Styx album by album thread

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by MikeInFla, Jun 14, 2021.

  1. MikeInFla

    MikeInFla Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Panama City, FL
    I was asked to start a thread about each Styx album. First, this is not a discussion about the current Styx vs. Dennis DeYoung. It's also not a thread about bashing or making fun of the group -- I get it, many people don't like Styx but there are those of us that do. Criticism of each album is welcome because there are things we don't like. I have been a fan since 1980 when I discovered the band at 9 years old. I found "The Grand Illusion" in my brother's record collection and became hooked.

    [​IMG]

    Styx – August 1972

    “The nucleus of Styx goes back to 1964 and a South Side neighborhood band called TW4. The years have brought 2 new guitars and a direction by 5 multi-talented artists whose energy is a tribute to the beauty of the Chicago rock n’ roll community”.


    1. Movement For The Common Man 13:11

    · Children Of The Land

    · Street Collage

    · Fanfare For The Common Man

    · Mother Nature’s Matinee

    2. Right Away 3:40

    3. What Has Come Between Us 4:53

    4. Best Thing 3:13

    5. Quick Is The Beat Of My Heart 4:49

    6. After You Leave Me 4:00


    The opening cut, Movement For The Modern Man is 13:11. Don’t let that fool you as being a long song because it is actually 3 songs meshed together. Children Of The Land opens the record with a song written by JY and features him on lead vocals. Straight ahead rocker with some nice drum work from John at the end of the piece followed by some trippy guitar and bass work.

    Street Collage is spoken word. Workers on the street discuss looking for jobs. I believe the voices speaking are Dennis, JY, John Panozzo and John Curulewski (the voice that sings while walking by).

    It rolls into Fanfare For The Common Man by Aaron Copeland (5 years before ELP would release the song). Another lead vocal from JY.

    Mother Nature’s Matinee is a nice slow tempo song from Dennis DeYoung, featuring him for the first time on a Styx album. The song picks up tempo at the end with some nice guitar work from JY.

    Side 1 of the album closes out with Right Away, another lead local from JY written by Paul Frank. This song would be featured on the 1974 Fresh Start – What America Needs LP with Paul Frank on vocals.

    Side 2 opens with What Has Come Between Us written by Mark Gaddis with Dennis on lead vocals.

    Next is Best Thing with vocals by Dennis and JY. This was their biggest song at the time and would reach #82 on the Billboard charts 10/13/1972.

    Quick Is The Beat Of My Heart written by Lewis Mark is another JY lead vocal. This is a song they would perform live through the Man Of Miracles tour.

    Closing out the album is After You Leave Me by George Clinton (not P-Funk George) with JY on vocals. A slow, plodding song to close out the album with some nice organ work from Dennis.


    Bill Traut and John Ryan produced the first album. Wooden Nickel (Bill Traut) did not like the name TW4 and the band was given a list of names to choose from. Styx was the only name “no one hated”.


    The band was not happy with the songs chosen for the album. Dennis said “The owner of the record company picked the songs to be recorded. I had written “Lady” for the first album but he said to hold off and maybe put it on the second album. My contribution on that album is almost nothing; I co-wrote two songs and that was it”.

    As the recording process went along the band was less than satisfied. Chuck Panozzo: “The first time we were in the studio the producer saw all of John’s percussion instruments and said you’re wasting your time with all of this. A record deal was not an automatic ticket to riches and fame”.

    JY: “Best Thing came out on the charts at 88. We said ‘what’s so hard about this?’ and the next week it got up to 82. 3 weeks later it was gone so we said “I guess we figured out what’s so hard about this’”.

    There is a live video performance from 1972 of Styx performing "Best Thing" but the audio is not very good on the YouTube version. There is also a live version from 2019 featuring producer John Ryan on lead guitar. You can find both of those by searching for Best Thing on YouTube.

     
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  2. MikeInFla

    MikeInFla Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Panama City, FL
    On a personal note, I did not discover this album until probably 1984. To me it was called "Styx 1". It had this lame cover:

    [​IMG]

    I knew of some the of Wooden Nickel albums because of "The Best Of Styx" (which I had on cassette). I found this on LP at a record store called "The Music Isle" in Knoxville, TN. My dad would drop me off there and I would browse records and tapes for hours.

