Starcastle : Citadel
(Epic - 1978)
Category : underrated
There was once was a band of crafty American musicians called Starcastle who got dissed by the enlightened Rock critics because they sounded like a lighter version of Yes. What the hell? First of all, if my band were compared to Yes (which isn't very likely to happen pretty soon) I would see that as a huge compliment. Second, if you get attacked for being a lighter version of Yes, does that not imply that you have an own style anyway and that you are no mere clone? Third, there are thousands of Rock, Blues and Pop artists out there that sound alike. Nobody seems to notice that or make a point of it, but when you're a Progressive Rock band suddenly that becomes an issue.
Yes, I agree, Starcastle is undoubtfully inspired by 70's Yes and they do indeed sound sweeter because of the abundant use of melodic choirs and because their overall sound wasn't as heavy and more playful. In fact, because of this their sound is just as close to that of early Ambrosia (read an Ambrosia review here) as it is to Yes'. But who cares what band Starcastle might or might not have been influenced by, as long as the result is good. And it is. Some of the finest, best composed Prog Rock can be found on their four releases, and especially on 'Citadel' and its predecessor 'Fountains of Light'.
All songs are strong, well balanced between vocal and instrumental parts and the band member's technical abilities as musicians are showcased by them. Yet, there are a few standouts in my opinion. These are 'Shine on Brightly' and 'Shadow of Song', two melodic Prog songs that have very strong vocal melodies. But the more lightweight song (in terms of complexity) 'Could this be Love' works just as well, despite the fact that it has one foot in cheesy country. I'm willing to eat a lot of cheese, if the taste is right.
Starcastle is not something for your average contemporary Rock fan. I think you have to have a background as a Progressive Rock fan to appreciate it. But even most Prog Rock bands don't sound nearly as melodic as Starcastle, so you really have to have a very big appetite for melodic music.
Starcastle is an acquired taste. Sweet at first, but richer and more delicate each time you have another bite.
If you are still the proud owner of a good old vinyl turning table, buy the vinyl album with the outer sleeve in good condition. That way you'll also be able to enjoy that which drew me to the album in the first place, which is the outstanding fantasy art of Hildebrandt. I feel that the sleeve art and the music fit perfectly well together. Having the artwork only at the size of a CD booklet just doesn't do justice to the product as a whole.