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Styx - Crystal Ball CD (album) cover




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3.26 | 225 ratings

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2 stars I had heard once (can't remember where) that Styx was perfect band for 13 year old boys, because they were all about bold emotions and big gestures. Depth of feeling wasn't implied, it was poured out in bucketloads. I have to admit that I was on of those 13 year olds who feel in love with the band. I am mortified to think of the hours I spent, pining away on a girl, replaceing her name for 'Babe', or really feeling that she was my 'Laaaaaaady of the morning'. (I guarantee you, I am not the only one who did this.) It is now 23 years later, and I am embarrassed that they took up so much emotional space in my life. Thank God, Pink Floyd and Rush stepped in to clear my head of illusions (no pun intended).

I started pondering this as I listened to Crystal Ball for the first time in over a decade. It had never been one of my favorites, but it always felt like there was quality there. I am sad to say that the album doesn't quite hold up. Overall it just a mediocre album with not enough original songs on it to keep it interesting, and it will likely be another decade before I pull out disc and give it another spin.

It goes wrong right from the get-go with 'Put Me On,' a clever idea ruined by too many changes in tempo and textures. I know it is supposed to represent the entire listening experience of an album, but frankly it just gives me a headache. 'Madamoiselle' follows and represents an uptick in quality, hurt only by the over the top choir of high pitched harmonies that shout out the chorus. 'Jennifer' is just dull (how many songs will DeYoung write about his various loves). The real stand out track, 'Crystal Ball,' saves the entire album. I strongly feel that is one of the greatest songs the band produced. Listening too it, as it is, in the middle of the album, makes everything that came before and after pale. It contains strong harmonies, great vocals by Shaw, and a blazing solo. A career highlight for Shaw, and it was only his first solo spot in the Styx oveure.

'Shooz' is a solid rocker, but borrows too heavily from Foghat. 'This Old Man' is uninteresting and really goes nowhere, the lyrics being some of the most heavy-handed DeYong has composed. It does perk up with 'Ballerina' bringing it too a solid close.

I hate being too hard on this album, as you can feel they were really reaching out for a new sound and they were feeling out how Shaw was going to fit. It really is a transitional album for the band, closing out the Wooden Nickle years and going Platinum with 'Grand Illusion' the following year. The basic spark is there, but it would need more time to come through.

Final thought: with the exception of the title track, disposable, but interesting historically.

DantesRing | 2/5 |


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