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Styx - Pieces Of Eight CD (album) cover




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3.59 | 241 ratings

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4 stars After releasing a Rock or Light Prog album with the immense quality of "The Grand Illusion", the responsibility is huge, they have to keep the new gained status and if possible to make a better album. Well "Pieces of Eight" is neither better nor even in "The Grand Illusion" level, but it's very close and from no point of view it can be considered a step back.

The album starts with the frantic "Great White Hope", a track that has everything, Heavy Rock, lush keyboards, nice changes and excellent guitar work, maybe a bit similar to some of THE WHO stuff, but much more Progressive than anything Pete Townshend boys ever did. Excellent opener for a very solid album.

"I'm Okay" is a classical STYX track, with the keyboards taking the lead and the unique voice of Dennis De Young performing a Light Prog song. If there's something that impresses me of STYX is their capacity to link perfectly everything, nothing is left lose, every section perfectly links with the previous and subsequent but most important, fits perfectly with the atmosphere or mood of the track; and this song is a perfect example of that.

Despite some radical changes, distorted guitars, lush keyboard and even a Baroque organ solo, nothing sounds out of place mainly because this organ solo links without any problem or visible patch with the classical STYX chorals, magnificent arrangements and band work.

Every album by this Light Prog bands needs a hit, and this is the role of "Sing for the Day", but don't mistake hit with poor quality, the song is pretty good, the unusual accordion combines perfectly with Tommy Shaw's voice, the chorals and the wonderful keyboards. Not the best track of the album, but still way above the average.

"The Message" is really a short keyboard introduction for the excellent "The Lord of the Rings", except for the beautiful chorals (IMO the best ones after QUEEN), this is an unusual song for the band, they sound like repressed, as if something stopped them to explode, until almost the second minute when a powerful Moog and low ranged choirs seem to announce something different, but it never happens, they return ti the main verse and chorus. Too ambitious for the final result, but still very good.

"Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)" is a classic that still today is played in their concerts, read in the forum that someone said this song was a rip off from Deep Purple; I honestly can't find the connection despite how much I try.

Yes they start with a heavy organ but that's all, the song has nothing hard (Well maybe a short guitar passage), it flows perfectly in the style of STYX, only interrupted by their trademarked choirs, the unique voice of Tommy Shaw sounds absolutely adequate for the song, he manages to adapt it to the changes. I absolutely love this song, a true classic of the Chicago pride band.

"Queen of Spades" is a radical change from the previous song, typically in the style of Dennis De Young a song that moves from a balladesque start towards an energetic development with an outstanding guitar work by James "JY" Young and the Panozzo twins working the rhythm section with great skills.

"Renegade" starts with the "a capella" intro by Tommy Shaw, joined soon by the choirs and then by the whole band in sudden explosion of power, but they manage to keep the idea centered in the main chorus. All the variations are created by Tommy and his ductile voice. Again a sudden break by JY marks a change towards a harder style, but again the keyboards keep the central idea alive, very good band work and better arrangements.

"Pieces of Eight" was the song they required to rise the level of the album far above the average, after a beautiful and soft intro by Dennis with his mellow voice and soft keyboards, they move towards a much more Progressive territory with impressive keys and again (when not) perfect choirs, radical changes and perfect synchronization. The second instrumental break is simply breathtaking and after that the hard and aggressive finale with a soft piano coda.

The album is closed by the weird (for them) Aku Aku, that flows soft and gentle from start to end, I believe their intention is to lower the mood of the listener after so many frantic songs, just a track created to be an extro of the album.

In this case, rating the album is hard. Too good to share the same 3 stars rating with Marillion's last album for example , but not in the level of "The Grand Illusion" which I rated with 4 stars...Once again, we need the .5 stars to be perfectly accurate.

But being that I didn't rated The Grand Illusion with the maximum number of stars only because a non 100% Prog album can't be essential for any Prog Collection, despite it deserved more, I will go with 4 solid stars for "Pieces of Eight".

Ivan_Melgar_M | 4/5 |


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