Category Archives: Styx Reviews!

Styx: Caught In the Act (1984)

Well folk’s this is my final Styx review! Thanks for  reading and commenting along the way as well! By digging into these albums I  at the age of 50 finally have found an appreciation  of the music of Styx!

Better late than never I suppose….. Actually the current incarnation of Styx I have followed a lot more closely than the DeYoung version of Styx. It is indeed too bad that they are currently fighting over all things like tunes as in Mr Roboto which Styx has put back in there set which makes me laugh like… seriously? Styx though minus Dennis put out the brilliant “The Mission” album last year and it was a solid rock album that both dented mine and Mikey Ladano’s Top Releases of 2017!

So like many bands in the 70’s/80’s Styx released the Double Live Album that they titled ‘Caught In The Act’ which was recorded in New Orleans back in 1983.

I just picked this album up about 2 months ago on vinyl for $5.00! What a deal! It’s in great shape and  once again the packaging is awesome!

‘Music Time’ opens the album which is the lone new studio track that Styx recorded for this release and in keeping the theme of discontent in the ranks that started with the ‘Kilroy Was Here’ album, especially between Dennis DeYoung and Tommy Shaw. Music Time is a DeYoung composition and Shaw disliked it so much and was one of the deciding factors on him leaving Styx shortly after this live album came out. Tommy didn’t even want any part of the video made for Music Time.

You would never know if you had bought this album back in 1984 that Styx were off the rails.  I mean one of the shots looks like their playing stadiums for this tour so Styx was still a big drawing card live but on the inside they were beyond repair!

Once ‘Music Time’ finishes Styx begin the live portion with 13 live Tracks beginning with  ‘Mr Roboto’ followed by ‘Too Much Time On My Hands’. Caught In The Act as a live album sounds pretty good a little to polished at times especially  when Mr Roboto is played. The vocals sound live the music sounds a little to smooth. Who knows for sure and that’s just my observation. I’m always a little sceptical when bands produce their own live albums like Styx did here.

There is a sprinkling of the Styx Ballads that being ‘Babe’ and ‘Don’t Let It End’ so once you get past the fluff Styx do  flex their rock muscle live with songs like ‘Blue Collar Man’/’Rockin The Paradise’.

All the hits as well ‘Come Sail Away’/’Crystal Ball’. A great cross-section of material up to that point in the Styx catalogue.

I will say that listening to this album you can hear the difference in the Styx sound. Styx 1983 is more a straight head  approach in the songs whereas Styx 2018 is more of a technical beast than Styx in the 80’s.

Course everyone goes on about that Dennis should be back in the band  and blah blah blah. Fair enough but my renewed interest in Styx was intrigued by the fact that Tommy and JY hired Canuck Lawerence Gowan who is a fine vocalist and brilliant pianist in his own right!

I like both versions (1983/2018 Styx) and by doing these album reviews found a whole new appreciation of this band and that’s thanks to a fellow named Gowan who joined!

Styx a band I kinda dismissed way back yonder ends up being a pretty decent rock act when they wanna crank it up!

 

Styx: Kilroy Was Here(1983)

 

So what does a band do when there pervious album goes Triple Platinum?

In Styx‘s case the triple Platinum Album was Paradise Theater.   Styx than decide’s to make a complete left turn and release a concept album called Kilroy Was Here which confused everyone including the public when Kilroy only went Platinum upon its release in 1983.

More importantly Kilroy killed Styx  after this release. The band toured the album and basically called it a career with both Dennis De Young and Tommy Shaw releasing their own solo albums.

The band was no more!

Concept albums in the world of rock are hit n miss! I guess Styx perhaps thought like so many bands that these are the  kind of records that the public will eat it up!

Nope….not all the time.

It was DeYoung’s idea for the Kilroy album. Full out concept album and  it takes one listen now in 2018 to realize why Styx imploded! Kilroy was DeYoung’s deal. He wanted it to succeed. It didn’t!

Each band member took on a different persona for the album.

James Young is ‘Dr Everett Righteous’/Tommy Shaw is ‘Jonathan Chance’/Chuck Ponazzo is ‘Lieut. Vanish/ John Ponazzo is ‘Col Hyde’.

