Styx
The Grand Illusion


3.5
great

Review

by Mr. Lean Mug USER (112 Reviews)
June 5th, 2006 | 95 replies


Release Date: 1977 | Tracklist


While you’re reading this review, think progressively. Really focus on it. Think of rock music from the 70s, and just add some experimentation to it. Good, now that we’ve got your imagination active, let’s talk about Styx. There’s a lot that can be said about them. Where to begin, I wonder. Well, how about this: Styx were the first band to ever have four consecutive triple platinum albums. Hmm…that doesn’t seem “progressive" enough for the mood I’m trying to conjure up, here. Let’s see…how about the fact that the band was originally known as The Tradewinds? Or the fact that the only changed their name to Styx as it was the only thing that all of the band members didn’t completely hate? This isn’t working as well as I’d like. I guess I need some hallucinogens or something to keep up with those classic prog-rockers. Oh well, let’s get to the point, shall we?

The Grand Illusion. Styx’s breakthrough, the beginning of their platinum run, and the album that spawned “Come Sail Away" (widely cited as the definitive Styx song). You could pretty much say that Styx did a really good job with this album. Well, actually, that’s just what critics and consumers will tell you. Well, in this line of “work" I get to traverse into both of those professions, so I’ll be straight with you: The Grand Illusion is a damn fine album. Is it the pinnacle of Styx’s career? No, not by a long shot. Was it truly the album that catapulted Styx into their mainstream success, and eventual carving into the annals of rock ‘n’ roll history? Oh yes, that’s the truth. If anyone tells you otherwise, well then that person is lying to you. Yes, lying with italics. You can even mention that to said liar, if you wish (though I don’t recommend it; it may not accentuate the point as well in polite conversation).

Now, let’s get to The Grand Illusion’s triumphs, as well as shortcomings. Typically, the music on the album is fantastic. It’s ambitious, emotive, and just “out there" enough to work. Everything from ripping guitar solos, to fever dream keyboards, to fantastic synthesized soundscapes make up the crux of The Grand Illusion’s sound. However, the album isn’t all sunshine and roses in the musical department. Let’s be honest here: progressive rock of this era could be ridiculously annoying. Styx prove to be no exception to this rule on The Grand Illusion. In some spots, it seems as though they tried too hard to get something special, and wound up with just a jumble of…noise. This, however, isn’t all that important to the overall effect of the album.

Oh yes, speaking of the “overall effect," I suppose I should mention that this record is a loose concept album. While it doesn’t feature an actual plot and characters, The Grand Illusion is centered around a theme of “the struggle to overcome self-deluding superficiality in order to affirm one's genuine value," according to the band. Now, since we’ve established that Styx are trying to send us some sort of convoluted message here, let’s get to the lyrical aspect of the album (as that would be Styx‘s window to becoming raconteurs). The lyrics are (much like the music) typically progressive rock. They range from profound, thinking-man’s rock to cheesy, D&D nerd’s rock (okay, maybe not that bad, but it helps you get the picture, eh?).

Right, so now you have a general idea of the album’s contents (I hope), so let’s get to the albums contents (which would be the actual songs). First off, let’s focus on “Come Sail Away," since it was arguably the reason why The Grand Illusion, and eventually Styx themselves, succeeded. Believe the hype: the song is as good as people claim it to be. From the wonderful piano intro, to the lyrics about everything from pirates to aliens, “Come Sail Away" is one monster ballad. Everything about this song seems to flow perfectly. While it’s not the best song Styx have ever written, it’s still one of the highlights of this album, and most worthy to be considered to be what it is (that is, all that stuff about it launching their career, etc.). The title track is also one of the better songs off of The Grand Illusion (it also happens to be the introduction; surprise, surprise). Right from the beginning, front man Dennis DeYoung’s vocals sum up the provocative, rock star ambitions that The Grand Illusion will evoke. He sings:

Welcome to the grand illusion/
Come on in and see what’s happening/
Pay the price, get your tickets for the show/
The stage is set, the band starts playing/
Suddenly your heart is pounding/
Wishing secretly you were a star.

