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Styx - Styx CD (album) cover




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2.80 | 125 ratings

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3 stars I haven’t listened to this album in years, but dug it out recently out of desperation for something new to write a review about. Like Fleetwood Mac, Journey, Rush, Yes and ELO, I ended up buying Styx back-catalog records after being turned on to them by their more popular later recordings. Of those, only ELO, Yes and Fleetwood Mac turned out to have early recordings that were as good (or better) than their hit albums. For Styx, this album is dramatically different than the Top-40 records of the mid-seventies, but it is amazingly consistent with some of the better American progressive music of that day, which is to say it rocks harder than most British progressive bands of the same period, is decidedly blues-based but with plenty of experimentation and apparently some improvisation, is heavy on the keyboards (mostly Hammond), and translates very well to the live concert setting.

I unfortunately was already getting into cassettes by the time I got around to Styx’ early stuff, so the quality here isn’t anywhere near as good as I’d like, but it is decent enough for the period.

“Movement for the Common Man…” is a great example of the lack of restrictions the band felt in putting together this debut. There is more than a passing resemblance to Grand Funk Railroad, but the keyboard and tempo progressions throughout lend a sort of suite-like feel that may have been influenced by ELP, or maybe even Rod Argent. ELP of course found much greater success with their own version of this Aaron Copeland tune several years later. Also, the pseudo- street recordings were a very early example of the kind of thing Godspeed You! Black Emperor would perfect more than twenty years later with the opinionated ramblings of common folk with their slanted views of modern youth and the degeneration of society in general. Like I said, this is fairly heavy music both on keyboards and guitar, and I can see where this would have far more appeal to American fans than to those who grew up on the more ‘refined’ work of Genesis or PFM. But hey – there are probably some Tull fans out there that dug this stuff too!

The next couple tracks, “Right Away” and “What Has Come Between Us” are more straightforward blues-rock tunes with harmonizing vocals, with the latter showing some signs of the layered harmonies the band would use to dominate the airwaves between 1975 and 1979. “Best Thing” has the same vocal layout, but introduces a more elaborate keyboard mix and stronger guitar work. This isn’t a particularly strong tune, but I can see where it would have sounded good on an open-air stage, and it scored the band their first minor hit in the U.S.

There seems to be a bit of influence from the British blues-rock band Free on “Quick Is the Beat of My Heart”, as well as on “After You Leave Me”, which actually could have passed for a Bad Company tune if Paul Rodgers were providing the vocals. This isn’t prog rock, but it sure has enough of that flavor to at least be worth a few listens. And speaking of that lack of restrictions, this is a George Clinton (of Parliament/Funkadelic fame), so the band certainly didn’t feel constrained by any particular style when they recorded this.

I wouldn’t rank this as Styx best by any means, but it is an album that deserves to rank a bit higher than just the collector/completionist status it has been relegated to for so many years. I’d say this is a three star effort, and is recommended to those who think Styx was nothing more than Tommy Shaw’s hair-band backups.


ClemofNazareth | 3/5 |


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