Starcastle - s/t. 1976 USA
CD reissues: 1992 Epic; 2008 Epic; 2010 Rock Candy (UK); 2011 Air Mail (Japan mini-LP)
Those who write-off Starcastle as merely Yes clones, are the same ones who would do similar with Eskaton sounding like Magma. It's an easy comparison, makes for a populist styled review, and everyone goes home happy - satisfied in their self-assessed deep historical knowledge on the subject, along with sycophantic approval from other strictly-topical naysayers. Indeed if learning how to write in the first grade is the same as your college term paper, then the logic proves true.
I nearly wrote a dissertation on this very subject, painstakingly compiled for my USA Midwest / Ontario Progressive Rock (1970's/early 80s) list. Every band has influences they merge into their own music. Yes themselves borrowed from many a source to come up with their unique sound recipe. Now Starcastle comes along, takes the Yes recipe as a base, and distills it even further. Druid in England were doing the same thing at the same time, except to critical approval. The USA, while never having our own progressive rock scene like Europe, really took a shine to good ole Yes in the 1970s. So if you were to put together a band during that time, Yes was likely your first choice as an influence. It just so happens that Starcastle actually made a bit of a commercial mark doing it, thus subjugating themselves to years of undeserved ridicule by those who consider the Rolling Stone Record Guide a contemporary gospel that cannot be questioned, lest you too be tagged with a Scarlet M (for Moron) on your hard earned Fragile concert T-shirt.
As I state under the Starcastle entry on the list above: There can be no doubt that Starcastle had front row seats to the Relayer tour, but they also have that distinct American touch in the songwriting. Some will say watered-down, and perhaps that's not far from the truth - but getting on the radio was extremely important to any band who wanted a shot at success. And no local band was going to be afforded the opportunity to release a 'Gates of Delirium' type opus. Their gambit paid off, as Starcastle could only be considered a grand success in this scenario.
In reality, Starcastle weren't the "bloated corpse" (says the music critics, not I) of Yes' sprawling album side suites - but rather it was a more direct sound, similar to The Yes Album. There's more Tony Kaye than Rick Wakeman here, that's for sure.
I would highly suggest listening to this album on its own, taking into account the compositions themselves, then allow the "influence filter" into your mind. As an example of 1970s Midwest American progressive rock, it's damn near perfect.
Not much to say on the release front. The LP sold well back in the day (in many countries), so copies are plentiful, though nice ones can be hard to spot. The 1992 CD was pretty scarce for awhile, but recent reissues make it easy to find again.