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Starcastle - 1978 Real To Reel

ARTIST: Starcastle
ALBUM: Real To Reel
SERIAL: JE 35441
YEAR: 1978
CD REISSUE: 1999, Epic/Sony (Japan), ESCA-7740


LINEUP: Terry Luttrell - lead vocals * Stephen Hagler - guitar, piano, electric piano, lead vocal on 'Song For Alaya' * Matthew Stewart - guitars, slide guitars, electric sitar, vocals * Herb Schildt - organ, synthesizer, electric piano, electronic strings, A.L.F. computer synthesizer * Gary Strater - bass guitar, clavinet, vocals * Stephen Tassler - drums, percussion, synthesized percussion, vocals

TRACK LISTING: 01 Half A Mind To Leave Ya * 02 Whatcha Gonna Do (When It All Comes Down On You) * 03 We Did It * 04 Nobody's Fool * 05 Song For Alaya * 06 So Here We Are * 07 She * 08 The Stars Are Out Tonight * 09 When The Sun Shines At Midnight


This is the fourth and final album from Illinois' Starcastle, during their formative era. 'Real To Reel' as a piece of collective music is probably best described as being caught betwixt and between. Not sure whether they had completely lost their progressive roots by this stage, but the material tries hard to be commercial without a complete appreciation of what being commercial mean't. I can only assume that the Epic label and management had a hand in precedings, but to get the band to change at this late stage was like asking a leopard to change its spots. And as it proved, it was a move bordering on disastrous.

The Songs
Their three previous albums highlighted their progressive leanings, culminating in the fantastic 'Citadel' album the year before. On that album, they just about managed to create the perfect progressive/commercial crossover. With 'Real To Reel' though, the progressive element is considerably less, and as such, there is not a lot to hold it all together. There are a couple of good songs though that do stand the test of time. One of these is 'When The Sun Shines At Midnight' - a grandiose affair, which is probably the most prog-oriented track here. The other is the opener 'Half A Mind To Leave Ya', which is also memorable due to it's insistent chorus. However, 'So Here We Are' is an obvious attempt at AOR, which doesn't quite land on the runway. Of the others, unfortunately they do not hold a lot of attention.

In Summary
Without doubt, not the pick of the bunch album-wise. The band still picked up a lot of critics for being a Yes rip-off. Starcastle's fate was not helped by the fact that 1978 saw the release of some poor albums by their contemporaries - Yes, Genesis and Gentle Giant included. So by default, they got lumped in with that bunch. However, for completists, you'll have the album regardless of what I say.

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#1 | rostoned on April 28 2008 19:12:48
poor effort. in this case you can DO judge a (awful) book by its (horrendous) cover! hilarious
#2 | Eric on June 30 2008 21:58:26
Starcastle at this point were fragmented, Terry was here and there and sometimes not at all during the recording with a producer no one had heard of. A big fall after working with RTB. A couple feeler's to other vocalists of the day were put out (both very well known), but the label insisted Terry stay and the band move forward. The demos were far more progressive, but the Epic wasn't interested. A shame. Cover photo taken in California- with the photographers idea to tie Steve T's shirt. Eegads.
#3 | Nick C on November 13 2008 03:17:40
Too my ears it's almost as if the label wanted another Boston with the direction they pushed the band in. Having said that it does have a soft spot in my heart and isn't a total loss if you forget what went before.
When the Sun Shines at Midnight is a pretty huge emotive ballad of a song, and the rest of the album is pretty enjoyable.
BUT I may be biased! Oh to hear the demos that Eric mentions real sad
#4 | gdazegod on February 04 2011 11:39:23
Definitely, 'When The Sun Shines At Midnight' is the pick of the bunch on this album. Have been playing this recently, just to see if it comes up a few notches in the ratings status.. though I doubt not enough to get Derek Oliver interested in a Rock Candy reissue, considering the other three have been covered off..
#5 | Eric on February 04 2011 13:33:52
The demo version of 'When The Sun Shines At Midnight' was longer and even more prog. Unless there is a miracle, it will never be heard...
#6 | rostoned on October 15 2015 15:59:17
Please note this was quite surprisingly reissued on CD also in the US by Renaissance in the very late '00. Even more shockingly, it is still in print as I write.

George re. your review, interesting to note that also ELP released a very poor album in the ill fated year 78, their black sheep 'Love Beach'. And more amusingly, even that one has a very effeminate cover featuring laughing boys with a tied shirt in sight. argh

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