By Michael Pierce -

In the mind of this writer, and fan, Styx is the premier American Progressive Rock band. Their most recent album, The Mission, is their first album of new material in over a decade. They’re coming to St. Louis on July 8, with special guests Tesla and Joan Jett.

The Mission is an absolutely brilliant concept album about a journey to Mars.

I recently had the privilege of speaking with Styx bassist Ricky Phillips. We talked about the new record, the band, and a couple of other things.

Me – I’ve got to tell you, I’ve listened to this record many times, and, sonically, lyrically, musically, you guys have still got it.

Ricky – Well, thank you Michael. That’s nice of you to say. Yeah, this kind of came out of left field. Tommy had the idea, ran it by us, and it sounded kind of corny at first, to do a concept record in this day and age. But, you know the reality of the situation is, in our lifetime, we’re going to experience space travel to the planet Mars, and so, instead of it being some sort of a sci-fi fantasy, it’s going to be a reality. Tommy actually developed a relationship with NASA, which is kind of cool, because a lot of them come to our shows. He wanted to get the facts right, even though we’re not getting detailed, he wanted to make sure that the song lyrics were actually factual. So, it’s pretty cool. It’s a lot of fun to play the music. It’s a fun ride, and it’s definitely a Styx record. It’s got all those little earmarks, the lush harmonies and instrumentals. Signature changes, but not enough to make you feel like you’re in a music theory class. A lot of melody, and it tells a story. It’s kind of a fun story. It’s really not a story so much about space travel as it is about the people who are involved in these missions. And that’s where most good stories begin and end. It’s done very well. The week before last we were #64 on the Billboard chart, and it was just such a pleasant thing to have this be a success and people receive it so well. It’s very cool.

Me – I’m glad you brought up about The Mission not so much being about a trip to Mars, but about the people. Styx is known for some great classic love songs, but also for songs about people, and that brings me around to “The Greater Good,” my absolute favorite song on this album. Lyrics like ‘chance to be a man’ and ‘you can do this, c’mon’. It’s about struggles, but, you can do this…

Ricky – Yeah. If you go back to a song like “Fooling Yourself” it’s got a spirit of ‘come on, get over yourself, let’s get on with this.’ It’s a positive attitude. It’s looking at the world in a positive light. Whatever your situation is, you’re going to get much more out of your investment if you tackle it and go after it with a positive nature. Otherwise, you’re just on a downer. So, I think what you’re saying is a point well made, that The Mission is a continuation of that positive approach to life itself, and the challenges that you meet along your way.

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