Bees and Trees homie Bryan Jones said that to me one night with deadpan incredulity when I asked him about the Starcastle album I found in his stacks.
For my money, Starcastle was (is?) a spirited band of good players that suffered from an identity crisis. The band name implies reverence, sovereignty, celestial focus; it indicates faithfulness to the order established by a ruling body or social betters. It sounds real late-70’s anyway… with the word “star” and all.
Their eponymous first album (1976) sounds like a Yes cover-band playing Yes songs you’ve never heard before. That’s like the best and worst thing I can think to say about Starcastle. Now, if that doesn’t pique your interest, I don’t know what to say to you.
“Fountains of Light”(1977) and “Citadel”(1978) combine the Yes impersonation with stabs at radio friendliness, mostly by aping the slick, pseudo-prog stylings of Styx.
If you ever wanted to hear what Jon Anderson (of Yes) singing for “Audio-Visions” era Kansas might have sounded like, pick up a copy of 1979’s “Real to Reel.” Turns out virtually nobody else wanted to hear that either, so that was it for Starcastle Phase-1, the Classical period. (In fairness, the dude doesn’t sound that much like Jon Anderson…)
Whether it was intentional or not, “Real to Reel” cops its title from an obscure 1975 Arthur Lee/Love album called “Reel to Real.” This kinda represents another case of Starcastle looking to the rock-n-roll pantheon (the star castle, get it?) for influence.
Some live shows in the mid-eighties didn’t really catch fire. I guess I can see why.
Fans of Classical period ‘Castle won’t wanna miss a weekend alone with “Shine On Brightly,” and “Chronos I.” Both are 2001 CD issues. “Chronos I” features early versions of Starcastle “hits”, plus three other songs previously deemed unfit for release.
“Shine On Brightly” is a live recording of a show in Boston from August 12, 1979. It is also marketed as “Alive in America.” It first appeared in 1999 with the curious title, “Concert Classics, Vol. 5.” Shine on, indeed. Where have I heard that?
In 2007, backed by a cavalcade of keyboard players and percussionists, Starcastle became Studiocastle once more with “Song of Times.” Diehard Terry Luttrell fans may be disappointed that he only appears as lead vocalist on one track. Alas…
Here goes the 2007 version of Starcastle givin’ it hell.
The guys in Starcastle certainly had chops, and four albums of original material in five years is a testament to their admirable work ethic. It seems that Starcastle was just always in the shadow of some hot-shot older sibling. The Beaver to Yes’ Wally; the Jan to Marcia’s Styx.
I don’t want to give the impression that I dislike Starcastle, because I like them quite a lot. They’re just right for when I want the sounds of late ‘70’s prog, but am not in the mood to be challenged or to have my mind blown. Starcastle lyrics don’t reference arcane literature or deal with contemporary alienation and dread. The music may sometimes be ponderous, but it isn’t often all that pompous. I like listening to Starcastle at Christmas time in particular. Starcastle music is like Christmas music. It has a specific sound, and sometimes that sound is very appealing to me, more so than the lyrical content or the fact that the music is really not very original.
I don’t have a little brother, but if I did I would want him to be just like Starcastle– totally in my formidable shadow, but still sort of awesome.