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Styx - Man Of Miracles CD (album) cover




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2.77 | 145 ratings

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3 stars When I was growing up in the 70's, I considered Styx as one of my favorite bands, and that all started when I was introduced to the band through "The Grand Illusion" album. My impression of the band back then was a huge progressive rock band, but as time went on and my enthusiasm for the band waned, I realized they were not really that much of a progressive band. I still have a soft spot for some of their songs and still consider "The Grand Illusion" to be their best, but overall, I don't really listen to them as much anymore. The release of their 2021 album has reminded me of how much I loved them many years ago and influenced me to revisit some of their music, especially the years before they hit the big time.

"Man of Miracles" is the last of the 4 "Wooden Nickel" albums that Styx made which consisted of the first 4 albums the band released. Through the years that these albums were released the band struggled for notoriety, but couldn't quite get there. But when they finally took the advice of someone that told them that the only way they would get the popularity they were striving for was to get signed to a major label, things started to happen to both their somewhat raw and imperfect sound and their popularity. Not that they weren't totally unheard of. The band had a huge following in Chicago, but just couldn't seem to catch on anywhere else.

This period of time is also pre-Tommy Shaw. During the years of these first four albums, John Curulewski was the main guitarist. Once the band got popular enough that they would have to start worldwide touring, Curulewski quit the band because he wanted to be close to his family, and shortly after the release of "Equinox" (their fifth album), Tommy Shaw replaced him. However, that was still to come. In 1974, when "Man of Miracles" was released, the band was still sporting it's original line-up.

This album sees the band still trying to find its sound, the style that would push them over the top. During this time, James Young and Dennis DeYoung shared frontmen duties both taking turns at lead vocalist duties. The band did see some success around the time of the release of "Man of Miracles" when their song "Lady" became a belated hit around 1973, a few years after the release of "Styx II" which is the album "Lady" was on. The band, of course, wanted to follow on the heels of that hit with the release of "Man of Miracles", so they followed the basic pattern of James Young singing the hard rockers and Dennis DeYoung doing the more ballad-like songs, a pattern that they would follow for many year to come, for the most part. Though James Young would continue to do lead vocals after Tommy Shaw joined the band, he would do it a lot less often and the band would have three lead vocalists.

With the pattern of Young on the rockers and DeYoung on the slower tracks, "Man of Miracles" becomes an album with a good amount of variety. The bad thing about this album is it is a bit messy. But it's not a complete write off. When I listen to it, I tend to like the 2nd side much more than the 1st side. James Young starts it all off with the mediocre rockers "Rock & Roll Feeling" and "Havin' a Ball", then DeYoung does the softer and more thoughtful songs "Golden Lark" and "A Song for Suzanne", the latter being a bit more dynamic. The side is closed out with Young on another rocker called "A Man Like Me". It's not terrible music, it's just nothing memorable either.

On the original album, the song "Lies", a cover originally performed by The Knickerbockers in 1965. Styx version is quite upbeat, but for some reason, following issues of the album replaced this song with "Best Thing", which was a mildly popular track from Styx's first album. It does fit well with this album and opens up the 2nd side quite well, but had previously been released. This is sung by both DeYoung and Young while "Evil Eyes" is a much better DeYoung track and now we see the band really begin to grow and expand their talents at making music. The better songs just keep coming for the rest of the album with a more progressive sense thrown in to make it even more interesting and we hear that in "Southern Woman", "Christopher, Mr. Christopher" and "Man of Miracles".

Don't expect to hear anything essential here, but as far as an album where you can hear the development of what would become a supergroup in a few years, this one is a perfect example. If you are a Styx fan, this should be an important album to hear. However, there are only little bits of progressive style in the album, and quite truthfully, the closest the band would come to being progressive wouldn't come until "The Grand Illusion", which, by the way, was the bands true breakthrough album that would push them over the top to become one of the most popular arena rock bands of the 70s. As far as this album, it's good and the 2nd side is especially fun to listen to, but for most listeners, it's far from essential.

TCat | 3/5 |


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