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STYX

Prog Related • United States


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Styx picture
Styx biography
Founded in Chicago, USA in 1972 - Hiatus between 1985-1989 and 1992-1994 - Still active as of 2017

STYX is one of those bands that are always mentioned with some fear and shame by the Progressive Rock fan, because they always played in the border that divides Prog from plain POP, I believe the best way to describe them is as Prog Related (understanding this description as the simplest and more commercial form of Progressive Rock) blended with AOR, somehow in the same vein as JOURNEY or BOSTON but much more complex.

Officially born in 1972 from the ashes of "The TRADEWINS" and "TW4" was formed by the Panozzo twins (Chuck on bass and John on drums), Dennis de Young (vocals and keyboards), James Young (guitar, vocals) and John Curulewski (guitar, vocals).

In the first years they were closer to progressive rock than ever, from 1972 to 1974 the band released four albums, "Styx", "Styx II", "The Serpent is Rising" and "Man of Miracles", even though they were popular in Chicago, still the band couldn't reach commercial success. As a curiosity, in their first album they recorded "Movement for a Common Man" based in Aaron Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man, almost five years before ELP. In 1975 they release their more commercially consistent album (at that point of course) "Equinox" which blended Rock & Roll, Pop and Progressive Rock in an efficient way, "Light Up", "Lorelei" and "Suite Madam Blue" are the first songs in which the band achieve some financial success and show the sound they pretended to create.

1976 was a crucial year for "STYX", John Curulewski leaves the band and is replaced by Tommy Shaw who became the front man with his California boy image (Even when he was born in Montgomery Alabama) and melodic but elaborate style, the band finally had the face capable of reaching the female public and massive acceptance, but writing some of the best STYX themes. "Crystal Ball" was released in the same year with a moderate success, "Crystal Ball", "Mademoiselle" and "Put me On" became favorites in their massive concerts, the band was reaching their commercial peak but started to abandon prog rock and turning into an ARENA band.

At this point the story is well known, "The Grand Illusion" became a platinum album with major hits like "Fooling Yourself" and of course "Come Sail Away", also their three next albums "Pieces of Eight", "Cornerstone" and "Paradise Theater" reached commercial success with tracks that go from ...
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STYX discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

STYX top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.80 | 124 ratings
Styx
1972
3.14 | 130 ratings
Styx II
1973
2.99 | 124 ratings
The Serpent Is Rising
1973
2.76 | 118 ratings
Man Of Miracles
1974
3.48 | 204 ratings
Equinox
1975
3.14 | 185 ratings
Crystal Ball
1976
3.74 | 298 ratings
The Grand Illusion
1977
3.59 | 241 ratings
Pieces Of Eight
1978
2.69 | 193 ratings
Cornerstone
1979
3.00 | 200 ratings
Paradise Theatre
1981
2.17 | 163 ratings
Kilroy Was Here
1983
2.72 | 76 ratings
Edge Of The Century
1990
2.82 | 70 ratings
Brave New World
1999
3.23 | 62 ratings
Cyclorama
2003
3.25 | 64 ratings
Big Bang Theory
2005
4.01 | 53 ratings
The Mission
2017

STYX Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.69 | 43 ratings
Caught In The Act Live
1984
3.78 | 27 ratings
Return to Paradise
1997
2.41 | 8 ratings
Arch Allies - Live At Riverport
2000
3.94 | 11 ratings
Styxworld Live 2001
2001
3.67 | 6 ratings
At The River's Edge - Live In St. Louis
2002
3.16 | 6 ratings
21st Century Live
2003

STYX Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

4.07 | 20 ratings
Return To Paradise (DVD)
1999
3.74 | 15 ratings
Styx and the Contemporary Youth Orchestra Of Cleveland: One With Everything
2006
2.63 | 15 ratings
Caught In The Act: Live 1984
2007
3.78 | 17 ratings
The Grand Illusion / Pieces of Eight Live
2012

