Album Review: Jon Stevens – Starlight

Editor's Review
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Australian rock singer Jon Stevens has returned with his new solo album Starlight. Famed for being lead singer of multi-platinum-selling band Noiseworks and for fronting INXS after the death of Michael Hutchence, Stevens has had a colourful career in rock and roll. Growing up the youngest of 11 children in part of a very musical family, it’s no surprise that Steven’s forged a career in music and he cites his family as being his greatest musical influence:  “We were always singing and playing music every day and also I had my very first band at school when I was 12 years old.” Some of his highlights of his career so far include “Writing songs with Dave Stewart and Ring Starr playing on my new album.” Performing solo is where Stevens comes into his own and Starlight is his tenth solo album and one in which each track draws upon his many life experiences. It’s an album of which Stevens is immensely proud, so much so that he’s unable to pick one as a favourite to play live, saying “All of them… why? Because they represent now not yesterday.”

Lead single Hold On is the perfect opener which sets the bar high for the rest of the album. It’s all heavy riffs, layered guitars and gruff vocals from Stevens. The track is bursting with energy as the guitars screech and Stevens’ vocals exude unabating energy and excitement.

Oh Lord conjures up images of hazy small-town life with its country-esque vibe. Reverberating guitars, harmonicas, subtle keys and harmonies combine to create a vivid and soulful atmosphere.

A stand-out on the album is Feel Like Letting Go. The electric guitars are back in force and combined with understated strings and an anthemic chorus where Stevens’ vocals soar like the violins. The downtempo breakdown towards the end is a nod towards what’s to come with the addition of subtle electronic and contemporary sounds.

Scars is rock and roll Jon Stevens at his best: all rocky guitars, deep vocals and beautiful female harmonies with unmistakable soul oozing from every note.

The sound is switched up on F.U.C as the tone is taken down a notch to a darker place. Electronic elements dance with the guitars and piano keys take centre stage to create a slightly haunting vibe. Stevens’ deep tones are interspersed with heady, soulful female vocals.

Devil In My Heart speeds in all guns blazing with its incredible country-esque guitars and Stevens’ vocals reach new heights. There’s a spiritual side to many of the lyrics on the album, with Devil In My Heart displaying Stevens’ religious side. The track ends with Stevens’ vocal soaring, almost gospel in style.

The vibe is switched up once again with Something Bout You. The 60s-style keys lend this track a retro and soulful air. Vanessa Amorosi collaborates with Stevens on vocals and they’re in sync, bouncing off one another in this wonderfully smooth duet.

One Way Street is a gorgeous ballad which demonstrates Stevens’ softer side. His vocal switches between delicate and brash and the piano and guitar accompaniment is understated and smooth. Ringo Starr features on this track playing the drums, soothing that Job finds incredible and an honour: “It’s just such an amazing honour. It’s probably my favourite song on the record really because it’s such a deep song and it’s not every day you get to meet one of The Beatles, let alone get one to play on your record!”

What Makes You Happy is a return to the riff-heavy sound of Hold On. The gospel-esque backing vocals with reference to singing hallelujah further add to the spiritual side of the record.

Title track Starlight demonstrates Stevens’ vulnerable side before bursting into a cascade of guitars and soulful harmonies. It’s an incredible coming together of every element on the album: rock, soul and spirituality.

Final track All About The People closes Starlight on a high. The soulful vibes are through the roof on this anthemic track about love and life. And just when you think you’ve heard it all, a rap interlude breaks through. The combining of genres creates a unique sound and further adds to the joyful and celebratory atmosphere of the album. As the final note is played you’re left feeling invigorated wanting more.

Starlight is an album that’s celebratory and uplifting throughout and I can understand why Jon had trouble picking a favourite song on the album to perform live. Stevens has carved out a glittering career as a solo artist as well as fronting rock bands so when asked if he feels more inspired as a solo artist or part of a band he noted that, as fun as it is, being in a band has its difficulties: “Being in a band is more of a collaborative experience and sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t depending on the personalities involved. It generally starts out great but depending on who is the most creative force within the band they usually dictate the musical direction and after a while.” I have a feeling we’ll be seeing much more of Jon Stevens as a solo rock and roll heavyweight…

Starlight is out now. Have a listen to the powerful lead single Hold On below and find out more about Jon here.

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