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Starcastle - Fountains Of Light CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.38 | 144 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
2 stars Many bands - be they a 1960's beat group, a bunch of formulaic 1980's soft-rockers or an expletive- spewing 21st-century grime crew - find that second LP oh so very difficult, especially, as is usually the case, their debut was a half-decent, profile-forging affair. In fact, a formula can be devised from this theory. The better the debut, the harder that second set-of-songs becomes. Therefore 1st album success+making of second album=major difficulties. It's not an uncommon beef for todays bands(or yesterdays) and Symphonic San Diego Prog heroes STARCASTLE are one in a very, very, very long line of great bands to know this. Their eponymously-titled debut LP - 1976's gorgeous STARCASTLE - was a joyful affair filled with yes- lite neon keyboards, glistening guitar lines, CSNY-styled vocal harmonies and enough shimmering sound effects to fill a host of symphonic prog albums. However, the same cannot be said of FOUNTAINS. And it's not for want of trying, either. The blueprint from the STARCASTLE LP has obviously been dusted-down, ready for the studio floor, but the energy, the conviction and the slick interplay that made album no.1 such a whimsically pleasurable experience is distinctly lacking. Whereas STARCASTLE kicked-off with an un-ashamedly straight-ahead mystical epic, FOUNTAINS merely...happens. Herb Schmidt's repetitive keyboards merely bounce slowly thru the motions, sounding suspiciously pre- programmed instead of jam-cooked via the bands creative impulses, whilst Stephen Haglers axe- wielding seems muted and lacking in focus. The one point of merit has to be vocal-wise; remember, this is a band capable of holding their own against Jon Anderson and Stephen Stills et al in a 'men with lovely high-voices contest', and this is at least one part in which the quality-metre has stayed more-or- less the same as before. However, i'm afraid to say that whilst their is no hiding from the lack of creativity on offer, the most disappointing factor is that, simply put, FOUNTAINS is just... dull. Very dull. There are no stand-out moments to speak of and there are none of theo blasts of multi- coloured, multi-instrumental magic that characterized their debut. And, crucially, it just doesn't rock. STARCASTLE, if you closed your eyes, was the missing soundtrack to that quintessential sci-fi epic 'Logans Run', a film so dated it's almost gone full circle in terms of 21st century cool. The pre-internet images conjured up by the film's production crew fit almost perfectly with the bands sonic style, merging neon colours with slinky steel sets, sparkly fashion and whimsical fantasy. FOUNTAINS OF LIGHT, if you close your eyes, is the same as if you have them open. The sound of seriously-average progressive rock. Prog rock, if you will, without the rock.

Stefan Turner, London, 2008

stefro | 2/5 |


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