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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Starcastle

Citadel

Review by Gary Hill

Starcastle have gotten much criticism over the years for being "a rip off of Yes". Certainly the Yes influences are very strong, but honestly they really did their own take on those influences. Other leanings are apparent, as well, most notably Nektar and Gentle Giant. This album is a very good progressive rock performance that does hold up to the test of time.   Based in Champaign, IL, Starcastle was Stephen Hagler, Terry Luttrell, Herb Schildt, Matthew Stewart, Gary Strater and Stephen Tassler.

Track by Track Review
Lady of the Lake
Quickly on, this track begins to resemble Yes, most obviously in the bass line. The vocals are definitely in an Andersonesque mode, but perhaps a bit flatter than that. The vocal performance is clean and polished, though. Much of the guitar work here is somewhat Howeish (most notably in an instrumental break later in the composition). However, there are a lot of original tones, and a bit of Gentle Giant thrown in for good measure. The song is full of quirky prog timing changes. The main musical theme of this one, which recurs throughout is quite a catchy one, and although much of the track is quick paced prog, there is a break which is very textural and ethereal. The vocal "da"s that end the piece are very Yesish.
Elliptical Seasons
Starting with wonderfully toned and echoed acoustic guitar, the intro here is striking. The cut then evolves in to a definite trademark prog mode. Again, this one is Yesish, perhaps a bit like And You and I, but it includes a couple of breaks that are a bit more Nektarish, and just a little funky.
Forces
Starting quite a bit in the mode of Nektar, again the bass line brings in Yesish modes as it appears. More non-lyrical vocal scenarios seem to call to mind Yes, and the slower, more sedate sections definitely have those sorts of textures. Another section seems to call to mind Argent, and some early Styx elements seem to be present as well. Much of the guitar work here is also very much in the style of Steve Howe.
Stargate
An instrumental that is essentially one long and rather dramatic buildup, this one serves more as an introduction to the next cut than as its own piece.
Sunfield
Strong Yesish prog, Sunfield has some definite Wakemanesque keyboard sounds and lots of Howe oriented guitar work. It includes several very smooth and subtle changes, and one towards the end that is a definite reinvention of the piece. Also featured are more of those Yesish non-lyrical vocals and the most definite Andersonian vocals of any cut on the album.
To The Fire Wind
Starting off much like a cut from The Yes Album, the song quickly shifts gear by moving into a very dramatic sounding guitar segment. Featuring a wonderful guitar sound, the mode to the piece is still very Yesish, but with definite originality as well. This one features lots of interesting changes and a keyboard solo with a tone that is incredible. It returns to the modes that made up the intro as a short instrumental break. This cut is the high point of this album, a prog powerhouse that should please most fans of the genre.
Nova
Drums begin this one. In fact, the first 30 seconds or so is a dramatic unaccompanied drum solo, before keyboards come in heralding the beginning of the transformation from percussion that fashion. The ending comes across as a bit playful. This is a solid instrumental with lots of prog stylings and Yesish textures in its considerably brief length.
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