Already at first hearing the CD sounds fresh in the ears immediately. Straightforward folk-pop songs with perfect harmonies which produce a dose of bliss. Shooting Star contains ten powerful songs performed in a fun way to keep your head filled with hooks and lyrics about extinct and thriving love relationships. The music is catchy, sometimes happy, sometimes sad but always honest. Shooting Star is a wonderfully entertaining album with basic acoustic guitar, pleasant melodies and exceptionally beautiful singing. Sometimes there is no need for the listener to get into the seventh heaven.
Born from the ashes of The Bogarts, Saloon Dogs recorded their debut album, Shooting Star way back in 1996. It's taken fourteen years and the imminent reformation of the band for it to see the light of day. It's aged well, hopefully like it's audience. There's ten songs on the album, each exploring concepts of love. Having both male and female vocalists, in the shape of Billy and Marie MacInnes, really allows them to focus on the subject from all angles, from one night stands, friends with benefits to deep soul searching stuff all against a Housemartinesque rock attitude.
Northern Sky 3/5
Shooting Star has been a very slow train coming. Recorded by the newly formed Saloon Dogs, shortly after the breakup of their previous band The Bogarts in 1995, the band's debut album lay dormant for the next fourteen years after they folded in 1997, before the band had chance to release it. The four band members Billy MacInnes, Maria Gallagher, Phil Taylor and David Longworth obviously worked hard to subject these ten MacInnes originals to tape and it only seems right to finally see this release, even after all this time. Like some unearthed artefact, the album emerged in March this year and carries with it a memorable piece of history for all involved. The songs have a distinctively acoustic sound and come over as delightful folksy pop songs, but with an immediacy that would indicate they would very definitely suit live performance. At times Billy MacInnes vocal comes across as a strange mixture of Nashville Skyline-period Dylan and Housemartins/Beautiful South's Paul Heaton, which is a vocal affectation that suits the songs on this album quite well and together with some sweet harmonica accompaniment, jobs a good 'un, as they say.
Opening with When I look In Your Eyes, the band fall into an immediately pleasing groove augmented by MacInnes' lead vocal and Maria Gallagher's tailor-made harmonies. Unafraid to take on other rhythmic influences, the band borrow from World Music with I Never Thought She Would Ever Make Me Cry, which employs an instantly infectious rhythm that at times leans towards something Paul Simon might have been doing pretty effectively with African music a decade before.
You Don't Have To Be Crazy To Love Me provides the album with the most radio friendly composition, which not only has the catchy rhythm that gets a hold of the listener, but also has that all important hook line 'but it helps'. The two most soulful songs on the album are the title song, which incorporates Longworth's lilting organ, a must for all self respecting soul classics and the closing song How Could He Break Your Heart, which features a sweet slide guitar part courtesy of producer Keiron Hunter.
A lot can happen in fourteen years and the Saloon Dogs have been separated by distance, by marriage, families, children and a whole bunch of other things that happen in life. It must be gratifying for the members of this band to know that their labours have not gone entirely unnoticed and it would seem a good time to consider a reunion. Maybe some live dates? Maybe a follow up album? Let's hope it doesn't take as long this time.
This London-based band was formed in 1995 and they released this, their one and only album, a year later, but shortly after the Saloon Dogs broke-up. Band leader Billy MacInnes is now re-forming the band, and prior to recording and releasing a new album, has decided to re-promote this long-forgotten debut.
I have to say it doesn’t sound at all dated, being a rich and original mix of country, folk and even rootsy pop. Lead vocals are shared by Billy and his wife Maria and both have great feeling and empathy for the mainly sad-tinged songs like the emotive Sunday Morning or I Never Thought That She Would Ever Make Me Cry. The latter has a kind of 1960s beat group vibe, but with a definite country edge.
It would be good to see an original ‘country’ outfit like this back on the scene, so go seek them out
Saloon Dogs were born out of the ashes of the London-based band, The Bogarts after they broke up in 1995. Headed by lead vocalist, guitarist and songwriter Billy MacInnes and Maria MacInnes —who when the recording was made was Maria Gallagher (vocals), Phil Taylor (drums), David Longworth (keyboards) and Kieron Hunter (bass, guitars) the band are a fine harmony-based, acoustic focussed act.
