North Star was formed in 1976 by southeastern Pennsylvania residents Glenn Leonard (drums/percussion) and Dave Johnson (guitar/bass), as a vehicle to compose and record original progressive compositions. Towards the end of 1977, Glenn's brother Kevin Leonard (keyboards) was recruited. Eventually the band landed Joe Newnam (lead vocals/bass), fortifying the band's direction and purpose.
In 1980, North Star focused on writing increasingly intricate compositions, and by year's end recorded a demo that quickly found its way onto the playlists of select college radio stations. The following year saw North Star perform in area venues, and with the band's following on the rise, it was time to record. By mid 1982, North Star produced an eponymous three song EP. During this time the band had matured and attained a refined sense of direction, reinforced by a consistent style of powerful yet restrained playing. North Star performed in clubs and auditoriums as well as live radio broadcasts throughout 1983.
Early in 1984, the band recorded their first full length release, Triskelion. However, during the recording of the album, guitarist Dave Johnson resigned to pursue new musical goals. Continuing as a trio, North Star finished the album and recorded Feel the Cold, another full album, in 1985. Both albums received favorable reviews in progressive rock circles. After these two releases, the individual members decided to work on their respective individual projects.
During 1990 and 1991, with Dave Johnson back in the fold, North Star recorded Power, an energetic collection of unique songs that display an improved overall cohesiveness and balance in sound, composition and arranging. Power was released in 1992 on the private Space Monster Optional Entertainment imprint. The band regards this album to be their defining statement as a vocal-based art rock band.
Following Power, North Star went on hiatus. During the 90s, Kevin Leonard released the rhythmically complex electronic music CD Automatrix, while Glenn Leonard found musical outlets in a variety of projects, most notably with ex-Gong member Bon Lozaga. In 1999 the Leonard brothers and Dave Johnson reunited as an instrumental trio for well-received live dates and for the recording of their new album, Tempest.
Rob La Duca
(originally published in the NEARFest 2000 Program Guide, edited for Gnosis 11/3/01)
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