Cyclorama Turns 20 Today!
Celebrating the ongoing resonance of Styx’s first full-length studio album of the 2000s, which was released on February 18, 2003.
by Mike Mettler, resident Styxologist
Cyclorama, Styx’s 14th studio album and their first full-length collection of all-original material of the 2000s, was released 20 years ago today on February 18, 2003 by Sanctuary/CMC International. The album was produced by Tommy Shaw, James Young, and Gary Loizzo, and it contains such enduring tracks as “One With Everything,” “These Are the Times,” “Yes I Can,” “More Love for the Money,” and “Fields of the Brave.”
Cyclorama — which also saw a wonderfully enveloping 5.1 surround-sound mix done by the late, great Loizzo for both the DVD-Audio and DualDisc formats via the Silverline label — reached No. 127 on The Billboard 200 Albums chart. On the singles front, “Waiting for Our Time” reached No. 37 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. Cyclorama wouldn’t be followed up by another all-original Styx studio album until 14 years later, with the June 2017 release of The Mission.
Almost 30 months ago to the day — at 12 p.m. Eastern time on August 21, 2020, to be exact — a new animated lyric video treatment for the aforementioned “These Are the Times” was unveiled on Styx’s YouTube channel to coincide with Cyclorama’s 2020 debut on all major download and streaming platforms. The video was directed by longtime band associate Steve Jones, a lifelong friend of co-founding guitarist/vocalist James “JY” Young. Jones also happens to be an accomplished film producer to boot (see Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and Mad Dog and Glory, to name but a few). If you haven’t seen the gripping “These Are the Times” clip yet, or would like to revisit it like you know you should, you can check it out here.
JY continues to have great admiration for “These Are the Times,” as he recently told me when we talked about the videoclip. “It’s a really great song, and I had kind of forgotten about it because Cyclorama was really kind of lost,” JY admits. “So, the notion of turning that song into a video was really [Styx manager] Charlie Brusco’s idea, but it was inspired by the video for ‘Brave New World’ [another Steve Jones creation that premiered on Styx’s YouTube channel back on July 23, 2020, which you can watch right here]. You know, we have some really great songs that we now have the ability to make great videos for, dirt cheap!” JY concludes with his signature laugh. “And I just really wanted to do something here with that one.”
In a Styxworld exclusive, in addition to some more comments from JY, guitarist/vocalist Tommy Shaw, keyboardist/vocalist Lawrence Gowan, drummer Todd Sucherman, former bandmember Glen Burtnik, the late producer Gary Loizzo, the late drum tech Paul Carrizzo, and lighting director/designer Libby Gray all chime in to tell us the tale of how Cyclorama came to be, and how it continues to live on in our hearts and minds today. Somewhere down the road that we follow / We’ll be one with everything. . .
Tommy Shaw: Cyclorama was a fun record to make. It was a real “California experience” type of record. We recorded some of the vocals standing outside. That was in my home studio up in Beachwood Canyon in Los Angeles, where I lived for quite a few years before moving to Nashville. After we released the album, we went on a great tour with Journey and REO Speedwagon, and sold out arenas all across the country [from May to August 2003].
Lawrence [Gowan] had been in the band for three years at that point, and it was our first album with him. We didn’t realize it at the time, but Glen [Burtnik] would be leaving that year around my birthday in September, and that was when [bassist/vocalist] Ricky Phillips came into the picture. [Ricky joined Styx fulltime in October 2003.]
I remember both Lawrence and me standing underneath a palm tree, getting this great vocal sound outside. It’s something we learned from [Damn Yankees producer/engineer] Ron Nevison, who had told us about recording Paul Rodgers outside singing the song “Bad Company.” So, we tried it — and we loved it.
Lawrence Gowan: Since 2010, a lot of Styx fans in the U.S. have said to me, “How come you don’t do solo shows in America?” So, in 2015, I began doing some solo shows in the States where I combined material from my solo life with some Styx songs. I don’t know why, but I had overlooked playing some songs from Cyclorama, and it was amazing how many people were yelling out for “More Love for the Money” and “Fields of the Brave.”
Now, I hadn’t played those songs in so many years. I took a stab at “More Love for the Money,” and that went well. It was a learning thing for me, and it was the first time I had done a full solo show in the United States [in Nottingham, Maryland, on December 16, 2015]. I realized that, for a lot of the audience, Cyclorama is in their lexicon as much as anything is from the Styx catalog, so I better address that, you know? Once I got another chance to do the solo thing again, I began thinking about including those songs in my solo sets in their full versions.
Tommy Shaw: We had a great time jamming on those songs. “One With Everything” was this amazing song that went through all sorts of changes. It had a different name at first — something crazy, like “My Beautiful Pompeii.” That was one of those songs where my wife Jeanne would come over and I’d say, “Listen to this song!” We’d start playing it and she’d go, “What the hell — ‘Pompeii’? What??” (laughs heartily) We realized at that point in our enthusiastic joy of creating this great piece of music that we hadn’t really thought about what we were singing! (laughs again)
So, there was a quick rewrite to “One With Everything” — which actually had a great deal of meaning. It’s one of our favorite things to play whenever we can fit it into the set, especially because of the great, progressive middle section that’s in there.
