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Styx - Paradise Theatre CD (album) cover




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3.01 | 203 ratings

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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.

patrickq | 4/5 |


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