Styx - Equinox (A&M) 1975
1. Light Up (4:19)
2. Lorelei (3:23)
3. Mother Dear (5:30)
4. Lonely Child (3:49)
5. Midnight Ride (4:19)
6. Born for Adventure (5:16)
7. Prelude 12 [instrumental] (1:20)
8. Suite Madame Blue (6:30)
"Equinox" was one of those albums that everybody seemed to have back in the 70's. With Styx's fifth studio album, the band seemed to really gel together perfectly, combining elements of hard rock, progressive rock and American pomp. The album only hinted at the more commercial-sounding future, though it did garner a hit single in "Lorelei".
The music overall is heavy on synths mixed with loud guitars. Though I'd be hard pressed to say this album is 'heavy', even for it's time, it definitely rocks and isn't lightweight AOR or overly plagued with sappy ballads. "Light Up" is pure American pomp with those layered vocals that Styx did so well. Dennis DeYoung high vocals fit the poppy feel of the song. The short "Prelude 12" acts an introduction to the epic "Suite Madame Blue", a definite highlight track written about America's bicentennial. The song builds from the melodic intro to a fantastic crescendo. Really, the album as a whole is quite solid with no really bad songs. I find it quite enjoyable as well because radio hasn't ruined the album by overplaying any of these songs.
The album marked the final appearance of original Styx guitarist John Curulewski who was replaced by Tommy Shaw.
Styx - The Grand Illusion (A&M) 1977
1. The Grand Illusion (4:36)
2. Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man) (5:29)
3. Superstars (3:59)
4. Come Sail Away (6:07)
5. Miss America (5:01)
6. Man in the Wilderness (5:49)
7. Castle Walls (6:00)
8. The Grand Finale (1:58)
Styx are the butt of many jokes. I was watching "That 70's Show" and they were making fun of the fact that real rockers never admitted to liking Styx. After all, they were known for their ballads as much as they were for being a rock band. (ie. "Babe", "The Best of Times", "Don't Let It End", all future ballad-type hits) However, that wasn't always the case. Personally, I've never given a rip about labels and what other people say is cool or not. I can't say I was ever the biggest Styx fan, but growing up in the 70's and 80's, listening to rock 'n' roll and heavy metal 24/7, Styx were just one of those bands that were part of my life. "The Grand Illusion" was a mega-hit for the band. The album became the band's first Triple Platinum album, and generated several hits, including "Come Sail Away", which was a Top 10 hit. As well, the title track and "Fooling Yourself" were both hits and are classic rock radio staples decades later. in fact, the first side of the record is purely classic : "The Grand Illusion", "Fooling Yourself", "Superstars" and "Come Sail Away". All these songs were played on the radio until they were permanently engraved into the head of anyone listening.
Their sound here was American pomp-rock. What Styx did with "The Grand Illusion" was marry together progressive rock songwriting and undeniable pop hooks. They were never quite as epic and grande as Genesis, Pink Floyd, Yes, etc. Styx had a more typical American sound, much like Kansas. As a matter of fact, when I was a kid, I had once mistaken "Come Sail Away" for a Kansas song. That's not to say the two bands were clones. Both bands just had a way of shaping a very involved piece of music into a commercially viable song. This is especially true of "Come Sail Away" and "Castle Walls". In fact, "Castle Walls" is probably the albums most underrated track. It is a lightly dark, keyboard-dominated prog song. "Fooling Yourself", on the other hand, could easily have been written for Supertramp. The song seems to have an 1980's sound to it, with it's flowing keyboards and pop chorus. I suppose that would make the song ahead of it's time. "Miss America" pushed the band into hard rock terrain. The song was actually an angry opinion on the famed Miss America Pageant. The band's mix of three lead vocalists, as well as the layers of background vocals, is part of their appeal as well. Each of the three singers is as talented as the next. Each having a very distinct personality and style.
In my opinion, "The Grand Illusion" was the album that band had been building to with their previous recordings and is the pinnacle of the band. They became more popular into the 80's with even poppier song writing and plenty of hits. However, never again would the mix of progressive songwriting and undeniable hooks be so perfect. The album was a huge success and did so without the help of obvious, made-for-radio ballads.
An interesting fact-oid about "The Grand Illusion", the album was officially released on 7/7/77 and, of course, was Styx's 7th album release.
Styx - Pieces Of Eight (A&M) 1978
1. Great White Hope (4:22)
2. I'm Okay (5:41)
3. Sing for the Day (4:57)
4. The Message [instrumental] (1:08)
5. Lords of the Ring (4:33)
6. Blue Collar Man (Long Nights) (4:05)
7. Queen of Spades (5:38)
8. Renegade (4:13)
9. Pieces of Eight (4:44)
10. Aku-Aku [instrumental] (2:57)
"Pieces of Eight" continues the American-pomp rock, once again marrying together 70's progressive rock songwriting and big pop hooks. Being the follow-up to the triple platinum "Grand Illusion", people were expecting big things from Styx, and for the most part, they delivered. Like "The Grand Illusion", "Pieces of Eight" is a concept album. This time around, there seems to be less of a storyline and more of a theme. That theme would be holding tight your dreams and never selling those dreams out to the mighty dollar. Lucky for Styx their dreams turned into dollars as "Pieces of Eight" was another huge success. The album peaked at #6 on the Billboard album chart, sported three singles and much like it's predecessor would sell Triple Platinum. "Renegade", "Blue Collar Man" and "Sing for the Day" were the three singles. The first two are considered signature Styx songs and are concert and classic rock radio staples decades later. "Sing for the Day", on the other hand, may very well be the gayest song ever written. It is one of those songs that helped make Styx a band that people openlyqueen mocked, even if they were secretly rocking the albums on their 8-track players in their cars.
