Styx has come a long way since its humble beginnings in 1961. There have been many members coming and going from the band and many clashing styles on their albums. Tommy Shaw and James Young always leaned towards good ol' rock while Dennis DeYoung (who is no longer with the band) was more about making poppy vocal songs. On their most recent studio release, Big Bang Theory, all traces of DeYoung are gone and Styx returns to their roots.
The Current Styx Lineup:
Tommy Shaw - Guitars, Vocals
James "J.Y." Young - Guitars, Vocals
Lawrence Gowan - Keyboards, Synths, Vocals
Ricky Phillips - Bass, Backing Vocals
Todd Succherman - Drums
This album was started when Styx performed I Am the Walrus at Eric Clapton's 2004 Crossroads Guitar Festival. The band was so inspired that they decided to go into the studio and cut a CD of covers. It's sort of tough to review a CD full of covers, because it is not the band's original work, but I will try my best.
The album starts off with a live version of I Am the Walrus. This is clearly one of the highlights on the album. Lawrence Gowan does an amazing vocal job on the song. This song is a strong way to start off the album, especially with the powerful drumming.
Next is I Can See For Miles. This song is virtually the same as The Who"s version. It is solid, but it's nothing extra spectacular.
The third track on the CD is excellent. Tommy Shaw's voice suits Can't Find My Way Home perfectly. He sings the song with such ease and comfort. Overall it is a nice acoustic song and the guitars are solid.
The next song worth noting is I Don't Need No Doctor. This is yet another great vocal performance from Lawrence Gowan, who really shines on this CD. This song is closely related to the Humble Pie cover of the song, but it isn't an exact replica. It probably could have done without the chuckling in the middle, but it doesn't take away from the song at all. This song shows a solid performance from every member of the band.
One Way Out is another song that has been covered before. Styx's version isn't better than the Allman Brothers, but it is still fantastic. One doesn't think of Tommy Shaw as a blues singer, but he does a pretty decent job on this song. And of course, the solo section in the middle between Shaw and Young is great.
Track 7 really slows down the album. It is A Salty Dog, a Procol Harum cover. I've said it once and I'll say it again: Lawrence Gowan is amazing on this album. This is a great ballad and Gowan does a superb job on the vocals.
Next up is my personal favorite on the album, Summer In the City. Styx totally reinvents a poppy song. Tommy Shaw is good vocally and I absolutely love his guitar work on this song (especially the intro and outro).
I would steer clear of the next song. I'm not sure why, but J.Y. doesn't do his greatest vocal work on this album. Manic Depression is good, but it doesn't come anywhere near Hendrix (of course).
Locomotive Breath is J.Y.'s only good song on this CD. His voice perfectly suits the song. He has the dark quality of his voice to make this song effective. Shaw's guitar is outstanding on this song, and his solo could kick the crap out of any flute from Jethro Tull. I like the Jethro Tull original, but I love the Styx cover.
A few of the songs at the end of the album aren't anything special, so I will skip to Wishing Well. This is an excellent cover of the Free song. Shaw does great with the vocals and the backing vocals are excellent on this song. I love the soul that this song has along with the great guitar work.
The only song on the album that is a Styx song is Blue Collar Man @ 2120. If you have heard any of Styx's hits from the late 70's, you have probably heard Blue Collar Man. It is one of my favorite Styx songs, but the band takes a different approach to it on this album. They add a blues piano and slow the song down into a blues song. I was skeptical at first, but after listening to the song more than once, I came to like it.
I Am The Walrus
Can't Find My Way Home
Summer In The City
Not Quite As Great:
It Don't Make Sense (You Can't Make Peace)
Find The Cost Of Freedom
Overall this album is great. Even though Styx has gone back to the roots and has done a cover album, they have still picked a diverse selection of songs to cover. Shaw showcases his generally underrated guitar playing on this album, but Lawrence Gowan steals the show in my opinion. It is tough for him because when the band performs live he has to sing all of Dennis DeYoung's old songs in DeYoung's style, but on this album his own style shines through and man does he have some talent. One of the more subtle stars of the album is Todd Succherman. His drumming is not obnoxious and his fills are well placed. He has proved to be an excellent replacement for the late John Panozzo. Ricky Phillips's bass doesn't really stand out on the album, but he is a solid player. James Young, who is the only original member of the band left, plays guitar well on this album, but I don't really care for his vocals much (except for Locomotive Breath, that song rocks!).
Rating: 4/5 A majority of the album is outstanding, but there are a few songs that drag the album down a little. Cover albums are usually skippable, but this is an exception.