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Styx - Pieces Of Eight CD (album) cover




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3.59 | 241 ratings

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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.

Finnforest | 4/5 |


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