STYX Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.60 | 10 ratings
Best of Styx
1977
3.22 | 8 ratings
Classics, Vol 15
1987
2.84 | 30 ratings
Greatest Hits
1995
3.27 | 7 ratings
Greatest Hits Part 2
1996
4.20 | 5 ratings
The Best of Times: The Best of Styx
1997
4.08 | 4 ratings
The Singles Colllection
2000
4.00 | 2 ratings
Lady: The Encore Collection
2000
2.25 | 4 ratings
20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best Of Styx
2002
2.38 | 4 ratings
Rockers
2003
3.60 | 11 ratings
Come Sail Away: The Styx Anthology
2004
3.36 | 24 ratings
The Complete Wooden Nickel Recordings
2005

STYX Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.50 | 2 ratings
Lady
1973
3.00 | 3 ratings
Light Up
1975
3.50 | 2 ratings
Best Thing
1975
3.50 | 2 ratings
Lorelei
1975
4.25 | 4 ratings
Come Sail Away
1977
3.07 | 5 ratings
Sing for the Day
1978
3.33 | 3 ratings
Blue Collar Man
1978
2.00 | 1 ratings
Enganandote (El Joven Enojado)
1978
2.00 | 2 ratings
Boat On The River
1979
2.00 | 1 ratings
Lights
1979
2.50 | 2 ratings
Renegado (Renegade)
1979
2.50 | 2 ratings
The Best Of Times
1980
1.17 | 4 ratings
Too Much Time on My Hands
1981
2.50 | 2 ratings
Rockin' The Paradise
1981
3.50 | 6 ratings
Regeneration
2011

STYX Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Too Much Time on My Hands by STYX album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1981
1.17 | 4 ratings

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Too Much Time on My Hands
Styx Prog Related

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

1 stars 20-Year Chronological Run-Through Pt. Nineteen: 1981.

-- First review for this single -- The Chicago-based rock band STYX made some strong albums more or less appreciated by prog listeners too. Their commercial breakthrough album The Grand Illusion (1977) is among the best ones, as is its follower Pieces of Eight (1978). The inevitable artistic downhill, and the reason to mock them by progheads as "Stynx" [Stinks], was started by Cornerstone (1979) and continued on Paradise Theatre (1981) which was an enormous commercial success. BTW, is the word really Theatre, not Theater, the American way to spell it? The album cover doesn't help as it actually has the words Paradise Gala Premiere. Once, something like twenty-five years ago, I bought a used vinyl copy of it, but disliked it so much that I didn't keep it for long.

The second single outtake 'Too much Time on My Hands' was a Top 10 hit in North America. The fact it was written and sung by Tommy Shaw, my favourite member of Styx, doesn't much help. This catchy, repetitive and straightforward rock song is totally ruined by the disco-oriented soundscape.

The B side features 'Queen of Spades', which is a Dennis De Young song from Pieces of Eight three years earlier. Starting in (and returning to) a slow-tempo power ballad style, it disappointed me with its loud hard rock approach. The sharp vocal harmonies sound very similar to those made by QUEEN.

Never been much of a Styx fan, but this single represents the side of them that I rather stay away from. I may not consider this music objectively so bad that it would be worth one star only, but I surely haven't used the minimum rating too often... so, here goes.

 The Mission by STYX album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.01 | 53 ratings

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The Mission
Styx Prog Related

Review by gbjones

4 stars Back in the day I had an automatic reaction when asked: "I'm not really into Styx". What a difference two generations make! This stuff is good, REALLY GOOD. After hearing users on Progarchives go back and forth...Styx is prog...no it's not...but wait, what about Dennis deYoung's new album? This is a band that I never used to think of as prog, but The Mission IS prog! It's is also a concept album, about MARS. As for songs, where should I start...Locomotive, Radio Silence, The Greater Good, Red Storm, The Outpost...heck it's all pretty good. If you look on Amazon, some folks think it's on a par with Close to the Edge, or a Pink Floyd album, or even one of the old Kansas albums (gotta mention Kansas when the subject is American bands from the 1970s). Those are five star albums and this is a solid four-star album.
 Sing for the Day by STYX album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1978
3.07 | 5 ratings

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Sing for the Day
Styx Prog Related

Review by Heart of the Matter

3 stars Yes, of course, maybe "Sing For The Day" is heavily indebted with Yes' "And You And I" for acoustic textures and melodic approach, but still retains its own identity in terms of folkie flavour, vocal harmonies, and those beautiful modulations articulating the whole song.

