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PIECES OF EIGHT

Styx

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5 stars Their style, both grandiose and commercially acceptable, proves, undoubtably, that Styx are the epitome of classic American pomp rock.' Pieces of eight' is a supreme recording which backs up my theory brilliantly, with the upbeat, good natured opening of 'Great white hope,' the superlative storytelling of 'Renegade', and the bona fide classic: 'Blue collar man'.This was the album that finally established Styx as major players in the Rock arena.
Report this review (#17383)
Posted Sunday, November 16, 2003 | Review Permalink
5 stars After the success of "The Grand Illusion," Styx had a tough act to follow...but they manage to pull it off with "Pieces of Eight." Though the album stumbles a little in the middle with "The Message/Lords of the Ring," the rest of the CD is brilliant, showing Styx to be a band that can both rock hard and play softly all in the same album and make it seem completely natural.
Report this review (#17384)
Posted Friday, December 26, 2003 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
3 stars If you don't really know Styx , start with Equinox and stop at this one . No prog rock to me, but here you have their best album along with Illusion. Like the previous one, almost every number got a fair amount of playing on the FM band . It is difficult to do more radio-friendly songs than Styx at their peak and they certainly were at theirs during those years . However the next album will change things drastically for a lot of us.
Report this review (#17385)
Posted Wednesday, February 4, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars The song "Sing For The Day" is one of the best Styx songs ever, but the remainder of the album is tragically annoying and ultimately unsatisfying. There's also a few nice songs and good touches here and there. One thing about Styx is that you may not like them, but you've got to admit that they're never dull and predictably ordinary or formulaic. The songs are very well-crafted, polished, and original. The vision of each song is obviously inspired, over-wrought with corniness, bombast, and grandiosity. It's a great album on the technical side but not the artistic side. No one said Styx were great artists, just memorable musical mountebanks with magical mojo, mystifying mastery, and mystique.

Report this review (#17389)
Posted Thursday, March 3, 2005 | Review Permalink
horza
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Remember when coloured vinyl was all the rage? I had a blue vinyl single of a track on this album. Any guesses? Thats right-Blue Collar Man. Along with Queen of Spades and Rengade,these tracks make this album worth a cursory visit. Sing for the Day and Lords of the Ring might be a bit 'twee'-but on the whole the musicianship is top class. There are plenty of keyboard/synth fills and Tommy Shaw and James Young are excellent AOR guitar frontmen,Shaw made all the girls swoon. That apart,this is one of Styx's better efforts.Believe me,there ARE worse.
Report this review (#49441)
Posted Thursday, September 29, 2005 | Review Permalink
rinus.de.boer
5 stars For me, this is THE Styx album. All songs are blazing canons, and the combined writing skills of Dennis, James and Tommy brings us an album, which is never equaled any more in their later career. Songs like Great White Hope, I'm OK (with that beautiful organ piece in it), Blue Collar Man, Queen of Spades, Renegade and Pieces of Eight, all classics, played with a sheer musical power. The album still stands very strong since the time it was released. A must have for every kind of rock music lover.

Rinus de Boer, Holland

Report this review (#49954)
Posted Tuesday, October 4, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars 5 stars people! From the point of departure of John Curelewski and Tommy Shaw joining the band, up to Paradise Theatre, you could see/hear STYX changing musically. Equinox was a good album, Crystal Ball a bit better(Tommy joined the band right before the Equinox tour and wrote songs on this album), and The Grand Illusion was incredible. How could they top it? Well they didn't, but they definately matched it! Pieces Of Eight is one of the three albums STYX made I call a 5 star piece of musicianship. No not Cornerstone, the follow up album, but Paradise Theatre gets the other 5 star honor. Get those three. If unhappy, send to me I can always use another copy. Pieces of Eight starts off with Great White Hope (4 stars), a James Young rocker. Next up is I'm OK (4 stars), Dennis Deyoung doing a great job on keys, pipe organ and vocals. Sing For The Day (4 stars) is Tommy Shaw's opening number and it is a folk sounding song with mandolins and flowing keyboards that make one think Medeival Times. The Message is an instrumental (keys only). I was reading Sword of Shannara at the time and it really fits. Goes right into JY singing Lord Of The Rings(3 stars). Not a bad song but only matched by Aku-Aku (last song) for bottom honors. Tommy sings Blue Collar Man (5 stars) next and gives an excellent song to you. If you haven't heard it, climb out from under the rock you live under. My favorite STYX song of all time, Queen of Spades follows and I cannot see how it wasn't selected to be a radio release. Oh well different tastes. Styx hardest rocker sung by DDY with a slow ballad-like start and a swift kick in the rear galloping riff! Amazing song with amazing harmonies. Renegade (5 stars). Haven't heard it? Invest in electricity please. Great rock song from Tommy Shaw. The title song, Pieces Of Eight, reaches out to your ears and says listen. Beautiful music, not a ballad, not a tempo burner, good listening song. Buy the album and fall in love with STYX. Get Cornerstone if you want, it is a 3 along with Equinox and Crystal Ball. Kilroy was Here? 2 stars.
Report this review (#54069)
Posted Monday, October 31, 2005 | Review Permalink
ghost_of_morphy
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars This is one of the best albums ever made. Period.

