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Styx - Styx II CD (album) cover




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3.14 | 131 ratings

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4 stars A superior sequel to an ambitious if somewhat inconsistent debut, 'Styx II' finds the Chicago rockers fine-tuning their blustery, blues-pop-and-prog. Whilst the group's self-titled debut didn't lack energy and drive, it was an awkwardly-constructed affair that didn't quite manage to blend it's many disparate elements. A slicker, more focused effort, this follow-up starts to build on the fragments of promise shown in such compositions as the lengthy 'Movement For A Common Man', adding a stylish pop veneer, some skilfully-deployed Crosby, Stills & Nash-style vocal harmonies and a much stronger progressive streak embodied by some bold instrumental passages that make a mockery out of the group's detractors who claim Styx are nothing more than just another AOR group. 'Styx II' also features one of the group's biggest hits in the shape of the part-ballad, part- rocker 'Lady', though at the time of the album's 1973 release it was very much a case of the hit that wasn't. Confused? Well, of course you are. At the time of the album's release Styx were still very much a local act with a small-but-growing fanbase who had yet to make any kind of mark on the mainstream. 'Lady' wasn't picked up by radio stations for a good two years, finally making an impression after the release of Styx's third album 'The Serpent Is Rising', pushing the five-man outfit well-and-truly into the national spotlight. 'Lady' aside, however, 'Styx II' is a definite improvement in virtually every department. There's a real sense of cohesion on impressive, multi-part tracks such as the organ-blessed 'A Day', one of the group's best early recordings, whilst the theatrical imprint vocalist Dennis DeYoung would push in later years starts to raise it's colourful head on the bluesy 'You Better Ask'. There's also a knowing wink to the members origins on the slyly laconic 'Earl Of Roseland', which furrows straight rock energy into kitsch prog-pop passages in that peculiar Styx manner that gives so much of their material that twinkling, almost effervescent edge. Combining earthy rock 'n' roll, prog- tinged flights of fancy, spectacular harmonies and pacey, fluid instrumental flourishes 'Styx II' marks the high point of the outfit's early phase. Of all the Wooden Nickel recordings this is the one that manages to get the right balance between the members commercial aspirations and their bright-eyed artistic excesses, a difficult balancing act indeed.


stefro | 4/5 |


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