Verging on the heavier side of the spectrum, "Queen Of Spades" put at risk the acceptance of this single by the progressive fandom. In addition to that, the vocals are charged with sardonic laughter and that kind of glam exhibitionism. Anyway, this is not Kiss, and we still find here a solidly crafted song with a nice arpeggiated introduction, very good melody, and tasty electric solo.

 The Grand Illusion by STYX album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.74 | 298 ratings

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The Grand Illusion
Styx Prog Related

Review by OLD PROG

4 stars Who invented AOR as a musical genre? Styx? Journey? REO Speedwagon? Toto? Difficult to give an answer that puts everyone in agreement... Really agree. And also by looking for a formula that allows us to arrive at formulating the answer in a unique way... I think it's impossible. We should mention bands like Genesis or Deep Purple (in some cases they were AOR, judging single songs and albums)... Which would lead us to understand that we can only do non-clarification and resolutive reasoning of the question. In addition, bands that became famous as AOR masters often played Progressive Rock. And then... Kansas (among between the inventors of Prog Metal), Magnum (from "On A Storyteller's Night", AOR masterpiece, onwards they were full AOR and no longer Art Rock). In short... The answer is not easy and, perhaps, it's not even the case to ask.

"The Grand Illusion" is rhe sixth album of Styx and was published in 1977. Beyond everything, "The Grand Illusion" is an album that, in a certain sense, asks us, in my too modest opinion, some questions: Is it a Progressive album? Is it a Hard Rock album? Is it an AOR album? Is it an Art Rock album? You should be broad-minded not to be influenced ... because for a proghead it is clearly a Prog album. For a Metalhead it's clearly a Heavy Metal album (or rather AOR... Proto AOR / Hard Rock). Yet, if we want to dig deep, we must (because at the time, if the definition had already been created) classify it as Proto Prog Metal / Progressive Hard Rock. After that, it's all a succession of attempts to classify what, in the end, is just ink that dirties a sheet. The sound of "The Grand Illusion" is a mix of synthesizers and guitars on a very technical and progressive basis which, however, remains Hard Rock, although it cannot be called Hard Rock. In fact, we are facing a crossover that satisfies Progheads and Metalheads in equal measure and that is already a sort of very defined AOR. The songs are all perfect. Naming one by chance or all of them, as an example of how you play this album, does not make sense, in my opinion. If in general the songs all play both Progressive and Hard Rock, "Miss America" is an excellent example of Hard Rock that is easily memorized while "Wild In The Dreams", sounding like a piece of Kansas (like, in general, all the 'album ... But it's not a clone or derivative ... it's just a combination of style, mine) needs different plays to be understood (even if you like it from the first notes). "Castle Walls", then, it's very epic song.

"The Grand Illusion" is truly a masterpiece in the band's economy. And, beyond the extraordinarily high sales, it's certainly not an easy album to understand. Let's go back to the beginning of the review... But with clearer ideas... We try to recommend (at least) certain bends and certain albums to some type of listener/ Mmusical genre fans... It's impossible, really. "The Grand Illusion" it's too Progressive for a Metalhead (who will call it Progressive Hard Rock / Proto Prog Metal, to the limit). For a Proghead it is too heavy and out of context in the Progressive field. For an AOR fan, it's just an album that inspired the genre. Except that, unfortunately, for everyone it is a masterpiece. And the war of unanswered questions... Continue... Always the same. Always an end in itself.

 Boat On The River by STYX album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1979
2.00 | 2 ratings

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Boat On The River
Styx Prog Related

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

2 stars Styx has never really been among my favourite bands, but I have known (and to some extent, listened to) them since my teen years. Since no one has yet said anything about this single, here I go. 'Boat on the River' is one of the best known Styx songs, and it's on the 1979 album Cornerstone. It's a folky ballad written and sung by Tommy Shaw, whom I consider much better singer than Dennis de Young.

Especially for Finnish people this is a very familiar song: in 1993, a highly popular singer Riki Sorsa had a big hit with the Finnish language cover 'Joki' (= River) which is still occasionally played on the radio, sadly more so than the Styx original. But fewer Finns remember that Taiska, a popular female singer of the late 70's - early 80's schlager scene, made a cover already in 1980, called 'Aamulla yksin' (= Alone in the morning). It's no wonder the song was "adopted" to Finland, since its very accessible, melancholic and nature-loving mood somehow fits the Finnish personality like a glove to hand.

