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Styx

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Styx - Styx [Wooden Nickel WNS-1008] (August 1972)

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ITEM# SR-WOWNS1008
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Artist:

Styx

Title:

Styx

Released: August 1972
Label: Wooden Nickel
Catalog: WNS-1008
Genre: Rock, Progressive Rock


T R A C K L I S T:
01 Movement For The Common Man
a Children Of The Land
b Street Collage
c Fanfare For The Common Man
d Mother Nature's Matinee
02 Right Away
03 What Has Come Between Us
04 Best Thing
05 Quick Is The Beat Of My Heart
06 After You Leave Me
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Album Review

Lindsay Planer [allmusic.com]

The 1972 self-titled album from Chicago-based quintet Styx could be considered an ambitious outing for any band's debut. Clearly influenced by the primarily U.K-centered progressive rock scene, Dennis DeYoung (keyboard/vocals) hooked up with twin siblings Chuck Panozzo (bass/vocals) and John Panozzo (drums/percussion/vocals) in a combo named the Tradewinds during the late '60s. The first lineup of Styx began to emerge once John Curulewski (guitar/synthesizer/vocals) and James ''J.Y.'' Young (guitar/vocals) joined up, initially surfacing under the moniker TW4. Local gigs in and around the Windy City led them to the attention of Bill Traut, a Chicago musician/producer whose regional record label Wooden Nickel was distributed throughout North America by RCA. Traut was actively seeking new talent and TW4 was just what he was looking for to compete with the likes of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Yes and Rush. With some tweaking, TW4 evolved into Styx and began work on this, their inaugural long-player. Immediately striking is the strong musicianship that DeYoung and Curulewski -- both classically trained -- bring to the project. The four-part ''Movement for the Common Man'' is impressive considering the dynamics of its scope -- ranging from the hard-hitting aggressive ''Children of the Land'' to the audio vérité ''Street Collage.'' The latter section includes dialogue and conversations with everyday people and effortlessly flows into a chorus of Aaron Copeland's ''Fanfare for the Common Man.'' The nearly quarter-hour suite concludes with the brisk and inspired ''Mother Nature's Matinee.'' ''Right Away'' is a mid-tempo bluesy number with formidable slide guitar licks from Young that could sit contently beside the smooth Southern comfort of Lynyrd Skynyrd's Gary Rossington. DeYoung's electric organ similarly takes on a soulful vibe recalling Booker T. Jones of Booker T. & the MG's fame. Although comparatively mellow, the ballad ''What Has Come Between Us'' is also more complex and intricate, providing an exceptional platform for their nascent vocal harmonies. The catchy and propulsive ''Best Thing'' became Styx' incipient excursion into the pop singles chart, landing at 82 nationally and scoring even better regionally. Perhaps the biggest surprise is the cover of George Clinton's ''After You Leave Me,'' which is turned into a suitably open-throttled ending to Styx' commendable introductory affair.


Styx - Styx II [Wooden Nickel Records WNS-1012] (July 1973)

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ITEM# SR-WOWNS1012
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Artist:

Styx

Title:

Styx II

Released: July 1973
Label: Wooden Nickel Records
Catalog: WNS-1012
Genre: Rock, Soft Rock
Note: Reissue / not gatefold


T R A C K L I S T:
01 You Need Love
02 Lady
03 A Day
04 You Better Ask
05 Little Fugue In ''G''
06 Father O.S.A.
07 Earl Of Roseland
05 I'm Gonna Make You Feel It
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Styx - Equinox (A&M SP-4559) (1975)

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ITEM# SR-AMSP4559
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Artist:

Styx

Title:

Equinox

Released: 1975
Label: A&M
Catalog: SP-4559
Genre: Progressive Rock
T R A C K L I S T:
01 Light Up
02 Lorelei
03 Mother Dear
04 Lonely Child
05 Midnight Ride
06 Born For Adventure
07 Prelude 12
08 Suite Madame Blue
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Album Review

by Mike DeGagne [allmusic.com]