Songs such as “Fooling Yourself (Angry Young Men)," and “Superstars" showcase the irksome end of the prog spectrum. Poppy, brash, and thoroughly annoying, The Grand Illusion probably would have been better off without them. Songs like these represent Styx’s desire to write music that people would enjoy enough to become addicted. However, they could do that just fine, with their well-constructed, immersive songs, as opposed to whatever they were shooting for with tracks like that. Conversely, “Miss America," “Man in the Wilderness," and “Castle Walls," are the experimental Styx that you want to hear. These songs are all very well-written and far superior to the pop drivel I previously described. Their only real shortcoming is, as you may have already guessed, a certain sense of cheesiness in the lyrics and instrumentation. That’s not so bad, though. After all, we all need our dairy products. The Grand Illusion concludes with “The Grand Finale." It’s a short filler, whose only real purpose is to reaffirm the ideals that Styx preach in the title-track. It is, however, a fast, powerful song, that allows The Grand Illusion to go out with a proper bang.

All in all, this is a good album. I can’t find myself recommending it, as Styx have released better. However, if you simply wish to experience their “big break" (or if you’re a collector of sorts), then The Grand Illusion is a fine purchase. While it’s far from perfect, it’s still a very solid effort, from a very quizzical band. My only regret now is not having an odd enough mind to keep this review in it’s intended “progressive theme." Oh well, perhaps if I ate some cheese…



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Comments:Add a Comment 
The Sludge
June 5th 2006


2169 Comments


You kick ass beyond kicking ass can kick ass. The Grand Illusion and Come Sail Away can kick any AC/DC song in the 'arse'.

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
June 5th 2006


15737 Comments


You're a very good reviewer.

Digging: Ricky Eat Acid - Three Love Songs

Bron-Yr-Aur
June 5th 2006


4405 Comments


I knew this would be Hep. Great work.

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
June 5th 2006


16089 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

I hate you. This is easily one of the top 5 albums of all time.
Thank you. If I can call dibs on Paradise Theater, maybe? As thats the only other fully good Styx album to review...or not, whatever...

John Paul Harrison
June 5th 2006


1014 Comments


Approval.

Bron-Yr-Aur
June 5th 2006


4405 Comments


Generic ^.

The Jungler
June 5th 2006


4827 Comments


Great review, I can't stand Styx but 'Come Sail Away' is a gem.

I love how they use it in 'South Park'.

Peter Criss
June 5th 2006


35 Comments


AC/DC will always be better than anything Styx spits out. Including come sail away. It's not a ballad it's just a pussy song. Let's put This album and AC/DC's Back in Black side by side and see how they stack up.(Excuse the Family Guy reference.)

Bron-Yr-Aur
June 5th 2006


4405 Comments


Coming from someone who names himself after a guy from Kiss, you'll understand if we don't take you seriously.

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
June 5th 2006


16089 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Fooling Yourself alone is more interesting than the entire AC/DC catalogue.

JohnXDoesn't
June 5th 2006


1282 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

I'm sorry, but this album couldn't rock it's way out of a paper bag. Progressive, mid-seventies, whatever. And songs 5 through 8 are a complete joke. Ms America, lol....And those harmonies? God take my ears from me! Superstars is horrendous. Ugh....This Message Edited On 06.05.06

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
June 5th 2006


16089 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

You are a heathen, leave this place forever. You probably like X too.
Sorry, I'm just a filthy Styx fanboy. Shoot me.

Peter Criss
June 5th 2006


35 Comments


*bang* Fucker

Peter Criss
June 5th 2006


35 Comments


Fucke r

Peter Criss
June 5th 2006


35 Comments


F U C K E R

Peter Criss
June 5th 2006


35 Comments


I am calm. I was just trying something

JohnXDoesn't
June 5th 2006


1282 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

^Try it in the Pit next time. I'm listening to the album now thinking my rating might not be justified. It's sinking even further. This Message Edited On 06.05.06

The Sludge
June 6th 2006


2169 Comments


Yeah but 3 comments in the row of the word fucker isnt gonna get you any respect around here, you crappy member of KISS you.

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
June 6th 2006


16089 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

This album is secks.

Parallels
May 8th 2010


6641 Comments


This entire album is boss sauce



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