The B side has a shortened version of Dennis de Young's rock ballad 'Come Sail Away', originating from Grand Illusion (1977). I don't much like his tight and slightly syrupy voice in this song which isn't so great as a composition either, but it has a nice synth-centred instrumental section.

 Paradise Theatre by STYX album cover Studio Album, 1981
3.00 | 200 ratings

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Paradise Theatre
Styx Prog Related

Review by patrickq
Prog Reviewer

4 stars By my count, there are four very strong songs here: Tommy Shaw's synth-AOR "Too Much Time on My Hands," Dennis DeYoung's rock ballad "The Best of Times," and two pieces, right out of the late 1970s, written by Shaw, DeYoung, and James Young: the heavy antidrug downer "Snowblind,"* and the exuberant "Rockin' the Paradise." Add three decent album tracks and three short theme pieces, and you've got one of the better art-rock albums of the early 1980s. This excludes Shaw's underwhelming "She Cares," without which the album would be a respectable thirty-six minutes. But its inclusion reinforces the sense I have that a certain number of slots were reserved for Shaw, and he was going to fill them whether or not he had quality material. Ironically, Shaw, who is certainly capable of crafting a nice pop-rock song (e.g., "What If," "Girls With Guns"), is often viewed as the serious rocker thrust into the role of protecting Styx from the lite, commercial excesses of DeYoung - - and yet he turns in the tritest track on the album.

OK, enough Shaw bashing. And to be fair, (1) Shaw's other composition here is the catchy, humorous "Too Much Time on My Hands," which was arguably the most successful single on Paradise Theatre (Billboard: #9 pop, #2 rock; "The Best of Times" hit #3 and #16), and (2) his vocal performance on "Snowblind" is the best on the album.

But DeYoung is the star of Paradise Theatre. "The Best of Times" is masterful; more than a "power ballad," it's more like a mini-opera, especially if when paired with its converse, "Rockin' the Paradise." Even DeYoung's secondary songs, "Lonely People" and the minor hit "Nothing Ever Goes as Planned," are solid tracks, and are just as developed, refined, and embellished as the better- known songs. This consistency in attending to detail does as much to unify the album as does the ostensible concept. Two other aspects add to the overall quality. One is the last full-length song, Young's "Half-Penny, Two-Penny," which he co-wrote with his sometime collaborator Ray Brandle. This hard-rock tune is an apt ending, both musically and thematically, to the album. The other is the saxophone work, dispersed throughout DeYoung's songs, of Steve Eisen.

The sax accoutrements are a subtle indication that Paradise Theatre isn't progressive rock. It's art rock, or maybe art pop. Or maybe finely-crafted pomp-AOR. Judged as prog-rock, it comes up short - - but it also comes up short as country & western. However, judged on its own merits, Paradise Theatre is near the pinnacle of the late-1970s/early-1980s art-rock peddled by bands like Journey, Queen, Electric Light Orchestra, and the Moody Blues - - bands that perhaps had been more nearly progressive a decade earlier, and who today we label as "crossover prog" acts.

If you're a sucker like me for 1980s pop music and for progressive rock, you've probably already heard a third of Paradise Theatre, and you'll probably enjoy it as a whole.**

====

*Shaw's contributions to the lyrics, while uncredited, seem to be widely acknowledged. Superficially, "Snowblind" is addressed to a damnably irresistible lover, but the subject is easily read as cocaine. "Snowblind" - - get it?

**"She Cares" excepted, imho.

 Brave New World by STYX album cover Studio Album, 1999
2.82 | 70 ratings

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Brave New World
Styx Prog Related

Review by FragileKings
Prog Reviewer

3 stars You once bought yourself a car, a decent model that had the potential to be improved upon, and ultimately you made it into quite the machine. You drove it around for a few years and had the hottest wheels in the hood. But then some parts began to wear and after a major component breakdown, you retired it for some years. Eventually you spent the money to get it rolling again, but soon it was back under wraps in the garage. You finally paid for the repairs for that key component and got the car on the road, looking as sharp as ever. You planned a big road trip, but soon problems began and you had to scale back your ambitions, in the end making a more modest trip as the car just couldn't take the long haul anymore. Were you disappointed? Sure! But was the resulting road trip really that bad? Or was the disappointment more in that it didn't live up to expectations founded on past joys?

