Tuesday, July 13, 2010

More about the Next Mania

So, I started blabbering about Styx... Again. Well, that is what happens when you really love a certain band's music. Styx has, in fact, become the best-represented band in my CD collection right after the Beach Boys who have probably more than 15 albums there... Here are the four other Styx albums that have been the soundtrack of my life on many, many occasions.

Cornerstone (1979)

Gimme the Lights! On Cornerstone Styx took a step towards a lighter direction. I tend to think about this album as “Styx pop moment” because there really is not all that much rock (with the exceptions of Borrowed Time and Eddie). Instead, there are great pop melodies and lighter sounds. The harmonies in Why Me remind of the Beach Boys, Lights and Never Say Never have even more incredible harmonies, Boat on the River includes some more mandolin sounds - plus accordion! Power ballads Babe and First Time are some of Dennis DeYoung's most tender songs ever. I adore his power ballads. All in all, this is a fabulous album – just the type to make a girl like me get slightly addicted...

Paradise Theatre (1981)

Then comes an ever more addicting one... And again quite a pop album. Rockin' the Paradise, as well as the amazing Half-Penny, Two Penny, do rock but this theatre is still mostly about pop. Nothing Ever Goes as Planned is sort of a developed version of Why Me: it deals with the same subject and contains cool baroque elements and, all in all, fabulous rhythms. A political theme carries the album forward making the listener pay attention to both the misery and hope of modern society. When it comes to vocal harmonies, songs like The Best of Times and Lonely People may be some of the most ear-melting political songs you are ever going to hear... Some of the songs take an ordinary person's perspective while maintaining the connection to the big social issues.

Even without thinking much about the theme, Paradise Theatre is simply musically so enjoyable that I never hesitate to choose it from my mp3 player or whatever means I am currently using to listen to music. I call this album my favorite Styx album. Other people love it too: it was the first Styx album to go #1. Oh, and did I mention that the Styx harmonies were at their very best on this album?

Kilroy Was Here (1983)

Another concept album, anyone? Well, you don't make great music just by picking an interesting theme... Still, even if you don't pay any attention to lyrics, this album does sound like a fluent line of songs that support each other. This is true of probably any Styx album. Kilroy makes no exception to the Styx concept of making catchy songs with fabulous singing and harmonies, arrangements that serve the songs just right...

Don't Let It End is one of the highpoints here: such a lovely semi-ballad with lots of sweetness and dash of bittersweetness. There are also a plenty of fun non-ballads – I use the word “fun” for a reason. Many instrumentations and even the general feel of this album have such a happy, playful quality which is not all that often heard on a Styx album. Just check out Cold War, High Time, and even Heavy Metal Poisoning. In the latter half of the album there are some more songs in which the mood is a bit more serious. Tommy Shaw does a lovely job on Just Get Through This Night and with Dennis joining him in the vocal section in another ballad, Haven't We Been Here Before, the result is just plain gorgeous.

This album was even made into a theatrical play – I guess you could call that a musical play. Dennis DeYoung's ambitions didn't meet with those of the other band members which resulted in severe conflict. Styx split up but returned seven years later with a new album. During the break Dennis DeYoung and Tommy Shaw embarked on solo careers. Dennis continued developing his ambitions in the sector of musical plays.

Edge of the Century (1990)

This was the first Styx album after a long break. Also the first Styx album for ages not to feature Tommy Shaw. Here, Tommy was replaced by Glen Burtnik who makes quite a good job filling Tommy's role. For a while I actually thought he was Tommy.. Still, Burtnik's songs don't tend to sound like Styx. It is quite OK, though. Dennis DeYoung performs three power ballads, such as Love at First Sight, one of his loveliest pieces ever. Back to Chicago is also fabulous. Here, like in many other Styx songs, Dennis sounds like Freddie Mercury – only better, in my opinion! Edge of the Century is a nice album that shows that Styx has gone through some changes during the years but also that the band is literally Not Dead Yet. For a fan this album is no disappointment.

So. I still have the first four Styx albums to check out, as well as the newest releases, including Brave New World (1999), the last Styx album featuring Dennis DeYoung. After that album Dennis practically got fired from the band, which of course was not even the first time.. The sad part is, it looks like the other guys are not going to take Dennis back this time – it has already been 10 years. Or maybe they are? I cannot be sure. I already listened to Cyclorama to determine how Lawrence Gowan has been able to step into Dennis' shoes. Gowan does resemble Dennis vocally. All in all, he sounds great singing his new songs that he has written for Styx. Despite Gowan's obvious talent, Styx is not Styx without Dennis DeYoung. Therefore I highly recommend taking Dennis back. I believe there is enough room for both DeYoung and Gowan in Styx – no need to throw anyone out to get Dennis back.

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