STYX - An Embarrassment Of Riches
By Martin Popoff
Yes, an embarrassment of riches is one way to account for the effect this rejuvenated band has on audiences live, the bounty coming in exactly two departments: vocal ability and showmanship. I sound like some sort of pomp evangelist talking like that, and indeed, it's quite a transformation from the hatred heaped on the band in my headbang-exclusive youth. You see, in the late '70s, a band like Styx attracted our scorn for three reasons: Dennis DeYoung's singing, the band's multi-platinum record sales (which we saw as chipping away at the success of Ted, Aerosmith, Sabbath, Riot, Moxy etc.), and more obtusely, the fact that they COULD rock, but rather taunted with their riffs, dishing them out sporadically and on small plates. Strangely, now I think they rule, and uncomfortably, I'm pretty sure I've told this story before! Anyhow, even though on the band's new record you won't get to see that the band has FOUR FRONTMEN, you will get to hear a vocal prowess that is rare in the industry, as well, a vocal showcase that ranks at the top of the Styx catalogue. Cautionary advice: the record ain't that heavy, but it's lush, very glossy, beautifully arranged and gorgeously written. Tommy Shaw tells us more...
"Well, this is a really good album," laughs Tommy, when asked to contrast the new one, Cyclorama, with the forgotten Brave New World from three years back. "This album has nothing to do with any group struggles or any falling apart things. Brave New World was an album that got off to a great start but ended up being the soundtrack to a divorce. And it was an ugly thing and a lot of great music suffered as a result of it. It's just one of those things that happens in life. There's never a good time to go through a break up. It just goes to show you that whenever something like that happens, everything and everyone around your suffers to a degree. And there's some great music on that record, but you know, you can tell there's a brawl going on. And with the new one, it was such a dramatic night and day difference. For one thing, you had the entire band there, just about all the time working on things. And no song got through the gauntlet until everybody signed off on it. That's why we say 'all songs written by Styx' even though as a general rule of thumb, the person singing the song is the one that started it off and kind of pulled it out of thin air. That person is usually the architect and the rest of us are the general contractors and builders. But every song went through the gauntlet and there is a piece of every member in that song. So it was just an amazing experience. To give you an idea, here's where our mind was at when we started writing the record. If you listen to that song One With Everything, that's where we were. We could have done a whole record of those (laughs)."
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