Drawing on a various selection of influences, the band ring the changes as the songs flow in double-quick fashion. One minute I am thinking 1970s Bob Dylan (Falling Out Of Love, When I Look In Your Eyes and to some degree Shooting Stars such are occasional hint to his vocals), next it is almost Proclaimers-like as they perform a harmonica aided I Never Thought She Would Make Me Cry. As for Maria she is more than just a capable vocalist who, does herself and the band justice via her harmony work on We Fight Sometimes and How Could He Break Your Heart in particular while her plaintive singing of the warm and gentle dreamy ode Sunday Morning really lights up the switchboard. Her vocals had me wondering (and I still am) where have I heard a similar sound? Wherever it was she sounds wonderful and she will I am sure get to play a greater part in the band’s next album.
One of the band’s strongest points is the ease in their playing as they follow the vocals. It all seems so natural to the players. Nothing is forced as they provide an identity of their own, Saloon Dog. Ever creating MacInnes gives the band plenty of ammunition to work with and they back him up regally. Never more so than on killer track Falling Out Of Love – harmonies, an incessant rhythm and smooth guitar.
Whether they can rise to he next level and beyond is a difficult one to call. They are good enough of which there is no doubt they now only need a lucky break or two. Good luck.
R2 (Rock n Reel)
Formed from the ashes of London-based band The Bogarts, Saloon Dogs recorded Shooting Star in 1996, a year before they called it a day. Fourteen years later, with their imminent re-formation, the album (which has aged remarkably well) has finally been released and proves to be a set of melodic, acoustic pop distinguished by some sparkling vocal harmonies and inventive musical arrangements.
The Pursuit of Folk
Like many records before it, Shooting Star is a collection of songs focusing on the many perspectives of love and relationships. Nothing particularly revolutionary about the content, but nonetheless, love is universal and most listeners will relate. The relatively quick writing process shines through on each of the ten tracks, as the overall feel of the record is fresh and cohesive. The instrumentation won't shock you, and the studio production does not stand out; however, these are the traits that make this record stand out in my mind as authentic and filled with character. Each track sounds like it was mostly recorded live in studio and the imperfections that go along with it make this acoustic-pop that much more identifiable and infectious.
I won't give a rundown of the entire album, but I'd like to note a couple of my favourite tracks when I think Saloon Dogs are at their best. Sunday Morning showcases the female vocalist in an almost Belle & Sebastion-esque simple acoustic pop tune. The chorus and bridge section make great use of harmony to help the song rise and fall in natural rhythm. The title track Shooting Star displays the vocal interplay between the bandleader Billy MacInnes and the backup vocalist. I'm not completely sure why, but this song reminds me of some of the early acoustic Luna. The genuineness of his voice goes a long way.”
From the first track, When I Look In Your Eyes, the tone of the CD is set: harmony voices, acoustic guitars and listenable pop songs. Ideal to start a carefree Sunday morning.
All songs on the CD are written by singer / guitarist Billy Macinnes. He knows his voice, which is most reminiscent of Bob Dylan on Lay Lady Lay, combined with carefree songs about love and relationships.
The limited vocal range of the singer is supported by the band and the beautiful voice of Maria Gallagher. She also takes care of Sunday Morning in addition to backing vocals. Songs like the title track Shooting Star and Falling Out Of Love do exactly what they have to do: acoustic pop songs, played with the necessary enthusiasm. It is not innovative, no risks are taken. But the songs are subtle enough to never get boring. This keeps the album sound fresh until the end.
With songs like Just Another Winter's Morning and You Don’t Have To Be Crazy To Love Me one can ask whether this enthusiasm is enough. The accompaniment is just a bit too good and the use of keyboards on Just Another Winter's Morning is downright annoying. This is regrettable because the songs themselves are strong. You can only wonder what Neil Young would do with these songs, as they would fit on a record like Comes A Time.
The creation of this record is a story in itself. This was already included in early 1996. For various reasons the record was never released and the group split in early 1997. Since Shooting Star is finally released now, Billy MacInnes has reason enough to re-establish the group and - after more than fourteen years - is thought to a successor. If the Saloon Dogs have indeed spent the last decades in pubs and saloons this can only benefit their sound and I will look forward to the promised successor.
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