Todd Sucherman: I might be biased, but Cyclorama really surpassed my expectations. In fact, some of the more overt moments on [June 2021’s] Crash of the Crown are probably the most overt I’ve done since the big fills I did on “One With Everything.” And everyone in the band really shines on that track. It’s an epic piece that was really something to work on. There’s definitely a tip of the hat to the prog/art rock side of the band on that one.
Paul Carrizzo (Todd Sucherman’s drum tech for 20-plus years who sadly passed away in March 2022): When we did the Cyclorama album, Todd, Tommy, and JY all said they wanted Paulie in the studio. I was new in the camp, and I wasn’t yet familiar with the songs — but the thing I said to each of them was, “Give me a song you want this snare drum to sound like. Name a song familiar to you so I can have that kind of snare drum in mind — and I’ll get it for you.” And that’s we did.
Tommy Shaw: “Yes I Can” was another one of those California-based songs. The imagery is the California scene. And speaking of California, our friend Billy Bob Thornton makes an appearance [doing lead vocals on “Bourgeois Pig”], and Tenacious D is in there somewhere too! [Jack Black and Kyle Gass — a.k.a. Tenacious D — appear on the hidden track “The Chosen One,” which follows directly after “Genki Desu Ka.”]
Right up until we began incorporating songs from The Mission into our set a few years ago, we used the song “Genki Desu Ka” as our walk-off music. “Genki Desu Ka” is Japanese — a very polite way of saying, “Do you feel good?”
Todd Sucherman: When Styx did Live With Regis and Kelly [on July 29, 2003] to perform “Yes I Can,” we were sort of like the house band. I was like the MD [musical director] calling the bumpers [the music the band played during the commercial breaks] in and out back then, so I knew what I was getting myself into once I got the call to be a guest drummer on Late Night With Seth Meyers [in 2018, and again in 2020].
Tommy Shaw: Cyclorama also had this great Storm Thorgerson album cover, our final Storm album cover. He and his team did [September 1978’s] Pieces of Eight as well. We were proud to be associated with him and his great, iconic album covers.
[Your Styxologist clarifies: Storm Thorgerson, who passed away on April 18, 2013, is perhaps best known for designing album covers and related artwork for the likes of Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin with partner Aubrey Powell in the British graphic design firm Hipgnosis. For his part, Powell was directly involved in the Pieces of Eight cover design.]
Libby Gray (longtime Styx lighting director/designer): During “Too Much Time on My Hands” in our live show, it probably doesn’t register to the casual fan it’s the Cyclorama bunny clock that’s up there for five or six seconds on the video wall. It probably doesn’t register that the clock spinning around is on the cover art for the Cyclorama album — and that’s ok. I’m not going to put the word Cyclorama under it, and I’m not gonna hit you over the head with it. But it’s a gift for the people who do understand, and then go (exclaims), “Really! Wow!! I haven’t seen that cover in about 10 years!”
Glen Burtnik (bassist/guitarist/vocalist who also sang lead vocals on “Kiss Your Ass Goodbye” and “Killing the Thing That You Love,” and ultimately left Styx in September 2003): The thing with Cyclorama is, that was a really excellent experience. I think it’s a really good album. It was a real collaboration, especially “One With Everything.” That was a real collaboration between everyone in the band. All of us were involved in that one. I enjoyed that experience, and I think Todd [Sucherman] plays great on it. Yeah, I like that album a lot. It’s probably my favorite Styx album. (laughs) It was a pleasure to be in Styx, and probably the most professional act I’ve ever worked with. It’s a good machine. It’s a very impressive run this band from the Midwest has had.
Gary Loizzo (Styx’s longtime producer/live engineer who passed away from cancer in January 2016): Tommy — he’s always into experimenting. (laughs) That’s just the way he is, and it always worked out for the best — especially on our later records, like Cyclorama. To me, Cyclorama was one of the better records we recorded. Never to be heard, really — but I know I enjoyed it when I recorded it, and that was the closest I ever was with the band. A truly, truly great experience. I enjoyed working with Glen Burtnik too. What a great talent.
There’s great songwriting on Cyclorama, with a great representation of sounds. They were experimenting with many really good musical ideas. I really, really enjoyed that album, and I think it never got the recognition I think it deserved.
James “JY” Young: Cyclorama is a great record. But there was just no way for it to get traction back in those days.
Tommy Shaw: Cyclorama was kind of an experimental record, just to see where we were as a band after having reformed in 1999. We were stretching our legs in the studio, and there was a lot of growth and moving forward. That’s how I look at that album. Whenever I think of Cyclorama, it puts a smile on my face.