St. Peter and Paul Catholic High School Shooting Stars Steel Band: N.T.
What’s Going On
Percussion intro snippet
From St. Thomas, V.I. (Shooting Stars, 197?)

On paper, you’d think this LP couldn’t possibly flop. I mean, it’s both a high school band and steel drum group that has two Kool and the Gang covers, plus “What’s Going On” and a few more covers. It’s got both a drummer (who does the arrangements) and two guys on percussion besides the actual steel band. And somewhere, within that magical mix, something just doesn’t quite come together.

To be sure, steel drum albums are tricky to pull off if you want something that’s going to sound as good as a studio album. Most of them weren’t recorded that well and the most difficult thing is finding a balance between the steel drums (which should be the star, right?) and the other instruments. In general, I find that more that the steel drums play a side – but not lead – role, the more likely the end song will work. See “Down By the River” by the Dutch Rhythm and Steel Showband for a best case scenario).

As you can probably guess where I’m going here…the Shooting Stars don’t quite get there and while their songs are enjoyable just for hearing what “N.T.” would sound like in steel drum, they also sound like 1) they’re being recorded in a school auditorium (completely possible) and 2) their arrangements are a bit too literal. That’s especially obvious on “What’s Going On” which is quite loyal but otherwise sucks out the deep soulfulness of the original and replaces it with a sound I associate more with a merry-go-round calliope.

The thing is too…the band teases you with the possibility of something more. Several songs open with a short percussive section (snippet sample included above) that has so much potential…but then disappears underneath and otherwise underwhelming song.