Dennis DeYoung is………’Robert Kilroy’

The album is based around  Kilroy who was a rock star and is falsely imprisoned and makes friends with Jonathan  Chance and they plot an escape from prison!

Kinda Goofy but I guess certain substances make you do silly things!

Course everyone has heard the debut single ‘Mr Roboto’.  Which is a tune everyone knows whether you own this album or not.’ Domo Arigato,’… you all know it…

The songs that follow are a hodge podge mix of super sappy ballad’s  ‘Don’t Let It End’/’Just Get Through This Night’/’Haven’t We Been Here Before’ and bizarro rock tracks like ‘Heavy Metal Poisoning’ while the rest is more mid temp rock tracks like ‘Cold War/Double Life’.

Surprising that the mellow stuff takes up a good portion of the album. The musicianship is top-notch as you expect but the album is kinda ummm weird! A  eleven   minute video was also  made for this album which I have never seen so if you have…let me know!

Also read that when Styx hit the road to support Kilroy,Tommy and Dennis would do a little a bit of acting in-between the Kilroy numbers in the set which must have been wild to witness live  especially if you were at the show drinking beer and smoking dope and here’s two guys reenacting Kilroy before your eyes! HAHA!

I could only imagine the huge rows of arguments that the band had internally over this album! I read that the label wanted to release the Shaw ballad “Haven’t We Been Here Before” but Tommy refused to have it released so the label went with a DeYoung track ‘High Time’ instead.

Too be fair Kilroy is one of those albums for the collection. It’s cool to have as its a great discussion piece as well it’s  fun to share some of these tracks with my daughter Lexie who is 19 years old!

I will give Styx credit as with their previous albums they went all out with the Gatefold sleeve(lyrics and pics)and made a cool looking package and Kilroy is no different.

In case you were wondering this supplement for protective sleeves came as an insert so if you need any let me know…

 

 

Styx: Paradise Theatre(1981)

 

Styx release another concept album titled ‘Paradise Theatre’ which is basically about a  Theatre in Chicago that was booming with business from the 1930’s on but as the late 50’s turned into the  early 60’s the theatre went ‘Bust!

The album artwork is exceptional for this album. Just check it out as the front cover (pictured above) shows the Theatre in its heyday whereas the back cover(pictured below) shows the theatre run down. I had no idea the artwork for this was brilliant until I got this album. I had only ever seen the Cassette copy of it…

Not only is the artwork exceptional but so is the production! Styx once again produced this album in-house and I can tell you gone is the sterile pop radio AM fodder  sound of 79’s Cornerstone. In its place is a more refined harder edge sound well let me clarify that. Harder sound being Styx having a harder more direct production which sounds so much more lively than Cornerstone.

Paradise Theatre opens with Dennis DeYoung and his minute a half  piano interlude called ‘A.D 1928’ which segues right into opening track ‘Rockin The Paradise’ in which Dennis kicks ‘Babe’ to the curb and finds his rocking shoes and delivers a great opening number! Rockin The Paradise sets the tone for the album and it draws you in as a listener! Listen to that solo by Tommmy Shaw!

One of the biggie singles from this album is Shaw’s ‘Too Much Time On My Hands’ has Tommy handling both lead vocals and the solo as well. One of the biggie Styx Rock Hits! Damn catchy chorus as well!

‘The Best of Time’ was the other biggie single perhaps the biggest single from this album which features DeYoung blasting out some huge pomp AOR Rock. DeYoung knows how to craft singles I will give him that but when it comes to Styx I prefer the Shaw songs as they had a lot more oomph in them! Keep reading though as there is a secret weapon as well on this album….

Side 2 begins with another DeYoung track ‘Lonely People’. 

Did I just not tell you all that Shaw wrote all the rocking Styx stuff or had a hand in it? Well ‘She Cares’ has Shaw going all mushy gushy so there ya go! What do I know?!

BUT…..