    A few years later a friend of mine said they saw a Styx album in a used store that I didn't have. I said "No way, I have them all what is it called". He said "I don't think it had a name it was just called Styx". I then asked "What did it look like?". He replied "It had the band standing in flames and smoke". I was intrigued but thought it was all BS. Made my way to the used shop and saw it and thought I discovered a lost album. Then I saw the back cover with the songs and realized it was the first album. I had no idea about the original 4 covers (I knew I had the reissues but did not know the cover art was reworked -- which I always called the construction paper albums).
     
  3. carlwm

    carlwm Forum Resident

    Location:
    wales
    With the exception of The Mission, this is my most recent Styx album. Picked it up a few years ago as part of the Complete Wooden Nickel Recordings set. It remains my least favourite Styx album but it's certainly not without it's charm and some aspects of the classic Styx sound are already in place. Bit of an album of two halves though.

    1. Movement For The Common Man (4/5 ) An ambitious way to open your recording account, this four part epic largely hangs together as a suite. JY's first contribution, Children Of The Land, has the vibe of some of the songs on REO's debut album which came out the year before, which is not a bad thing, and if the Street Collage section goes on a little too long, things soon pick up again. Dennis' lovely Mother Nature's Matinee concludes things and proves that his penchant for gentle songwriting long predates Babe.

    2. Right Away (4/5) Nice, mid-paced, almost country rock song, well sung by JY, who reminds me of Head East's John Schlitt on this one.

    3. What Has Come Between Us? (5/5)
    My favourite song on the album. It's like a prog take on a Manassas tune. Gorgeous harmonies abound. No idea if Mark Gaddis, the writer, did anything else but this is terrific. Should look him up really.

    4. Best Thing (2/5) It's well played and sung but it feels like funk rock by numbers, to me.

    5. Quick Is The Beat Of My Heart (2/5) Would it be unfair to call this a nondescript rocker? Even the keyboard solo doesn't really go anywhere, and it's not often you can say that about Dennis' work.

    6. After You Leave Me (2.5/5) Pretty ordinary song partially enlivened by a strong lead vocal and some decent harmonies. Better than the previous two but nowhere near as strong as the ealier tracks.

    As juvenilia goes, this is a pretty decent effort. Nothing for the band to sweep under the carpet at all. If it was the lone album by an obscure band, I would pleased to have it in my collection. As a Styx album....well, the band became much more consistent very quickly.
     
  4. Bingo Bongo

    Bingo Bongo Music gives me Eargasms

    Grand Illusion is what got me hooked too, when it originally came out. But I never heard this album below.
     
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  5. carlwm

    carlwm Forum Resident

    Location:
    wales
    Worth a listen if you have a spare half an hour or so. :righton:
     
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  6. MikeInFla

    MikeInFla Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Panama City, FL
    Paul Frank also recorded Right Away with Fresh Start and Head Over Heels. Here is the Head Over Heels version of the song.



    Mark Gaddis who penned "What Has Come Between Us" also recorded some albums but never recorded the song (as far as I can tell, I have searched high and low and have come up with nothing).
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2021
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  7. carlwm

    carlwm Forum Resident

    Location:
    wales
    I like that version of Right Away. A bit more of a rocker than Styx' cover.

    I've been searching for Mark Gaddis as well. All I've found is one song - called Carry On - on YouTube. Very good acoustic singer-songwriter fare. Released two albums apparently.
     
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  8. Shooz01

    Shooz01 Forum Resident

    Location:
    St Louis area
    Very well written history and assessment of Styx I. If you’ve not read Chucks book you should, gives some great insight into those early years. Growing up in the 70’s, those early wooden nickel records were like a holy grail to me, they were hard to find and expensive for a kid.... LOL, looking back I think I maybe paid $20 for each album, seems like a bargain considering today’s vinyl prices.
    I really like the opening track, it has so many elements of the different band sounds, probably my favorite track on the album.
     
