Uzbekistan Progressive Rock Pages
Labels of Prog

"Castle Communications"

The English firm "Castle Communications" came into being in the first half of the '80s and on the top of its list was a reedition of the widely known works of the past as cheap as possible. The policy of the management paid off very soon. CDs were priced at $ 5-7 at retail, which was almost twice as low than the prices at other companies for, on the whole, the same quality and cover. In addition, if many titles, for reedition of those the firm acquired licenses, came out on the CD, the album of such remarkable bands as Hawkwind, Procol Harum, etc, appeared on the new device thanks to "Castle Records" (only later the Americans from "One Way" come up with their reedition of Hawkwind, but the price of a disc was really twice as much, though this firm never did really remastering).

Having acquired the copyright for the reedition of the bands of the famous in '70s label "Transatlantic", the firm issued on the CDs a whole series of the long forgotten Prog and Folk works (mainly from Britain), that often are way better in quaity than the popular Steeleye Span or Fairport Convention (not to mention the American performers of this style). But the main acquisition from "Transatlantic" is the band Gryphon. The company has never been greedy and it places 2 LP onto 1 CD, since the programs a bit within the 80-minutes frame of the compact disc, unlike the Japanese with their starting prices of $ 22 (over there), that issued a small edition of the discography of the great band for the first time. But the most surprising thing is the rare audiophilic quality of the "Red Queen to Gryphon Three" (though, there's no indication at remastering): with the exception of "Japan" I've never heard such a high-quality sound. You can buy, for example, "Red Queen..." (a breathtaking masterpiece of Prog!) + "Raindance" (1975) nicely packaged as 2 LP on 1 CD in Moscow for as little as $ 8-9, and you will see it.

Another example. The American "Warner Brothers", that holds the copyritght for Black Sabbath in the New World, still hasn't found time to remaster their works, much less improve the modest booklets. "Castle", however, has owned since 1995 the copyright for the edition and reedition of the complete production of the legendary band in Europe from their debut till and including "The Eternal Idol" of 1987 (untill the Sabbathers gave up their "Gimcastle LTD" and went over to major American division of EMI-IRS with their well-known pressure on the creative process, which is the case with all the "majors"). By the way, Geezer with his project, bed up with the demands of the label being yet in Black Sabbath (1992-1994), went over to "Castle" actually, where such Titans as Yes, Kansas, Marillion have also found a good haven (Marillion, unlike others, is apparently in deep creative crisis). Even Helloween, ousted from a "major", has virtually restored the style of the late '80s that made them famous. What's more, their album of 1996 simply bombed the metal charts out (though, the album is way fuller of quality than previous two!) and brought in by this even a better reputation for its new "home", along with a high profit.

It's not clear, why Black Sabbath don't come here in the wake of Geezer, keeping in mind that the products of "Castle" are issued and distributed in the USA by "TVT", a respected label there. And how well the firm issued the whole legacy of the band! The albums of an excellent remastering quality (with the exception of the last song on "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath") are backed by just posh booklets with numerous rare photos and detailed annotation on the band of the usual white field. Last not least, the price is only & 8 for an analog remastering (wow! it's better than a digital one!) from the original master-tape. While a common unremastered US CD costs & 12 and over. Those who criticize "Castle" amaze me. Gone is the time of a less than perfect audio sound. And now the company has a net of its divisions at hand: "Essential", "Raw Power", "50/50" and some others, which is generally a privilege of the "major" labels. And the latest Black Sabbath album is issued by not IRS this time, but again by a major label "Sony Music".

Better and cheaper than any other competitor also the legacy of ELP was produced by "Castle": remastered, with a colourful bottom and even with the texts of "Brain Salad Surgery"(has anyone ever seen the texts of the best early works of the band, not counting of very mediocre reedition made by "Polygram" many years ago?). Besides the mentioned bands, most works of Nazareth, Uriah Heep, Procol Harum and others have been reissued, always with analog remastering. Therefore, there is the firm available for us that reissues an excellent works of Progressive and Proto-Progressive Rock, that are loved so much, as well as rare amazing masterpieces such as Gryphon's "Red Queen...". And it's a pity, that the copyright for Manfred Mann's (EarthBand) was intercepted an unknown, but truly awful label "Cohesion", the name sounds mean, especially when listening to their materials. So, all told, the products of "Castle Communications" are a real good bargain, at the same time they provide an excellent sound for you to enjoy (just don't forget about the Gryphon's third album).

VM (Vitaly Menshikov): October 1998