve fan who is looking to add this to your collection merely to be a completist. 10 tracks that are fairly short and most you can bearly hear the lyrics its just not worth the time or effort involved in getting hold of this.
(this review also appears on Ciao!)