Crystal Ball (1976)

1.Put Me On 2.Mademoiselle 3.Jennifer 4.Crystal Ball 5.Shooz 6.This Old Man 7.Clair De Lune/Ballerina


Things finally started to look bright with the release of Equinox when fate, at first, seemed to deal the band a cold blow. Guitarist John Curelewski left the band after the completion of the album just as they were preparing for a massive nation wide tour. In a strange, offbeat ironic way, this was a blessing in disguise. Enter Tommy Shaw from Dothan, Alabama who happened to be playing in a Chicago band, MS Funk at the time of his quick recruitment. His audition? He had to be able to hit a high "C" on the band's only hit single at the time, Lady. It was a nice added bonus that he was an incredible singer-songwriter in his own right, and also handled a guitar pretty damned well. Plus the chicks seemed to dig him. Well... It's strange to note that Shaw didn't seem to fit the band's image at the time. The mid westerners who were into heavy mythological concepts and ideas didn't seem the place for this southern burst of inspiration. Not to mention he was several years younger then the rest of the band (who were all still in their 20's at the time).

When the band took a break to record this album, no one probably knew for sure what the end result would be. Although the few die-hard native Chicagoans who had followed the group since its inception may have been disappointed, there would soon be masses of new fans that come to know and love this band for a long time. Shaw's presence is felt everywhere. The best probably being the title cut that, although never got much radio airplay, continues to be a treasured classic among fans. One of the best rockers on the album, Shooz is a song that is sung by Tommy that was co-written with JY. This would be fun one to resurrect one day at a concert. Tommy also graces the album with the pop gem Mademoiselle that he shared the writing with other new band mate Dennis DeYoung.

Ironically, Deyoung, who overpowered the songwriting on Equinox, seems to fall a little flat here. His two solo compositions Jennifer and This Old Man are not without their charms, but they're nothing great. He does pull a large rabbit out of the hat with the final piece Ballerina that he writes with newcomer Shaw. The song typifies what made Styx great in the mid seventies and this piece also serves nicely as a tribute to Claude Achille DeBussy. DeYoung never disappoints on the keyboards and this last piece is the biggest overall strength among his contributions.

Although earlier Styx albums now seem dated, this release almost seems to be ahead of its time. This album probably would have been better appreciated if it had been released during the band's heyday in the early 1980s. Sadly, this one sold even less copies than its predecessor upon release in 1976. Fans still treasure this one though, and with Tommy Shaw now in the band, the Styx project was now finally completed. Although no one knew it at the time, these guys were about to finally explode.

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