Equinox produced Styx's first single with A&M, the highly spirited "Lorelei," which found its way to number 27 on the charts. Although it was the only song to chart from Equinox, the album itself is a benchmark in the band's career since it includes an instrumental nature reminiscent of their early progressive years, yet hints toward a more commercial-sounding future in its lyrics. "Light Up" is a brilliant display of keyboard bubbliness, with De Young's vocals in full bloom, while "Lonely Child" and "Suite Madame Blue" show tighter songwriting and a slight drift toward radio amicability. Still harboring their synthesizer-led dramatics alongside Dennis De Young's exaggerated vocal approach, the material on Equinox was a firm precursor of what was to come. After Equinox, guitarist John Curulewski parted ways with the band, replaced by Tommy Shaw, who debuted on 1976's Crystal Ball album.


Styx - Crystal Ball [A&M SP-3218] (10-01-1976)

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ITEM# SR-AMSP3218
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Artist:

Styx

Title:

Crystal Ball

Released: 10-01-1976
Label: A&M
Catalog: SP-3218
Genre: Rock
Note: 1984 Reissue of SP-4604


T R A C K L I S T:
01 Put Me On
02 Mademoiselle
03 Jennifer
04 Crystal Ball
05 Shooz
06 This Old Man
07 Clair De Lune / Ballerina
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Album Review

Crystal Ball is the sixth album by Styx, released in 1976.

This album marked the recording debut of new guitarist Tommy Shaw. The track ''Mademoiselle'' was Tommy Shaw's vocal debut and the album's Top-40 hit.

The album's title track would become a concert staple for the band, as it was performed on every subsequent Styx tour with which Shaw was involved.

''Shooz'' was co-written by Shaw and James ''J.Y.'' Young. The bluesy rocker had Shaw on slide guitar while Young contributed a Hendrix-like solo to the middle of the track after Shaw's slide solo.

''This Old Man'' is a song that DeYoung wrote for his father and the impact his dad had on his life.

Claude Debussy's classical piece ''Clair de Lune'' served as the intro to the album's closing track, ''Ballerina''. The version of ''Clair de Lune'' on Crystal Ball just had DeYoung on piano and changed the key from D flat to C as the next track (''Ballerina'') started in C minor.


Styx - The Grand Illusion (A&M SP-4637) (1977)

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Artist:

Styx

Title:

The Grand Illusion

Released: 1977
Label: A&M
Catalog: SP-4637
Genre: Rock / Pop / Progressive Rock
T R A C K L I S T:
01 The Grand Illusion
02 Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)
03 Superstars
04 Come Sail Away
05 Miss America
06 Man In The Wilderness
07 Castle Walls
08 The Grand Finale
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Album Review

by Mike DeGagne [allmusic.com]

Other than being their first platinum-selling album, The Grand Illusion led Styx steadfastly into the domain of AOR rock. Built on the strengths of "Come Sail Away"'s ballad-to-rock metamorphosis, which gained them their second Top Ten hit, and on the high harmonies of newcomer Tommy Shaw throughout "Fooling Yourself," The Grand Illusion introduced Styx to the gates of commercial stardom. The pulverized growl of "Miss America" reveals the group's guitar-savvy approach to six-string rock, while De Young pretentiously struts his singing prowess throughout the title track. Shaw's induction into the band has clearly settled, and his guitar work, along with James Young's, is full and extremely sharp where it matters most. Even the songwriting is more effluent than Crystal Ball, which was released one year earlier, shedding their mystical song motifs for a more audience-pleasing lyric and chord counterpoise. Reaching number six on the album charts, The Grand Illusion was the first to display the gelled accomplishments of both Tommy Shaw and Dennis De Young as a tandem.


