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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Styx

The Grand Illusion/Pieces of Eight Live

Review by Gary Hill

I reviewed the DVD of this thing a while back. I love it. And, this audio disc (two CD set) is equally cool. I know there are those who think that Styx without Dennis DeYoung isn’t Styx. Well, I’ve got to say that as good as DeYoung was and as powerful as a lot of the songs he wrote were, to me he seemed to want to take the band too far away from being a rock band. This version of Styx refocuses on the rock and in this case does two classic albums live. This is a great album and well worth having. Styx in this configuration rocks with the best of them. I should point out that I don’t consider all Styx progressive rock. I have put this one under that heading because I think of the two albums played here as AOR based prog.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2013  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1: The Grand Illusion
The Grand Illusion
I’d have to say that this number seems to rock out a bit more to me than the studio version did. That’s not to say that it’s a bad thing. In fact, I think I might like this rendition better. They do stretch things out into quite an involved jam later, too.
Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)

Here we get a soaring and powerful live rendition of this Styx classic. The instrumental section later seems purely on fire.

Superstars

Here’s a song that is introduced as one they’d never played live before this tour. I love this song, both in the studio rendition and this live performance. This is just great. There are some changes in the sound of this, starting with the spoken bit mid track and carrying through the killer guitar solo. That said, I think those changes are for the better.

Come Sail Away

So, this was one of Dennis DeYoung’s trademark songs. Frankly, you can tell at times that it’s not him singing it. You really have to listen for that, though. I really like this rendition a lot. The rocking sections here get a little extra “oomph,” too and are better for it.

Miss America
The cool instrumental introduction to this one works flawlessly here. The harder edged sound really suits this song so well. It’s another that just works so well in this live arena. The guitar solo is incendiary here.
Man in the Wilderness

I’ve always loved this song. They really do lend some added energy and majesty to it in this live telling. Tommy Shows vocals are purely on fire late in the tune, too.

Castle Walls

Another song that has had a special place in my heart for years, again they deliver a killer live rendition here.

The Grand Finale

This closing piece receives a strong live treatment, too.

Disc 2: Pieces of Eight
Great White Hope
And, they kick off the Pieces of Eight album part of the show with this hard rocking live rendition of this hard rocking song.
I'm Okay
With an introduction referencing Popeye, here’s another cool Styx tune delivered in fine fashion live. I really like the guitar solo section here.
Sing for the Day
This melodic tune is a cool, but it’s always been a bit lightweight for my tastes. This live rendition is good. The melodies are good and the instrumental section is solid, too. This is one song that could use some of the extra oomph, but doesn’t get it.
The Message

This instrumental piece works well here.

Lords of the Ring
This piece has always seemed a little over the top to me. That said, I like this live version better than I do the studio rendition. The guitar solo does help to ground this thing.
Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)
A stomper, this thing rocks out like crazy. It really works well here.
Queen of Spades
One of the better tunes from Pieces of Eight, this rocker is good in this live rendition. I have to say that it feels just a little rough at one point later in the piece to me.
Renegade

This Styx classic gets a fairly faithful rendition, but they turn into some more rocking jam-like sounds late.

Pieces of Eight

This classic title track gets a pretty faithful live treatment.

Aku-Aku

Always a tasty closing piece, this is another great live rendition.

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