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Styx - The Grand Illusion CD (album) cover




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3.72 | 257 ratings

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3 stars This is a tough album to review. The music is very good throughout, though not always very progressive. I also have grown so familiar with these songs over the years that it's hard to hear them with a fresh ear. At any rate, my take is that good music needs to come first, and the Grand Illusion certainly delivers. As far as progressiveness? Probably not given the lyrics and consistent instrumentation. On the other hand, nice use of synths and keys, soaring vocal harmonies, and a nice refrain to end the album strike me as progressive. This is progressive rock, just on the low end of the continuum.

The A side contains the familiar classic rock staples. The Grand Illusion and Superstars are fairly straightforward rockers, but the vocal harmonies and dual guitars give Styx a rather unique sound that I appreciate. Fooling Yourself and Come Sail Away are more proggy, taking plenty of time to build to catchy choruses and including plenty of nice synthesizer runs (though of course nothing to scare the Wakemans or Rudesses of the world).

The B side is just as good in my opinion, though given much less notoriety. I like the creative minor key recreation of the Miss America tune, Shaw's surprisingly heartfelt and pensive Man in the Wilderness (his first goal is usually to rock), and the proggy build of Castle Walls (reminds me of Arena here). Then Styx picks up the energy for very brief combination of previous melodies and majestic guitar to finish things off. This relatively simple trick really brings things it all together very nicely for me.

Solid, catchy music played by a surprisingly talented band at its peak, with no major blunders and a slightly progressive sound: that's my definition of an excellent addition. Let's not punish Styx for their later tragic missteps here!

Flucktrot | 3/5 |


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