Remember the comment I made about the  ‘Secret Weapon’ on this album? Well that secret weapon is in the form of Mr James Young who on Side 2 of Paradise Theatre steals the show with two brilliant written tracks. Those being the Cocaine inspired ‘Snowblind’ and the brilliant ‘Half Penny-Two Penny’ which has Young handling the lead vocals as well!Snowblind is a slow stomper of a track whereas Half Penny-Two Penny features one of the best choruses in regards to Styx tunes as the song drives along during the verse and man what a well executed chorus! Love the first verse of Half Penny Two Penny…

Half penny, two penny, gold Krugerrand
He was exceedingly rich for such a young man
Sad story, old story
Bring out the band
Another divorce just a few hundred grand!

All Hail James Young! The dude whose material on this album is never talked about but that’s a changing RIGHT NOW!

I have gotten out of posting youtube videos but I’m posting a Live Clip of Half Penny-Two Penny with James Young looking like a young  James Hetfield while Tommy Shaw looks like he’s a teenager with that Haircut! I  will add that the solo Shaw plus in Half Penny is simply amazing!

After the brilliant back to back Young tracks the album ends with two short tracks in the two and a half-minute ‘A.D 1958 followed by the 28 second DeYoung piano play out ‘State Street Sadie’.

Paradies Theatre is a pretty decent listen. A more focused album than the previous ‘Cornerstone’ album. As you may recall in my previous reviews of albums that I always talk about end of album tracks that I call “GEMS’.  Those two Young tracks pretty much in my mind steal the show at the Theatre!

Well played Mr Young!

Styx: Cornerstone(1979)

 

1979 and Styx get’s  on my music  radar and that’s of course with the ballad ‘Babe’ which is Styx getting all  sappy but I will talk about that later as I’m getting ahead here…

‘Cornerstone’ was my first dabble in a Styx album as at the time I was into KISS/Priest/Cheap Trick/QUEEN bands with Rocking Guitars yet Styx at the time had that somewhat but not enough sustainability to keep my young wondering metal mind at attention. So as quickly I got on the Styx Listening Bus I politely got  off it….

Now here we are 39 Years later(YIKES!) and its time for a revisit shall we!

A few months back I came across ‘Cornerstone’ still sealed for $10. I grabbed it. I did not think twice! Let the past stay in the past! After all I’m a more wiser older dEKE’s I think?!

Well that’s open for debate I suppose….

Anyways Styx with Cornerstone makes one huge adjustment  and that would be that the band were going for a more pop/rock direction.  At the time (1980) when I heard this record I had no idea Styx was shifting gears as Cornerstone was the only thing I had ever heard by these guys! Still years n years away knowing they were a prog rock band….

Cornerstone opens with the Tommy Shaw opener ‘Lights’ which is full of Pop Rock and fluff keys that push the song along until the guitar solo which comes out of nowhere and ramps things up. ‘Lights’ where it succeeds is in the chorus! ‘Why Me’ has Dennis DeYoung singing the lead vocal which sounds like good AM Radio Fodder! Interesting guitar solo mixing it up with a sax solo.

Dennis delivers ‘Babe’ with that opening crooning line of ‘Babe,I’m Leaving…’ and from there its a tune that I recently read that this version on Cornerstone  is the actual demo that Dennis recorded as a dedication to his wife. All Styx did was add a Shaw guitar solo  and left at is! Big Time Hit propelled this album to sell a few million I’m sure but for me at the time I just wasn’t wanting any part of Babe! Kinda still feel that way …..

Shaw steps up with the brilliant ‘Never Say Never’ which has Styx finally finding their rock legs and melding a brilliant use of electric and acoustic guitars. Helps that the Ponazzo Brothers John & Chuck kick the song in the ass and keep the rock rolling in a Styx 1979 kinda way that it! “Boat On A River’ has Styx going in whole other direction with mandolins and the use of percussion working this tune and guess what! It’s Brilliant!

‘Borrowed Time’ leads off Side 2 which  is kind of interesting song as you have chants of “Yes and No” right before a real wicked guitar solo from Shaw! Big vocals which will come as no surprise to anyone also spearhead this tune as well….

Have to admit in 2018 I had a hard time getting through the DeYoung composition of ‘First Time’ which is basically almost a followup to Babe from Side 1! Too much sap with these two tracks….

Guitarist James Young handles the lead vocals on ‘Eddie’ a song that kicks the schmooze of the track before  and Young hammers down a great solo. Nice to hear the band ramp it up quite nicely on this tune!

