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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 Before disappearing into gooey concept-album hell with their overblown 1980s efforts, Styx had, by the late 1970s, reached a creative apex with both the excellent 'The Grand Illusion' and it's colourful 1978 follow-up 'Pieces Of Eight'. Both albums feature the classic Styx line-ups, and both albums feature the American outfit at their very best, delivering a scintillating set of quirky prog-tinged AOR tunes with fist-pumping abandon. 'The Grand Illusion' arguably remains Styx's finest hour, yet 'Pieces Of Eight', with it's punchy melodies, anthemic pop-rock veneer and shiny, keyboard-inflected sound, also has its fair share of stand- out moments, in the process replicating the giddy histrionics of its predecessor without quite reaching the same outstanding levels of consistency. What it does have, however, are such gems as the insanely- catchy 'I'm OK', the grandiose 'Lords Of The Ring' and the grinding metallic power pop of 'Blue Collar Man', tracks which again illustrate Styx's uncanny ability to cleverly blur the line between art-prog excess and FM rock accessibility without jeopardising their commercial potential. Standing apart from the likes of Journey, Starcastle and Kansas yet very much a part of the same musical movement, Styx employed a bold stylistic mixture of British progressive complexity and brash American showmanship rarely seen outside of Europe. Each of this small band of progressive-leaning American groups featured their own particular style - Journey anchored their fusion-influenced elements onto a broad classic rock base; Kansas constructed a bold blend of rootsy Americana and full-blown symphonic rock; Starcastle mercilessly aped Brit genre stalwarts Yes - and each, as a result(bar Starcastle), would reap the enormous commercial rewards once the AOR boom of the 1980s came calling. However, it was Styx, with their elaborate compositional approach, colourful subject matters, slick production values and assured instrumental prowess, who would undoubtedly prove the most versatile, their brightest moments briefly captured on both this hugely-enjoyable 1978 release and its career-defining predecessor, albums that turned them into one of the most creative and successful American rock groups of the late-seventies and early-eighties. They may - just like Journey - have their detractors, yet those who decide to investigate the earlier albums of Styx and their cohorts will find a glorious collection of adventurous rock albums that pulled off the extremely difficult trick of balancing between the two stools of artistic expression and commercial acceptance. Ultimately, this beggars the question: How many major rock groups active in today's bland music scene are doing the same? STEFAN TURNER, FRANCE, 2012

stefro | 4/5 |


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