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ANGELO STARR 2016 SOULMUSIC.COM INTERVIEW
I’ve seen this guy work up an audience. His stage presence; his voice and his ability to entertain like the soul man he is, as he whips up a frenzy or calms the mood into an emotional melancholy, is unique. Y’know, his performance doesn’t actually finish at the last note, it stays with you for days afterwards. And it’s called taking care of business.

Yes, at last I’ve managed to catch up with Angelo Starr, younger brother of Edwin, and the occasion was to celebrate the release of his new single “Just For You” , available now on download or CD. (Full details on The Team’s website or check out the usual internet sites) Anyway, “Just For You”, produced by Rick Gianatos and featuring Scherrie Payne as support vocalist, is a beautifully constructed song, stylish and commanding. Angelo’s soulful delivery melts like butter on toast. Incidentally, “Just For You” was first worked on by Clive Scott who sadly didn’t survive the journey, so never heard the finished song. However, Angelo still has the demo of what Clive did, so maybe one day it’ll be issued as an alternative version.

Anyway, the single now on release was recorded in two halves; in the UK and Los Angeles, so I’ll let the man explain. “What happened was, we started writing the song here in the UK, and Edwin’s long standing manager, Lilian Kyle, who still looks after us, The Team, had always wanted to do a project with me. But of course as we were always so busy doing everything with Edwin, we never got the chance.” When Angelo started sketching the song, he wanted to bring home that saying ‘thank you’ for something shouldn’t always be associated with size. “Not because it’s their birthday, not because of a special occasion, but just because they are themselves and what they mean to you. So we set out to write this song and Lilian liked the way it was coming out and thought it would be great if Rick did some work on it too. She felt he was the right person, and because of the history between him and the other things he’d worked on for us and for Edwin, he’d be a good one for us. I pretty much told her to go for it because I believe in her and it’s hard sometimes, if you’re a creative person, to know when to let the project go. I had heard some work that had been done on the track earlier; some of it I liked more than others, so knew Rick would definitely be the right person. I’ve got to say I’m pleased with what he’s done. I think he understands the sentiment of the track and consequently that’s reflected in the result.”

Well, that immediately shattered my daydreaming of Angelo in the studio surrounded by musicians and singers. “You know how these thing work”, he laughed. “Obviously, it’s a great experience to be able to all stand in the same room and do it, but it’s a logistical nightmare. I think there’ll come a time, and I know there are some things that we’re working on that may lend themselves to that, so I’m hopeful that we’ll all get together and do it ‘old school’ as they say. With an orchestra perhaps.”

The conversation then returned to his live performances. “I class myself as one of the fortunate ones” the modest singer replied. “Because if you’re going to a concert and you take away what you hear on your record at home, that’s great.” I teased him that the stamina that Edwin put into his acts was phenomenal; he rarely let up, with the guys behind him so tight, you couldn’t actually tell the difference from what was on record and what was live. You’re getting there, Angelo! He laughed, “I’m hopeful of that. That’s praise to me because the fact is you first got to realise that there’s somewhere left to go. And when I realised that, it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever felt like I’ve had to do. To try to entertain an audience who was used to exactly what you described - and audiences have always been very complimentary but they’ve also been very knowledgeable with what should happen in front of them and what they’ve paid to come and see. But I’ve gotta say that obviously with Edwin’s band, The Team, alongside of me, I feel more confident. They were there, as was I, while he was alive, and what we all experienced we tried to tap into and keep alive as well. We tried to keep those experiences alive and tried to be true to what it was we had been allowed to experience ourselves. And I’m happy to a large extent now, after, what is it, almost thirteen years. Also being in front of some people who never got a chance to see Edwin while he was alive, we’re still getting people come to us and say – how authentic it feels and how nice it is to actually be in the environment where they feel that we’re actually enjoying what we’re doing. That says it all for me. How can you not enjoy it if you love it? And the people who are in front of you are giving you back the same sort of enjoyment. It makes you feel great!”

It’s ‘family’ Angelo, I told him. We’re a soul family and that’s what we do. We stick together and we enjoy what we’ve got. We respect what we’ve got. Soul people are loyal and they revere memories as well. Not only Edwin’s, but all the soul giants who have gone before and since. He paused before saying, “I’m glad about that because to me that reflects the community that originally brought Edwin here to live and that’s why I stay here. I know I haven’t been the easiest of sells in the UK but I think that as long as there’s somebody who wants it, we’ll keep trying to make it and, hopefully, the numbers will increase over time. Despite what some people would have you believe. I’m so glad the soul music community is still there.”

We talked about the really bad start to the New Year with the unexpected passing of Natalie Cole and David Bowie, in particular, and the fact that their illnesses were secret from the public domain. “Well you know a lot of artists still have a bit of the Hollywood actress in them.” He replied. “They really don’t want to be seen as being poorly because that stops the phone ringing. Opportunities to work stop as well, like, ‘don’t book them’. And that’s the worst possible scenario for any artist because then they really will go quite quickly if something’s wrong. I understand that particularly in David Bowie’s case, he’d been battling cancer for a while and it certainly wasn’t, to my knowledge, made public.” I mentioned talking to Natalie when she was in London promoting “Miss You Like Crazy” when she was wide open about her escalating drug problem; how she was now clean, but that if she had let on just how dire her situation had been, record companies wouldn’t have had faith in her. “That’s it exactly. You know, this business, Sharon. In a lot of cases they expect a return of their investment. If they don’t think it’s a good gamble they won’t take it. End of story.”

