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Styx - The Grand Illusion CD (album) cover

THE GRAND ILLUSION

Styx

 

Prog Related

3.68 | 256 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Prog Leviathan
Prog Reviewer
2 stars Today I chatted with a co-worker who is about 50 years-old or so (older than me, younger than my dad). I asked him if he liked Styx. His eyes lit up. He named off several of his favorite albums and songs and told me about he saw them live at my local state fair recently. He asked me, "so you must like Kansas and Yes and Journey, too." I said that I did, and that I would take even the mediocre offerings of any of those bands over anything by Styx. I just don't like this band very much.

He was shocked, but this is a great example of nostalgia playing a part in determining one's musical tastes. For me, the schmaltzy sound of Styx is a squeaky-clean voice screaming "me too!" among bands that are more artistic, or simply rock harder. If you grew up in the late '70's than maybe Styx was a bastion of artistic rock when you were surrounded by disco fanatics. Or maybe they were kind of weird, just like you! I'm trying to come to this album objectively, and not finding a lot to grab a hold of.

Grand Illusion is sometimes described as Styx's best album (currently tied for 1st here on Prog Archives), and even though I kind of hate this band, I don't think this album is all bad. From the opening number it is clear that Styx is ambitious in their songwriting, and it usually works; their instrumental performances here don't always deliver though. DeYoung is vastly over rated, and I'm not exaggerating when I saw that his keyboard solos make me roll my eyes and push the "Next" button on my music player. It's just awful, and his singing and lyrics aren't much better. "Angry Young Man" is a good example: a nice bit of classic rock turned into a cartoon by a noisy, over exposed, and bland keyboard solo... two of them, that just go on and on.

Grand Illusion works best when it's doing three things: rocking (mostly thanks to Tommy Shaw), and being restrained. "Come Sail Away" works because it's just a big, melodic rocker. "Miss America" works because it's good old fashioned hard rock riffing. "Man in the Wilderness" and "Castle Walls" work because they are more about the composition and big picture than phony hooks and choruses. Interestingly, all of this good stuff is on the second side of the album, so at least one can skip ahead to the good stuff and listen through to the end without any groan-worthy moments. "Castle Walls' reminded me a lot of Wishbone Ash, another band of this era that will probably appeal to prog-heads more than Styx.

In the end I did like the final three songs, but not enough to recommend Grand Illusion seriously to anyone that isn't nostalgic for this not-quite prog, not-quite pop weird spot of the late '70's. Enjoy "Come Sail Away" when it comes on the radio, and maybe check out "Man in the Wilderness" and "Castle Walls" though.

Songwriting: 3 - Instrumental Performances: 3 - Lyrics/Vocals: 2 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 2

Prog Leviathan | 2/5 |

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