The only reason I could see for not giving it 4 stars is that this is only borderline prog. But I gave it 5 stars anyway: it's that good. Let's hit this one track by track.....

Great White Hope: I always thought that this opener was underrated, but in an album with both "Blue Collar Man" and "Renegade," that's understandable. It's a hard driving rock song with some nice guitar effects and an inspiring message. The obligatory keyboard parts unfortunately break up the mood that the rest of the band is caught up in.

I'm OK: A really nice piece with interesting keyboards that complement what the rest of the band is doing.. If only the chorus were a bit more imaginative, this would be brilliant. Again, this song features a great guitar part as well.

Sing for the Day: Maybe the best song Styx ever released (and that means better than "Come Sail Away.") I could listen to this one over and over again, thanks to the bright keyboard solos, the intelligent lyrics, and the catchy tune.

The Message: An interesting short synthesizer piece that serves mainly as an introduction to the next song. About as prog as the album gets.

The Lords of the Ring: Into every life, a little rain must fall. And into every album, a little crap must be included. While this is not a truly bad track, the word substandard was coined for this song. It's a trite anthem with not much happening musically.

Blue Collar Man (Long Nights): Damn, this track rocks. From the blistering organ opening to the final guitar solo, this song alone is worth the price of the album.

Queen of Spades: A good track with more excellent guitar work. This would be a memorable track on any other album, but with all of the classics on this album, it kind of gets lost in the shuffle.

Renegade: Beautifully calm vocals open up this most energetic track which features some great ensemble playing from the group. Yet another classic song on this most classic of albums.

Pieces of Eight: Strangely enough, the title track of the album is one of the more forgettable parts of it. This is a good example of a typical Styx ballad, a calm beginning working up to subtly emotional power, but nothing outstanding, like nearly all of the rest of the album. Like "Queen of Spades," this average effort suffers unfairly from being packaged with so many gems.

Aku Aku: An atmospheric outro. Take it or leave it.

OK, I would be hard pressed to claim that this album is prog. But it is still one of the best albums ever released and worth repeated listening by anyone who appreciates good music.

Report this review (#63945)
Posted Tuesday, January 10, 2006 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Anthems of the world (tour)

"Sing for the day", the third track on this album, sums up perfectly what's on offer here. "Pieces of eight" is an album clearly designed with one thing in mind, crowd pleasing. Almost any of the tracks can be taken straight into a live environment, and will instantly get the crowd on its feet and singing along. There is an anthem feel to so many of the tracks, you could be mistaken for thinking you are listening to the opening day of an Olympic games.

The album opens with a simulated boxing event with announcements and crowd effects as we are introduced to the "Great white hope". There's an AC/DC feel to the vocals, the song being little more than melodic pop rock. "I'm OK" keeps the pop feel going as the anthemic influences increase, this is Styx in full "We are the champions" mode. There is a nod to something more substantial in a slower church organ section, but we're soon back on track and on our feet again for the big ending.

The distinctive vocals of Tommy Shaw appear for the first time on "Sing for the day" which, while slightly more structured, has an irritatingly infectious chorus. Things move in a slightly more prog direction with the story based "The message"/"Lord of the ring" which sounds like it probably inspired a host of Rhapsody's ballads. While the track is slower, with some good old phasing, it retains that "sign along with us" feel.

There's an ELP like organ intro for "Blue collar man", a pretty basic rock number, while "Queen of spades" deceptively starts out as a "Babe" like Dennis De Young ballad, before some impressive lead guitar carries it off into the melodic rock territory once more. "Renegade" is yet another driving guitar rock song.

The album closes with the title track and "Aku Aku". Once again, "Pieces of eight" opens as a "Babe" like ballad, before becoming yet another anthem song. It features a quasi-classical section leading into a majestic guitar break, prior to the repeating power chorus to end. "Aku Aku" resembles as slowed down version of the closing section of Eric Clapton's "Layla".

"Pieces of eight" is enjoyable in the way an Abba album might be enjoyable. There's little which is particularly challenging or original, but the melodies are strong, and the performances competent. One for the masses.

Report this review (#72047)
Posted Thursday, March 16, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars I must say that this is probably my favorite album, and as write music myself, probably the most influential to me. I am a huge fan of music that has drama and anthemic qualities, and this does it best. This is Styx's best album, I am convinced, because they were so "gelled" on this one. Think about this: on Paradise Theatre you could clearly tell who wrote each of the songs, whereas on this one, it's fairly unclear. But the music is all strong, and the scream on Queen of Spades is almost single-handedly THE coolest moment in Rock History. Maybe.
Report this review (#72074)
Posted Thursday, March 16, 2006 | Review Permalink
Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Styx is one of my favorite rock bands. What makes me love the band is basically the vocal harmony and good composition of the music. I first knew the band when my brother, Henky, brought home a tape consisting "Man of Miracles" album, recorded from his rock station studio's LP in Yogya. Well, you know, it was the time when "Chistopher Mr. Christopher" of the album became a hit in the mid of seventies. Since then I purchased previous albums of Styx and followed through the band. I remember when I purchased "Equinox" album in Surabaya at that time in cassette format through Nirwana label. And now is a digital era and I converted almost all albums of Styx to digital format in 1998.