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  9. carlwm

    carlwm Forum Resident

    Location:
    wales
    Given the amount of infighting within the band over the years, I've always avoided books about Styx. Maybe I should give Chuck's a go.

    I've still not found an LP version of the debut album. It's the only one of the Seventies albums I don't have on vinyl. The CD sounds great though so I'm happy enough. :)
     
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  10. It's a decent start. You can sort of hear the covers are not beloved by the band at all, but they turn in solid performances all around; the harmonies and keyboard work are entrenched already, and great as ever. "Best Thing" is, well, well-titled. Only goes up from here!
     
  11. mrjinks

    mrjinks Optimistically Challenged

    Location:
    Boise, ID.
    Really looking forward to this, as I’ve been bingeing on my “first” favorite band for the last couple weeks. I suspect there won’t be a huge group of us regularly contributing to this thread (though I’d love to be wrong), so I’ll throw out a little bit of my own Styx history before I get into the debut.

    My first album purchase was Boston, at age 12 in 1977. I think The Grand Illusion was #7 or so for me, within that first year. Other early purchases were Rumours, Little Queen (Heart), Point of Know Return, and Foreigner. Boston and Styx were my favorites, but I’d already purchased Boston’s (and Foreigner’s) entire catalog. :) So, over the next few years, my allowance money went towards back catalog stuff for Styx (and Kansas, too). By the summer of ‘79, I had new albums from some of those acts, and I’d also purchased the Wooden Nickel stuff. My older brother had the rarer original gatefold of Styx II, so I knew there was pre-Equinox stuff, and I’d order the old albums one by one from a local shop as I could afford them, eventually backtracking to the debut.

    When you only own 25 albums or so (me, circa late ‘79), you play em all to death, and I certainly did. By the fall of that year, I had a new Styx one, and tickets for my first ever concert in January 1980. I remember eagerly anticipating which Wooden Nickel songs would get played live, only to be shocked with the result. :)

    Anyway, the month after that first concert, I decided to make my 30th album purchase something significant, so I bought Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, because I was curious about these guys that were allegedly so influential in rock. That led me down a different path in music, to being a major league Beatle collector and a big fan of Dylan and other more introspective writers/performers. My Kansas and Foreigner albums started gathering dust, but I still had a soft spot for Styx and followed all their releases to this very day. I find a lot of terrific material that I think is unfairly derided, but also some junk that deserves the heat!

    That being said, I’m going to throw on my old beat up Wooden Nickel vinyl pressing of the debut later this afternoon and look forward to sharing the ride with you guys!
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2021
  12. carlwm

    carlwm Forum Resident

    Location:
    wales
    That's a really interesting story! :righton:

    My introduction to Styx was via the UK TV show, Entertainment USA, which showed the video for Mr Roboto (which I loved then & now! ) and interviewed the band about being accused of being devil worshippers. :doh:

    A little while later, I heard Babe on the American Heartbeat compilation & thought that was fab too, so my introduction to the band was their two most reviled songs. :D

    My first album was either Kilroy or Pieces Of Eight. I got them within a week or two of each other. Regardless, I've been hooked ever since. :)
     
  13. As with a lot of my musical tastes, I was introduced to Styx by my dad, the classic rock fiend of my parents (my mom and I explored blues and Motown together, as well as, you know, the Beatles :D there, they've been mentioned, let's move on). He only had the Grand Illusion album (I've had the poster from that framed for a while now, too) but I went on to pick up the 2005 Greatest Hits disc, the Part 2 disc, and even, somewhere, a good ol' cassette tape of Kilroy Was Here. I've also got Brave New World (which doesn't get a lot of play, if I'm honest :D) and the VHS of Return to Paradise, which I adore. Looking forward to exploring their whole catalogue with this thread. :wave:
     
  14. tinnox

    tinnox Senior Member

    Location:
    Maryland
  15. tinnox

    tinnox Senior Member

    Location:
    Maryland
    Looking forward to this thread !
     
