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Starcastle - Citadel CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

2.87 | 81 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars If there is one thing that is almost guaranteed to make me disagree with a review, it's saying that a band sounds like another band. I usually can't hear it. I may like the band, and I may like the band that whose sound it is claimed that they are mimicking, but the differences always seem to far outweigh the similarities.

There is only one real exception to that. Whenever I listen to The Flower Kings, I hear echoes of just about every symphonic and eclectic band that put out an album in the '70's.

Which brings us to the review of the day, a look at Citadel by Starcastle. Starcastle is usually accused of being a band that copies the sound of my own favorite band, Yes. So let's examine tis album and see why I disagree with that assessment.

Here are the factors that would lead you to think that Starcastle is a Yes clone.

1. They are definitely playing prog with a strong symphonic element to it. Citadel is not as proggy as the first two albums. I'd classify it as prog pop instead of symphonic prog, but the symphonic element is still there. Yes very rarely strayed into pure prog pop (Wondrous Stories being the only notable example from the '70's lineup) whereas Citadel only goes beyond prog pop in the last two tracks. Still these musical genres are kissing cousins, and I can understand why people would focus on this as a similarity.

2. The keyboard player does have some chops. What surprises me is that people compare him to Wakeman. Again, I don't hear it. Wakeman has a much more subtle, richer, and more tasteful style on the keyboards. They are very different. Why, if you are going to compare Starcastle to Yes, don't you mention Moraz instead. While I wouldn't say that Schildt sounds like Moraz, they do have a couple of traits in common, most notably the way they use mechanical sounding, repetitious riffs to create atmosphere, which you can hear in tracks like Could This Be Love or Why Have They Gone. (Wakeman tends more to chords or to riffs that shadow and then play off of what another instrumentalist is doing.) But when I listen to Citadel, Schildt's keys remind me most of what Pete Bardens of Camel was doing in the same period. Indeed, Highways of the Sun could pass itself off as a Starcastle song, while something like Why Have We Gone could easily have been done by Camel.

3. Both Yes and Starcastle feature high pitched lead vocals and vocal harmonies. I personally don't think that Luttrell sounds much like Anderson, but they both sing in a high register.

4. Both bands have a reputation for positive energy in their music. I've always thought that this reputation is a bit of a stretch for Yes. The Yes Album and Going For The One are both charged with positive energy, but most of the rest of the '70's albums have portions that are considerably darker. Starcastle, on the other hand, owns this category. Every song on Citadel is upbeat, happy, and positive.

Ok, having gone through all of that, let me explain some of the ways in which Citadel doesn't sound at all like Yes.

1. There is no Steve Howe in Citadel. The guitars are competent enough, but you won't get either the virtuosity or the variety that Steve brings to Yes. Simple riffs, an occasional solo and some rhythym work are the order of the day on Citadel.

2. There is no Chris Squire in Citadel. One of the defining characteristics of Yes's sound is the dominant bass that gives the rest of the band a solid musical foundation on which to build. There is little of that here (although Starcastle tries hard on Shadows of Song).

3. There is little virtuousity in Citadel. Yes goes out of it's way to feature it's members as individuals, and they are each given a time to shine. Starcastle focuses much more on an ensemble sound, even though there are the odd solos here and there.

4. As I said earlier, Yes and Starcastle are really working in two different genres, even though they are related. Yes is an iconic symphonic prog band, whereas Starcastle is exploring prog pop in Citadel almost exclusively. So Citadel has no epics, no classically inspired passages, and nothing really experimental or challenging in the music (although it is still progressive.)

If I were going to compare the sound of Starcastle to another bands sound, I would point to the albums that Camel released in the same time period that Starcastle was active, Rain Dances and Breathless.

Ok, that's a very lengthy introduction to my views on the sound of Starcastle. So let me be brief in telling you how good this album is.

It's good. It's not a masterpiece. It's not a must have heard album. Many of the songs are so positive and upbeat that they become cloying on repeated listens (Shine On Brightly and Could This Be Love and Can't Think Twice all fall on this category.) But they are still good songs, and Why Have They Gone is a notch above good. So I'll give this one three stars. It's an album you'll be glad that you bought, but it's not one that you will put on all that often.

ghost_of_morphy | 3/5 |


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