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Styx - The Grand Illusion CD (album) cover




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3.73 | 291 ratings

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4 stars Despite featuring some highly-influential psychedelic groups, the Americans, who for a brief while simply couldn't get enough of British acts such as Yes, Pink Floyd and ELP, failed to really produce any kind of noteworthy progressive scene of their own. Despite a handful of groups - chief among them Kansas, Journey and Starcastle - the only real major players were the much-maligned Chicago outfit Styx, a group who found themselves the proud owners of a genuine love 'em or hate 'em reputation of international infamy. Formed at the tail-end of the 1960's, Styx would start out as a progressively-inclined rock group with pop edges, producing four albums for the Wooden Nickel label between 1972 and 1975, before morphing into a money-spinning stadium rock leviathan with progressive edges; spectrum-spanning indeed. Just like fellow yanks Kansas and Journey(but not, sadly, Starcastle) this change dunked artistic expression in favour of all-out commercial appeal, and the group are still going strong deep into the 21st century, though their post-1980 output features little that will interest hardcore proggers. Happily however, much of Styx's early material is well worth exploring, and although none of their opening quartet of albums - 'Styx', 'Styx II', 'The Serpent Is Rising', 'Man Of Miracles' - can be called 'classic', their final forays into prog-proper are cornerstone's of the American end of the genre. The first of these, 1977's epic 'The Grand Illusion', is possibly the group's strongest and best-loved piece, with fans from both ends of the groups enormous following finding much to admire on a killer concept album which finds the group in top-notch form, confidently straddling the gaping divide between AOR and prog with impressive pomposity. Indeed, there isn't a duff track to be found, with tracks such as the scathing 'Miss America' - a song tackling the absurdity of the annual flesh pageant - and the emotive classic 'Come Sail Away' showcasing Styx's un-ashamedly fist-pumping style without resorting to rock convention or sugar-coated cynicism. Of course, Styx are not exactly Yes, and when compared to the real players of progressive rock's golden era their brand of anthemic rock may sound less enthralling. However, dig a little deeper, and listen a longer, and you may find yourself tapping your toes to the group's array of hit tracks and catchy ballads, such is their appeal. 'The Grand Illusion' is an excellent album, and despite what you may have heard, this American outfit are well worth the effort. STEFAN TURNER, STOKE NEWINGTON, 2012
stefro | 4/5 |


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