The album opener "Great White Hope" is a straight hard rock song with great vocal line. The next track "I'm Okay" is much proggier than the first track with its symphonic organ solo. Structurally, this is definitely not a straight hard rock music. The melody of this song is also nice. "Sing For The Day" is a happy song that might cheer up your day. It's suitable to open my workshop. It's a good energizer to boost up the spirit of a workshop. Performed in ballad fashion with an upbeat tempo, this is a good song to start the day.

"The Message" is a short bridge with synthesizer sound which connects to the next track "Lords of The Ring". I love this song very much - not only love the movie! James Young takes the lead on vocal. It's very strong in melody. As indicate through my review of the band's live albums, I love track 6 "Blue Collar Man" and it has become my all time Styx favorite song! It rocks man! "Queen of Spades" is another great song that also became my favorite. Other songs: "Renegade", "Pieces of Eight" and the instrumental "Aku-Aku" are also excellent ones.

Overall this is an excellent album that any rock fans should NOT miss. Buy it!

Life without music is a mistake. Music without progressive is a fatal tragedy!

Yours progressively, GW

Report this review (#82429)
Posted Sunday, July 2, 2006 | Review Permalink
Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars " User Friendly"- that is how I best describe Pieces of Eight. This is by no means Styx's best effort but the album has some certain appeal. Is it prog? Definitely not being more AOR than Kansas at their most commercial but needless to say there are some great tracks on here like " Queen Of Spades", and the title track.As musicians at this point I would call them all very " able" but noone really stood out for me. Everyone supplies vocals to a good album at best. Not a bad album to start with if you are new to Styx as 1978 was their watershed year.
Report this review (#106803)
Posted Tuesday, January 9, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars How Styx, in the span of a year, manage to go from creating an epic, prog album of The Grand Illusion's caliber, to creating the bland, arena rock of Pieces Of Eight boggles me. Their musical aesthetic changes so much between the two albums that, it not for the individual member's distinctness, the albums would appear to have been made by two different bands. The two most destructive changes to the band being: the removal of the keyboard as a lead instrument and the change in vocal harmonies from Queen-esque to Van Halen-esque.

From a strictly non-prog standpoint, the album still fails to entertain. Of course the album produced the beloved anthem "Renegade" , but outside of that there's nothing really spectacular to write about. The entire album is guitar driven with little focus on other instrumentation, and the whole thing is very commercial. This is a rare instance where I feel half star rating is needed. This one's a 2.5 in reality.

Report this review (#112145)
Posted Wednesday, February 14, 2007 | Review Permalink
Ivan_Melgar_M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Prog Specialist
4 stars After releasing a Rock or Light Prog album with the immense quality of "The Grand Illusion", the responsibility is huge, they have to keep the new gained status and if possible to make a better album. Well "Pieces of Eight" is neither better nor even in "The Grand Illusion" level, but it's very close and from no point of view it can be considered a step back.

The album starts with the frantic "Great White Hope", a track that has everything, Heavy Rock, lush keyboards, nice changes and excellent guitar work, maybe a bit similar to some of THE WHO stuff, but much more Progressive than anything Pete Townshend boys ever did. Excellent opener for a very solid album.

"I'm Okay" is a classical STYX track, with the keyboards taking the lead and the unique voice of Dennis De Young performing a Light Prog song. If there's something that impresses me of STYX is their capacity to link perfectly everything, nothing is left lose, every section perfectly links with the previous and subsequent but most important, fits perfectly with the atmosphere or mood of the track; and this song is a perfect example of that.

Despite some radical changes, distorted guitars, lush keyboard and even a Baroque organ solo, nothing sounds out of place mainly because this organ solo links without any problem or visible patch with the classical STYX chorals, magnificent arrangements and band work.

Every album by this Light Prog bands needs a hit, and this is the role of "Sing for the Day", but don't mistake hit with poor quality, the song is pretty good, the unusual accordion combines perfectly with Tommy Shaw's voice, the chorals and the wonderful keyboards. Not the best track of the album, but still way above the average.

"The Message" is really a short keyboard introduction for the excellent "The Lord of the Rings", except for the beautiful chorals (IMO the best ones after QUEEN), this is an unusual song for the band, they sound like repressed, as if something stopped them to explode, until almost the second minute when a powerful Moog and low ranged choirs seem to announce something different, but it never happens, they return ti the main verse and chorus. Too ambitious for the final result, but still very good.

"Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)" is a classic that still today is played in their concerts, read in the forum that someone said this song was a rip off from Deep Purple; I honestly can't find the connection despite how much I try.

Yes they start with a heavy organ but that's all, the song has nothing hard (Well maybe a short guitar passage), it flows perfectly in the style of STYX, only interrupted by their trademarked choirs, the unique voice of Tommy Shaw sounds absolutely adequate for the song, he manages to adapt it to the changes. I absolutely love this song, a true classic of the Chicago pride band.

"Queen of Spades" is a radical change from the previous song, typically in the style of Dennis De Young a song that moves from a balladesque start towards an energetic development with an outstanding guitar work by James "JY" Young and the Panozzo twins working the rhythm section with great skills.

"Renegade" starts with the "a capella" intro by Tommy Shaw, joined soon by the choirs and then by the whole band in sudden explosion of power, but they manage to keep the idea centered in the main chorus. All the variations are created by Tommy and his ductile voice. Again a sudden break by JY marks a change towards a harder style, but again the keyboards keep the central idea alive, very good band work and better arrangements.

