Starcastle - Chronos I

Year of Release: 2001
Label: Sunsinger Music
Catalog Number: 8001
Format: CD
Total Time: 70:10:00

Back in the mid-70s, I read about a supposed Yes copy-band named Starcastle. As I recall, the press was less than complimentary to Starcastle, decrying everything about them, from Terry Luttrell's Anderson-like lead vocals to the band's Yes-style arrangements. Not long after that, I got my first exposure to Starcastle when they opened a show for Boston on the latter's first headlining tour. Based on that show, I picked up Starcastle's second album, Fountains of Light. The album wasn't that great, the songs being a little too light for my tastes, but I liked Fountains Of Light enough to keep it as an occasional change of pace.

I never saw or heard Starcastle again - having somehow missed out on the release of their third and fourth albums - until I started surfing the web for information about progressive rock music in the late 90's. It was there I discovered that not only was Starcastle still being discussed, but also the band was working on issuing an archive release and following it up with an album of original material.

Chronos I is that archive release, a collection of early Starcastle songs, drawn from their self-titled debut, Fountains Of Light, and unreleased demo tapes. The songs are not final release productions, but rehearsal and test recordings, some with mistakes intact. The songs were copied from aged, badly worn tapes and converted to digital format for cd release, so the sound quality varies from not very good to downright awful. As for the music, the classic Starcastle elements are all here: Yes-style vocals, Howe-influenced guitars, Squire-ish bass, plenty of keyboards, and liberal use of vocal melodies. Despite all that, Starcastle never quite sounded like a true Yes knock-off. Imagine that Dennis DeYoung and Jon Anderson had joined Flash and taken over the musical direction - that would be Starcastle. Luttrell's vocals are remarkably like Anderson's, but the Styx comparison is apparent in the use of dual guitars and Herb Schildt's keyboards, which sound very much like DeYoung's.

Chronos I opens with demo versions of three songs from Starcastle. While the band denies being overly influenced by Yes, the similarity is quite clear. "Lady Of The Lake" and "Forces" are nearly palatable, but the former is far too long and both are marred by Gary Strater's trebly, chattering bass. "To The Fire Wind" starts off with a growling Hammond B3, but quickly degenerates into a misguided Yes rip-off that features the most irritating vocal harmonies I personally have ever heard. Luckily, the "Cinema Show(ish)" mid-section is quite listenable and almost salvages the song.

Fountains Of Light, an album that was more pop than rock, is represented by the next six tracks. All reveal Starcastle's musical direction taking the Stygian turn; in fact, each sounds as if it might fit well on Styx's Grand Illusion. "Fountains", the FoL epic, sounds nearly identical to the original release, but lacking that version's polish. The same is true for "True to the Light" and "Morning Fall": the latter would be released as "Dawning of the Day". "A Fall of Diamonds" (released as "Deep Is The Light"), my favorite track, is a nice bit of progressive pop that sounds very much like Yes in their lighter moments. "Where Caverns Wind", a song that was not included on Fountains Of Light, is a startling change of pace: a nice bit of folk-rock featuring dual acoustic guitars and sweet vocal harmonies, with percussion and bass synthesizer accents. "Portraits" was the album closer for FoL, contains some very noticeable audio distortion but, considering the condition of the tape from which Chronos I was derived, is easily forgiven.

Two unreleased demos round out Chronos I, and both are rock harder than anything that would be released on Starcastle's first two albums. "Dance Of The Physotrons" was an attempt at science fiction, but never became a fixture in the Starcastle repertoire. "Breath and Thunder" was the first song Starcastle ever recorded, so old and lost in time that bassist and liner notes author Gary Strater "had forgotten about the existence of this recording." A short, punchy rocker, "Breath and Thunder" sounds nothing like Starcastle on record, but certainly shows that - at the beginning, anyway - the band knew how to turn up the guitars and rock out.

Because of the poor sound quality and the unpolished song quality, Chronos I is not an easy listen. I'm dissatisfied with most of the songs here, but the few good ones ensure Chronos I a permanent home in my cd collection. To the true Starcastle fans out there - and I know you're out there - I say, Chronos I is a must have. To the curious and collectors, I say check it out. To the prog metal and fusion fans, I say leave it alone - Chronos I is far too light for your tastes.

Lady Of The Lake (9:55) / Forces (5:21) / To The Fire Wind (7:10) / Fountains (10:18) / True To The Light (6:29) / Morning Fall (5:02) / A Fall Of Diamonds (5:38) / Where Caverns Wind (3:09) / Portraits (5:09) / Dance Of The Physotrons (5:08) / Breath And Thunder (3:51)

Terry Luttrell - lead vocals
Herb Schildt - keyboards
Gary Strater - bass guitar, bass synthesizers, vocals
Steve Hagler - guitars, vocals
Steve Tassler - percussion, vocals
Matt Stewart - guitars, vocals

Starcastle (1976)
Fountains of Light (1977)
Citadel (1977)
Reel To Real (1979)
Chronos I (2001)
Song Of Times (2007)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: October 26th 2001
Reviewer: David Cisco

Artist website:
Hits: 772
Language: english


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