Starcastle -- Song of Times (Progrock)

Thirty years ago, Starcastle roared out of Champaign, Ill., with an irresistible sound that combined Prog Rock's complexity and Pop's shimmer. Although they took much grief for their proximity t

 
Starcastle —Song of Times



Thirty years ago, Starcastle roared out of Champaign, Ill., with an irresistible sound that combined Prog Rock's complexity and Pop's shimmer. Although they took much grief for their proximity to Yes, Starcastle never disappeared up their own asses with album-sided suites of ponderous, impenetrable blather, preferring to examine the bombast of Prog within the more succinct Pop song format. Label meddling unraveled the band in the '80s, although they carried on with various lineups, always led by lightning-fingered bassist Gary Strater, who kept the Starcastle brand alive with touring and an eventual archive CD in 2001, Chronos I, as well as the promise of new material. Sadly, in the midst of putting a new album together, Strater was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and passed away in 2004. For the past two years, new and founding members of Starcastle (including Cincy-bred guitar hero Bruce Botts, an on-and-off member of the band since the mid-'80s) have been putting the finishing touches on the album Strater envisioned as Starcastle's spectacular return to form. Song of Times doesn't disappoint, filled with the same sparkling vocal harmonies, soaring guitars and bubbling synths that characterized the band's high points in the '70s. New vocalist Al Lewis hits the right range throughout Song of Times, but old fans will be delighted with "All for the Thunder," the single track that features original lead voice Terry Luttrell. With Song of Times (available at starcastlemusic.com), Starcastle has once again combined the simplicity of Pop and the majesty of Prog to create a unique and engaging hybrid that easily satisfies the definitions of both genres. The remaining members of the band have fashioned both a new album and a worthy tribute to the drive, determination and boundless talent of Gary Strater. (Brian Baker) Grade: A-

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