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Starcastle - Starcastle CD (album) cover

STARCASTLE

Starcastle

 

Symphonic Prog

3.13 | 146 ratings

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Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
3 stars What a shame that American band Starcastle are mostly simply dismissed as nothing more than an uninteresting Yes clone. Listeners will have to make peace with that dilemma right away and decide whether to bother with them or not, but if you can move on from that, these guys are a fine little band with plenty of musical skill all their own. So the arrangements are not quite as complex or multi-layered as Yes, but there's an energetic charge running through their debut album, with an upbeat, joyful quality to the music and laser-sharp melodies and song-writing on display that makes it very pleasing to the ear, and the perfect prog album for an undemanding background listen.

Starcastle attack the 10 minute opener `Lady of the Lake' with an infectious optimism, the most Yes-like moment on the disc, especially thanks to Gary Strater's bass playing mixed fat, thick and upfront, while the guitar work of both Matthew Stewart and Stephen Hagler sounds like a more contained and controlled Steve Howe without his trademark occasional ragged outbursts. The band also surprisingly works up a nice grooving sound around snarling electric wah-wah guitar, much funkier than `the other guys' ever did! There's lovely shimmering harpsichord-like synths, loopy Moog spirals, hand-claps and sighing harmonies on the upbeat `Forces', the victorious `Stargate' is a nice electronic interlude with stop/start drums and bass interjections that announces and leads right into `Sunfield', a harder Kansas-style rocker with cute synth trills and plenty of group vocal positivity.

Funny that for all the accusations Norwegian band Wobbler received over their 2011 album `Rites at Dawn' for being a so-called Yes rip-off, it actually sounds more like what Starcastle were doing here on `Elliptical Seasons', and the similarities in the lead vocals are uncanny! Terry Luttrell could employ a deeper tone in his voice quite distinctive and very far removed from Jon Anderson, and the winning group harmonies couldn't be more sun-kissed.

If you like Yes, and if you enjoy well-played, catchy accessible prog with winning melodies and pleasant vocal harmonies, then you really can't go wrong here. As this self-titled album would prove to be their most truly proggy album, newcomers would be advised to start first here, as even from the follow-up `Fountains of Light', more emphasis was starting to be placed on vocal-based pieces overall, eventually leading to nicely played if somewhat anonymous AOR by their time their fourth album showed up. But breezy and tasteful symphonic prog is the order of the day here, and listeners who don't mind hearing a band who wore their influences on their sleeve should have a nice time with this one.

Three and a half stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 3/5 |

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