Cyclorama (2003)


1.Do Things My Way 2.Waiting for Our Time 3.Fields of the Brave 4.Bourgeois Pig 5.Kiss Your Ass Goodbye 6.These are the Times 7.Yes I Can 8.More Love For the Money 9.Together 10.Fooling Yourself (Palm of Your Hand) 11.Captain America 12.Killing the Thing That You Love 13.One With Everything 14.Genki Desu Ka

 

In what seemed an eternity, the new lineup featured under the name "Styx" finally managed to get out a studio release in 2003. Since this group's new inception in the summer of 1999, the band managed to play over 435 live shows to keep the group fresh and sharp. Former member Dennis Deyoung (whom you could argue essentially got kicked out of his own band) had brought about a lawsuit that prevented a studio release earlier in the new band's history.


What finally did emerge was the bands best record since Paradise Theatre. For the first time ever, we have four singer/songwriters in the band which added to the overall variety. Unlike the more recent studio releases, this record sounded like all band members were on the same page. Yes, the styles fluctuate among the members, but the different styles add to the quality of the release, not taking anything away. Tommy Shaw has now emerged as the "leader" (whatever that means) and he handles lead vocals on five of the tracks. As usual, when Shaw writes for Styx, he rarely disappoints. His strongest contributions are the lead track Do Things My Way that is a perfect opener for a CD (unlike that "Witness" disaster from Brave New World) and the last "real" song One With Everything that is a powerful reminder of what made this band great in the 1970s. The group (maybe without even knowing it) throws in many classic rock influences such as Yes, Jethro Tull and ELP along with their own style that is guaranteed to make this song a longtime fan favorite. Even Dennis DeYoung should be proud of this one.


Without DeYoung in the band, many were expecting more time on the album do be devoted to the other three songwriters, but sadly we only get two songs from each writer. James Young comes through well with These are the Times (possibly the best cut on the album) that is a slower JY song that features his hollow eerie "Dr. Righteous" voice over an acoustic guitar intro that again reminds us of the band we all loved so many years ago. His other contribution is a straight forward rocker titled Captain America which isn't nearly as good as his other "America" song Miss America, but it comes across o.k.


Then we come to Glen Burtnik who replaced Chuck Panozzo. Most fans are aware that this is his sophomore stint in the band. His first time with the group, he replaced Tommy Shaw on Edge of the Century. This time around, though, the pressure was off Burtnik since he wasn't replacing a key member of the band. On Edge of the Century, we hear Burtnik handle lead vocals on four songs -- here we're only treated to two (because of time limitations) and that's too bad. Burtnik is a great singer and songwriter and his two songs Kiss Your Ass Goodbye and Killing the Thing That You Love are classic Burtnik (which we can now maybe also say "Classic Styx").


The disappointment of the album comes from Lawrence Gowen. It's not that he's not good at what he does, it's just radically different from what we're used to when we think of this band. He pens the weakest contribution (the monotonous Fields of the Brave) on the album and only slightly redeems himself with More Love For The Money. It is possible that he just has to grow on me some more. I enjoyed Criminal Mind from the tour and I guess my expectations were too high.


Having said the above, the true fan can't help but wonder just how good this release could have been if DeYoung had been on the record. A few classic tunes by DeYoung could have possibly made this the best Styx record ever. However, the main reason DeYoung was not in the band anymore is that he tended to pull the band into directions he thought the band should go and therefore we may have ended up with an entirely different album altogether. Sad that we'll probably never know.


If you wanted to be picky, you could also argue that this album has a few song "snippets" that seem to be totally unnecessary. Bourgeois Pig is a 40 second song featuring Billy Bob Thorton (yes, that's right) that leaves us scratching our head. We then get another (approximately) 40 second clip of a quick rehash of Fooling Yourself complete with Beach Boy legend Brian Wilson helping with the harmonies. Again, we ask ourselves: What's the point? It would have been better to feature the great Brian Wilson in other areas of the record. Then we have the last song Genki Desu Kai, it's a little longer than 40 seconds, but one wishes it was a lot shorter, or preferably not here at all. Minor infractions - especially since you can easily skip these tracks on a CD player.


If you absolutely refuse to listen to Styx without Dennis Deyoung, just scratch the name "Styx" off the CD and replace it with a creative name of your own and tell yourself your listening to a brand new band that features Tommy Shaw and James Young. It will be worth it. Kudos for all those involved.



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