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Styx - The Grand Illusion CD (album) cover




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3.74 | 327 ratings

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5 stars It's unfair to compare Styx to the kings of the prog movement, as they never tried to wield the highly ambitious approach of acts like Yes, King Crimson or Genesis. Styx had a typically American-style prog sound, much like Kansas in that they could shape both commercially viable songs as well as more involved pieces. Clearly, Kansas were a little more adventurous in their early days, but Styx certainly has a heaping handful of prog songs and prog-ish albums to their credit. 'The Grand Illusion' is certainly their crowning achievement, a most successful balance of their hard rock origins and their leanings toward material of a more sublime nature. By now, Tommy Shaw was not only the new kid but an equal contributor, singing and writing his share of 'The Grand Illusion'. Along with Dennis DeYoung's angelic vocal clarity and penchant for the pompous, as well as James Young's more earthy, heavier influence, 'The Grand Illusion' is an expertly crafted and superbly performed piece of work.

Styx presented a stylistic variety of material on all their albums previous, which sometimes worked, but also resulted in an apparent lack of direction. 'The Grand Illusion' carefully walks the line between near-metal ("Miss America"), pomp/art-rock ("Superstars"), economical epics ("Come Sail Away") and keyboard-dominated prog ("The Grand Illusion", the utterly fantastic "Castle Walls"). Add to all that the added depth that Tommy Shaw's writing brought on board with "Fooling Yourself" and "Man In The Wilderness", and you've got an album that takes many a journey throughout its well-sequenced 8-song ride (final song being "The Grand Finale", bringing together elements heard throughout the body of the album.Genesis-style, that!). DeYoung's synths had never been as ambitious and well-recorded as on this album. Just listen to his work throughout "Fooling Yourself": a feast for any lover of synth sounds with a great player wringing them out. Everyone else is in top form on this album, mirroring the amazing chemistry the band wielded on their final album with Shaw's predecessor, John Curulewski (the great 'Equinox'). Powerful recording and production work adds clarity and punch to the material, thanks to the band themselves and production assistant Barry Mraz (who had been working with them since 'The Serpent Is Rising'). This is the album Styx had been working up to with the 6 albums previous, a real pinnacle achievement they would never top (certainly not with overrated follow- up 'Pieces Of Eight'). Too bad about the abominable albums that were to come ('Cornerstone' and 'Kilroy Was Here'), but every band falls eventually. (Except King Crimson.)

slipperman | 5/5 |


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