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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Styx

Big Bang Theory

Review by Gary Hill

There are those who don't give a second glance to albums of covers. Well, in this case that would be a big mistake. I would have to say, given the title of the album, that really this disc is meant to be more of an homage to some of the music that Styx holds dear. They have tapped pretty heavily into a number of definite rock classics (and a couple that are a little less well known) and come out with a healthy taste of music that is both true to it's roots, but also distinctively Styx. That's a great thing. And with the familiarity of much of this music, it's really sure to be an easy one to grow on you. They also include a new (very different) version of "Blue Collar Man" that features an awesome arrangement and a guest appearance by Koko Taylor. While I hope they don't do anymore cover albums - this one is just right - I hope the band manage to keep this smoking sound. It works well for them, and I think most (if not all) the originators of these sounds would be very happy with Styx' rendition. What a great way to reaffirm the band!

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
I Am The Walrus
This one racked up a lot of airplay for the guys. They crank it up a bit from the Beatles version, bout overall, play it pretty close to home. This rocker is a strong and a great opener.
I Can See For Miles
Jumping from the Beatles to the Who, I'd have to say that the real strength to this one is the vocal arrangement. Other than that aspect, the play it pretty true to form, but with a bit more fury.

Can't Find My Way Home
While Steve Winwood's songwriting has a lot to do with the potent nature of this cut, Styx really puts in a great take on this classic. In some ways I'd have to say I prefer this to the original. The mellow, open textures with just enough intricacy and power works really well here.

It Doesn't Make Sense (You Can't Make Peace)
James Young's lead vocal performance here lends a definite classic Styx flavor to this one. Originally penned by Willie Dixon this anti war rocker is my favorite on the disc. It really rocks out in the latter half and could have been quite at home on Equinox, Grand Illusion or Pieces of Eight.

I Don't Need No Doctor
This smoking classic rock cruncher almost feels like Kiss here at times. The down and gritty midsection is very cool and a bit prog metallish.

One Way Out
Made famous by the Allman Brothers, Styx' rendition flows in a smooth jam band variant, very similar to that take of this Elmore James cut. This one is a powerful excursion.

A Salty Dog
I've always been a sucker for this Procol Harum number. Styx plays this haunting piece fairly true to form. It's another highlight of the disc with only a more metallic crunch approach at times to move it far from the original.

Summer In The City
Another old favorite of mine, Styx breathes a higher level of energy and power into this one. They really make it their own - and a standout at that. The outro here gets exceptionally powerful.

Manic Depression
They turn in a classic JY lead Styx take on this Hendrix powerhouse.

Talkin' About The Good Times
This hard rocker is part psychedelic, part prog and all cool. This one gels exceptionally well and calls to mind the more prog rock oriented era of Styx. The mid section is especially effective and powerful. It drops down to a weird space jam that is a major psychedelic trip later and the band has it all wired tight to capture that sound.

Locomotive Breath
They throw in a smoking crunchy take of this Tull classic.

Find The Cost of Freedom
Hitting Crosby Stills Nash and Young, this one mellows it down a bit. They do a killer job on the vocal harmonies - and that says a lot considering the originators.

Wishing Well
This is another hard-edged rocker that really feels like old school Styx.
Blue Collar Man @ 2120:
The live take of the familiar Styx track really brings a whole new texture to the piece. They play it as a mellow, super powerful ballad like number and Chicago blues legend Koko Taylor makes a guest appearance. It's always cool to see a band breathe new life into one of their classics, and this one is no exception. It's one of the high points of a great album.





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