"Pieces of Eight" was the song they required to rise the level of the album far above the average, after a beautiful and soft intro by Dennis with his mellow voice and soft keyboards, they move towards a much more Progressive territory with impressive keys and again (when not) perfect choirs, radical changes and perfect synchronization. The second instrumental break is simply breathtaking and after that the hard and aggressive finale with a soft piano coda.

The album is closed by the weird (for them) Aku Aku, that flows soft and gentle from start to end, I believe their intention is to lower the mood of the listener after so many frantic songs, just a track created to be an extro of the album.

In this case, rating the album is hard. Too good to share the same 3 stars rating with Marillion's last album for example , but not in the level of "The Grand Illusion" which I rated with 4 stars...Once again, we need the .5 stars to be perfectly accurate.

But being that I didn't rated The Grand Illusion with the maximum number of stars only because a non 100% Prog album can't be essential for any Prog Collection, despite it deserved more, I will go with 4 solid stars for "Pieces of Eight".

Report this review (#182876)
Posted Friday, September 19, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Almost Prog

Selling out arenas with their brand of artsy radio friendly pomp-rock, Styx bashed on through the late seventies as if punk and disco never happened. By the time their 8th album, Pieces Of Eight, was released in Sept. `78 they were the rave of teenagers everywhere, eventually selling over 6 million units and yielding 3 of their best songs, Blue Collar Man, The Great White Hope and Renegade. This was Styx at their zenith.

If one can brush off some of the pomp, circumstance and pretention that occur on a few tracks ( which are not even that overblown ), a closer examination of the work will reveal styx`s compositional and musical prowess most notably Dennis DeYoung`s peircing multi-layered keyboard work and their proclivity for vocal harmonizations which were on par with those of Yes. An overall beautiful contrast is also achieved by presenting a series of major keyed songs on side one and then switching to minor keys on side two culminating with the orchestral title track that runs into an instrument trailer entitled Aku Aku ( from Easter Island folklore ) reminincient to the conclusion of Yes`Gates of Delerium entitled Soon. There is also a nice balance between harder rocking songs such as The Great White Hope, Renegade and Blue Collar Man and rock ballads such as the medieval-like Sing For The Day written in the unusual time signature of 6/8.

An album with optimistic themes of not giving up or giving in to the material world, Pieces Of Eight goes off the deep end sometimes on the majestic scale particularily on the Tolkein inspired Lords Of The Ring ( I think every rock star who grew up in the 50s & 60s read something from this guy ). Nonetheles, this is compensated by the searing energy that emanates from every track and optimistic themes which prevail throughout the work. This can be gleaned from some of the titles alone such as Sing For The Day and I`m OK while other tracks reflect on the consequences of addiction ( Queen Of Spades ) and the world of crime ( Renegade ). No parental advisories necessary here as Styx demonstrate that it`s possible to have solid heavy rocking songs with positive messages for kids.

Bristling with lyrical optimism and colourful musical dynamics, Pieces Of Eight is a very accessable album that sits on the fence between the art-rock of Yes and the hard rock of Deep Purple. 30 years later the album still holds its luminous spark bringing back high school memories for those who lived through it and for those who didn`t it is arguably the band`s finest hour on record.

Report this review (#212281)
Posted Friday, April 24, 2009 | Review Permalink
SouthSideoftheSky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
2 stars The eight piece of Styx

After the very good The Grand Illusion came this disappointing album. The band's short flirt with near-excellence was over as suddenly as it begun. The songs here are all straightforward rockers and arena anthems with little or no progressive features. Sure, there are occasional (and short) keyboard solos spread throughout the album, but the song structures are all basic, conventional middle-of-the-road Rock. The similar nature of almost all the songs makes the album a rather tedious listen as there is very little variation or diversity. The songs are rather short this time, but they are mostly longer than they deserve to be!

The only memorable song here, in my opinion, is Renegade. But even this is a rather straightforward rocker with a sing-a-long chorus. The title track and the mellow, jazzy instrumental outro Aku Aku are also acceptable, but nothing out of the ordinary.

The Prog fan's interest in Styx should not be directed towards this album as the band made several better albums both before and after this one.

Only recommended for Styx fans and collectors.

Report this review (#227644)
Posted Monday, July 20, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Here Rock Progressif Fm, tends Hard rock spohistiqué, pumps him(it) Rock? In the purest style of Kansas, Journey, Stingray, Boston, Foreigner and Sweet. The music is beautiful hard has wish, the perched high singing(song). Good dexterity, the sound is good. One of the Best album in the kind(genre), has not not to estimate(esteem,consider). Hard Fm is present here, highly-rated Rock progressive Blue Collar Man is regrettably little present, is a title really tres good. Great White Hope is a little bit demonstrative, guitars are enough hard, and choirs indeed in place(square). The main part of this album is plaçé under the shape of the cheerfulness of the well made hard fm.
Report this review (#227679)
Posted Monday, July 20, 2009 | Review Permalink
progrules
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars In a Styx poll quite some time ago I voted for this album as Styx best but actually this wasn't really fair because it's the only album I own by the band. Besides this one I only have a greatest hits collection so I'm not really a big fan you might say. But somehow I have warm memories for this release from 1978. I wasn't really a progfan back then and I bought the album because at that time I kinda liked the hit single Sing for the Day.