Styx - Cornerstone [A&M SP-3711] (1979)

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ITEM# SR-AMSP3711
Ratings: C=G+; LP=G+

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Artist:

Styx

Title:

Cornerstone

Released: 1979
Label: A&M
Catalog: SP-3711
Genre: Rock


T R A C K L I S T:
01-Lights
02-Why Me
03-Babe
04-Never Say Never
05-Boat On The River
06-Borrowed Time
07-First Time
08-Eddie
09-Love In The Midnight
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Album Review

Mike DeGagne [allmusic.com]

Presenting radio with one of the best rock ballads ever, Cornerstone gave Chicago's Styx their big break with the number one single ''Babe,'' which held that spot for two weeks in October of 1979. ''Babe'' is a smooth, keyboard-pampered love song that finally credited Dennis De Young's textured vocals. While this single helped the album climb all the way to the number two spot on the charts, the rest of the tracks from Cornerstone weren't nearly half as strong. ''Why Me'' made it to number 26, and both ''Lights'' and ''Boat on the River'' implement silky harmonies and welcoming choruses, yet failed to get off the ground. De Young's keyboards are effective without overly dominating the music, and the band's gritty rock & roll acerbity has been slightly sanded down to compliment the commercial market. The songs aren't as tight or assertive as their last few albums, but Shaw's presence can be felt strongly on most of the tracks, especially where the writing is concerned. Outside of ''Babe,'' Cornerstone tends to sound a tad weaker than one would expect.


Styx - Paradise Theater (A&M SP-3719) (1981)

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ITEM# SR-AMSP3719
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Artist:

Styx

Title:

Paradise Theater

Released: 1981
Label: A&M
Catalog: SP-3719
Genre: Rock / Pop / Progressive Rock
T R A C K L I S T:
01 A.D. 1928
02 Rockin' The Paradise
03 Too Much Time On My Hands
04 Nothing Ever Goes As Planned
05 The Best Of Times
06 Lonely People
07 She Cares
08 Snowblind
09 Half-Penny, Two-Penny
10 A.D. 1958
11 State Street Sadie
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Album Review

by Eduardo Rivadavia [allmusic.com]

After successfully establishing themselves as one of America's best commercial progressive rock bands of the late '70s with albums like The Grand Illusion and Pieces of Eight, Chicago's Styx had taken a dubious step towards pop overkill with singer Dennis DeYoung's ballad "Babe." The centerpiece of 1979's uneven Cornerstone album, the number one single sowed the seeds of disaster for the group by pitching DeYoung's increasingly mainstream ambitions against the group's more conservative songwriters, Tommy Shaw and James "JY" Young. Hence, what had once been a healthy competitive spirit within the band quickly deteriorated into bitter co-existence during the sessions for 1980's Paradise Theater -- and all-out warfare by the time of 1983's infamous Kilroy Was Here. For the time being, however, Paradise Theater seemed to represent the best of both worlds, since its loose concept about the roaring '20s heyday and eventual decline of an imaginary theater (used as a metaphor for the American experience in general, etc., etc.) seemed to satisfy both of the band's camps with its return to complex hard rock (purists Shaw and JY) while sparing no amount of pomp and grandeur (DeYoung). The stage is set by the first track, "A.D. 1928," which features a lonely DeYoung on piano and vocals introducing the album's recurring musical theme before launching into "Rockin' the Paradise" -- a total team effort of wonderfully stripped down hard rock. From this point forward, DeYoung's compositions ("Nothing Ever Goes as Planned," "The Best of Times") continue to stick close to the overall storyline, while Shaw's ("Too Much Time on My Hands," "She Cares") try to resist thematic restrictions as best they can. Among these, "The Best of Times" -- with its deliberate, marching rhythm -- remains one of the more improbable Top Ten hits of the decade (somehow it just works), while "Too Much Time on My Hands" figures among Shaw's finest singles ever. As for JY, the band's third songwriter (and resident peacekeeper) is only slightly more cooperative with the Paradise Theater concept. His edgier compositions include the desolate tale of drug addiction, "Snowblind," and the rollicking opus "Half-Penny, Two-Penny," which infuses a graphic depiction of inner city decadence with a final, small glimmer of hope and redemption. The song also leads straight into the album's beautiful saxophone-led epilogue, "A.D. 1958," which once again reveals MC DeYoung alone at his piano. A resounding success, Paradise Theater would become Styx's greatest commercial triumph; and in retrospect, it remains one of the best examples of the convergence between progressive rock and AOR which typified the sound of the era's top groups (Journey, Kansas, etc.). For Styx, its success would spell both their temporary saving grace and ultimate doom, as the creative forces which had already been tearing at the band's core finally reached unbearable levels three years later. It is no wonder that when the band reunited after over a decade of bad blood, all the music released post-1980 was left on the cutting room floor -- further proof that Paradise Theater was truly the best of times.

