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Styx - Man Of Miracles CD (album) cover




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2.76 | 135 ratings

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4 stars This album starts off with a couple of excellent, fun rockers with really catchy choruses, true to the James Young sound, though choruses have more synthesiser textures, probably due to the John Curulewski input on these two songs. However the album takes a dramatic change of pace with the devastatingly sad 'Golden Lark'. It is basically a piano ballad but benefits from a colourful arrangement, including a cello, as well as some descriptive poetry: 'all of the wishing wells and stars in the sky, wont make her stay anymore'. The song is sung quite tenderly by Dennis DeYoung. 'A Song for Suzanne' is a dramatic, tragic sounding and very colourful sounding number. This is one of my firm favourite Styx songs and is quite artistic with it's blending of piano riffs with hard rock and psychedelic-sounding synths. It's well juxtaposed with the joyous soudning 'A Man like me' which is another high-energy rocker with James Young leading the way. They try and 'jazz' this one up a bit with some brass arrangements as well as a Clavinet (or a keyboard sounding like a Calvinet).

So the first side is chugging along nicely and we might be on be on course for a five star album. However, the second side takes things off-course a bit, as the album starts repeating itself. There is a 'rocked up' cover version of an excellent 60's hit 'Lies' which is not quite as good as the first side. In fact, even though Dennis DeYoung sings the lead vocal, James Young steals the show here, with passionate, blistering backing vocals, making Dennis look a bit flat on the lead vocals. However, the enthusiasm in the song, mostly due to JY, redeems it quite a bit. The next song 'Evil Eyes' is the best song on the second side of the album. It kinds of invokes the sound of 'Song for Suzanne' a bit and begins similarly to 'Golden Lark' but it was such a great formula in the first place; operatic-styled vocals set against a hard-rock background with fantasy synths and some brilliant piano work thrown in as well, that we are quite happy to hear it again. The song also has some brooding, blues-like lead guitar solos that help you feel the sadness Dennis describes in the song and adds something new to the formula. However, 'Southern Woman' adds nothing new to JY's hard-rock formula, maybe sounds a little more 'southern rock', but this really is 'Rock and roll feeling' part four. Also 'Christopher, Mr. Christopher' is 'A Song for Suzanne'. simply cut and paste. Sure, it has that massive cosmic-sounding intro which kind of makes you feel small, but sounds like a cover version of the songs that came earlier in the album, without as much passion. Just plug into the formula, and 'wollah' there you have it. Also the title track to finish the album sounds disconcertingly like it came from the same mathematical equation that gave us 'Rock and Roll Feeling' and 'Southern Woman'. Dennis and Chuck Lofrano both help James write the song, but their contributions merely mean a big, embellished intro to the song. The song then goes into hard-rock mode with some hard-to-understand lyrics. Oh hey it's not that bad, but don't you see a formula here: Dennis: Emotional, dramatic art-rock ballad, JY: Straight ahead rocker with big riffs. Five songs each, though that's not quite true, it's four and a half songs Dennis and James, and one cover version.

In summary, there are some interesting points about this album, the vocal harmonies, which are just amazing. JY has such a powerful voice and can be heard to great effect not only on his songs but on Dennis songs as well. They were singing with such power and conviction, and harmoising so well. However, I can't hear John Curuleski's voice at all. Also, he is sorely missed here. He often threw up more progressive numbers and were often a nice change of pace on these early Styx albums. He's all but silent here and it would have been great to have something like 'A Day' or 'As Bad As This' on here, instead of the last two songs. Also the formula just wears thin at the end of the album, so it is kind of disconcerting. The first seven songs are more or less worth your while, but the last three don't offer anytthing new, though I think 'Southern Woman' is okay. If I was to edit the album, I'd remove the last two but I wouldn't have the heart to remove this number, it has some goofy charm.

I can't quite make my mind up if this is worth 7 or 8. I have to give this four stars, because it's too great for three stars, well so says my tasteless ass!

Brendan | 4/5 |


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