And when I played the vinyl again lately I could only pull out a twisted smile about that same song. Absolutely horrible it sounded to me right now and I was ashamed I loved it back then. A youthful transgression you could call it. Anyway, how about the rest ? The rest was absolutely great for me when I discovered the album in 1978. Most songs are obvious cases of prog related music indeed but they are my earlier prog experiences I guess so that explains.

Except for the two short instrumentals and the mentioned hitsingle, the other 7 songs still sound absolutely fine to me though none of them is truly outstanding. A very consistent album and if I wouldn't have played it one last time I probably would have given it 4 stars for old times sake. But all in all I think 3 stars is the right score especially considering this is a progsite. But it's close to 3,5. Very nice album.

Report this review (#261197)
Posted Sunday, January 17, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Pieces of Eight is Styx' best album, but not by stealth, but by default, really. Other albums in their catalogue, notably 'Equinox' should take the title as the best Styx album, but they get cut short, and feature an 'epic' closer that is often just repetitiously drawn out to help flesh out the albums.

On Pieces of Eight, however,is the longest Styx album up to that point. This is also two things that Styx fans want to hear: Their most rocking album, and one of their most progressive, if not their most progressive album. That title may belong with 'II' or 'Serpent is rising' but this is still full of ambitious tracks like "I'm OK", and "Queen of spades" which shows Styx still had some prog juices left in the tank.

This album begins with what is possibly James Young's best song, 'Great white hope' with a sound and lyrics that just fit Arena Rock so well, and the sci-fi synths add greatly to the flavour of this song. The rhythm section get an awesome bass/drum thing happening during the chorus. This album sees a return somewhat of James Young. Since Equinox he's been pushed to the back of the group, but he comes a little bit into the foreground on this album, his heavy guitar riffs and enthusiastic vocals a welcome return.

The song that follows, "I'm OK" is an ambitious Dennis DeYoung song full of fantasy synths, a beautiful organ solo and an uplifting chorus highlight this one, possibly Dennis DeYoung's best song, but not his best lyric! It's followed by the folky/medieval "Sing for the day" with a chorus that just has you singing along. The keyboards playing on this song is absolutely magnificent, and the only drawback is some of the lyrics are a bit hard to understand. The first side closes with 'Message/Lord of the rings' which is more fantasy with science-fiction synths and mystique riddled lyrics. This was a second lead vocal for James Young on the album.

Styx aren't really progressive through writing a lot of inspiring instrumental music or complex long songs, rather they rely on creating an 'out-of-this-world' feeling in their songs, through the use of some aurally-striking keyboards and synthesisers, to give prog fans some enjoyment.

The second side opens with 'Blue Collar Man', and although it's a more straight-forward rock song, it still has a slight medieval leaning, the introductory organ reminiscent of the organ-introduction on Genesis' "The Knife". "The Queen of Spades" is a fast-paced rocker with an eerie acoustic intro, and a dark aura. DeYoung's vocals are quite inspired on this track. 'Renegade' is another straight-forward rocker, like 'Blue Collar Man' and I don't really like this song, but it's not bad. Again, there is a slight medieval feeling to it, especially with the lyircs, and Dennis seems to be enjoying it, actually the thing I don't like is that Tommy's vocals are a bit all over the place, not that's not prog or something like that. Anyway 'Pieces of eight - Aku Aku' is one of the best moments of the album. It is advertised as two songs but there's no break between them. Actually the way the dramatic fatalism of the title track fades into the eerie 'Aku-Aku' is just wonderful.

This album is a bit narrow focused, but in a way that's good, getting the band focusing on their strengths, the fantastical synth-scapes and the hard-rocking aspects of this album. It's narrowly better than 'Equinox', 'II' and 'Man of miracles' but the point is it IS better. Ultimately they wouldn't reach this peak again, but Cyclorama comes close at times. By the way, this album is not for the 'prog-only' fans; you will not like it, not much. This works as a semi-prog album, and especially if you like anthemic arena rock.

Report this review (#281746)
Posted Thursday, May 13, 2010 | Review Permalink
b_olariu
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Pieces of eight release in summer of 1978 is another winner in Styx career. same aproach to music like on previous 3 albums, more like on Crystal ball then on Grand illusion, this album capture again some of the most clean and well performed Styx pieces, like Blue collar men, Great white hope or Pieces of eight, each arrangements showing thet they are still in bussines with this album. While punk and disco conquered the most of the musical scene in late '70's on both continents, Styx manage to keep a certin quality to their music in Styx style, while not very complex in progressive terms, here they combines like on previous albums, pop orchestrations with AOR and here and there they inserated some progressive moves. A good album for sure, but I don't think this is on same level as Grand illusion or Equinox, he is more towards Crystal ball for ex. Still another platinum album, in sales terms, still an enjoyble album but not realy fantastic to my ears. 3 stars , but no more then that.
Report this review (#308547)
Posted Saturday, November 6, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars The last Styx I bothered to buy. The progginess is pretty much gone but there are some great Arena Rock riffs here..with "Blue Collar Man" and "Renegade" being 2 of the best Styx tunes ever created. Aside from these songs, the rest is typical Styx-over the top and sometimes poppy sometimes hard. Just about everything is thrown into the mix. Even a "Tolkeinesque" "Lords of the Ring" tune. This is the end of the line for anything good to come out of this band, from here on out it's Dennis DeYoung and his power pop ballads. 3 stars for a few good songs but not by much. As a followup to THE GRAND ILLUSION, PIECES OF EIGHT falls far short of my expectations.
Report this review (#333194)
Posted Wednesday, November 24, 2010 | Review Permalink
Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Classic top to bottom

