Starcastle
Fountains of Light


4.0
excellent

Review

by e210013 USER (119 Reviews)
September 9th, 2019 | 15 replies


Release Date: 1977 | Tracklist

Review Summary: It sounds like Yes but it sounds more than Yes. This is perhaps the best album Yes never made.

“Fountains Of Light” is the second studio album of Starcastle and was released in 1977. The line up on the album is Terry Luttrell, Matthew Stewart, Stephen Hagler, Herb Schildt, Gary Strater and Stephen Tassler.


Starcastle is an American symphonic progressive rock band from Champaign, Illinois, which was formed in 1972. It was disbanded in 1987, reformed between 1997 and 2007 and that was re-reformed again since 2018. However, in reality, Starcastle was born in 1969 as St. James. In 1974 they adopted the name Starcastle, and in 1976 the band released their eponymous debut studio “Starcastle”. While critics point to Starcastle as a Yes’ replica, the album was admittedly a hit, especially in the United States and Canada. Since they were a successful band in the beginning of their musical career, they were opening acts for bands such as Jethro Tull, Gentle Giant, Kansas, Boston, Rush, Journey, and some others.

Despite having a sound very similar to that of Yes, in reality their music is a bit lighter, as if they wanted to do something more environmental, more AOR. Their interpretations are clear, precise and well executed. They use the vocals as vocal games, like if they are part of another instrument, thereby losing some of the intention used in the instrumental parts.

After the success of “Starcastle”, their record label Epic decided to entrust the group to Roy Thomas Baker who was responsible for discovering Queen and with whom he produced the first five albums of Queen. So, it was with Baker that Starcastle released “Fountains Of Light”, which is in general considered their masterpiece. The album didn’t reissue the same commercial success as its predecessor, yet it sold very well. The arguments at the time were to consider the first one more accessible, while this one with more complex lines eventually decreased their audience.

The band’s style is often compared to Yes largely because of the Luttrell's voice, which is sometimes indistinguishable from Jon Anderson’s, and the arrangements given some resemblance to albums like “Time And A Word” and “Fragile”. The lyrics also address Anderson’s favourite themes, evoking admiration for nature, high spirits and fantasy. However, the group considers the influence of other styles, notably North American groups like Kansas, Boston, Styx and REO Speedwagon. And indeed, they can meet all this demand with quality by producing a great progressive rock album.

Herb Schildt shines on “Fountains Of Light” more than on any other Starcastle’s album and proves to himself to be in a high class along Wakeman and Emerson, without any doubt. The two guitarists Stephen Hagler and Matt Stewart lend both a harder edge and more mainstream approach that was used on Yes, but it completely works. There are acoustic passages and wah-wah guitar and power chords. Terry Lutrell strives to hit the higher notes that Jon Anderson does and he succeeds. That and the incredible harmonies make of “Fountains Of Light” an essential listen for all Yes’ fans.

Opening with the uncompromising prog “Fountains”, the album gets off on the right foot and as the ten minute long song winds its way through complex, yet upbeat passages, it becomes an almost irresistible combination. Luttrell really has the capability to mesmerise with his tone and delivery and while he was brought right to the forefront of the Starcastle sound, by no means does he overshadow it. Following that mini epic comes five considerably shorter, but no less impressive songs, with the bright and airy “Dawning Of The Day” allowing the arranging skills of the band to shine through. The keyboards really do rule, especially when you consider this was a twin guitar band, however Matthew Stuart and Stephen Hagler’s six string work is still an integral part of what is going on here. “Silver Winds” continues in the same style, before “True To The Light” adds even more pomp to Starcastle’s sound. Schildt is in absolutely imperious from as he conducts and marshals all the other instruments in impressive fashion and the layers of vocals are simply sublime. The album is then rounded out by the more restrained, if catchy “Portraits”, which also contains some of the standout guitar work on the album and “Diamond Song (Deep Is The Light)”, which with its chorus and multi-vocal parts hints at the more commercial vibe that the band would illustrate on their third studio album “Citadel”.


Conclusion: “Fountains Of Light” has gorgeous harmonies, bass lines playing as a lead instrument, symphonic keyboard flourishes, excellent guitar playing, impeccable drumming and nice vocals. It’s true that it sounds like Yes, but it sounds like the “Great Yes”. This is as good as anything Yes was putting out in the end of the 70’s. But there is here something more than Yes. There is also an American outlook added with hints of Kansas and a stronger helping of Styx ensuring that Starcastle weren’t quite a Yes clone. I don’t deny that the keyboard work of Herb Schildt, the bass playing of Gary Strater and voice of Terry Luttrell do strongly rely on Wakeman, Squire and Anderson for inspiration. But when the results are this convincing, then does that really matter? This is a classic of American 70’s prog, indeed.


Music was my first love.
John Miles (Rebel)



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user ratings (20)
3.7
great
other reviews of this album
Robbit (3)
A good, but somewhat disappointing album from an American Prog-Rock band who sound like a Yes tribut...


Comments:Add a Comment 
e210013
September 9th 2019


2530 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

After "Toward The Sun" of Druid, my second band chosen as one of the most influenced by Yes was Starcastle. Starcastle was considered the counterpart of Yes of the other side of the Ocean. Both their first two albums are great and I decided to chose the second one because its my favourite and I think its music is even more close to Yes.

