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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Starcastle

Fountains of Light

Review by Gary Hill

This was the second album from Illinois’ progressive rock band, Starcastle. Always regarded as a Yes clone, there’s no question that group was a huge influence on this outfit, but to label them as Yes-lite or something of that nature is an over-simplification. They bring their own sounds to the table. This disc is really a lot like the self-titled debut, but more mature and powerful. The production seems to have been brought up quite a ways, too.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Fountains
Keyboards open the disc and they launch into the first piece – a ten minute plus mini-epic. Imagine the music from Starcastle’s first disc intensified and taken upwards to the next level. Sure there are Yes-influences to be had all over this – but the extended intro encompasses that and perhaps some Genesis along with it. As the first verse enters it’s obvious to hear that this is the same band but yet they are more mature and better produced. The song writing is superior to anything on the debut disc – and considering how good that album was, it says a lot. The piece encompasses a number of intriguing passages and changes and still feels completely whole and seamless. The jam around the five and a half minute is especially potent. Every instrument seems to take a turn at shining and this is just incredible. Still, that section just works better than some of the rest. This whole composition is awe inspiring. It’s the perfect way to start things off in style.  
Dawning Of The Day
With a more bouncy and consistent musical texture, this is a classic piece of Starcastle music. Sure, you can still hear a lot of Yes on this, but yet there’s plenty of other sounds to be discerned, too.
Silver Winds
Some unusual keyboards lead off here. Than a powerhouse burst of sound joins and they eventually launch out into another Starcastle prog journey. The keyboard based jam mid-track reminds me of Genesis and ELP quite a bit. Add Yes to the mix and then the quintessential Midwest tone and you have a good idea of what this song sounds like.
True To The Light
Here’s another killer progressive rock journey. Emerson Lake and Palmer are without question at least as big an influence on this as Yes. I’d have to say that in many ways this doesn’t differ a lot from other Starcastle music, but for my money it’s one of their strongest tracks. I especially like the keyboard dominated jam mid-song. 
Portraits
A dramatic and mysterious ballad tone leads off here. As this grows it reminds me of a progressive rock Crosby Stills Nash and Young. After a round of vocals the Yes-styled sounds enter. Still based in a ballad motif this is perhaps the most blatantly Yes-like music to be found on here. As they add to the arrangement that connection is a little less obvious. When they move out to the soaring journey later, though, Yes is the order of the day.
Diamond Song (Deep Is The Light)

They definitely bookend this album with the two strongest cuts. This starts with a great harmonic segment. This is a soaring driving piece of music. It’s the most uniquely Starcastle cut on show here. You really won’t hear a lot of Yes in this mix. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find even minor nods to any band. The vocal line is one of the catchiest on show here and there is some really energized music. This works through a number of alternating sounds and textures and is just plain awesome. It’s a great song and just as the opener was a perfect choice for that position, this leaves you hungry for more.

 
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