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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 After a bunch of strong album, six i fact, 'The Grand Illusion', comes across a bit like 'Styx-lite'. It doesn't rock as hard and any James Young influence is almost muted here. He doesn't have a lot of artistic flair, but he's a great vocalist, particularly he harmonised well with Dennis on so many of the early Styx classics. He also brings a lot of enthusiasm to the table and that seems to be sliding into the background. Of-course, this has been going on since 'Equinox'. I generally find the less influence JY has on Styx, there is a loss of quality, but I digress.

This album starts off with the cutesy-sounding title track which has a lot of cutesy-sounding organ-synths and some military-style music, and Dennis DeYoung sings this song with conviction. It's nice but comes and passes without making too much of an impact. Okay it's just the starter, so let's hope for better, next track... Wait! Somethings wrong with my CD, as 'The Grand Illsion' (title track) plays again. Oh no, somebody's made a mistake at the record company, as they've put the title track on here twice, instead of putting 'Fooling yourself (angry young man)' on here, oh well I will just have to go and get another copy of the album so I can hear this song, and what sort of song title is 'Fooling yourself (angry young man)' anyway? I kept checking the packaging to make sure everything was alright, and nothing seemed out-of-place, to suggest there was a reprise of the first song between the first song and the second. I couldn't inf it but I knew that this wasn't "Angry Young Man" because it had the same cutesy organ, same melody and everything, And then I got a little shock, as Tommy started singing! Then when the chorus came along and Tommy said 'Your fooling yourself...' I realised this was 'Fooling Yourself (angry Young Man'! But how-come it sounded just like the first song? Anyway when the this song is over and 'Superstars' begins, it sounds like the first song again! Only this time a bit faster, and a bit more heavy guitar. Then following this kind-of rocker, is a piano ballad, called 'Come Sail Away' and this too has the same melody of the first song, but at least the arrangement is quite different, and in fact this is a brilliant song, possibly one of the greatest Styx songs ever. It has an irresistable chorus and an amazing synth-interlude in the middle of the song (and hence why it's an interlude). In fact I believe it's James Young who made this vivid synthesiser piece in the middle of the song. He's as good as Dennis on the keys you know...

We flip over side one and are hit with big riffs, and you know what that means, JY to get his one song per album quota in. But this is where James achieved that perfect Arena rock sound, with an undeniable drum pattern and killer guitar riff to go with it. The lyrics are biting and cynical, but don't really make an impact. This is followed by Tommy Shaws' cathartic 'Man in the wilderness' which is one of his more interesting early efforts with the band; this song is actually prog you know. Actually this song doesn't get much support from fans, despite this being their most popular album. That said, I actually kind of like it. It's followed by Dennis DeYoung's 'Castle Walls' which is similar, a long rock ballad, dark and with an instrumental section that is not bad. Similar feeling and melody. And that's all folks!... well not really, there's a brief reprise that fuses 'The Grand Illusion', 'Superstars' and 'Come Sail Away' together in the one song. The songs all melt into each other as one, 'I told you they were all the same!'.

But this is the third Styx album in a row that features only seven proper songs. It's too short, if there is a dud song, that's already 1/7th of the album gone. They also weren't making long songs like Genesis or Yes, who could get away with only having seven songs on an album. The real problem with this is that often I feel like 'Isn't there more?' like something's missing. I've felt that with Equinox, Crystal Ball and this 'Grand Illusion'. Too many of the songs sound the same on this release and before you know it it's over. Okay, here comes the fun part, SUBJECTIVITY!!!! HOORAY!!!! My favourite songs on here are 'Superstars', good guitar crescendo's and good vocal harmonies, 'Come Sail Away' which also feels out of this world, and that's about it.... but nothing is really bad, but I have never cared for reprises myself so 'The Grand Finale' is probably my least fravourite track on the album. But when this album gives you 39 minutes and Genesis albums of the time gave you 51 minutes, well it looks as though your being short changed! Not really, since most albums in those days only went for about 40 minutes.

Brendan | 3/5 |


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