A Long-winded Background

Styx splintered in 1984. After years of multi-platinum-selling albums and being one of the biggest bands in the U.S., the band fell into shambles as first Tommy Shaw (vocals/guitar) left and then founding members Dennis DeYoung (vocals/keyboards) and James "JY" Young (vocals/guitar) bided their time by pursuing solo careers. Rhythm section twins Chuck (bass) and John (drums) Panozzo stopped playing altogether, Chuck seeking other ways to fulfill his days and John falling to drink. The reasons for the breakup were largely due to Tommy Shaw's frustrations with Styx, in particular Dennis DeYoung. Dennis, a highly talented song-writer and a man with great vision for the band's sound and visual presentation, was known for being very stubborn, demanding, and difficult. In Sterling Whitaker's book, "The Grand Delusion - The Unauthorized True Story of Styx", nearly all people interviewed recount stories of Dennis' tirades and tantrums, his accusative and abusive tone and language with other band members and management and road crew, and general difficulties in working with him. Some state they never want to work with him again while others are more forgiving, acknowledging his talent as an artist and recognizing that such talent can mean moodiness and relationship challenges.

As far as the other members were concerned, Dennis dictated tour schedules and the direction of albums and even pushed his opinion of what songs would be released as singles. After the huge success of "Babe", every Styx album included at least one schmaltzy, adult-contemporary pop love song, something that got under the skin of Tommy Shaw and JY. The "Kilroy Was Here" tour tore the band at the seams, and Shaw was the first to leave. A reunion several years later produced a single album with one hit song, but Shaw was not involved and it would take a few more years for the classic Styx line-up to reconvene, oddly, for the purpose of simply re-recording their first big hit, "Lady", so that it could be included on a greatest hits package, the original holder of the recording rights, Wooden Nickle, not being willing to release the rights to A&M. Magic was in the air during that recording and the band agreed to go out on tour. Sadly, John Panozzo's alcoholism had spoiled his health to the point that he could not participate in the recording, the rehearsals, or the ensuing tour, and he was replaced temporarily by young drummer Todd Sucherman. The "Return to Paradise" tour was a huge success, yet tragically near the end news reached the band that John had succumbed to his health issues. A double live album and video was released and a tour for the 20th anniversary of "The Grand Illusion" was scheduled, though Dennis was already reducing the dates as his Broadway musical project, "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" was going on simultaneously.

Then came the talk of recording a new album, the first to feature the classic lineup since 1983. The elation of the 1997 tour was rapidly fading. Dennis had developed an illness caused by fatigue that made him sensitive to light. Add to that his predilection for being a homebody that didn't feel comfortable being away from home for long, and it was decided by him that the recordings would take place at his home studio. For those living around or not far from Chicago, this was acceptable; however Tommy Shaw was at this time living in California, and he soon tired of living out of a hotel during the recording sessions. Dennis' studio was good, but not as good as studios out in California, and furthermore Tommy didn't enjoy standing in stockings on Dennis' carpet (no shoes allowed) in a room with the lights always dimmed. He at last decided to head back to California and do his part of the recording there, and JY would run the tapes back and forth between the two studios. Tommy was already feeling the old sentiments that made him want to quit the band back in 1984. Dennis was adamant about how the recording would proceed and the direction of the album.

Meanwhile, Chuck Panozzo, who was HIV positive, finally developed full-blown AIDS. His health was so poor that on the days he did struggle down for rehearsals, he was often took weak to perform adequately. It came down to Dennis deciding that if Chuck didn't record anything for the album, he would get no credit. Tommy and JY said they'd fight to have his name on the album, but Chuck summoned the strength to get into the studio and lay down several tracks.

To further complicate things, Tommy Shaw had decided to loosely base the album on Aldous Huxley's book, "Brave New World" and he commissioned artwork to reflect the concept. Dennis was against it and in the end hated the cover art. Tensions increased as the album came to a wrap, the band once again on the verge of crumbling.

