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All Music Guide:
Starcastle (along with Styx, Fireballet, and Kansas) were part of a belated stateside response to British progressive rock. With Gary Strater's melodic bass lines, Herb Schildt's Moog runs, and Terry Luttrell's sometimes precious vocals, the band was clearly modeled from Yes, particularly in its first two releases. While Starcastle usually came out the worse for such comparisons, there were genuine moments of fine, intricate musicianship. Citadel (1977) showed some musical growth away from their "Yes-lite" phase, but the band weathered 1978 about as badly as their British inspirations and fell apart after the artistically and financially disastrous album Reel to Real.
Strater retained the band's name for a revamped configuration in the '80s, and this lineup produced some music that overcame the long shadow over the band's credibility in progressive circles. Unfortunately, no albums were released in this period. When Starcastle reconvened in the mid-1990s, there was talk by band members of releasing a new album, a possibility heightened by the CD reissue of their back catalog in 1998.
Starcastle was a progressive rock band formed in Champaign, Illinois in 1969.
Starcastle began life in 1969 as "St. James". Heavily influenced by the British progressive rock movement of the time, the band began writing material that would eventually appear on the first album. They also began a rigorous schedule of support gigs at clubs throughout the Midwest, honing their stage show and working in original material with covers. Despite relative success, and the release of a (now rare) single, something more was needed. Five years and a few name and line-up changes later, Starcastle was born. With tight musicianship, glorious vocal harmonies and a fleet-fingered bassist named Gary Strater, they were on their way.
Starcastle and Fountains of Light 
Work began on the band's first self-titled LP and it was released in early 1976. The response to the music of Starcastle was overwhelming and despite some detractors' accusations that they sounded like a Yes clone, the album received heavy FM airplay throughout the US & Canada. The group began an even more intensive touring schedule including some of the biggest shows of their careers. The first album sold well, and Epic Records sent the band to Le Studio in Morin-Heights, Quebec with producer Roy Thomas Baker.
Although Roy was well known for his success with Queen, the band was not sure if it was a good fit or not, as Roy did not understand Starcastle's vocals and other aspects of the sound. The atmosphere and surroundings of Le Studio were idyllic, but the final product, released in January 1977, Fountains of Light (considered by many fans to be the band's best release) turned out to be something other than what the band envisioned. More touring immediately followed its release, including a supporting role opening for The Outlaws and Boston in a triple bill that winter, as well as a number of headlining shows in small halls and universities with Journey and Foreigner supporting Starcastle on some dates. Fountains of Light garnered the band critical acclaim, and while the single "Diamond Song (Deep is the Light)" failed to chart, the album sold respectably.
Citadel and Real to Reel 
Once again, the label wanted more and the times were changing. Radio formats were moving away from progressive rock. No longer were programmers interested in eight minute songs, or concepts. They wanted short, concise songs that would fit on the radio and sell. Despite issues with Roy Baker's style, the label sent Starcastle to England to record their third offering, Citadel with Baker once again handling production. The pressure was on, but Starcastle kept to its progressive rock roots. After more touring, the cracks in the band were starting to show.
Real to Reel was an album the band felt should have never been released, despite some impressive material. Most of the more 'progressive' demos done for the record were rejected by CBS, and the band had stopped believing in what they were doing. The album was released and fell flat. During the subsequent tour, keyboardist Herb Schildt decided it was time to leave to pursue his passion – computers, and Terry, who had his eyes on producing, left after the group’s final date of the tour with Aerosmith. This, coupled with disappointing sales figures, prompted CBS to drop Starcastle from its roster.
The new Starcastle 
Undeterred, Starcastle carried on. They regrouped in Champaign, Illinois and in early 1979 the band began touring again this time with Steve Hagler on lead vocals and without a record contract. While this line-up worked for a while, Matt remembered a vocalist he had met and became friends with a few years earlier- Ralph Goldhiem. Ralph had toured the Midwest with another CBS/Epic group called Timberline. While the Timberline sound was more similar to The Eagles and Poco, it gave Ralph a taste of what he wanted to do. He moved to Los Angeles temporally joining up with former Trapeze/Deep Purple vocalist Glenn Hughes in rehearsals for a possible album which never materialized. It was during this time Matt called Ralph about joining Starcastle as vocalist.
With Ralph on board in July 1979 the new Starcastle took shape. The material became more hard edged, while still retaining the trademark Starcastle sound. Needing a change of surroundings Starcastle moved from Champaign to Atlanta, Georgia. A spec deal was signed with producer Jeff Glixman in Atlanta who was at that time best known for his work with Kansas. Through working with Glixman on the first demo, a management deal was signed with former Queen manager Jack Nelson. Nelson was more of a "hands off" manager, but did bring both Arista and A&M's John Kolander to the table for a possible deal. Nothing happened, but the band still held out hope that something would come along for the better. The band contemplated a name change at one point-even played a gig as "The Pack" at Atlanta's Agora Ballroom, but it was still Starcastle, and it was Starcastle they came to hear.
Hiatus and reformations 
In 1980 both Steve Hagler and Steve Tassler left the group. Tassler's replacement on drums was Mauro Magellan. Rehearsals took place with Magellan, but he left a short time later to join The Georgia Satellites -a band whose debut album would be produced by Jeff Glixman. Matt Stewart left for California and would later join Head East as guitarist in the mid-80's. Gary & Ralph continued to write together, but eventually Gary returned to Champaign, disillusioned and looking for a fresh start.
In 1982, Gary moved to the San Francisco Bay Area where he began to reinvent his own musical direction. Ultimately, this led to Gary forming a new and more modern version of Starcastle with Bruce Botts (guitar/vocals), George Harp (lead vocals) and Scott McKenzie (drums/vocals). Much new material was written and performed during this time drawing critical praise and interest from Bill Graham. Bruce Botts left the group in 1985 and moved back to the midwest. He was replaced by Mark McGee (Vicious Rumors) This line up carried on until 1987, when Gary moved back to Champaign.
In 1997, Gary Strater and Bruce Botts rekindled their association and, operating from the midwest, began work on a new recording. Eventually members from all incarnations of the band came together to work on this project. In 2001, Gary formed Sunsinger Records and released an archive CD, Chronos I, with demos and unreleased tracks. He followed that up in 2002 with a solo release, Eleven To The Fourth Twice, an experimental album based purely on fractals and computer equations. Ex-drummer Steve Tassler would also release a solo album that same year on Sunsinger entitled Alive Beyond Recognition.
Reunion and future 
In April 2004, a benefit show was arranged for Gary Strater, as he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2003. Gary was joined onstage by all the original members for a four-song performance. This would be Gary's final performance with Starcastle, and he would succumb to his cancer later that year at the age of 51. During his chemotherapy treatment Gary and the other members continued to work on a new record. Gary finished his parts only weeks before passing away. The album, Song of Times, was finished in late 2006 and released in 2007.