‘Love In The Midnight’ ends Cornerstone with a mid tempo track that has Shaw singing lead vocals and its a decent end of the album song.

Cornerstone was an interesting revisit after almost three decades away from buying it originally! After diving into my previous post ‘Grand Illusion’ Cornerstone’s two biggest flaws in my humble one man’s opinion is in its production which is light weight in the sonic’s not enough ‘oomph’ in the production which was handled by Styx themselves! The second would be the two DeYoung compositions. (Babe  & First Time) I get it you need the ‘Hit’ so to speak but man its a little to obvious and I see how DeYoung was the crooner of the band…

Still though I can go on about ‘Babe’ all day til I’m blue but  the single sold and sold and pushed the album up the charts but it was just to fluff  for me. Than and Now!

But good on you if you dig it!

 

Styx: Grand Illusion (1977)

 

Welcome Folk’s to a run of Styx reviews that are starting with ‘Grand Illusion’.  I’m going to yack about  a few of these albums (I own this and the upcoming Styx albums on vinyl) that I hope you will join along with me as I take a look at a band I have way more respect for now than I did back in the early 80’s.

Hey, I realize now that I shouldn’t judge a band on a sappy ballad. What ballad you ask? Keep reading…but the sappy ballad is not on this album!

Kinda sad that  Styx  is currently  in two camps one being Camp DeYoung and the other being Camp Shaw and Young. Too bad they can’t get along and now they are sparring over the inclusion of ‘Mr Roboto’ added to the Styx set list! hahaha…65 year old rock dude drama….

OK! Enough of that….

Let’s do this!!!

Styx back in 1977 release ‘Grand Illusion’ an album full of prog rock plain and simple.  The first side of this album is huge! Out of the 4 songs on Side A, three of them are bona fide classics. Those being the opening title track ‘Grand Illusion. The opening track has Lead Singer/Keyboardist Dennis DeYoung and the Styx guys laying down a huge wall of sound. Grand Illusion, the song builds up tears itself down and then rebuilds back up!

‘Fooling Yourself’ has Guitarist/Singer Tommy Shaw handling the lead vocals in a song that is awash in acoustic guitars and synths. ‘Superstars’ has Styx stretching their prog chops with vocal trade offs between Tommy and Dennis as well as big backing vocals that drive the song!

Even if you are not a huge Styx listener but  a rock fan you have heard Come Sail Away.  Epic track comes to mind as Styx once again make you the listener buy into the sound scape that is begins with the tune softly and it build’s  back up. The chorus is classic. Big Riffs! Big Drums courtesy of John Ponazzo(RIP).  Come Sail Away is the song that must have really launched Styx into the big time!

Side 2 begins with ‘Miss America’ that starts wth DeYoung and his synth but before too long the Guitars kick in! Kick in they do with the guitars and keys mashing up throughout the track! ‘Man In The Wilderness’ is a mid tempo track until the guitars of Tommy and James lift off. Man In The Wilderness has those elements of Triumph that I like. Great vocals/Great Guitar basically Great Everything!

‘Castle Walls’ is 6 minutes plus of all kinds of rock. You want prog mixed with classical guitar interludes mixing up with keys/guitar/vocals well kick back and good luck climbing the castle walls!

‘The Grand Finale’ ends the Grand Illusion album and ummm it just dawned on me that this is a concept album! Ah those silly Styx Geezers mucking about with my noggin! Well it worked and to be fair when DeYoung sings the line in The Grand Finale of …

‘Sail away superstars
Sail away superstars
So if you think your life is complete confusion
‘Cause your neighbors got it made
Just remember, please, please, it’s a grand illusion
And deep inside we’re all the same, we’re all the same’

That’s pretty obvious with about 3 song name drops in the last tune of the album!

This album is a great throwback listen. 39 minutes of Big Prog Rock as Styx was shooting for the stars with this album and it delivered them to the masses that we call the Public!

On another note…

I will say Styx back in 1977 knew how to package their albums. I mean talk about a bang for your buck back in 1977 if you were one of the few that bought this record the  day upon its release!

Even my used copy has the Poster still intact along with the lyrics and more band pics! Styx knew the art of giving it all and as I move along you will see how they didn’t skimp out on some brilliant artwork and packaging!