Styx's Biography

by Greg Prato [allmusic.com]

Although they began as an artsy prog rock band, Styx would eventually transform into the virtual arena rock prototype by the late '70s and early '80s, due to a fondness for bombastic rockers and soaring power ballads. The seeds for the band were planted in another Chicago band during the late '60s, the Tradewinds, which featured brothers Chuck and John Panozzo (who played bass and drums, respectively), as well as acquaintance Dennis DeYoung (vocals, keyboards). By the dawn of the '70s, the group had changed its name to TW4, and welcomed aboard a pair of guitarists/vocalists, James "JY" Young and John Curulewski -- securing a recording contract in 1972 with Wooden Nickel Records (a subsidiary of RCA). Soon after, the group opted to change its name once more, this time to Styx, named after a river from Greek mythology that ran through "the land of the dead" in the underworld.

Early on, Styx's music reflected such then-current prog rockers as Emerson, Lake & Palmer and the Moody Blues, as evidenced by such releases as 1972's self-titled debut, 1973's Styx II, 1974's The Serpent Is Rising, and 1975's Man of Miracles. While the albums (as well as nonstop touring) helped the group build a substantial following locally, Styx failed to break through to the mainstream, until the track "Lady," originally from their second album, started to get substantial airplay in late 1974 on Chicago radio station WLS-FM. The song was soon issued as a single nationwide, and quickly shot to number six on the singles chart, as Styx II was certified gold. By this time, however, the group had grown disenchanted with its record label, and opted to sign on with A&M for their fifth release overall, 1975's Equinox (the band's former label would issue countless compilations over the years, culled from tracks off their early releases). On the eve of the tour in support of the album, Curulewski abruptly left the band, and was replaced by Tommy Shaw (sadly, Curulewski would pass away from an aneurysm in 1988). Shaw proved to be the missing piece of the puzzle for Styx, as most of their subsequent releases throughout the late '70s earned at least platinum certification (1976's Crystal Ball, 1977's The Grand Illusion, 1978's Pieces of Eight, and 1979's Cornerstone), and spawned such hit singles and classic rock radio standards as "Come Sail Away," "Renegade," "Blue Collar Man," "Fooling Yourself," and the power ballad "Babe."

Despite the enormous success of "Babe," it caused tension within the group -- specifically between Shaw and DeYoung (the latter of whom was the song's author), as the guitarist wanted Styx to continue in a more hard rock-based direction, while DeYoung sought to pursue more melodic and theatrically based works. This led to DeYoung's brief ouster from the group (although it was kept completely hush-hush at the time), before a reconciliation occurred. The bandmembers decided that their first release of the '80s would be a concept album, 1981's Paradise Theater, which was loosely based on the rise and fall of a once beautiful theater (which was supposedly used as a metaphor for the state of the U.S. at the time -- the Iranian hostage situation, the Cold War, Reagan, etc.). Paradise Theater became Styx's biggest hit of their career (selling over three million copies in a three-year period), as they became one of the U.S. top rock acts due to such big hit singles as "Too Much Time on My Hands" and "The Best of Times." But the behind-the-scenes bickering only intensified in the wake of the album's success, as DeYoung was now convinced that a more theatrical approach was the future direction for Styx. Shaw and the rest of the group begrudgingly went along, and while the resulting follow-up was another hit, 1983's sci-fi-based Kilroy Was Here (which told the story of a future where rock & roll was outlawed, almost a carbon copy of the story line of Rush's 2112), the album would eventually lead to the group's breakup -- as the ensuing prop-heavy tour seemed to focus more on scripted dialogue and lengthy films than good old rock & roll.

