The Grand Illusion (1977)


1.The Grand Illusion 2.Fooling Yourself 3.Superstars 4.Come Sail Away 5.Miss America 6.Man in the Wilderness 7.Castlewalls 8.The Grand Finale

 

The seventh studio album for Styx has now been revealed as the album that would make or break them. Dennis DeYoung later admitted that he stated to himself during the recording: "If this doesn't work, I'm going back to being a school teacher". He would soon find out that he could stay away from the schoolyard permanently. Ironically, the concept here (and the band didn't disguise it in any way) was how success and stardom is misconceived as a synonym for happiness. Ironic because the band hadn't quite made it yet, although they were winning new fans every day as they toured persistently. The album is filled with "grand illusions" and serves as one of the darkest (although strongest) pieces in their catalog.

Consider the strongest piece on the release (perhaps the strongest ever?), Come Sail Away. What seems as a pleasurable journey into the fantasies of childhood youth, it's actually a desperate plea for acceptance in the world the band had been immersed in, wishing that "a gathering of angels" would take them to a better place. Tommy Shaw has anything but a sophomore slump, yet as beautiful as Man in the Wilderness is, we still hear cries of pathos from the troubled minstrel: "Sometimes it makes no sense it all", he tells us over and over again.

Musically, most would agree, the band was at its peak. The creative diversions that would haunt the band were still a few albums away and the band solidified their style of mainstream rock diversity with three part harmonies that made them one of the forerunners of arena rock. Nowhere is this more apparent than on Fooling Yourself complete with repetitive interplay between Shaw's thunderous acoustic guitar and DeYoung's speeded synthesizer play only to be topped when the band chimes in with their distinctive style of vocals to accompany the song. James Young fits in nicely with his most known Styx song Miss America that, again, attacks more "grand illusions" of human shallowness. The only throwback to the old mythological days is DeYoung's Castlewalls. At over six minutes in length, he proves to us just how good this band could have been in the early days if more care had gone into the work.

The three writers of the band: DeYoung, Shaw, and Young gelled perfectly this time around. Although they had different styles of writing even back then, at least on this release they seemed to all be pulling in the same direction. At this point, although everyone had their favorites, you couldn't see one dominate personality in the writing credits or in the singing. This was a true group effort.



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