Pieces of Eight (1978)

1.Great White Hope 2.I'm O.K. 3.Sing For The Day 4.The Message 5.Lords of the Ring 6.Blue Collar Man 7.Queen of Spades 8.Renegade 9.Pieces of Eight 10.Aku-Aku


After selling 3.5 million copies of the last release, The Grand Illusion, the band didn't have the courage to change anything around when they put this one together. This is a carbon copy of the last release in terms of style. It's just as good - and some would argue better then The Grand Illusion. We have mostly straight forward rock with a couple of songs that are a bit heavy on the synthesizer. Throw in a pipe organ and a dreamy instrumental as a closer and you have enough variety to pull it off - and pull it off they did quite well.

Although this was their only release in their heyday to not have a top ten single, pretty much everyone knows Blue Collar Man and Renegade, two of the best pieces by Tommy Shaw. There's no concept involved here, no underlying unity within the album, just some bad ass rock tunes. DeYoung doesn't drop the ball either with the window shattering I'm O.K. which utilized a cathedral's pipe organ and, one of the best Styx songs that never "made it", Queen of Spades that he co-wrote with James Young. Young starts off the album with a great explosion of an opener, Great White Hope that was actually recorded live somewhere, or so it sounds.

In the "we're still a mythological band" category is DeYoung's Lords of the Ring which, like Castlewalls from the last album, shows that the band can pull off a synthesizer heavy fantasy tune like the best of 'em. Shaw's Sing For The Day rivals Fooling Yourself (also from the last album) in terms of style. It comes complete with multi-layered quick paced acoustic guitars thundering behind DeYoungs ever present heavy keyboards. The closing piece (sans Aku-Aku) is a pretty DeYoung piece, called Pieces of Eight that seems to invoke (again) the previous album: "The search for the money tree/ Don't cash your freedoms in for gold".

As good as Dennis' work was on the album, this is really a Tommy album. Dennis admitted years later that he was less than satisfied with the work for reasons previously mentioned. He shouldn't come down so hard on himself. This was the last album that was a straightforward "rock" album. The band would become more "pop" oriented in the future, and whereas this would bring in millions of new fans, it also began to alienate some - even those within the band. It would soon be the best of times and the worst of times.

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