On July 7th, 1977, Styx released their legendary 'The Grand Illusion' which catapulted them to the top of the American rock scene. It began an unprecedented run of artistically superb and monumentally successful albums. No other band, not the Stones, Zeppelin, nor the Beatles, had accomplished what the Chi-town boys were about to unleash: a consecutive run of 4 triple-platinum albums. I'm not sure if it has been repeated since. After completing a huge tour for Grand Illusion the band had to attempt the difficult follow-up. They succeeded big time, releasing an album many call their best, and some say sounds like it could have been the second disc had Grand Illusion been a double album.

Oddly DeYoung was dissatisfied with his 'weak' contribution to the album, but it mattered less as Tommy Shaw delivered some of the finest songs of his career here. 'Blue Collar Man' is a great rock song with a ferocious vocal (particularly live) and a subtle tweak of the main lines....casual listening can lead to the conclusion the track is repetitive, but if you listen close there are small differences to the way each run concludes, and the piece seems to build. 'Renegade' began as an acoustic number that DeYoung recognized as a winner, and they worked as a team to Styx-ize the track with the great vocal arrangements. 'Sing for the Day' is Tommy pouring his heart out to his universal muse, represented here by a young female fan but about no one person in particular. Shaw loved performing and you can hear him describing the electricity of the experience in tracks like this one and also 'Lights' on the next album.

The album's reputation for rocking harder than most Styx albums seems fair, with JY's leadoff 'Great White Hope' packing his usual punch and bravado along with nice synth work by Dennis. It continued with Tommy's two rockers and even Dennis' 'Queen of Spades,' with his feisty vocals. While the most ornate proggy atmospheres of Grand Illusion were toned down in favor of joyous rock and roll, DeYoung still delivers some chandelier-rock moments in 'I'm Okay' (nice pipe organ here), 'Lord of the Ring' (Stonehenge, anyone?), and the classic big-hearted title track with its infectious sing-along chorus. Pieces and Grand Illusion represent Styx at their most grandiose and overblown, soon they would tone down some of this for a tighter Styx feel, which for two more albums would serve them very well indeed. Dennis may have been hard for the band to deal with, but he knew what the hell he was doing.

I go back and forth between their four monsters (Grand to Paradise) as to which is the true Styx masterpiece. All four are fantastic on their own terms, some of the best examples of art-rock you will find: great, accessible rock and roll with timeless melody and prog rock tendencies, while never actually being progressive rock as we think of it here at PA. The animosity toward the group is something that continues to mystify me, so many of the bands championed at prog-sites could only dream to release an album full of this much timeless music and good fun.

When confronted with the convenient charge of being a 'corporate rock' band, the guys would roll their eyes and laugh, as they made it on years of their own sweat while constantly telling the suits to stick it. They never took a (wooden) nickel of endorsements in those days and created their music completely walled away from the suits. There was a chasm of perception between the kids who loved this band and the critics for whom Styx was not sufficiently jaded-cool to meet their front-door tests. Dennis would reply later with his line that there are only two kinds of bands: those you like and those you don't. In fact when you listen to some of the charges made against Styx, you have to wonder who is really hung up on image and labels as opposed to music and emotion.

Report this review (#453569)
Posted Sunday, May 29, 2011 | Review Permalink
Chicapah
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars In the field of progressive jazz/rock fusion in the 70s the USA team led and the rest of the world followed. However, when it came to symphonic prog we had little to offer. As I've written before, if it weren't for the band Kansas this country would've had no response whatsoever to what the progmen of the United Kingdom and Europe were creating and exporting for our hungry ears to ravenously consume. I guess if there's a prize for coming in second because there were no other contestants then Styx would qualify for the runner-up trophy by default. Despite many attempts on my own to come up with a unifying theory as to why we never gave birth to a bonafide champion group in that category to compete with the likes of Yes, Jethro Tull and Genesis I concede defeat. I can't offer a satisfactory answer. The bottom line is this: No matter your personal opinion of Styx, they pretty much represent the gist of our national contribution to the symphonic prog cause and they're to be commended accordingly. It is what it is and they are what they are. Now, saying that doesn't mean we reviewers are at all obliged to give them one iota of slack. They still have to be held accountable for what they did and didn't do. Packed arenas and platinum record sales have never been automatics for garnering respect nor accolades in the prog rock community so their success is considered inadmissible evidence in the court system we adhere to in these parts. "Pieces of Eight" will stand or fall on its own merits (or lack thereof). Keep in mind, I never was much of a Styx fan and have only recently gotten aurally familiar with their most recognized albums but I feel that my indifference actually benefits being objective and unbiased in an assessment of their art.