The resulting album was not what it should have been. Fans were thrilled to have the classic line-up (minus John Panozzo) release a new album. But whereas Styx's most well-known albums in the past had always been collaborative efforts among the members, "Brave New World" was seen as more like a Tommy Shaw solo album and a Dennis DeYoung solo album sewn together with a bit of frayed Styx thread. DeYoung claimed that when he heard the resulting record, he cried. He said it had the potential to have been so much better if only he had been able to guide the album's creation more. Fans' reactions were tepid. The record company waited to see what the band would do. Dennis declined to tour right away on account of his health condition. Tommy and JY said they would replace Dennis and tour anyway. And with that, Dennis DeYoung, founder of Styx and writer of some of the band's biggest songs, was out of the band.

My Review

Is the album so bad? I actually have quickly grown to like it. First of all, I've never heard any solo albums by Styx members, so I can't say how much individual songs sound like a Tommy Shaw solo record track or a Dennis solo track. But the album is clearly divided into the Tommy/JY recordings and the Dennis recordings, the former adhering to the "Brave New World" theme with three songs including the album title in the lyrics, and the latter contributing very Dennis-esque tracks. Individually, I find most of the tracks enjoyable with some pleasant surprises. The biggest disappointment is the lack of cohesion that the band once exhibited, working together rather than against each other.

Styx has never been a true prog band and no one in the band has ever stated otherwise. But they always felt free to borrow prog elements and sew them into their songs. "Brave New World" features some very mature song-writing, especially from JY who was always more the hard-rocking, party-rock member of the band. "Heavy Water" and "What Have They Done to You" are indicators of his abilities to come in the future. The opening track, "I Will Be Your Witness" is rather a slow start to the album and sounds more like a song from The New Kids on the Block album "Ten", which my wife has and I think is rather good adult contemporary rock. Not what I'd like to hear from Styx exactly, mind you. "Number One" and "Everything Is Cool" are typical of the rock style to come out of Tommy/JY Styx since these recordings, good and catchy rock songs but not very prog-related. The title track feels a little more developed with more musical variation and interest than any standard rock songs. It's my favourite on the album. Tommy also sings a lyrically-witty, upbeat and fun rock number called "Just Fell In". It's a rare case of Styx sounding like they are having fun.

Dennis' contributions provide a lot more variety, from the surprisingly lovely ballad "While There's Still Time", which is performed with acoustic guitars rather than electric piano and string synthesizer, to the brass and cool bounce of "High Crimes & Misdemeanors (Hip-Hop Hypocrasy)", to the soul-filled piano ballad "Goodbye to Roseland". "Great Expectations" has reggae grove with a sound like an eighties mature rock band in the neighbourhood of The Police or Toto, and "Fallen Angel" has that musical approach that seems to be written with a stage performance in mind.

Yes, perhaps this does sound more like a Tommy Shaw / Dennis DeYoung "Union" album (Yes reference) rather than a Styx album. It's not the grand road trip that was hoped for with the reunion and the resulting successful tours. But I am not disappointed with it. I can get into most of the songs and regard the album for what it turned out to be: less than what was expected but still good in its own right. That said, most fans and music journalists agree that the greater majority of the Styx catalogue surpasses this. Even their albums "Cyclorama" and "The Mission", recorded without DeYoung, are musically better albums. Not easy to find, "Brave New World" is decent enough in my opinion and worth having. But for the true brilliance of Styx or even a half-decent prog rock album, this is not recommended. It's more for fanatics like me who bought it to own a piece of one of the band's more turbulent periods.

 Styx by STYX album cover Studio Album, 1972
2.80 | 124 ratings

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Styx
Styx Prog Related

Review by FragileKings
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Nearly every review here on PA of Styx's 1972 debut album will tell you that the band represented by this music is a long stretch away from the classic band of the latter half of the seventies. The same could be said for any classic seventies bands because music was evolving rapidly at the time. Every great band has its humble beginnings, and debut albums are often where a band will show what they've been working on for the last few years before they begin turning away from their early sound in search of something more developed. "Styx" is no different. The album is young, raw, and of its year: hard and heavy guitar rock with some boogie rock and lots of organ with only hints of the more progressive efforts to come. What is also surprising, however, is that of the six tracks, only two are original songs written by the band. The other four were requested by the record label; the band recorded four covers of songs they had never heard before.

