Man of Miracles (1974)


1.Rock & Roll Feeling 2.Havin' A Ball 3.Golden Lark 4.A Song For Suzanne 5.A Man Like Me 6.Lies 7.Evil Eyes 8.Southern Woman 9.Christopher, Mr. Christopher 10.Man of Miracles

 

My personal favorite of the Wooden Nickel era, which, sadly, is not to say anyone bought it. If Wooden Nickel were still around today, it would make a good butt for a joke to be told in the industry:
Q:How do you stop the spread of AIDS?

A:Give it to Wooden Nickel to distribute.

How desperate was Styx at this point? Well, there were no less than three versions of this album to try to generate some interest with one of the songs being swapped out on each of the three versions. Originally, the track listing featured the sixties cover Lies that doesn't do much. Seeing disaster yet again, the band substituted this song out with Best Thing from Styx I (their highest charting single at the time) to try to generate some love. On the third version, they ditched this effort for a DeYoung original Unfinished Song. Ironically, this last substituted song is one of the best efforts from this era. Why was it left off originally?

Curelewski's singing is thankfully absent here, leaving DeYoung and Young to handle all the lead vocals. We can see a clear contrast between the two styles that would later distinguish (and destroy - some would argue) this band. JY's songs are a much harder edge complete with wailing electric guitars, whereas DeYoung shows his mellow (and most effective) face. Consider Golden Lark and A Song for Suzanne, the two songs (which actually are "connected" to almost sound like they're one) are a quite pleasant listen complete with a cello solo and a soothing rain storm sound effect that haunts the atmosphere. He then brings a haunting grand piano to it's maximum potential on "Evil Eyes" that aids to the somber melancholy feeling of the song. DeYoung lets his hair down slightly on Christopher, Mr. Christopher that is a straightforward musical piece, - but the piece suffers from all those weird early lyrics.

Then we have JY. He shines the best on Southern Woman a pretty ambitious little Skynard Rocker that is a first for this Midwestern quintet. He also pulls off a couple other good pieces: the pompous A Man Like Me and the album opener Rock & Roll Feeling. He handles the title track pretty well that closes the album - but the piece suffers (again) from all those weird early lyrics.

Like Styx II, the band at least made the decision to stick with straight forward songs and not belabor the album with side long concepts or bizarre influxes of whatever seems hip at the time.

Things were about to get a lot better.





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