One must admit that their biography is interesting. Over the course of a decade they scratched and clawed their way up from garage band oblivion to attain worldwide recognition with the original five guys intact before one got burned out and was replaced by a fellow named Tommy Shaw. That change proved to be the final piece of the puzzle. Soon fate propelled them into the ranks of the rich and famous via the runaway popularity of their breakthrough LP, "The Grand Illusion," with its proggy anthem "Come Sail Away" ruthlessly conquering the airways as if they were America's long-awaited answer to Emerson, Lake and Palmer. They instantly became the darlings of the rock crowd and this, their highly-anticipated follow-up record, stormed into the top ten of the album charts shortly after its release.

It opens with guitarist James Young's "Great White Hope," featuring a rumbling rock motif that supports a boxing match announcer's shouted buildup of the song's fantasized main event. The aggressive mien gives this number a bold persona and the layered harmonies behind Young's shouted "Look at me!" braggadocio are striking. It makes for a good start, yet I'd be derelict in my duty if I failed to point out the deficiencies in John Panozzo's drumming. There are too many occasions when his busy fills are ill-defined and distracting, especially when compared to those of Alan White or Bill Bruford. (Sorry to pit you against icons, pal, but when you step into the ring with heavyweights be prepared to take some punches.) James and Dennis DeYoung penned the next cut, "I'm Okay." It sports a pompous but duly large beginning that leads to a Hammond B3-heavy track and a big dose of Dennis' semi-operatic warbling. Shaw's guitar solo is hot, the cathedral organ interlude taped on location in St. James is surprisingly effective and kudos for the huge group-sung chorus at the end. Tommy's "Sing for the Day" follows and the best adjective for the tune is "refreshing." A sprightly synth leads to a perky, folk-styled air that's somewhat Jon Anderson-ish. The overall tightness of the track is indicative of the improvements the band was making in their studio acumen. The upbeat, youthful vibe they establish is quaint and contagious.

DeYoung's brief "The Message" is a mysterious instrumental vastly superior to the song it introduces, his plodding and overly dramatic "Lords of the Ring." The middle section of this number sounds like something they came up with during an impromptu jam session and deemed it a great space-filler. This exemplifies what I mean about groups on this side of the pond not being able to rival the awe-inspiring British prog juggernauts of that era. This is amateurish stuff. On "Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)" Shaw demonstrates once more what a game-changer he was for Styx. Here he proves that the band was a much better straightforward rock & roll outfit than an influential prog act. This catchy tune rose to #21 on Top 40 radio and continues to be a classic rock staple to this day. I only wish drummer John would've curbed his urge to overplay on the basic track. Dennis and James co-wrote "Queen of Spades" and it's one of their obligatory overwrought rock ballads (DeYoung's voice just bugs the crap out of me sometimes) that adheres to a very predictable pattern: Soft onset leads to heavier segment where reverb-drenched guitars echo into the ether before various themes are reprised along the way to a reunion with the opening mood. Ho hum.

The popularity of Tommy's "Renegade" did wonders in getting folks to part with their cash for this record and with good reason. It's an excellent rocker with an exciting arrangement. While it topped out at #16, solidly cementing their status as one of the planet's premier pop/rock groups, it also further diminished their fading prog credentials. Next is Dennis' "Pieces of Eight," yet another power ballad wherein his all-or-nothing, loud vocal approach really becomes tiresome. That's a shame because the music itself isn't half bad and their towering background harmonies give it a gallant aura. A short but graceful piano flourish segues to Shaw's instrumental closer, "Aku-aku." It has a pretty melody and chord progression, taking the album out on a peaceful note.

Styx was riding high in the late 70s and this disc (#6 on the LP charts) made it appear they could do no wrong. But the success of the record's three Tommy Shaw-written hits heralded the beginning of an internal power struggle that would ultimately cause enough friction to cause a band shut-down a few years later. Here's the conflict in a nutshell. While DeYoung's material definitely had more of a progressive slant, he was never able to compose involved epics that could hold their own against the likes of Genesis or Yes. Tommy, on the other hand, realized his prog limitations and concentrated on cranking out more radio-friendly rockers, a decision that proved wise. When this album hit the racks in fall of '78 punk and new wave were rudely shoving progressive rock off a cliff. Shaw was just observant enough to read the writing on the wall. One more observation. Decades down the road Dennis would aver that "Pieces of Eight" has some kind of spiritual vs. materialism concept running through it but I think that's hooey. It's a decent collection of tunes that marks the end of Styx as a pseudo prog group and the solidification of their standing as a pop/rock phenomenon. Nothing more. Two and a half stars.

Report this review (#615248)
Posted Saturday, January 21, 2012 | Review Permalink
stefro
PROG REVIEWER
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

Report this review (#796471)
Posted Sunday, July 29, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars "Pieces of Eight" along with "Equinox", "The Grand Illusion", "Cristal Ball" and "Paradise Theather", certainly is one of the best albuns from STYX ... and are fairly superior to their next album "Cornerstone". Bring in his set list some classic tunes from the band, as for instance: "The Great White Hope", "Lords of the Ring", "Renegade" and the great radio hit "Blue Collar Man" ( probably the most famous track from STYX after "Babe" from "Cornerstone" but totaly different (Babe is a very beautiful ballad and "Blue Collar Man" is a realy hard-prog).. However, the album reserves another great instrumental moments like in track 2 "I'm OK" with Tommy Shaw's great guitar solo (very expressive and full of feeling) , on the track 3 "Sing for the Day" where keyboards stand out and the midlle section in "Piieces of Eight" (starting at 2:31 until 3:05 min) before the first guitar solo. My rate is 4 stars !!! :
Report this review (#943522)
Posted Sunday, April 14, 2013 | Review Permalink
Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
4 stars With The Grand Illusion Styx managed to show that they could put their great songwriting skills to good use writing melodic art rock music; Pieces Of Eight was the album where they proved that they could pretty much write this material in their sleep!

