Review Summary: The debut by Styx remains a highlight of their discography and one of the best Progressive Rock albums of the early 1970's.
Nowadays forgotten in the lost pieces of 70's Rock history. Styx have left a transparent yet permanent mark on the face of 70's Rock. Known for their eclectic instrumentals and solos, crazy epics, and troubled decline in popularity; Styx may have gotten the short end of the stick now, but their history is still talked about in Prog Rock circles today.
Their self-titled debut is on the list of overlooked Styx albums, as it received mixed critical reception when it came out and muted fan reception now. I don't understand why, because this is an amazing record. We start the record off with the 13-minute epic Movement For The Common Man
. This track is by far the most important track on the entire record. It features an outrageous amount of instruments and multiple changes in rhythm. From it's guitar focused beginning, to its general descent into synthesizers and heavy guitar riffing. One has to admire the talents they apply to the keyboard, as so many different digital instruments are used it can be hard to categorize each one. Lyrically, the song features talk of philosophy, and delving into atmosphere as the vocalist begins to talk about nature and the beauty of the sun. Somewhere in the middle of the song, the music stops and we are left with casual conversations from normal people over certain topics from welfare, to the current generation's attitude on hygiene. Movement For The Common Man
expresses a jovial love and admiration for the power of normal people, one it uses to enthrall us in the potential of the human spirit.
After that fantastic beginning, the band begin to focus on normal songs. Right Away
features a heavy emphasis on bass, with Chuck Panozzo taking center stage alongside the vocals and Dennis DeYoung's synthesizers. What Has Come Between Us
starts off with a tense piano and guitar sequence as it quickly changes into a more soft guitar sound as the vocals slowly serenade us with talk of memory and love. From its quality of sound to its subtle use of synths and drums, What Has Come Between Us
remains my personal favorite track on the album.
Continuing on, we get to Best Thing
, a track with the drums taking the center stage. The way with which John Panozzo maintains such rhythm is awe inspiring, and the chorus is the best in this track. Quick is The Beat of My Heart
maintains a more stripped down feel, beginning with heavy riffs and press picks; it doesn't utilize synths until a bit down the road, but when it does, it is excellent. After You Leave Me
features a simple guitar start as snare drums begin to provide atmosphere to the track, with the vocals putting the cherry on top of this brilliant cake. The guitar is by far the best on this track, with John Curulewski and James Young producing solid riffs as the vocals take a more unrefined approach, creating a more Hard Rock sound than previous tracks.
With Styx's debut, Styx established their quality of sound, eclectic level of instruments, and eccentric organization of rhythms. A Prog Rock juggernaut for its time, Styx's debut remains one of the bands best efforts, and reminds me of why this band was one of the best in its class. It is a little unfortunate that Styx isn't really placed along the same category as bands like Kansas, King Crimson, or Pink Floyd, as they certainly deserve it. For now, I suppose appreciating their music and understanding their history is good enough tribute to a band that deserves much more.