Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Next Mania

The Beatlemania I had earlier this year subsided after three weeks. My affection towards the Beatles seems to come in short but intense periods. I do love the Fab Four all the time but don't spend much time listening to their music. So, for one reason or another, I was again drawn to Styx, this extremely successful hard rock band from the 70s that I had never heard of until that Come Sail Away cover version by the Sun Sawed in 1/2 (I was also very familiar with a Finnish translated version of The Boat on the River, but I didn’t know it was a Styx song until I actually found out about the band).

I already spent a considerable amount of time last summer listening to this band... And, to be honest, some other 70s rock/hard rock bands too. During the past year and a few months on top of that, I have grown quite attached to Styx. Those magnificently catchy melodies, distinctive synth sounds, powerful hard rock guitars, fabulous baroque elements, impeccable songwriting... Not to mention one of the most gorgeous, amazing voices ever: Dennis DeYoung. Plus his friends Tommy Shaw, James “JY” Young, Chuck and John Panozzo – a batch of great guys who created some of the most stunning vocal harmonies ever.

Because I am such a Styxmaniac and this band has made a huge impact on me in many ways I decided to tell some thoughts concerning eight of the band's albums that I have listened to very much. Here you go.

Equinox (1975)

Lorelei, let's live together... Yeah, why not? Equinox is a very nice album that invites you to join the celebration. Tommy Shaw has not yet joined the band but everything is already very, very much like the Tommy Shaw era. Dennis takes care of almost all of the the lead vocals and the harmonies are staggering. I enjoy everything on this album: Mother Dear, Midnight Ride, Suite Madam Blue... It all makes a fabulous mix of energy and mystique. The album cover depicts a flaming iceberg. Yeah...

Crystal Ball (1976)

A great album that starts with Dennis' energetic keyboards, then later focuses on darker moods and atmospheres. Listen to Tommy Shaw's first appearances on bouncy Mademoiselle and melancholic Crystal Ball, as well as Dennis DeYoung mesmerizing you with Put Me on, obviously, and Clair De Lune/Ballerina, a song that borrows its first part from classical composer Claude Debussy.

The Grand Illusion (1977)

Now begin the masterpieces. Oh, what miracles you can do with a simple organ sound... I still keep wondering the amazingness of Superstars – that magical feel! A bit like Crystal Ball, this album also begins with happier, energetic songs such as The Grand Illusion and Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man), then turns into more melancholic on the latter half (Man in the Wilderness, Castle Walls). And oh yes, Come Sail Away is here. That one is serious stuff.. Serious. When I heard it for the first time I couldn't believe my ears. I still sometimes feel that way. This album is one of my three favourites from Styx, along with with Cornerstone (1979) and Paradise Theatre (1981).

Pieces of Eight (1978)

Money, money, money.. That is what Styx made with this music. Lots of it. Pieces of Eight is another strong bunch of songs. During this long top-selling period the band didn't seem to know how to pick anything but absolute high quality songs to their albums – that is why it is so easy to love Styx. Then, about the songs... Dennis DeYoung is getting in the spirit of power ballads, one of his greatest assets. Check out I'm OK and Pieces of Eight, the title track (Those harmonies in Pieces of Eight... They will melt your heart!). There is also Sing for the Day, an example of the band's lighter sound that features a mandolin and some quite intriguing synth sounds from DeYoung. Tommy Shaw is great on this album. He performs lead vocals to Blue Collar Man (Long Nights) and Renegade, two catchy rockers.

The other four albums coming tomorrow!

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