The late '70s was the period where most British progressive rock bands where clutching at straws. Surprisingly, this was also the period where Styx could do no wrong and Pieces Of Eight shows this notion even more than any of its predecessors. There are a few songs that I might not enjoy as much as the rest, but this fact has been a staple of this band's career and I'm fortunate to note that the great moments manage to outnumber the dull ones here.

Unlike the draw that I could see between Dennis DeYoung and Tommy Shaw songwriting efforts on The Grand Illusion, Pieces Of Eight was clearly Shaw's moment in the spotlight since he managed to score hits with Sing For The Day, Blue Collar Man and Renegade. But just like The Grand Illusion, where I gave Shaw some praise for his songwriting, Pieces Of Eight is where I'd like to credit DeYoung for some of his most ambitious material to date. Dennis DeYoung is generally known for his ballads and quirky keyboards-driven pop tunes but this album actually scores him quite a few points on my list for grand scale compositions like I'm O.K., highly prog inspired Lords Of The Ring and the album's title track. These are, simply put, some of my favorite compositions from DeYoung and Styx!

I've never really been a fan of James Young's songwriting, a point that I'll make sure to expand on in some of my later reviews, but this is probably the only album where I find some of his best material with the album's opening track Great White Hope and co-writing credits for I'm O.K and Queen Of Spades. All three compositions lack his, otherwise, straightforward rock 'n' roll approach that he seems to be so fond of.

Pieces Of Eight depicted Styx as kings of the U.S.-based art rock scene of the late '70s making it on par with The Grand Illusion. Their stay at the top would unfortunately not last for much longer but I'll get to that chapter it in due time. Let's just try to enjoy this moment and remember Styx as the great art rock band that they were back then.

***** star songs: I'm O.K. (5:45) Lords Of The Ring (4:35)

**** star songs: Great White Hope (4:24) Sing For The Day (5:02) The Message (1:08) Blue Collar Man (4:08) Renegade (4:18) Pieces Of Eight (4:44)

*** star songs: Queen Of Spades (5:41) Aku Aku (2:57)

Report this review (#946674)
Posted Friday, April 19, 2013 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Sometimes when I give a 2-star release it's often because the album is really a 3-star album, but with a few things holding it back from being something more than for folks who are already fans of the band. With Pieces of Eight, the opposite is true: this is a 1-star album that has enough crumbles of songwriting or instrumental interest to make it just barely good enough for fans. In general I dislike Styx: I don't care for the tone of DeYoung's voice or keyboards, think they're song writing talents are over rated, and find their instrumental skills just "good enough." This album exemplifies these feelings. Listening is like being kicked in the groin repeatedly while being water-boarded in a bucket of soda-pop syrup as cheesy Saturday morning cartoons play in the background incessantly.

If it weren't for the Tommy Shaw rockers "Blue Collar Man" and "Renegade", or the thoughtful gusto of "Queen of Spades" this album would never get a second listen from me. The bland keyboards and sing-songy choruses are too much. The good stuff is few and far between, but is good enough for me to keep this album around for the sake of completeness.

I won't trash Styx or Pieces of Eight anymore, because as much as I think Styx is mediocre I respect their legacy and the fact that there are plenty of fans of theirs on this site. If you like Styx then keep on liking them! But if you're wishy-washy about the band, you'll probably find Pieces of Eight too much to bear.

Songwriting: 2 - Instrumental Performances: 2 - Lyrics/Vocals: 2 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 1

Report this review (#1499550)
Posted Tuesday, December 15, 2015 | Review Permalink
3 stars You can hear the 70's written all over this album. Uplifting, soaring rock music. It's essentially arena / glam rock with a slight progressive slant. To intensely dislike this essentially means that you have no 70's blood running through your veins at all. Punchy, keyboard infused and for the main part inspiring / uplifting. For me this was the last good Styx album before the band plunged into commercial pop music territory as so many bands did in the 80's in order to move with the recording executives who demanded puerile non complex bubble gum chewing nonsense for the masses. "Lords of the Ring" has a distinct "1812 Overture" inflection where although it cannot hope to hold a candle to that symphonic masterpiece it is pleasant to pick up on. "Blue Collar Man" is the standout rocker on the album. "Queen of Spades" displays outstanding guitar work and vocals. "Pieces of Eight" is the standout classic track of the album which although it doesn't match up with or come close to "Come Sail Away" from the previous album for grandiosity it is very pleasant to listen to. "Aku Aku" is not the way I would end this album - it's kind of an anti-climax - sort of like had they ended Black Sabbath's Volume 4 album with Laguna Sunrise it would have had the same effect.

A solid 3 stars from me for a pleasant mind trip back into the 70's.

Report this review (#1499848)
Posted Wednesday, December 16, 2015 | Review Permalink

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