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Styx - Styx CD (album) cover




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2.80 | 125 ratings

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3 stars The first of four albums Styx would record for the Wooden Nickel label before moving on to bigger and better commercial success, this debut effort from the Chicago outfit found the fledgling group charting a distinctively progressive course, blending complex instrumental flourishes into a broader rock-and-pop palette typical of American groups. Similar in style to the early works of fellow Americans Journey and, to a lesser extent, Kansas, Styx's progressive pedigree - some argue they are nothing more than just spiced-up purveyors of colourful pop - should never really be in any doubt, especially considering that the opening track on this self- titled release pre-figures genre titans ELP by a good few years. Considered one of the British supergroup's most recognisable compositions, Aaron Copland's 'Fanfare For The Common Man' was actually used by Styx well before Keith Emerson got his hands all over it, the piece featuring in the opening thirteen-minute salvo 'Movement For The Common Man' alongside some slightly surreal - and genuinely real - spoken-word monologues from a bunch of down-at-heel Chicago locals recorded by the group during sessions for the album. A lengthy, ambitious opus, 'Movement For The Common Man' showcases a dynamic young group at play, blending symphonic passages, raw, almost bluesy guitars and harmonised vocals to impressive effect. It's a sure slap in the face for the group's (many) detractors, and proof that Styx were once a much more creative outfit than the syrupy AOR hit machine that found so much commercial success in the 1980s. The rest of the album finds Styx in less expansive mode, yet there's a snappy energy and relentless willingness to go beyond the normal rock conventions, no doubt part-influenced by the major British progressive acts, some of whom - the likes of Emerson Lake & Palmer, Yes and Pink Floyd - were starting to cultivate large followings throughout North America. Despite never quite reaching the heights scaled by 'Movement For The Common Man' however, there is still much to recommend here. Elegant follow-up piece 'Right Away' finds vocalist Dennis DeYoung delivering an impassioned performance; 'Best Thing' features a snappy pace and deceptively catchy melody undercut by an almost bluesy tinge; finally, album closer 'After You Leave Me' hints towards the groups populist future with twinkling keyboards and soothing acoustic guitars backing up yet another ear- catching performance from DeYoung. Progressive pop, if you like, and it sounds surprisingly good.


stefro | 3/5 |


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