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Starcastle - Citadel CD (album) cover

CITADEL

Starcastle

 

Symphonic Prog

2.95 | 90 ratings

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TCat
4 stars Starcastle was accused of being a "Yes" clone band, and unfortunately, they never rose to the legendary status that they might have deserved if they had been able to continue in the same path they were headed in their first three albums, especially their first. Their debut album sold quite well and was able to get some airplay, but their following albums didn't do as well because of their reputation of being a clone band. But, they were stellar musicians, and if you are looking for a great 70's progressive band that you might have missed, you might want to check out Starcastle. Their music is bright and positive sounding, with a lot of keyboards and synths and great guitar solos.

For their 3rd album, the original line-up was still intact ( and would be for their fourth album also). Lead singer Terry Luttrell was recruited from REO Speedwagon in their early days and he does have a high voice very similar to Jon Anderson's, except it was a little bit weaker and was often supported by the other members of the band, thus a lot of their music had some very nice harmonics, and such is the case on this album. Matthew Stewart and Stephen Hagler shared guitar responsibilities and their style is quite bright and open, and even they were able to sound a bit like Steve Howe at times, but they also had their own distinctive style. On Citadel, their guitars many times can be a little hard to distinguish from the keyboards however, where on their debut album, the differences were more distinctive. Herb Schildt was responsible for most of the keyboards, organs, mellotron and synths, and was definitely a master of the keys. His playing is probably one of the most unique sounds in the band as he didn't really have the same pompous style of Wakeman or Emerson, but definitely came up with some great keyboard riffs that seemed to stand out more than anything in the group's sound. On top of this, Gary Stratter played bass and Stephen Tassler played drums and percussion, and even though they made up a top notch rhythm section that was able to handle the tricky meters and tempo changes quite well, their sound didn't always stand out quite as much because of the bright sound that was always achieved in the mixing of the bands albums, and this album definitely suffers a bit because of that.

This brightness in the sound in Citadel also accounts for the fact that the tracks sound a bit too much alike. At the first several listens, it is difficult to pick out much of a diverse personality between the songs. It takes several listens to begin to pick out the different melodies and traits of each song. Citadel was the first Starcastle album I owned, and even though I generally liked the sound, it took me a few years to finally get familiar with the songs, because I also felt it all sounded too much the same. Once I did get familiar with the music though, I started to appreciate it more, and the things that weren't so obvious started to become quite amazing to me. While it is true that the album is not as good as the first two, it is still quite excellent once your familiarity with it grows. Nothing on here matches the genius of "Lady of the Lake" or other tracks on the debut album, but they are still very progressive and fun to listen to, especially if you are craving something different to listen to from that era. On Citadel, there are some standout tracks that are quite good including "Shine on Brightly", "Wings of White" and "Evening Wind" which are the most progressive tracks here. The record company had also started to penetrate the band's sound on this album however and was able to convince the band to do a couple of more radio friendly songs like "Can't Think Twice" and "Could This Be Love?", neither of which really was successful from a single or radio friendly point of view. Still, I think this is a valiant effort for the band and it might be just the right thing to fill that 70's symphonic prog hole that you might be feeling. I know, once I became familiar with the music, that it brought me a lot of enjoyment back in the day when dinosaurs were the main mode of travel and Fred Flintstone was a likeable, state-of-the-art kind of a guy and not the current US Attorney General.

After this album, Starcastle was able to release one more album that was an almost complete sell out. After that, they went into hiding until after the current decade started. I admit I never heard their album released in 2007 "Song of Times" and someday I might break down and hear it, but as far as the 70s were concerned, this was the last great album by a great band.

TCat | 4/5 |

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