Hailing from Illinois, Starcastle was one of a few US prog rock bands (along with Ethos and Symphonic Slam) that achieved some recognition in the mid-70s. After trudging the bar circuits under various names, the core of guitarist Steve Hagler, drummer Steve Tassler, keyboard player Herb Schildt and bassist Gary Strater were joined by another two members: second guitarist Matthew Stewart and vocalist Terry Luttrell, the latter previously in another Champaign band, REO Speedwagon. In 1974, they changed their name to Starcastle and signed to Epic Records. To say that they were influenced by British progressive rock is, of course, a huge understatement. "Lady of the Lake" reveals an easygoing Yes approach, with the emphasis on the vocal harmonies. "Elliptical Seasons" has a little more Midwest grit to it, while "Stargate" goes symphonic. But if two things stick out immediately about Starcastle's music, it's Luttrell's voice and lyrics; unfortunately, his high tenor lacks any visceral punch (most evident on "Sunfield") and his lyric-writing seems like high school poetry. Musically though, the band is playful, boasting rich arrangements that make the best of their expansive sound; check out "To the Fire Wind." Although the Yes-clone analogy runs true, their accessible approach probably owes as much to another Illinois band: Styx. The album was well received, and Starcastle even opened for some of their prog rock big brethren, including Jethro Tull and Rush, on subsequent tours. Epic then sent the band off to Montreal with Queen producer Roy Thomas Baker to record their next album. Though the collaboration was uneasy, there's little argument that Fountains Of Light, released in early 1977, would be the band's definitive statement. Starcastle released two further albums, but even shorter haircuts couldn't change their prospects. Without a record label, the band folded in 1980.
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Taken from The Strawberry Bricks Guide to Progressive Rock, here is an Album of the Week to enjoy and discuss.
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