  16. The Complete Wooden Nickel Recordings is a good way to get the first 4 styx albums very cheap on two cds.[​IMG]
     
  17. Karn Evil 9

    Karn Evil 9 Black Labs Matter

    Location:
    Alachua, FL
    I saw them in late-1977 on The Grand Illusion tour. I liked the band and that show was excellent. But like so many other groups of the 70s, (in my opinion) their music took several steps backward with the dawning of the 1980s. I did not care for Paradise Theater at all. There was something about the 1980s that ruined once-good bands.
     
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  18. MikeInFla

    MikeInFla Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Panama City, FL
    Yeah, I have to admit the first album hasn't been played by me in a LONG time. Even when I grabbed "The Wooden Nickel Years" I would skip the first album and move on to Styx II. I played some of it this weekend while starting to think about what I wanted to say about it. I need to give the whole thing a spin instead of skipping around on it like I did yesterday and early this morning.

    As for first album purchases, the first one I bought with my own money was Paradise Theatre. I am the youngest of 5 boys so I really had no need to buy albums because my older brothers had a lot of great stuff. I was exposed to Hendrix , Bad Company & Kiss at a very early age so I would just play my brothers' albums. One day I saw Grand Illusion in the collection and was familiar with Come Sail Away so I played side 1 over and over and never even played side 2. When I finally got around to listening to side 2 I decided then and there they were my favorite band. I have the Friday Music reissue on vinyl (no poster) but the buddy that picked it up for me gave his poster to me (mint condition) and folded it up and inserted it into the record before he mailed it.

    As for the Wooden Nickel tunes all of them were dumped after the Crystal Ball tour. I think they were still doing 22 Years at that time (along with Lady) and nothing else.

    Yes, this will be included at the end! I was unable to go to a record store since we no longer have any in the area. FYE in the mall used to participate in RSD but the mall closed in 2018 permanently due to the hurricane and they never reopened anywhere else. I was able to order online shortly after 12 o'clock noon on Saturday and I got an email this morning that it shipped out. Won't be able to play it until next weekend so I am holding off on YouTube videos of the songs.
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2021
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  19. MikeInFla

    MikeInFla Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Panama City, FL
    Yeah, you are right about that (but I do love Paradise Theatre, it is actually my favorite Styx album). I think during the early 80's a lot of the classic bands were lost and unsure of what direction to take whether they didn't know or were forced by record labels. Take a listen sometime to Foghat's Zig Zag Walk. I am trying to remember but I think a song on there sounded just like Rick Springfield and nothing like the Foghat of old. Journey was one of the few from the 70's that could keep putting out some good stuff (IMO).

    It seems that the bands from the 70's couldn't keep up with MTV and the look of new wave. I'm sure there are many more bands I can't think of that had a hard time making the transition to the music of the 80's.

    Bad Company's first release in the mid 80's was a song with Brian Howe called "This Love" that sounded NOTHING like Bad Co but to be fair Mick and Simon wanted a new name for the band but the label insisted it be called Bad Company.
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2021
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  20. Karn Evil 9

    Karn Evil 9 Black Labs Matter

    Location:
    Alachua, FL
    I probably need to give Paradise Theater another listen. I haven't heard it in forty years. I'm not familiar with those BadCo or the Foghat albums. As fans of both bands (including Savoy Brown), I'm thinking that that's a good thing.

    IMO, mediocrity ruled the 80s. I really liked Foreigner's debut album. But IV...no thanks. Waiting For a Girl Like You makes me want to hurl. I never liked Urgent, either. Juke Box Hero is OK, I suppose. Most cars from the 80s sucked, too. So the fact that music did isn't a complete surprise. It was a weird decade.
     
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  21. Shooz01

    Shooz01 Forum Resident

    Location:
    St Louis area
    I think my first Styx experience was 1975 (I was about 8) riding in my sisters car and Lorelei came and, I was in love with the keyboards and the song. 1977 and my brother gives my sister the Grand Illusion and I all but stole, played it non-stop, side two is the bomb.
    K-She 95 used to play complete albums on Sunday nights, if Styx was up, my tape deck was rolling. Finally started earning money and was able to purchase their catalog over time.
    Been following them religiously ever since, some great moments, some not so great moments (think Music Time ) and a whole lot of time thinking they’d never record again.
    Happy to see both camps active forever how long it can last.
     
