George Starostin's Reviews



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Bob Josef <> (13.12.2001)

What you may not know, having a MP3 and all, is that most of the songs here are not written by the band members, which explains a lot of the inconsistencies in performance. Two are by JY, and two more ("Mother Nature's Matinee" and "Best Thing") were co-written by him and Dennis.

The main problem with Styx (at least until the abysmal Cornerstone) is that there tends to be too much of Young's obnoxious macho hard rock posturing, and that is why this one hasn't spun on my turntable in years. However, the low point is the stupid "Street Collage". You insult Frank by terming it "Zappaesque." It sounds like they listened to Art Garfunkel's "Voices of Old People" and thought it would be a great idea to stretch it to twice as long. Dumb. An example of a band trying to bite off progressive influence they can't quite chew, which is why Styx was eventually destined to deteriorate into generic pop-rock boredom.

By the way, your missing track is another DeYoung-sung ballad called "After You Leave Me" -- pretty, but I doubt if it raise your rating.


Bob Josef <> (15.12.2001)

Much better. Young writes none of the songs, and if Dennis hadn't given two of the lead vocals on this to JY, this could arguably be termed the band's best of the first four albums.

You're right when you say the band wears its influences too close to its collective sleeve. The jam in the middle of "A Day" recalls Santana to the nth degree. And "Earl of Roseland" has some very Pete Townshend type power chords on the bridge. You hate "Father O.S.A" for the same reason it's my favorite -- because it's sounds like "Lady," but is longer and has more variety in the arrangements. And OK lyrics -- at least Styx didn't always stick to boring love themes. Although I must agree that Dennis' voice is an acquired taste at best.


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Bob Josef <> (15.12.2001)

Yes, DeYoung rules on this album. Although Young hits a new low point with his stupidest song yet, "Midnight Ride" -- drags the album down a point for me. Although my bias against it, I have to say, is based a lot on how disgusting it was in live performance. Bleah! However, the rest of the songs are pretty cool. As you point out, Dennis is fairly creative with his keyboard arrangements, although that certainly can't compensate for the utterly generic guitar playing. "Lorelei," in particular, though, has that very catchy synth riff which made it a hit single. Yes, the guys are hitting their stride starting here.


Bob Josef <> (19.12.2001)

Oddly, this is the place where we most widely diverge. I think this is Styx's BEST album, although I'm probably in a minority of one on this, since it was only a big hit in Canada. This is because Dennis strips down the keyboard arrangements a bit (although they'd be back with a vengeance), but not so far as to remove all the variety. Young's stupid voice is kept out of the mix for the most part, except on "Put Me On," where I have to admit a loud rock voice is fitting. Although this song is quite dated -- "Put me on, I'm your brand new compact disc" just doesn't have the same ring now, does it?

The rest of the album, for me, consists of high quality pop/rock. Dennis does get a bit too juvenile in a Mike Love sort of way on the jailbait-chasing anthem "Jennifer," but it's hyper-catchy. Same with "Mademoiselle" - - pleasant and fun, a deserved top 40 single. And the band exhibits a lot of emotional sincerity in "This Old Man," "Ballerina" and the title track, especially. "Crystal Ball" is my favorite Styx song. Lyrically naive, but Shaw sounds very real. The folky acoustic opening, the flute-like synths and the big rock climax all work. And yes, the first time I heard it was at my only Styx concert, and it was a big surprise. But Shaw did peak early, I have to admit.

I think that this album still showed that Styx had some personality. It wasn't until later that they started to get REALLY generic.


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Bob Josef <> (19.12.2001)

A "carbon copy of Grand Illusion" ? I actually don't hear it that way, since the band removes the sort of overblown arrangements from the last album. But underneath we find the some rather bland, ordinary stuff. This where Styx really starts to get generic, and the prime offender is Tommy Shaw. "Renegade" and "Blue Collar Man" could have been done by anybody. It was also here that people started to complain that you can't tell Kansas and Styx apart -- these two tracks sound like Steve Walsh at his worst. Oh, and Young is back to show us how manly he is in "Great White Hope." His bellowing lead vocal is more in tune that most of his singing, but it's still nothing but posing.

There is still some variety, though. At the time, all my friends hated "Sing for the Day," calling it wimpy. Dennis's high harmonies on the chorus don't help, and the lyrics don't always help, either ("I'm your surrogate leader in your search for the truth" -- Huh?). I like it anyway, a very unusual melody and arrangement for Styx. And I also am pulled in by "The Message/Lords of the Ring," even if it's a throwback to The Serpent is Rising. Better if Dennis had kept the lead for himself, though. And I was always surprised that his pop psychology primer "I'm OK" was never released as an A-side. The big Chicago church organ (also used on "Father O.S.A.") provided an amusing contrast to the down-to-earth lyrics.

There was still some hope here, but Styx came to the end of the line here in trying to come up with decent ideas AND decent songs at the same time. Speaking of which, I now DOUBLE-DARE you to review Cornerstone. Are you man enough to take the pain?


Bob Josef <> (28.12.2001)

Ahh, George, you took up the gauntlet after I laid down the challenge (or is it the other way around?) Anyway, I bet you possibly thought it couldn't be that bad -- hah! Glad you survived.

"First Time" and "Babe" are indeed the absolute nadir for Styx -- totally hideous and cloying and sugary. Styx got accused later of Satanic messages, but these two are really the spawn of the devil. And "Eddie" isn't far behind -- a "hard hitting" pseudo-rocker about Senator Edward Kennedy? Spare us, James. And the rest sound like eviscerated, bleached out copies of prior songs -- "Boat on the River" equals "Sing for the Day"; "Never Say Never" channels "Mademoiselle"; "Why Me" is "I'm OK" -- I could go on, but it hurts too much.

I haven't heard the complete album since it was first released, and I can still hear the cries of dismay from my friends two decades on. My only quibble is that a star and a half is MUCH too high a rating. Please revevaluate this -- no encouragement to keep this album in print must appear anywhere.

Stefan Puiu <> (07.02.2002)

Hey, about your review of Cornerstone by Styx, actually, about "Boat on the River", which is on the aforementioned album (I haven't heard anything but this song from the album), it's quite an excellent song - the acoustic guitar, the mandolin solo and everything. It's a damn good song, I heard it on a "Rock ballads" (you know the type) compilation. It may be true that Styx are a crappy band (I saw a "Styx: Behind the Music" on VH1 and they sounded kinda crappy), but, on the other hand, a real good song may go unnoticed if put on a real crappy record. Take "Behind Blue Eyes" by the Who, for example. When I heard it on some compilation I fell in love with it instantly; when I heard it on Who's Next I was thinking: hey, this album makes "BBE" sound mediocre!

The guy that sent you reader's comments says the song is a self ripp-off or something; he's made me curious, I'd be interested in hearing the original, then.

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