Styx I (1971)


1.Movement for the Common Man -Children of the Land -Street College -Fanfare for the Common Man -Mother Nature's Matinee 2.Right Away 3.Best Thing 4.After You Leave Me 5.What Has Come Between Us 6.After You Leave Me

 

The road to even modest success for the Midwestern Band that called themselves Styx would be an arduous journey indeed. It would be many years before they would make it to the mainstream, and they kept hope alive by touring incessantly and, through not really a fault of their own, recording and releasing mediocre albums.

The band consisted of founders Dennis DeYoung (Keyboards) and twins Chuck and John Panozzo (Bass and Drums) along with guitarists James (JY) Young and John Curelewski. DeYoung and the Panozzos actually began as a basement band back in 1963, so for them it had already been eight long years - although they weren't necessarily serious throughout most of that time - their gigs were mainly limited to high school gigs and playing for their families' weddings. So around 1971, probably any record deal looked good, and when they signed with a tiny label, called Wooden Nickel, for four albums, they would never receive the backing and support they would one day prove that they deserved.

Unfortunately, this freshmen effort doesn't offer anything memorable to their catalog, and is extremely uneven. You really can't even state that this was a typical "freshman" effort since the music is so scattered an unfocused. Most of the compositions featured here aren't even penned by the band members, although they may have lacked the confidence at this point in their career to write their own material. It should be mentioned that the one single, Best Thing, did in fact make the Billboard 100, peaking in the high 80's. It was probably a good thing since it probably gave the band the hope to stick it out for the long road that lay ahead.

The band, later known for ambitious concept pieces, attempts to try one on the very first track on this record titled Movement for the Common Man which lacks anything really substantial. The second part of this "symphony", Street College is nothing but overheard dialogue of working class middle aged men griping about the youth of the day. Are we supposed to agree with their sentiments? Or is the band trying to tell us how out of focus "old folks" are with understanding the new, hip generation? We're never quite sure. Musical influence here is minimal. The tackling of Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man is embarrassingly awful, especially since Emerson Lake & Palmer did a much better job transcribing it to the mainstream shortly around the same time. The saving grace to the suite is DeYoung's Mother Nature's Matinee, one of the few songs written by the band. This is a small dose of DeYoung's magic that would develop in later years to follow. It's very sweet, and he was already showing us that we would always be, first and foremost, a balladeer.

The rest of the album is nothing special and it should be pointed out that the record never made the transition to compact disc until the late 1990's. Like many freshmen efforts of many great bands, it took awhile for the band and the mainstream audience to connect. This is one for collectors - casual listeners should start elsewhere.

The cover is kinda cool - for early seventies'tastes, that is.


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