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Starcastle - Starcastle CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.27 | 214 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars As a youngster I had seen Starcatle's third album 'Citadel' on the racks and was intrigued by the cover art, but never made the purchase, so I had hankered after the band's records for years and was tempted when their fikrst and second albums came up on a random e-bay search on vinyl. A couple of weeks later and the records arrived, in good nick and just itching to be dropped on the turnatble. But, oh, the fear and trepidation. I had heard in the years of waiting that they were nothing but sad Yes plagiarists, slavish wannabes who could only badly ape their heroes. They lacked spark, invention, individuality. And initially I feel into the negative camp. They did indeed sound a lot like Yes, but a Yes without the drive, fire and aggression. It all sounded a bit... well, limp. And so I tucked the records into the collection under 'S' and also 'Failed Experiment'. And there they sat, for months on end. But something drew me back. No idea why, but there was something there begging for another chance and now I'm really glad I gave them another shot. This first Starcastle is a little gem. A pleasant little gem. No it doesn't have the inventivenes of prime period Yes, or the fiery skill of Yes. But it dfoesn't matter. This is a record that despite the handicap the band gives itself by pledging such faithful allegiance to its heroes, does stand on its own two feet. And it does so by blending some really good melodies with a very American (to my ears) take on the Yes template. This could only have come from the States. There's bits of Kansas, Styx, any AOR sound you care to mention. There must be something in the midwest water for all these bands to share the same sense of melody. Couple that with some great playing (particularly from keys and bass) and you've got an album that ticks a lot of the right boxes. The albums sets it's stall out early with the first, biggest and best track, Lady of the Lake, which is built on a lovely revolving guitar and organ riff which is quickly bolstered by some pedalling Squire-like bass playing. It gives way to a lovely harmony-rich verse which is just, well, happy. It's feelgood summertime AOR prog, if such a thing could be said to exist. There's a very Yes mid section (driven by a Howe-esque solo from Hagler) which in turn gives way to dreamy ambient section fleshed out with guitar swells and washy keys before it's all wrapped up with a reprise of the verse in the big finale. That sets the template for the whole album. 'Elliptical Seasons' is a sparkling 12-string acoustic guitar-driven song, the guitar bathed in large washes of string synths (very mid-70s AOR and you can almost draw a straight line from this to something like Triumph). It also features some lovely harmonies and a neat monosynth solo. Forces is very Yes, with singer Terry Luttrell really turning on the pseudo-Jon Anderson affectations, complete with the Yes man's trademark do-do-do-do vocalisations. It's a shame that they choose to so so slavishly ape these Yes trademarks because they certainly had enough of their own identity to have forged a career other than as being 'the best band in the world that isn't quite Yes'. Having said that, this is a real grower. It's a charming album, has some great playing, some lovely melodies and won't disappoint. If you're a hardcore Yes fan then it might annoy you greatly but once you accept the limitations their adulation of Yes imposed upon Starcastle then you'll learn to love this.
arcer | 3/5 |


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