Starcastle is probably the most extreme Yes’ clone band I’ve ever heard, besides Druid. The band did absolutely everything to sound exactly like Yes and they succeeded extremely well, but there’s also an American outlook added too. This album is a treasure for any Yes’ fan. "Foutains Of Light” is one of the better albums Yes never made.

I hope you can like this album too, especially if you liked of Druid's album.

MotokoKusanagi
September 9th 2019


2042 Comments


nice review e, pleasure to read! definitely going to grab this because i quite enjoy their self-titled debut (actually didn't realize they had another album). i went through a phase last year of devouring all the Yes-clones i could find, this is one of them!

cheers

zakalwe
September 9th 2019


28516 Comments


I will always pos your productivity worker e210013

e210013
September 9th 2019


2530 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks, Moto.

Actually Starcastle has 5 studio albums. 4 in the 70's and one in 2007. But I think the two first ones are the best, both great. The opinions are divided some prefer the first and others this one. Still, their third album "Citadel" isn't bad, too.

I don't know if you noticed my previous review. It was about another album deeply influenced by Yes, "Toward The Sun" of Druid, since you're interested in Yes-clones.

e210013
September 9th 2019


2530 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks Zak. It's always a pleasure to see another comment on my reviews. And thanks for your kind words.

Cheers, man.

Jethro42
September 9th 2019


15958 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Glad you're mentioning Styx, I can hear some of them in the key's department.



At the debut of 2nd paragraph, ''Despite have a sound...'' It's more like ''Despite having a sound...''



I'm not a fan of clone bands from the start, so this band is losing major points from me (I gave their first album a 3.5, but I think I was too generous, will verify). I confess they know how to play, but they went too far to a rip off point of view. i'll give another listen even if it doesn't bother me that much.



Good review my man. I find it reads like a 4.5/5 or even a 5/5.

dwightfryed
September 10th 2019


86 Comments


Nice review, never liked 'em at all.

Digging: Fleetwood Mac - Mr. Wonderful

e210013
September 10th 2019


2530 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I know that you aren't a clone fan. You put that perfectly clear in your comment about Druid's album. But, as you said, they know how to play. So, if you could clean out your mind about Yes' influences, you must confess this is a great album, with good songwritting and very well performed. Besides, as I mentioned on my review, I think it has a clear American influence in the same vein of Kansas and Styx, for instance, which a positive point and a difference when compared with Druid's album.

Besides, I remember myself that in those times, one of my closest friends, infortunately, he is no longer more with us, he told me that Starcastle was the American version of Yes and Kansas was the American version of Genesis. I know that there are some clear differences between both cases, especially when we are seeing this more than 40 years later. Kansas is much more original especially due to the use of a violin and it's a much more consistent band with an excellent career. I really prefer them, clearly. Still, I continue thinking that Starcastle's two first albums are two great albums.

About my review and rating, you're partially right. If it wasn't a so influeced album I certainly would have given to it a 4.5.

I already fixed that paragraph.

Thanks for your comment, help and pos. It's always a pleasure to cross ideas with you. Besides, you are a great connoisseur of prog, you always supported me and you are the main responsable why I continue reviwing on Sputnik.

Cheers my bro in prog.

e210013
September 10th 2019


2530 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks dwight. I appreciate that you commented one of my reviews.

Jethro42
September 10th 2019


15958 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Each time I see a new review of yours, it makes my day ;). I hope it's still of your interest to make reviews. I'm flattered to be that important for you into your review process.



i've quickly relistened to the first Starcastle album. Still not sure if I'd give a 3 or a 3.5. It seems that the songs sound samey on the long run. When I hear one of their songs, it's like I hear them all. i'll try Fountains of Light again to see if i'm right or wrong.



Cheers, my progmate, and it's a pleasure to share prog and music in general with another connoisseur like you, and I learn a lot of good things through your work. Keep your reviews coming, while i'm here, cos as long as you have at least one reader per week, your job isn't done in vain.



e210013
September 10th 2019


2530 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

You're important due to your knowledge about prog, (we belong to the same prog generation) and because you always appeared on my reviews and you always give your adised and honest opinion. As you know we always like to have some feedback of our work. We don't like to talk with the stones.

Yeah, I intend to continue with my reviews. I like to write about my favourite music and I think that it's important to keep the prog flame alive on Sputnic. Besides, the site doesn't only live of its members and I like to exchange my knowledges with others. There's much more world outside of here, really.

TheIntruder
September 12th 2019


421 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Nice album, great review. Have a pos.

e210013
September 12th 2019


2530 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks, pal.

Jethro42
September 12th 2019


15958 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Here's my verdict; I can understand the appeal of the band, but I think they're too derivative versus Yes even if it's intentional. My main gripe about the album is that same tempo from start to finish. It's not enough varied, and not quite original. There are nice parts from each and every songs, but there are also pop or cheesy parts in each. Even if it wasn't the time for it yet, it sounds like a neo-prog band most of the time. I don't really enjoy their style but again, I can understand the hype.

i give a 3 which is not bad, but good. Musicianship is pretty good. Compositions could be better.

e210013
September 13th 2019


2530 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah, 3.0 is a good rating. I can see your point but I continue liking the album very much. Thanks for your point of view.



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