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Starcastle: Starcastle (1976)

Starcastle is a band you’re either going to like, or you’re going to hate. Those who hate the band call them nothing more than Yes clones. Those who enjoy the band still call them Yes clones, but they’re flattered enough to still enjoy their music. This self-entitled album is the first of four albums this Champaign, Illinois band would release. The band was fronted by former REO Speedwagon vocalist Terry Luttrell who sounds just like Jon Anderson, and keyboardist Herb Schildt who obviously borrows from Rick Wakeman. Add that with drummer Stephen Tassler, two guitarists (Stephen Hagler, Matthew Stewart), and bassist Gary Strater and you got Starcastle.

This is their debut album and you can tell that this was a band trying to sound like Yes, but haven’t quite got it down (they’ll have it perfected on their next album, Fountains of Light). They recorded for Epic Records, which, as many of you know, is a very major label, but despite that, this is pretty much uncommercial symphonic prog rock. You can tell, from the opening cut, “Lady of the Lake”, that while the vocal harmonies are very Yes-like, there is something in the music you can tell isn’t quite Yes. Plus the song goes through a bunch of solos (mostly Herb Schildt’s Moog). This song seemed to be both a fan and a stage favorite.

The next song, “Elliptical Seasons” is perhaps one of my favorite, starts off acoustic (almost like “And You And I”) before the Moog kicks in, and the music starts. Great vocal harmonies, as usual. “Sunfield” sounds scarily like Yes’ 1978 album Tormato (usually not considered that band’s high point by most fans), even though this album came out two years before that album! It actually isn’t bad, and I can’t be helped be reminded of “Circus of Heaven” (which I thought was a crappy song, but at least “Sunfield” is much better).

“To the Fire Wind” is perhaps the best song on the second half on the album. What’s interesting is some of the vocals harmonies sounds more like Crosby, Stills & Nash than they do Yes (but then I’m sure Yes was influenced by CSN as far as vocal harmonies go).

There’s a couple other short pieces that were basically instrumental, experimental electronic fillers (which the band never repeated again on following albums). In short, if you like Yes and don’t mind clone bands, you’re sure to enjoy this album. If you don’t, of course, stay away.
– Terry Luttrell: vocals
– Gary Strater: bass
– Stephen Hagler: guitar
– Matthew Stewart: guitar
– Herb Schildt: organ, Mini Moog synthesizer, other keyboards
– Stephen Tassler: drums (Roto Toms), percussion

8 Responses to Starcastle: Starcastle (1976)

  • I had to share the fact that I owned all the Starcastle albums at one time in my life–about the same time I was introduced to “The Hobbit”. What a wonderful time that was, and is (yes, my grown daughter hates my hippie clothes that I can’t give up). And I do have my share of downloaded Starcastle in my music collection.
    Yes brought this type of music to the mainstream attention. But those of us who “dreamed” knew it was only the beginning, we knew Starcastle!

  • I a’m a 45 YR old male who is a big fan of star castle. I know personal people who used to travel around and listen to these guys. I’m a big YES fan but always loved the freshness of these guys songs, plus I’m native of Illinois. In 1976 this was our rap of the world along with YES annd Emerson Lake and Palmer.

    Peace Out Maynard G Crebbs {:{}

  • I am a great fan of Prog Rock, but in my opinion the USA should keep Prog Rock off their agenda, they dont seem to master it very well.

    Progressive Rock is a European thing. There are no decent USA Prog Rock bands around, never have been, and never will be.

    Spocks Beard??? Kansas?? Star Castle???? No.. Too Americana!! Spocks Beard sound like a modern day Bon Jovi!

  • Ben Miler makes his living reviewing rock, and anything done like a “job” eventually brings out one’s individual blindnesses. In his review of Starcastle he lets his prejudices obviously gathered from reviews he has read online totally color his opinion…I sincerely doubt Miler has actually heard Starcastle’s music to any great extent. In his somewhat amateur review he mentions the name “Yes” no less than eleven times in five small paragraphs, and says the words “Yes clone” no less than twice. Let me tell you something; Starcastle is not a Yes clone. Starcastle did not follow Yes’ career, did not pattern themselves after Yes, did not borrow any phrasing or progressions from Yes, and was an obviously superior prog-rock experiment that with three superior albums blew away anything Yes ever did, or ever will do….not because of superiority of mentality, but because of superiority of intent. Starcastle’s members were totally intent on serving the interests of the song, and we will never again see anything like them; the “Yes” references are misleading and, frankly, insulting. Mr. Miler would certainly like to work for Rolling Stone, and his reviews reveal him as one who follows the crowd, thus to make himself appear somewhat more acceptable to those particular snobs.
    Starcastle is the finest prog-rock experiment in the history of the genre, and their first three albums are required for any prog devotee; I envy anyone who hasn’t heard them yet, and especially envy anyone who can hear them afresh without the multitudinous accusations of Yes-ism.

  • I like good progressive rock, and I don’t care where it comes from. Starcastle’s first two albums were really good, but I really liked “Citadel”, where the group seems to concentrate their efforts on high-energy, yet still progressively stylish music. That’s the album that could have really broken them nationwide. I’m not a big fan of the “Real to Reel” album, where the record company forced them to sound more mainstream. It’s not a bad album, and the song, “When The Sun Shines At Midnight” is gorgeous. Another great group that bit the dust due to record company manipulation.

  • yah, the review is crap, the reviewer is ignorant. as a rabid fan of both yes and starcastle back in the day and to the present, i say anybody writing a review like this has no business being a music critic.

  • Wow, Julius was a little hard on the reviewer, don’t you think?

    Everyone who I have introduced to StarCastle has said, “Oh, they sound like Yes.” But I do not think that they tried to sound like Yes or made this thier goal.

    I do agree with Julius on this point: StarCastle is superior to Yes.

  • Yes were great now they are boring. Starcastle was (and hopefully IS ) great and hopefully they will not be boring in coencert like 2003 – 2006 YES. They sounded like YES but with a kick. More rocking and interesting.
    Again YES is great and Starcastle is greater!!!!

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