A forgettable live album, Caught in the Act, was issued in 1984, before Styx went on hiatus, and the majority of the bandmembers pursued solo projects throughout the remainder of the decade. DeYoung issued 1984's Desert Moon (which spawned a moderate hit single with its reflective title track), 1986's Back to the World, and 1988's Boomchild, Young released 1986's City Slicker, while Shaw put forth several solo sets -- 1984's Girls with Guns, 1985's What If?, 1986's Live in Japan, and 1987's Ambition. Shaw then formed Damn Yankees along with former Night Ranger bassist/singer Jack Blades, guitarist Ted Nugent, and drummer Michael Cartellone, a group that enjoyed commercial success right off the bat with its self-titled debut in 1990 (due to the hit power ballad "High Enough"), before issuing an unsuccessful sophomore effort two years later, Don't Tread. During Shaw's tenure with Damn Yankees, Styx had re-formed with newcomer Glen Burtnik taking the place of Shaw -- issuing a new studio album in 1990, Edge of the Century, which spawned yet another hit power ballad, "Show Me the Way." But the Styx reunion was a fleeting one, as the group's members went their separate ways shortly thereafter -- with DeYoung going on to play Pontius Pilate in a revival of Jesus Christ Superstar (and issuing an album of Broadway show tunes, 1994's 10 on Broadway), while Young issued a pair of solo discs (1994's Out on a Day Pass and 1995's Raised by Wolves), and Shaw teamed up with Jack Blades for the short-lived outfit Shaw Blades (issuing a lone recording in 1995, Hallucination).

A re-recording of their early hit "Lady" (titled "Lady '95") for a Greatest Hits compilation finally united Shaw with his former Styx bandmates, which led to a full-on reunion tour in 1996. But drummer John Panozzo fell seriously ill at the time (due to a long struggle with alcoholism), which prevented him from joining the proceedings -- and he passed away in July of the same year. Although grief-stricken, Styx persevered with new drummer Todd Sucherman taking the place of Panozzo, as the Styx reunion tour became a surprise sold-out success, resulting in the release of a live album/video, 1997's Return to Paradise, while a whole new generation of rock fans was introduced to the grandiose sounds of Styx via a humorous car ad which used the track "Mr. Roboto," as well as songs used in such TV shows as South Park and Freaks & Geeks. The group even stuck around long enough to issue a new studio album, 1999's Brave New World, before friction within the band set in once again.

With the other Styx members wanting to soldier on with further albums and tours, DeYoung was forced to take a break when he developed an uncommon viral ailment, which made the singer extremely sensitive to light. DeYoung was able to eventually overcome his disorder, but not before Shaw and Young opted to enlist new singer Lawrence Gowan and issued a pair of live releases in the early 21st century -- 2000's Arch Allies: Live at Riverport (split 50-50 between Styx and REO Speedwagon) and 2001's Styx World: Live 2001. DeYoung began touring as a solo artist at the same time, and eventually attempted to sue Shaw and Young over the use of the name Styx (the lawsuit was eventually settled in late 2001). Around the same time, Chuck Panozzo confirmed rumors that he had contracted AIDS (but was battling the virus successfully), while the turbulent career of Styx was told in an entertaining episode of VH1's Behind the Music.

In the spring of 2003, a new studio album featuring Gowan arrived in stores. For Cyclorama, Styx consisted of Shaw, Young, Burtnik, Sucherman, and Gowan. The album also featured guest appearances from John Waite, Brian Wilson, and actor Billy Bob Thornton. By the end of the year, Burtnik was out of the band and replaced by former Bad English and Babys member Ricky Phillips, although Panozzo did play with the group on selected live dates. The two-CD Come Sail Away: The Styx Anthology from 2004 did an excellent job representing the band's career, while 2005's double-disc The Complete Wooden Nickel Recordings collected the band's first four albums. That same year, Styx released the cover version-filled Big Bang Theory, featuring some of their favorite picks from "the Great Rock Songbook."
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