by Mike Mettler
Man of Miracles, Styx's fourth studio album, was released 42 years ago today on Wooden Nickel Records on November 8, 1974. Produced by John Ryan and Bill Traut and engineered by Gary Loizzo, Man of Miracles — which was named, as many Styx albums have been, by co-founding guitarist/vocalist James "JY" Young — showed the band beginning to stretch its creative muscles even further in the studio, albeit with its fair share of hits and misses. Miracles was recorded at Golden Voice Studios in South Pekin, Illinois and remixed at Paragon Recording Studios in Chicago, and it peaked at #154 on Billboard's Top 200 Albums chart. (Styx wouldn't find their true studio and songwriting footing until their next album, 1975's Equinox.)
"I love the opulence of the title song," says original Styx bassist Chuck Panozzo about "Man of Miracles" (which appears as the last track on the album). He then pauses to sing the main harmonic line from the chorus before adding, "Critics may have called it 'pomp rock,' but, well, I'm sorry — we’re musicians, and we wanted to use our skills to make sounds that were all our own." (Hear, hear...)
In addition to the uplifting title track, Miracles boasted one other bona-fide FM radio favorite: JY and John "JC" Curulewski's "Rock & Roll Feeling," which features the quite telling lyric, "But I can't play no nine to five game/Hanging loose is all I know." However, on the subsequent RCA pressing of the LP, the band's cover of The Knickerbockers' Beatlesque 1965 Top 20 hit single "Lies" was replaced at the start of Side 2 by JY and Dennis DeYoung's "Best Thing," a track originally found on their self-titled 1972 debut album. Not only that, but the 1980 cartoon-cover RCA reissue of the album — simply renamed Miracles — replaced "Best Thing" with DeYoung and Chuck Lofrano's "Unfinished Song," a track that later appeared on The Complete Wooden Nickel Recordings double CD featuring Styx's first four albums in full, which was released by Hip-O Records/UMe in 2005. (Can't tell your Miracleswithout a scorecard, apparently...)
The striking painted cover art by Leon Rosenblatt (ID'ed as "Lee" on the back cover) is of a white-bearded grand wizard, seen manipulating by hand and/or other mystical forces the planet Saturn and an array of six of its moons. This design made a fairly recent callback/comeback as the main image on the front of a powder-blue t-shirt sold during the 2013-14 North American Tour. And if you look closely, you may also find the Miracles wizard in the background of some other more recent official Styx t-shirt designs — so happy hunting!
He was a man of miracles, riding golden meteorites...