There are few bands that help define a decade, but I would have to say that the ’70s and ’80s could be defined by a few… at least in certain musical circles and styles… Foreigner… Journey and of course, Styx! Yes, there was disco on one hand, and the Jersey rock of Bruce on the other, but in the world of “stadium” or “arena” rock… these bands ruled.
Styx – The Grand Illusion
Styx was a mish-mash of many styles… Progressive rock, whose list of bands include: The Moody Blues, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Yes, Genesis and Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Prog-Rock experimented with classical elements, unusual themes and stories not traditionally dealt within Rock n’ Roll. It is also a genre that, if you talk with a lot of rockers, has been largely ignored by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame… case in point being Yes, Styx and Rush’s exclusion. Actually there are a few controversies surrounding the Hall of Fame… Another time for all that…
Art rock… Straight ahead rock… of course, the oft maligned rock ballads… and musical theatre. The latter would cause a chasm between Dennis DeYoung and Tommy Shaw and ultimately result in DeYoung’s ouster.
It’s funny, as I listen to this I realize how much I miss musical fades… You don’t seem to hear that much anymore… It just stood out today…
This 1977 album was the breakthrough for Styx. “Lady” from Styx II was the hit that put them on the radio; but this album, the first with Shaw taking over on guitar for John Curulewski, and the first with A&M would explode and hit triple platinum! The band now consisted of brothers Chuck and John Panozzo, Dennis DeYoung, James “JY”Young and Tommy Shaw.
This album also helped usher in the age of A.O.R… Album Oriented Rock… For anyone who listens to stations who play deep cuts or allow their DJs to pick tracks, this will make sense. The focus was not only on hits, but songs deep in the records that traditional radio might ignore. The sadly gone KSCA 101.9, Clear Channel’s AAA 103.1 (both of which would sell and go Spanish) and the current 100.3 The Sound adopt this great format… It just makes radio less predictable and far more enjoyable. Hell, it makes it about the music and not the “sell.”
My standout tracks on this one show that I put myself at odds with the soon-to-be bickering band members… I love “The Grand Illusion” and “Come Sail Away” with DeYoung on lead vocals… but also the rockers… Tommy Shaw’s “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)” and James Young singing “Miss America.” Ironically I never saw Styx live with DeYoung, only them after he left the band… and I fricking love Tommy Shaw… He is an astounding rocker and guitar player. But if you know me, you know I also love me my musical theatre… What is a dude to do???
Well… I guess enjoy this one and Pieces of Eight, Cornerstone, and Paradise Theatre.
Rock n’ Roll and life ARE a grand illusion… According to Wikipedia: “As of March 18, 2011, Dennis DeYoung’s name was removed from the history section of Styx’s official website.” Ouch…
Illusions can be magical, assuming they are handled by a master… they can also be deceiving… such is the theme of this album… and a great lesson to keep in check…
“So if you think your life is complete confusion
Because your neighbor’s got it made
Just remember that it’s a grand illusion
And deep inside we’re all the same.
We’re all the same…”