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Between the Lines

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Album Review

Mike Stern does what he does very, very well. He has carved out a unique niche for himself among modern fusion guitarists, a vision that combines funk and R&B bass/drum grooves with skittish melodies often involving extended chord fragments. Stern's lead voice is one of the most distinctive in the genre as well, as his chorused and sometimes distorted tone is always prominently displayed. Stern is joined on this 1996 offering by frequent collaborator Bob Malach, a tenor player with a particular talent for laying screaming lines on top of smoking drum grooves as well as ably doubling and bringing to life Stern's often bookish and theoretical melodies. Completing the band are twin rhythm sections, consisting either of Dave Weckl and Jeff Andrews or Lincoln Goines and Dennis Chambers. Like many of Stern's recordings, the problems lie generally in the sameness of the arrangements and the relatively forgettable nature of some of these songs. Although they are all thoughtfully composed, they sometimes tend to run together a bit in the mind of the listener. Jim Beard's keyboard textures also could be done without, as they add a distracting sheen to the compositions. But there has always been this sort of tension in Stern's work between the obvious and the unexpected. Take, for example, "Lose the Suit," which features an extremely funky intro and a great Stern solo, as well as an extremely predictable bridge that almost sounds as if it could be the theme song to a long-running soap opera. Any lingering sense of treacle is dispelled once Stern kicks in the fuzz, however, and lays into the track. Not the best thing he's ever done, but quite good, and sure to please fans.

Customer Reviews

Weakest of their 80s albums

The album lacks any standout hit singles, which left fans rather confused, as their two previous albums spurned a host of memorable, hook-loaded singles into the top 20. Between the Lines was an attempt to show themselves more grown up and capable of appealing to an adult audience, but the plan backfired. The album's first single, Whenever You're Ready, is clearly the strongest of the faster numbers on the album, but it was no follow up to The Slightest Touch. Missing out on a top 10 spot, five star commenced a UK tour in the autumn of 1987 and released second single Strong as Steel to coincide with the tour. The single peaked at 16 on the UK charts, a pale shadow to 1986' ballad, Rain or Shine. The final single, Somewhere Somebody, failed even to make the Top 20 and was their lowest chart position since 1985.

Other songs on this album were either very middle of the road, especially the mediocre Made out of Love, Hard Race, and Live Giving Love, or otherwise short of the mark. I happen to think they should have released Ain't Watcha Do as a second single, and released Strong as Steel at Christmas 1987 instead of Somewhere Somebody (which should never have been a single).

If Five Star ever have regrets, I would think they'd list Between the Lines fairly highly. Not sure why they went for it. Cheaper writers/songs, looking to make a bigger profit? Pity because they were right at their peak and still had the potential to maintain their run for another 2-3 years. Younger fans switched to Stock Aitken and Waterman (Kylie, Jason etc), Bros emerged for teeny boppers, meanwhile the adult market was never really going to be seriously interested in Five Star.

At long last

A rather underrated album, even when they were at the top of their game in 1987. Most tracks are literally five stars - Live Giving Love, Strong As Steel, Whenever You're Ready, Made Out Of Love, Hard Race and You Should Have Waited. A must for any 80's soul pop fans.

Dont understand album description?

Anyway this is 5 stars 3rd album from 1987. It did ok but saw the slide in their popularity start. I think it was rushed after their number one album 'silk and steel'. The best tracks are definately NOT the singles. Highlights for me are Read Between The Lines, Hard Race and Knock Twice.

Between the Lines, Five Star
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Customer Ratings