Starcastle arrived in 1976 with their debut album on Epic and a sound that, while familiar to Yes fans, was a distinctive entity all of their own. They followed up the debut with another well-done album, Fountains of Light. They released two more Epic LPs (Citadel and Real to Reel) before the label jettisoned them following the departure of lead vocalist, Terry Luttrell. Of course, Luttrell’s vocals were a strong part of the band’s sound, difficult to replicate, even though the musicianship of Starcastle was potent enough to have been able to withstand the loss. Regardless, Starcastle was unable to build a large base of fans outside of a solid following and the band folded for many years, reforming for shows before returning with their latest on ProgRock Records, Song of Times.
Song of Times was recorded over many years and includes the work of band mainstay, Gary Strater, who died in 2004 and is prominently featured in not only song composition but also on all tracks save one. Terry Luttrell returns for a single track but the rest of the album is well sung by Al Lewis, previously of Alaska. Al Lewis provides a needed vocal boost for the band. The best songs of the album are “Babylon,” an excellent 9-minute plus cut that weaves through styles to create a multi-blanketed song as well as the bonus cut, an edited, 4-minute plus version of the same song that brings it closer to a Steve Perry-led Journey-like song. “All for the Thunder” comes closest as a reminder of early Starcastle, not only in sound but also in the fact that Terry Luttrell is the main vocalist. The title track, “Song of Times,” is the emotional piece. Written by Gary Strater, it is a look at the whole of the universe in a resolved, peaceful way, immediately eloquent and soul felt. All in all, the album, Song of Times, is a worthy entry into the Starcastle catalogue.
Song of Times reveals Starcastle to be of strong stock, perhaps even more inventive than their 70s version, incredible given their lengthy layoff. Although Song of Times does not measure up to the quality of the song listing found on the debut and much of Fountains of Light, clearly it is evident that the band has matured wonderfully. But to compare the Starcastle of today with the Starcastle of more than 30 years ago would be a disservice to fans of the band. The Starcastle of today is a better band. If you haven’t heard this new version of the band and you were a fan of the original Epic years, you owe it to yourself to hear them yet again.
Dedicated to Gary Strater, whose vision of Starcastle never wavered.