Starcastle - Song of Times
ProgRock Records
Progressive Rock
10 songs (57:14)
Release year: 2007
Band Homepage, ProgRock Records
Reviewed by Jeff
Surprise of the month

For those of you who have never heard of Starcastle, they were progressive rock outfit formed back in the 70's that tried to be America's answer to the English progressive rock movement started by bands like Yes and E.L.P. .

If a band like IQ was considered a Genesis clone, then it was Starcastle who was the doppleganger of Yes. Starcastle had alot of Yes characteristics, such as the Chris Squire signature bass sound, Rick Wakeman like keyboards and the Jon Anderson styled vocals. I'd also go as far as saying that the soft, melodic vocal harmonies were very similar to those used by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. I even hear a little bit of Angel in Starcastle.

Starcastle released three strong, consistent efforts: Starcastle (1975), Fountains of Light (1977) and Citadel (1978) before releasing Real To Reel in 1979; an album that marked a change in musical direction away from many of the progressive rock elements and more towards a commercial sound. It would prove to be the band's undoing and the record label dropped them soon after.

When I first read that Starcastle was in the process of releasing new material, I really didn't know what to expect. It's been almost 29 years since their last release. Before I purchased this album, I listened to some song samples from the record company's website. I was instantly hooked and blown away by the new Starcastle sound and overall song writing.

Song of Times is actually an album that has been in the works for the past few years. What's interesting about the way this album was created is very similar to the way Yes recorded Union. Where Yes had most of the major contributors from its various incarnations over the years record together, Starcastle not only reforms with all of the original members, but adds a bunch of new ones as well. There are various members playing on different tracks at different times . The one song that has all original Starcastle members playing at the same time is All For The Thunder and is the one song that sounds very close to the classic Starcastle sound from the first three releases. In fact, this track could be Lady of the Lake Part II. However, Song of Times is a big step up from the albums released back in the seventies. The end result is a return to their progressive rock roots with an updated sound. The music has also matured somewhat. It is very catchy and memorable. If I had to compare this album to anything, I'd say it sounds close to an album like The Ladder by Yes with some touches from other Yes albums like Drama, 90125 and Going For The One. The bass playing is truly the driving force on the album. I like that Starcastle still use classic keyboard sounds like the moog and organ. New vocalist Al Lewis sounds more like Jon Anderson than anyone else, even more so than original Starcastle vocalist Terry Luttrell. If someone played you this album without telling you who it was you'd swear it was Yes!

The album artwork is nothing short of astonishing. The cover looks like an updated version of the Yes album Fragile. The artwork on the inside is quite colorful as well. I'm not sure why but they only included song lyrics for the title track.

It's unfortunate that bass player Gary Strater did not live long enough to see the final release of Song of Times. He passed away a few years ago. Strater had a very big part in the continuation of Starcastle and the creation of this album. The band took the time to make sure they were 100% satisfied before releasing it. Fortunately, Strater's bass playing, (which is easily identifiable), is forever immortalized on this disc. With the exception of the title track Song of Times, (which there are no bass parts and sounds like Yes's Turn of the Century), he is the only musician to play on all of the tracks. The band made sure that Strater's vision for Starcastle was met; a vision of a family of musicians playing together. The album is dedicated to him as well.

I have a feeling that Song of Times will unfortunately go unnoticed but thanks to the Internet and strong word of mouth, this album has a chance of getting some recognition. That is why this album is a "Surprise of the Month" for me and one that deserves a listen from anyone that is a fan of progressive rock.



Killing Songs :
Red Season, Babylon, Faces of Change, Love Is The Only Place, Master Machine, All For The Thunder, Children Believe
Jeff quoted 87 / 100
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