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Styx - The Grand Illusion CD (album) cover




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3.76 | 357 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars "Life is never what it seems, and every man must meet his destiny"

"The grand Illusion" is widely acknowledged to be both Styx' finest hour, and arguably their most progressive album. It was no coincidence that this, the band's seventh album, was released on 7/7/(19)77. At the time, the band had a policy of crediting songs to the individual who came up with the basic concept but this album, and indeed the individual songs, is very much a team effort.

This was the album which set Styx on their way to the top tier of US AOR bands. Their previous albums had sold reasonably well, although the previous "Crystal ball" had not performed any better than its predecessors, rendering "The grand illusion" something of a make or break album. Fortunately, Styx reached their collaborative and creative peak here. The concept is loosely based around the trappings of fame, several of the songs being autobiographical, at least in part.

You could be forgiven when listening to the opening 30 seconds or so of the title track for thinking Styx had decided to move into Yes territory. Dennis De Young's vocal soon dispels any such thoughts, but the track is certainly far more progressive in sound and structure than the vast majority of the band's output. "Fooling yourself" is dominated by some superb synthesiser, Dennis De Young quickly coming to terms with his new investment. "Superstars" has a different sound and feel to the rest of the album, as it describes the other side of superstardom. "Superstars step right this way, everyone's welcome. We want your dreams, the offer is simple, momentary immortality."

"Come sail away" is the song which propelled Styx into the big time. It was released in edited format as a single, but it was the album track which everyone played anyway. As the lyrics say, "We climbed aboard their spaceship, and headed to the skies". The song has become the band's anthem and the feature spot of their live shows, the upbeat sing-a-long chorus contrasting well with the ballad like verses.

"Miss America" is a cynical but accurate take on the beauty is skin deep theory. "Man in the wilderness" is another highlight, Tommy Shaw's song being developed superbly by the band into a full blown epic. The song describes the contrast between Shaw's on stage highs and personal lows. It was also inspired in part by the transformation in his brother's character as a result of serving in Vietnam. "Castle walls" shows that De Young can come up with a ballad which is not slushy, when he wants to. The superb arrangement includes great guitar work by James Young. The album closes with the brief summary "The grand finale", which ties things together nicely.

Undoubtedly, this is Styx finest, and most progressive hour. Those, like myself, who wonder why Styx are even listed on this site, only have to play this album to be reminded of the reasons. "The Grand Illusion" may still sit at the lighter end of the prog spectrum, but it is packed with superb compositions and performances. In some ways it is frustrating, as it demonstrates that Styx had the potential to carry on from here and take their music to even greater heights.

Easy Livin | 4/5 |


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