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Styx: Styx

Album Notes

Styx: James Young (vocals, acoustic guitar); John Curulewski (vocals, guitar); Dennis DeYoung (vocals, piano, organ, synthesizer); John Panozzo (drums, percussion).

The 1972 self-titled album from Chicago-based quintet Styx could be considered an ambitious outing for any band's debut. Clearly influenced by the primarily U.K-centered progressive rock scene, Dennis DeYoung (keyboard/vocals) hooked up with twin siblings Chuck Panozzo (bass/vocals) and John Panozzo (drums/percussion/vocals) in a combo named the Tradewinds during the late '60s. The first lineup of Styx began to emerge once John Curulewski (guitar/synthesizer/vocals) and James "J.Y." Young (guitar/vocals) joined up, initially surfacing under the moniker TW4. Local gigs in and around the Windy City led them to the attention of Bill Traut, a Chicago musician/producer whose regional record label Wooden Nickel was distributed throughout North America by RCA. Traut was actively seeking new talent and TW4 was just what he was looking for to compete with the likes of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Yes and Rush. With some tweaking, TW4 evolved into Styx and began work on this, their inaugural long-player. Immediately striking is the strong musicianship that DeYoung and Curulewski -- both classically trained -- bring to the project. The four-part "Movement for the Common Man" is impressive considering the dynamics of its scope -- ranging from the hard-hitting aggressive "Children of the Land" to the audio vérité "Street Collage." The latter section includes dialogue and conversations with everyday people and effortlessly flows into a chorus of Aaron Copeland's "Fanfare for the Common Man." The nearly quarter-hour suite concludes with the brisk and inspired "Mother Nature's Matinee." "Right Away" is a mid-tempo bluesy number with formidable slide guitar licks from Young that could sit contently beside the smooth Southern comfort of Lynyrd Skynyrd's Gary Rossington. DeYoung's electric organ similarly takes on a soulful vibe recalling Booker T. Jones of Booker T. & the MG's fame. Although comparatively mellow, the ballad "What Has Come Between Us" is also more complex and intricate, providing an exceptional platform for their nascent vocal harmonies. The catchy and propulsive "Best Thing" became Styx' incipient excursion into the pop singles chart, landing at 82 nationally and scoring even better regionally. Perhaps the biggest surprise is the cover of George Clinton's "After You Leave Me," which is turned into a suitably open-throttled ending to Styx' commendable introductory affair. ~ Lindsay Planer


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