"Lord of the Ring" is a grandiose number that reminds me of something Queen might have recorded around the same time in 1978. Perhaps the best hidden gem on the album is "Queen of Spades". The song should have been edited down and released as a single as well. I personally think it is a far superior song to "Sing for the Day". The nearly six minutes long song starts as a somber, melodic number a builds in momentum as the song progresses. It also features some nice guitar work. The album features two instrumentals, the Dennis DeYoung composed synthesizer showcase "The Message" and Tommy Shaw's closing "Aku-Aku". The Message" serves as an intro for "Lords of the Ring", whereas "Aku-Aku" ends up being a postlude for "Pieces of Eight". The title track is another grandiose pomp number brought to life by layers of Dennis Deyoung's vocals, as well as some nice lead guitar work from Tommy Shaw.
Styx - Kilroy Was Here (A&M) 1983
1. Mr. Roboto (5:28)
2. Cold War (4:27)
3. Don't Let It End (4:56)
4. High Time (4:33)
5. Heavy Metal Poisoning (4:57)
6. Just Get Through This Night (6:06)
7. Double Life (3:46)
8. Haven't We Been Here Before? (4:06)
9. Don't Let It End (Reprise)(2:22)
"Killroy" is Styx attempting to keep up with the times, in this case the 80's pop rock, and also follow-up the massively popular "Paradise Theater". As with many of the progressive bands from the 1970's, such as Genesis and Yes, by the 80's they were progressing into more radio friendly rock. That is exactly the case with Styx as well.
"Kilroy Was Here" album is a concept album about a future where rock music is outlawed by the Majority for Musical Morality (MMM). The main character of the story is Kilroy, who is a musician that is wrongly accused and found guilty of murder and confined to a prison ship by the MMM. While in prison, Japanese Robots become the caretakers of society and uphold the moral standards. The famous hit song "Mr. Roboto" tells of his escape using a disguise. The album was conceived by Dennis DeYoung and was set to an accompanying stage show. The album spawned a couple of huge hit singles, "Mr. Roboto" and "Don't Let It End" and pushed the album to double platinum sales.
In general, "Kilroy" isn't looked at fondly by most fans of hard rock and progressive rock. The album shy's away from the band's more progressive rock (prog-lite) tendencies for something a bit more mainstream and pop oriented. It seems to me that the storyline is actually more important here than the music itself. However, "Kilroy" isn't a bad album if you listen to it with a bit of an open mind without the expectations and comparisons of the past. "Don't Let It All End" is a nice ballad. "Heavy Metal Poisoning" is a fun hard rock song that sounds closer to classic Styx than anything else on the album. (The vocals on this track remind me of Frank Zappa for some reason). The title track is a classic of the Styx catalog as well. Sure, most fans of hard rock and heavy metal probably won't find much to like here, but those who don't mind more mainstream 80's rock, should find this a pleasing album, if not a little cheesy. Cheese is good every once in a while.
Styx - Edge of the Century (A&M) 1990
1. Love Is the Ritual (3:48)
2. Show Me the Way (4:35)
3. Edge of the Century (4:20)
4. Love at First Sight (4:35)
5. All in a Day's Work (4:11)
6. Not Dead Yet (3:32)
7. World Tonite (3:38)
8. Carrie Ann (4:26)
9. Homewrecker (5:12)
10. Back to Chicago (4:18)
After a nearly seven year hiatus Styx return with "Edge of the Century". It was the first Styx album featuring A&M solo artist Glen Burtnick and the only album to feature this particular lineup that did not included Tommy Shaw. Shaw was off creating music with Ted Nugent and Jack Blades in the Damn Yankees. (Their debut was also released in 1990.) It was also the last album to feature John Panozzo on drums, who passed away a few years later.
Had I not known this was a Styx album, I never would have guessed it by listening to samples of the songs. The sound here is devoid of the American pomp or radio friendly prog-rock that the band had been making in the 70's. Rather, what we have here is a fairly laid-back AOR album. The remaining connection to Styx's past is in the vocal harmonies between Dennis De Young and James Young. Perhaps "All In A Day's Work" has a hint of the progressive tendencies of Styx's past, but even that is a stretch. For the most part, it's pretty obvious that the band was attempting to update their sound to stay relevant. In fact, it worked as the album pawned a huge single titled "Show Me the Way". It peaked at #3 on the Billboard charts, partially due to the Gulf War Troops adopting the song as an anthem. The title track could easily have been recorded by any of the late 80's/early 90's hair metal bands. The album opening track "Love is a Ritual", which was written by new band member Glen Burtnick, was also a minor hit, reaching #80 on the Billboard charts. Taken for what it is, a mostly mellow, melodic rock album, "Edge of the Century" is really not band and is quite enjoyable. However, compared to their classic catalog, this album doesn't hold a candle.
The album was a certified GOLD record by the RIAA.