"Movement for the Common Man" is basically two songs connected by instrumental and spoken word interludes. The first part, "Children of the Land" is a boogie rock number written and sung by guitarist James Young. It's quite straightforward, no frills guitar and piano rocker. It's followed by a short but interesting percussion solo by drummer John Panozzo (too many early seventies albums have so much unnecessary drum solo filler, so it's nice to hear one that's not too long and that has some more interesting sounds happening). An instrumental featuring guitar and organ solos followed before a train rushes past and we then hear comments from people on the street (and a bus driver it seems) about how young people today have too much money and don't know the value of hard work or personal hygiene. A Styx reworking of Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man" introduces the second proper song in this first track, a song called "Mother Nature's Matinee" written by Dennis DeYoung and sung by both Young and DeYoung. This is perhaps the proggiest track on the album and the first to indicate what the band would be capable of in the future.

The other original song is "Best Thing", another Young/DeYoung collaboration that stands out very well. It features both acoustic guitar and heavy rock guitar and lots of organ. I'd say it would sound very nice in a compilation of early seventies heavy rock songs, including Uriah Heep, Bodkin, Lucifer's Friend, and even Coverdale/Hughes era Deep Purple.

The remaining four tracks are the cover tunes, and of those I like "Quick Is the Beat of My Heart" and "After You Leave Me" best, though "What Has Come Between Us" is also pretty good, with a dramatic intro and Dennis DeYoung's keyboards out for show. In a way, it's representative of future DeYoung works in spite of it being a cover.

The style and sound on these tracks have been adapted to suit this early version of Styx, and until I read that these tracks were covers, I believed them to be all band originals because I had never heard them before either. Only the side one closer, "Right Away" is a drag, sounding like a very typical southern rock-tinged song with a repeating chorus that promises nothing but too much beer drinking among partially inebriated bar dwellers, swaying drunkenly on their bar stools.

One interesting note is that Young takes lead vocal duty the most with DeYoung only taking lead on two songs and sharing lead on one. Dennis DeYoung would of course later give the band many of its biggest hits. Guitarist John Curulewski, who sings on later Styx albums, offers no lead vocals on the debut.

Some people have some pretty harsh opinions about this album, but I rather like it. If you're not looking for a true progressive rock band but content with a hard/heavy rock band that flirt with progressive rock in only two or three songs, then this albums rewards. However, if you're looking for the band that would later deliver "Equinox", "The Grand Illusion" or "Pieces of Eight", then what you'll find here is the unrefined, post-acne youth with energy and ambition but not yet enough experience or maturation.

 The Serpent Is Rising by STYX album cover Studio Album, 1973
2.99 | 124 ratings

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The Serpent Is Rising
Styx Prog Related

Review by FragileKings
Prog Reviewer

3 stars 'The Serpent Is Rising' was the second Styx album I ever bought and it has been in my possession for just barely over a year. After 'The Grand Illusion', I could have picked any of the more highly rated classic albums, but I really didn't know much about the band and wasn't sure where to go next. When I saw the SHCD of 'Serpent' on Amazon was limited to one copy remaining, I hastened to snatch it up. Only after did I learn that not only is it one of the band's least successful and least popular albums but even the band themselves have expressed their dislike of it. Is it really so bad?

Admittedly, after the first three or four listens, the only track that stayed affixed to my memory was the hidden track, 'Plexiglass Toilet'. The silly 'Banana Boat' spoof was catchy and humorous. Yet many critics regard that song as the lowest point of Styx's career.

Recently, I have been adding to my Styx collection and I decided to pay a close ear to the often derided third Styx album. As I have become more familiar with the band's seventies output, I know that the music of Styx is based on the triad of hard rock, prog, and catchy chorus melodies with harmony vocals. With three songwriters and three lead vocalists, I feel there are some similarities between Styx and Queen, though with organ and synthesizer instead of piano, Styx's music sounds more like a cousin to Uriah Heep and Yes.

