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Styx - The Grand Illusion CD (album) cover




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3.72 | 269 ratings

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4 stars Styx haven't exactly been critical darlings, but that haven't made them less successful with the mainstream audience. Unfortunately this combination is often considered lethal for progressive and/or art rock bands, meaning that most prog fans consider Styx to be somewhat of a scape goat for the stigma that the label progressive rock has received over the years. Some of it might be justifiable but I honestly can't bring myself to hating this quintet! If anything, Styx have prolonged the U.S. market's love for art rock, thus completely ignoring all the 3 chord punk bands that became a staple of the late '70s Britannia pop culture!

Formed as early as in 1961(!) by twin brothers Chuck and John Panozzo and their neighbor Dennis DeYoung, the band really took off in 1970 when guitarists John Curulewski and James "J.Y." Young finally completed the lineup. The Curulewski era (or at least that's the label I've decided to assign to the period of up until 1975) depicted a struggling hardworking band with an ambition to create and develop the American brand of progressive rock, not that far off from what Kansas were doing with their '70s material.

Unfortunately their ambitions where doomed from the get-go since Styx lacked the songwriting and virtuosity to be the adventurous prog band that they were so eagerly trying to achieve. Luckily they did manage to score a few minor hits back in their early days, where Lady was probably the biggest one of the bunch, which eventually got them to lighten up their sound and dip into art rock territory. The departure of John Curulewski, in 1975, and addition of Tommy Shaw, in 1976, sparked a creative spark within the band that would eventually lead them to becoming the well known band that they are today.

Even though my journey with Styx have so far only been merely 6 month short, I can definitely say that the post 1975 Styx have been all about the creative rivalry between Dennis DeYoung and Tommy Shaw. With Grand Illusion (1977) and Pieces Of Eight (1978) being the height of this competitive rivalry where both DeYoung and Shaw were struggling to outdo each other both in the songwriting and their live performances. Both were putting their skills to good use and Grand Illusion is, in my opinion, the album where we definitely could see a draw between the two.

Dennis DeYoung penned title track, Castle Walls and especially the mega hit Come Sail Away are some of the band's most recognized compositions. Tommy Shaw penned Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man) and Man In The Wilderness might not be as noteworthy in the commercial sense, but I happen to love them just as much as anything DeYoung had prepared for Grand Illusion! Shaw was clearly inspired by Kansas when he wrote Man In The Wilderness, which some might consider a ripoff but I can clearly hear that this is composition that could have never been written by Kerry Livgren due to it's complete lack of the traditional folk/country-inspired sound that Livgren featured in most of his suites.

There's really no reason for me to go further in my discussion of this album since most of the readers have probably already formed their opinion of these eight compositions in one way or another. All I can say is that I enjoy this album and consider it an important part of the U.S.-based prog scene of its time.

***** star songs: Come Sail Away (6:07) Man In The Wilderness (5:51)

**** star songs: The Grand Illusion (4:37) Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man) (5:32) Superstars (3:55) Castle Walls (5:59)

*** star songs: Miss America (5:02) The Grand Finale (1:58)

Rune2000 | 4/5 |


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