Since I’m headed to Illinois, I thought it appropriate that I revisit a progressive band that originated in the Champaign/Urbana area that went by the name of Starcastle. Starcastle began their career just as the ’70s were dawning, and enjoyed a meteoric rise in popularity although many people this days would be hard-pressed to remember the band.
The first album, the excellent self-titled Starcastle, issued on Epic Records in 1976, and featured vocalist addition, Terry Luttrell (R.E.O. Speedwagon – 1st album). The album, with its seven songs, including the epic “Lady of the Lake” that became an FM favorite, sold extremely well, well enough to give Epic Records the faith for a follow-up album. Fountain of Lights (1977), a six track perfection was released a mere eleven months later underscoring the determination of the band to rise into the upper echelon of well-established Prog bands like Yes.
Starcastle (the album) began with the previously mentioned “Lady of the Lake”. It is a gorgeous composition that underscored the already impressive talents found in the band. But it didn’t stop impressing there. With six more gems, the album left a warm feeling in the hearts and souls of prog fans looking for more like Yes, Genesis, and ELP.
Fountains of Light yielded astonishingly perfect songs given that they released their debut not that long before. Three standout tracks include the single issue, “Diamond Song (Deep Is The Light)”, “Dawning of the Day” (which SHOULD have been the single issue, as it is much better than “Diamond Song”), and the stupendous cruncher, “Silver Winds”. “Silver Winds”, edited, might have also made an excellent single.
Both of these multi-layered albums could be happily played beginning to end for the excellence in the grooves. The band’s third LP, Citadel, released in 1978, while not as perfect as the previous releases, still did not disappoint in its eight tracks. Its attempt at radio cuts were noticeable but the album was a noble blend of the past with an eye to a promising future. In 1979, Starcastle released a different album than what fans were originally used to. Real to Reel tanked, Epic dropped the band, and the band called it a day. However, there were good songs to be found on Real to Reel, although it doesn’t factor well in what could be called the great trilogy (their first three), thereby giving it some distance from the trilogy, and becoming, instead, a hard-core fan’s addition.
Ironically, Starcastle drew strong comparisons with Yes, which helped the band in their rising popularity.
The band reformed much later to record Song of Times (2007), an album that I liked extremely well (read review here). Starcastle had a great career. Unfortunately, the band was tugged from sea to shining sea, unable to continue the cataloging that should have been respectably large. Nevertheless, the catalog left behind is remarkable.
I write this article for several reasons. The first is to merely alert some of you who may not be aware of this band, and that the albums from this now defunct band are well worth your efforts in acquiring. At least, anyway, their first three albums. The second is to challenge those that know of the band to discuss what are their best albums, songs, cover art, etc.
For me, I say their shining moment was their great debut. But others point to Fountains of Light. What say you?