The opening track, 'Witch Wolf' has turned out to be a surprisingly enjoyable rocker. In league with post- fantasy era Uriah Heep, this track packs a real punch. Similar is 'Young Man', the third track. Both songs are co-written and sung by guitarist James Young, who is frequently referred to as a hard rock guitarist in the Wikipedia pages about Styx and their albums. He takes lead vocals on two tracks on side two as well, the piano and guitar romp rocker 'Winner Takes All' and 'Jonas Psalter', a song about a pirate. Both of these tracks, however, were written by Dennis DeYoung with the latter again approaching Yes territory in its style.

DeYoung contributes lead vocals on only two tracks, 'The Grove of Eglantine' and '22 Years', where he shares the lead with Young. The former of these two most closely reflects the sound that would make the band famous later on: mid-tempo prog rock with a strong emphasis on keyboards and lots of powerful chorus vocals, plus hard rock guitar, although the song has a strong sexual reference. '22 Years' is a straight-forward, boogie rock and roll song with lots of lyrical and musical cliches. It's easy to imagine a band like Poison or Faster Pussycat or even The Black Crowes covering this live. Personally I find this one of the less interesting tracks on the album in spite of the performance.

One interesting point is how many tracks were written and sung by John Curulewski. On side one, he delivers 'As Bad As This', a song with just acoustic guitar, vocals, and some percussion. This song easily passed me by before, but I am picking up interest in it more when I listen carefully. I still think the hidden 'Plexiglass Toilet' track, which follows here, is well executed with all the right emphasis on having fun. Curulewski takes up a lot of side two, having written '22 Years', 'The Serpent Is Rising' and the spoken track 'Krakatoa'. The title track was ranked the number one Styx song by Classic Rock History, a move they justify by saying their choices were based on the quality of the music rather than popularity. I rather like the track, and it does lean more into prog territory (again close to Uriah Heep) than a couple of other regular tracks. The sound seems to become intentionally distorted near the end and the song ends rather abruptly without any musical conclusion after the final chorus.

'Krakatoa' reminds me of Hawkwind's poetic interludes, only Curulewski is shouting his head off as bizarre effects begin creeping in. The tracks concludes with an early version of the THX audio track 'Deep Note', which was taken from a track called 'Spaced' by Beaver and Krause. The final track is a rendering of Handel's 'Hallelujah Chorus' with all five members given vocal credits.

Reasons why this album might not stack up well to other albums are the fairly high number of Uriah Heep-like rockers and fewer Yes-like prog tracks. 'As Bad As This' might have been regarded simply as an unusual track for Styx but the toilet song has been more damaging than helpful. 'Krakatoa' and 'Hallelujah Chorus' are interesting additions, but on an album of mostly prog-influenced hard rock, they stand out as being puzzling.

Perhaps they greatest fault of the album is that it seems more like a collection of songs created by individual members at their own devices and whims rather than a collective effort focusing on the band's sound. Dennis DeYoung's lack of mic time is certainly noticed, though I don't mind the Young emphasis on hard rock. Young has some great powerful, soaring vocals though once or twice he seems to struggle with hitting the notes.

My own opinion is that, along with the other first four albums, 'The Serpent Is Rising' features a few tracks really worth taking in while the rest are more of curiosities. I still give it 3 stars.

 The Grand Illusion by STYX album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.74 | 298 ratings

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The Grand Illusion
Styx Prog Related

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

5 stars What is the Grand Illusion? In the hands of Styx, it might be the boundary between full-blown progressive rock and radio-friendly AOR pop. The album finds Styx straddling that divide in a similar manner to the way Kansas would attempt from time to time - though whilst to my ears Kansas always got the best results when they stopped trying to balance the equation and just embraced their prog side, here I think Styx actually manage to master both the substance of AOR-pop and the texture and aesthetic of prog simultaneously.

With The Grand Finale recapitulating the theme of album opener The Grand Illusion, for instance, there's a certain sense of an overarching concept here, but as with Supertramp's Crime of the Century (another classic of the borderland between prog and pop) that may be more apparent than actual; either way, you get some really solid, hook-laden tunes here which manage to be smart enough to pique the curiosity of a prog audience whilst being straight-ahead enough not to abandon their pop roots. I think it's badly underappreciated.

Thanks to Iván_Melgar_M for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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