  22. carlwm

    carlwm Forum Resident

    Location:
    wales
    Nice story! :righton:

    I quite like Music Time though :D.
     
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  23. mrjinks

    mrjinks Optimistically Challenged

    Location:
    Boise, ID.
    Ok, let's talk about that Styx debut! Pretty sure this would've been the 8th album of theirs I was exposed to. As I mentioned I started with Illusion and Eight and then worked backwards. So, you know what's really interesting about the debut?

    JAMES YOUNG! Yeah, there's that big, sorta awkward medley that kicks off side one, but when you break things down, this album really features 8 songs (plus that "what were they thinking" spoken-word bit). And in what Stygian universe do you have an album where you give JY five lead vocals, Dennis two, and have them essentially duet on the last track? Whether you like the album or not, you kind of have to start examining that very odd (imo) decision. Did the producer look at JY as the potential "breakout star" of the band??? Did he wield that much power, after joining TW4 and helping get them their record contract? I don't know, but it's a really bizarre twist considering what happened later in their career.

    I'd gotten used to JY's heavier presence in the early years before I came to this Wooden Nickel disc last. Actually, I quite like this album and most of JY's early contributions to the band. Why? Well, before I knew better, I thought Styx was a British band. Dennis, in particular, with his semi-classical piano stylings and vocal style struck me as "English" sounding. "Mother Nature's Matinee" just doesn't sound like something an American rock band would've done circa '72 to me. But what I particularly like about JY's early stuff is that he brought the band something Dennis, JC or Tommy would never have provided: he brought some swagger to their sound. Even on this LP, he sounds like he's been listening to Leon Russell or something, or maybe working on his Lynyrd Skynyrd audition tape. I know the guy is from Chicago, like the rest of them, but I feel he brought a rootsy "southern rock" vibe to the band.

    One of the best aspects of Styx' attack was having three very different-sounding lead vocalists. If it would've just been Dennis and, later, Tommy, I don't think that's enough versatility. They can both sound pretty "soft" at times. So I appreciate JY's rougher tendencies. Having said that, I'm kind of a sucker for Styx' "pick yourself up" attitude, which I'll return to on various albums. "Don't trust anyone else to run your life and set your goals. You've gotta be able to live with yourself, when you are getting old" might be the first example of that and, shockingly, it's credited to JY, even though it SOUNDS like a DeYoung sentiment. Pretty cool in my book.

    As was pointed out, the single was "Best Thing / What Has Come Between Us." I would've flipped the A and B sides, personally. Perhaps, like a certain British band ten years earlier, they insisted on an original composition for the a-side (I have no idea). Intriguingly, the same song would be re-released as an a-side a few years later, being promoted as from the "Man of Miracles" album (!?!). I'm sort of fascinated by the singles history of the band (especially early on) and will try to chime in with thoughts on those as I can.

    Lastly, the thing I really like about the band is that they often seemed to "aim higher" than their contemporaries. They didn't always succeed, but they tried. Kicking off your debut album with a 13-minute medley of original material, a rock version of a classical piece, and a spoken-word interlude is a good example of that. In this case, I'd label it a misfire, but isn't it kind of nice that they wanted to start their career with something that ambitious?

    Note: thanks again to @MikeInFla for kicking this off. That cover of "Right Away" was a real trip to hear this morning. :righton:

    My Wooden Nickel pressing of this still sounds pretty good, but the top seam has a split about 8 inches long across the top and about 6 inches long across the bottom. It’s definitely seen some use!
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2021
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  24. Shooz01

    Shooz01 Forum Resident

    Location:
    St Louis area
    Thanks and see, we all like different flavors of Styx, and the have provided it.
     
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  25. carlwm

    carlwm Forum Resident

    Location:
    wales
    Indeed! :righton:
     
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