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Styx - Crystal Ball CD (album) cover




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3.14 | 177 ratings

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4 stars This was the record that kicked off the classic Styx era that featured great songwriting, concept albums and a bunch of hit singles. Fortunately Crystal Ball lacks the latter and thus makes it one the band's most cohesive records to date. This was also the point when the young Tommy Shaw entered the scene and began contributing to the band both as a musician and songwriter.

The band has always had memorable opening album tracks and Put Me On is by no means an exception even though it does tend to be overshadowed by Light Up and The Grand Illusion. The opening track is upbeat and featuring quite a few quirky moments, which is in line with the rest of the material. Put Me On transitions into the album's first single Mademoiselle written by DeYoung and Shaw. Remember that I wrote that this record had no hit singles? Well, Mademoiselle was actually a Top 40 hit in the US and Canada but is completely overshadowed by the hit singles that came on the next couple of albums. I actually think that Mademoiselle works really well in the context of the album, making it a worthy album track independent of the fact that it was a single. I don't really know why but the structure of this composition somehow manages to remind my of Seaside Rendezvous by Queen.

Jennifer is another solid album track from Dennis DeYoung that works well with his quirky vocal delivery. The title track is probably the most famous track of the bunch and was the first solo songwriting credit for Shaw. It's a strong composition with great solo spots for DeYoung on synthesizer and Shaw on electric guitar. After such great momentum, the album delivers its only weak track in the shape of a straightforward rocker Shooz written by Tommy Shaw and James Young. In its defense, this is actually one of the better compositions that was written/co-written by Young and features Shaw on lead vocals.

After the first five compositions, which ranged from great to solid album tracks, comes two compositions that transform Crystal Ball to the status of excellence. It's worth to mention that these tracks are rarely performed live thus making them two of the band's most underrated moments. This Old Man is a moody piece by DeYoung that feels very pompous and almost symphonic in its style. Clair De Lune/Ballerina begins with a piano intro of Clair De Lune Claude Debussy which is then followed by Ballerina. This is another track where DeYoung shows his love for theatrical performance and I can easily see this composition being performed as a part of a musical with soaring vocal harmonies from the performers.

Crystal Ball is where the songwriting kicked into the next gear and turned Styx into a real contender on the late '70s pop music scene. The next two albums would really show just that. Highly recommended to fans of melodic art rock music.

***** star songs: This Old Man (5:11) Clair De Lune/Ballerina (7:09)

**** star songs: Mademoiselle (3:57) Put Me On (4:56) Jennifer (4:16) Crystal Ball (4:32)

*** star songs: Shooz (4:44)

Rune2000 | 4/5 |


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