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Progressive Rock CD Reviews



Review by Greg Olma

When Styx released Cornerstone, they seemed to switch directions after the relatively harder Pieces Of Eight.  Here, the band gave Dennis DeYoung a little bit more space to explore his musical leanings. While I still think there are some progressive moments on the record, it tended to get more “poppy” on more material.  Styx always rode on that fence of being a little progressive, a little rock, and a little commercial.  They blended the tunes with this mixture and really had a sound of their own.  On Cornerstone, I feel that they stopped blending the styles and went more for a song that was either rock, a little progressive, or plain out-and-out commercial pop.  Even older tracks like “Lady” weren’t as cringe worthy as big hit “Babe” but as it has been stated many times over, that song made them a ton of money. Either way, I think there is some great music here once you get past the pop songs and focus on more of the rockers.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 4 at

Track by Track Review
The album starts off with a classic piece of Styx pomp. It has all of the classic Styx elements; pomp keyboards, harmony vocals, uplifting melody, etc.  It is a nice way to open this record and would have worked as a set opener on the Cornerstone tour.
Why Me
Keeping the pomp sound going, this little number flies under the radar without ever being a song that people think of when the name Styx comes up.  Like the previous track, it has all the classic elements but somehow, this one is forgotten.  There is even a nice little sax solo thrown in that gives it a bit of a Foreigner sound (circa 4).
This is the track that has divided Styx fans and rightly so.  It is so cheesy and schmaltzy that it turned away many fans.  Sure, the tune went to number 1 but artistic integrity was abandoned.  Avoid this at all costs.
Never Say Never
Here we get more of a straight ahead rock tune with those soaring Styx harmonies.  It is Tommy Shaw sung tune so it has more of a rock edge.  He was a good foil between the rocker (James Young) and show tune writer (Dennis DeYoung).  He managed to write rock tunes that had melody but still had a crunchier edge to them (as crunchy as you could get in the slick early 80’s) and this is a good example of that.
Boat On The River
Whenever I hear this track, I always think of being somewhere in Italy.  It must be the mandolin and it has a very Italian flavor to the playing.  I like this song a lot and this is what made Styx a great band.  They took these weird influences and put them in their music.  It is songs like this that really make Cornerstone a worthwhile release.
Borrowed Time
Some dated keyboards sounds start this cut.  The lyrics date this song also with an opening line of “Don’t look now but here come the 80s”.  This is a bit of a rocker and would have fit nicely on something like Grand Illusion.  The opening part would also make a great opening number in concert.  The tune does go on a bit towards the end but it is one of the heavier tunes on Cornerstone.
First Time
If “Babe” wasn’t enough, DeYoung gives us another ballad.  This is pretty cheesy also but it’s not as bad as “Babe”. If you listen closely, the band rocks out and the guitar solo is quite good.
James Young rocks out on this cut and he always seemed to write the hardest tunes for Styx.  Sure, there are the vocal harmonies that give it the Styx sound but like “Miss America”, his writing sometimes goes against the typical sound.  I always liked his tracks best but I appreciate all of the writers in the band.
Love In The Midnight
This Tommy Shaw tune ends the record in fine fashion.  I think this is one of the winners on the record and it deserves more accolades than it receives.  It is a Styx rocker that ebbs and flows from softer ballad to a bit of a rocker.  There is a great mid section that contains a cool keyboard solo and guitar solo.  I think it’s a great way to finish off the record and if I were to choose the best track on the record, this would be it.
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