We then dug a little deeper into the music industry and that it now appears money rules, rather than talent. Once record companies became gripped by money people at the top, who was able to distinguish between a talented act and a time waster? Angelo laughed. “Talent and success don’t necessarily seem to have much to do with it these days. I think some people believe that anywhere there’s lots of money to be made, there’s potential for lots of corruption - and that probably says it all, because at one time I think that talent drove the direction of a project. If artists had something, there was a bunch of people who were prepared to put their energies into exploiting them. Now it has changed. It seems like so much can be manufactured now, including the profession of talent.”

But, I interrupted, computers are being used in the studios now instead of live musicians, and the Berry Gordys of this world appear to have been replaced by human cash machines. “I want to believe that that’s not true. I want to believe there are still people out there who have the ability and foresight. What’s different is that the carrot at the end of the stick is much bigger. A lot of young talent that would be prepared to put in the hours become better; to work harder to achieve something. A lot of them, before they’ve had the chance to struggle that way, to develop their skills and hone their craft, are being presented with a great deal of money to fuel someone else’s answers. So, instead of getting the people to actually get in that van, to travel up and down the country, to play those little clubs that existed, trying to figure out how they fit in and what they have to offer the industry, they’re sitting in their private space making hit records. Then they’re famous and everyone is wondering can they really do it instead of the other way around. If people had seen The Rolling Stones or a group like that in their earliest incarnation, they wouldn’t have been as impressed with them as they did become over time. But right now, when something hits the streets it’s got to be perfect from the very start, otherwise the group has already been written off - and they haven’t even had a career yet! It’s difficult, but that’s the bad news. “

Then reality and talent shows were thrown into the mix, like X Factor, The Voice, if you like, prompting Angelo to say that he felt for those young people who were part of this scenario because, more often than not, they never had the chance to have their moment because that moment was already over. “Edwin once said something to me that I understand more now than when he said it. You don’t get better at doing something by waiting around for the opportunity to do it. You actually get better at it by going out there and doing it. So if you’ve got someone who feels they genuinely wanted to sing, or always wanted to dance, or always wanted to act, then they’ve probably done something towards that direction by the time their success comes along. You can’t just wake up one day and say I want to be famous. It can happen, I suppose, but it almost shouldn’t happen, because if you really wanted to do it, you have to put some energy into making it happen. When you make your mistakes be sure that everyone’s watching you so that hopefully you will learn a little bit about people and about yourself. You know, to get out of the hole that you may find yourself having fallen into. You don’t want go back there.”

Speaking from experience, I wondered? Angelo has, one way or another, been part of this business most of his life, and once a performing adult with and without Edwin, did he find it frustrating not achieving bigger success? “It’s funny really, because I guess it depends on what you actually expect. For example, when I grew up listening to music - a consumer of music not a maker of it - the artists that I listened to I never imagined I’d ever get a chance to play with them on the same stage. And when I did get the opportunity to do that, it was like a bonus.”

Once an artist in his own right, he explained that followed his own golden rule to work with people he respected, because he knew he could learn from them. Artists like Alexander O’Neal or Prince. “I did shows, of course, with Edwin, and I found myself working with people who were household names at Motown, including Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, The Supremes, and Stevie. I also had the opportunity to be on shows with James Brown. You can’t help but find a way to absorb some of their journey if you’re conscious of the fact that there’s something to be learned, and I certainly was. For me it’s all learning. And I’m still doing it. I remember saying to myself one time watching Edwin perform somewhere and it wasn’t a massive place we’re at. How must it be for him going from having an international number one record all over the world, to working in a place where some people would say – why is he here? And so I asked him and he said – ‘all I ever need is someone who wants to hear me sing and a place to do it’. And it was that simple. It was fundamental. That’s all any artist needs. I guess it doesn’t matter if you’re a painter you want your art in a gallery, if you’re a singer you want some people in front of you so you can perform. With that said, every opportunity to sing is every opportunity to get better.”

As he spoke, it was clear to me that the singer is oh-so passionate about his work. The thrill of live audiences, the excitement of the music and the creativity that flows in his veins obviously keeps his adrenalin levels simmering. But, hey, say that feeling leaves, when’s the time to call time? When there’s no communication, he answered. “If what you’re saying doesn’t connect with someone or they’re not hearing you. So, I’m hoping that as long as there’s something to say, and someone to listen to and like what I’m saying, I’ll be around. If ever the time comes when that’s not the case then I’ll happily step aside. I feel that sometimes I’m carrying this baton that’s been handed to people like myself from the people that went before us….. the Marvins, the Jimmy Ruffins, the Edwins, the whoevers. We all learn from them and the things they had to persevere. We carry that banner for the next generation. And I’m quite happy to hand over what I know to that generation, so long as the person I’m handing it to is appreciative of what I’m handing them. If they don’t respect it, then there’s no point in my doing it because they’re not going to give to the next generation.”

That day will probably never come, I told him, because the soul fraternity never turns its back on genuine talent and with that in mind, Mr Angelo Starr will be foremost in our minds and hearts for a long while yet. And besides, like his brother, he’s a very, very nice man.


About the Writer
Sharon Davis ran the Four Tops fan club before spearheading Motown Ad Astra, catering for all the Motown acts, where she edited the in-house magazine TCB. Was publicist for Fantasy, Stax and Salsoul before joining Motown Records in London. Formed her own press/promotion company Eyes & Ears, worked for Blues & Soul magazine and website, and became a full time author and researcher. To date Sharon has written eleven books (her last A Girl Called Dusty published by Carlton Books) and she’s working on her next - Divas Of Motown. As a researcher, Sharon assisted Diana Ross with her autobiography Secrets Of A Sparrow, and is now in constant demand for her knowledge about Motown and its artists.
  
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