How close to you have to be to discern the difference between imitation and homage? They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery? Well Starcastle just paid a deep tribute to the band Yes. This album is one of the better records Yes never made.
Starting off with a nice slice of prog in “Lady of the Lake.” The similarities to their favorite band are here, but on repeated listens the differences are discerned. Terry Luttrell’s voice is not Jon Anderson. He does not find comfort in the high tenor/border-line soprano stratosphere that Jon often reaches for. His is a more earthy vocal, strengthened by years of singing in the rock and roll circuit. The backing vocals really bring forth those Yes comparisons though, also evidenced on “Forces” and the “To the Fire Wind.” That, and the Squire-like Rickenbacker bass played by Gary Strater. That darn Rickenbacker always brings forth Yes comparisons!
Another difference is the use of two guitarists in Matthew Stewart and Stephen Hagler. They both play a little less outside the box than Steve Howe, so there is no comparison here. The use of waa-waa pedals is interesting, and the dual guitars playing back and forth sparring notes like swordsman at play is quite unique. Both players are good and bring an outstanding sense of melodious comfort to the proceedings. Herb Schildt may not join the other five on vocals, but he can handle the keys for sure, as seen on the Moog beginning of “Elliptical Seasons, ” the suitably melodic “Stargate,” and the wonderful solos spiced throughout the recording. Rhythmic nature is held down by Stephen Tassler, and his chance to shine comes at the end of the album with the instrumental “Nova.” This band is tight.
Great songs, great players playing great Progressive Rock in a well-produced setting and excellent harmony vocals. So what if it sounds almost exactly like your favorite band upon first listen, it’s still great. Get this album and Starcastle’s even better next one, 1977’s Roy Thomas Baker produced Fountains of Light if you are a fan of Yes in all its permutations.
Reviewed by Terry Jackson on December 18th, 2011