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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 Pieces of Eight is Styx' best album, but not by stealth, but by default, really. Other albums in their catalogue, notably 'Equinox' should take the title as the best Styx album, but they get cut short, and feature an 'epic' closer that is often just repetitiously drawn out to help flesh out the albums.

On Pieces of Eight, however,is the longest Styx album up to that point. This is also two things that Styx fans want to hear: Their most rocking album, and one of their most progressive, if not their most progressive album. That title may belong with 'II' or 'Serpent is rising' but this is still full of ambitious tracks like "I'm OK", and "Queen of spades" which shows Styx still had some prog juices left in the tank.

This album begins with what is possibly James Young's best song, 'Great white hope' with a sound and lyrics that just fit Arena Rock so well, and the sci-fi synths add greatly to the flavour of this song. The rhythm section get an awesome bass/drum thing happening during the chorus. This album sees a return somewhat of James Young. Since Equinox he's been pushed to the back of the group, but he comes a little bit into the foreground on this album, his heavy guitar riffs and enthusiastic vocals a welcome return.

The song that follows, "I'm OK" is an ambitious Dennis DeYoung song full of fantasy synths, a beautiful organ solo and an uplifting chorus highlight this one, possibly Dennis DeYoung's best song, but not his best lyric! It's followed by the folky/medieval "Sing for the day" with a chorus that just has you singing along. The keyboards playing on this song is absolutely magnificent, and the only drawback is some of the lyrics are a bit hard to understand. The first side closes with 'Message/Lord of the rings' which is more fantasy with science-fiction synths and mystique riddled lyrics. This was a second lead vocal for James Young on the album.

Styx aren't really progressive through writing a lot of inspiring instrumental music or complex long songs, rather they rely on creating an 'out-of-this-world' feeling in their songs, through the use of some aurally-striking keyboards and synthesisers, to give prog fans some enjoyment.

The second side opens with 'Blue Collar Man', and although it's a more straight-forward rock song, it still has a slight medieval leaning, the introductory organ reminiscent of the organ-introduction on Genesis' "The Knife". "The Queen of Spades" is a fast-paced rocker with an eerie acoustic intro, and a dark aura. DeYoung's vocals are quite inspired on this track. 'Renegade' is another straight-forward rocker, like 'Blue Collar Man' and I don't really like this song, but it's not bad. Again, there is a slight medieval feeling to it, especially with the lyircs, and Dennis seems to be enjoying it, actually the thing I don't like is that Tommy's vocals are a bit all over the place, not that's not prog or something like that. Anyway 'Pieces of eight - Aku Aku' is one of the best moments of the album. It is advertised as two songs but there's no break between them. Actually the way the dramatic fatalism of the title track fades into the eerie 'Aku-Aku' is just wonderful.

This album is a bit narrow focused, but in a way that's good, getting the band focusing on their strengths, the fantastical synth-scapes and the hard-rocking aspects of this album. It's narrowly better than 'Equinox', 'II' and 'Man of miracles' but the point is it IS better. Ultimately they wouldn't reach this peak again, but Cyclorama comes close at times. By the way, this album is not for the 'prog-only' fans; you will not like it, not much. This works as a semi-prog album, and especially if you like anthemic arena rock.

Brendan | 4/5 |


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