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Styx

The Grand Illusion

Review by Gary Hill

Yeah, I know, Styx aren’t a progressive rock band. Well, listen to this disc (I’m sure you’ve heard it a million times) again with a fresh ear. I think you’ll decide that this might be pop-oriented prog, but it’s prog. Certainly it fits by today’s standards. Whatever you call it, though, this classic Styx album holds up very well and is an excellent album today, as it was when it came out.


This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2010  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
The Grand Illusion
There’s a cool extended opening procession on this and the cut shifts in from there. They pack several different moods and motifs in this, including a close rock jam fest guitar solo. This really does have as many changes and alterations as some group’s epics, and yet all packed into a four and a half minute package.
Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)
The intro to this is very much progressive rock with some keyboard sounds that make me think of Rick Wakeman. This isn’t full of crazy changes, but it’s got a very melodic progressive rock ballad-like element to it. There’s a killer instrumental break later with a keyboard solo as its main component. The cut rocks out at times a bit more than a ballad would.
Superstars
While the arrangement on this is simple, it’s still loaded with keyboards and focuses on the mellower end of the spectrum than the harder rocking one. I’d say that aspect helps it to fit into progressive rock. Yes, it’s got a more straightforward rock and roll approach to it. There’s a dramatic, theatrical closing movement. 
Come Sail Away
I know; some people pan this spacey ballad as being over the top fluff. I have to say, it still works for me. It’s a proggy sort of cut that is pretty and tasty. There is a harder rock section as the second movement. I really don’t need to say a lot more because you probably know the song. Sure, it was a hit, and overplayed, but it’s also a good piece of music. I like the keyboard soloing later in the piece. 
Miss America
If there’s a nearly metal song here, this is it. It’s got a proggy introduction, and is a great tune. I consider it one of the highlights of the set, although, it’s also one of the least progressive rock moments. Again, the keyboard solo is tasty, but the smoking guitar solo has to be mentioned, too. 
Man In The Wilderness
This rocker is a quite cool and dramatic. It’s arguably the most obviously progressive rock oriented track on show. There are several changes and alterations on the musical themes presented. While it’s not one of the tracks that gets a lot of attention on this album, it’s one of my favorites here. I’d consider it to be one of the most interesting pieces on show. 
Castle Walls
It if there is a song that’s more pure progressive rock than “Man in the Wilderness,” this moody and dynamic track is it. The musical elements all work perfectly together to create a real masterpiece. It’s another of my favorites.
The Grand Finale
This basically ties up the album by bringing back musical themes from the title track and serving as a bookend.
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