Monday, February 01, 2010

Starcastle - Fountains of Light (1977)

Along with groups like Styx & Kansas, Starcastle was an American response to the British prog-rock of the sixties and seventies. Their sound and style is largely reminiscent (some would argue disparagingly that it was derivative) of Yes.

Listening to their first 3 albums (of which Fountains of Light is the 2nd) this comparison is not only understandable but fully warranted. In addition to the Roger Dean-esque cover artwork the synth heavy music is reminiscent of Tormato era Yes. Which makes Starcastle an even more interesting anomaly in that their first three albums pre-date Tormato. So somehow Starcastle managed to not only sound like a derivative of, but also a pre-cursor to Yes.

Terry Luttrell's (ex-REO Speedwagon) vocals are reminiscent of Jon Anderson, the tight vocal harmonies and even tighther rhythm section make for a thoroughly enjoyable sound. Unfortunately the synthesizer heavy stylings of computer programmer Herb Schildt have not aged well.

Dated synths aside, Fountains of Light is an delightful and very listenable album. Other than Fountains which opens the album, most of the songs range from just over three minutes to barely over six. Their brevity making them a bit more accessible than Yes's at times over-indulgent romps but at the same time this also contributes to the derogatory labeling of Starcastle as "Yes-lite."

Another interesting twist in Starcastle, their driving force and arguably their band leader, Gary Strater, was the bass player. There's a tightness, one might argue even a symbiosis between Strater's bass and the drumming of Stephen Tassler. It's these tight rhythms that were arguably better than that of Yes that set Starcastle apart and make them worthy of consideration in their own right, as opposed to being merely a poor man's Yes as the critics seemed to pan them as over the years.

Related Links
Starcastle (wikipedia)
Starcastle Fountains of Light (wikipedia)
Starcastle s/t debut (Review Revue)
Terry Luttrell (wikipedia)
Herb Schildt (wikipedia)

3 comments:

Charlie said...

I have the first LP which I still like a lot. Yes, these guys stole from Yes but at least their talented crooks.

Jeff said...

I wasn't as big of a fan of Fountains of Light as I was of their debut. I don't think any of their work was all that great, but considering they were esentially a poor man's Yes, they were pretty good. However, the lack of originality keeps me away from re-visiting their music. They're not a band that comes to mind when I think about throwing on some good prog.

Perplexio said...

Charlie: Yes they are. Stylistically the similarities to Yes are uncanny.

Jeff: I agree, I thought their debut was their strongest album. I'm yet to hear Citadel but from what I've read their first 3 albums all have a bit of that Yes-lite sound to them. Although, I've read that on Citadel they do get away from the Yes-lite sound a little bit.