As 2013 begins to wind its way to a close, it’s been another busy year for the “rock band Styx,” which is how founding member and guitarist James “JY” Young refers to the legendary group when identifying himself at the beginning of our phone conversation.

The band continued their successful ‘Midwest Rock ‘n’ Roll Express’ tour this year, which debuted in 2012 with the triple threat of Styx, REO Speedwagon and Ted Nugent, adding a second round of tour dateswhich brought their rock and roll mission to additional markets in the early part of the year. From there, the band would go on to play further shows as part of the ongoing road saga which has kept Styx on concert stages worldwide for 100+ dates each year since 1999, with hardly any breaks in the action.

They’ll finish out the year with even more shows prior to announcing their plans for more road work in the new year. Young was appropriately elusive when we asked about the forthcoming announcement, saying that “we can’t talk about it yet, but people will be pleased with it.” They’re even “threatening to maybe record a [new] song or two,” but Young cautions that there are no concrete plans yet in regards to that possible new music. What he will state with no hesitation is that the band still loves what they do, “so we’re not retiring and we’re not going away!”

Fair enough. In the interim, it seemed like a good time to dig into the four decades of history that have carried the band this far. When you look at the albums that this band has done through the years, there’s no shortage of topics and Young was more than happy to discuss it all at length.

We wanted to ask you about the latest DVD, featuring the full album performances of ‘The Grand Illusion’ and ‘Pieces of Eight’ albums. It had to be a bit surreal, digging into past work like that, playing a few songs that you probably thought you’d never play live. With multiple songwriters contributing to those albums, you had an interesting melting pot of sounds — something which has been a constant thing with Styx.

The beauty of the creative team back then is that we were different. We were all different individuals and so everything that creatively came out was really held to very high standards from a dozen different angles as opposed to everyone playing the same thing and it all sounds like second-rate AC/DC or something like that. There was lots of layers to what we did both musically and arrangement-wise and the amazing thing is that the work really seems to have wonderfully withstood the test of time and young people are turning onto it now even. Knock on this thing that looks like wood here, it’s been pretty good.

‘The Grand Illusion’ album would bring the first of two straight triple platinum albums. Starting with ‘The Grand Illusion’ album, it’s staggering when you look at the track listing for that album now. Did it feel like you had captured something different when you finished recording that album?

I think we all knew that this was our best work to that point and there was a very cohesive thing [which was immediately visible] from the title of the record — there was a resonance there of a concept album or whatever, so I think we felt like we really had captured something. I mean, we felt like we’d captured something with ‘Crystal Ball’ as well, which was Tommy’s first record with us, but you’re in some ways in competition with the other acts on your label.

The year we released ‘Crystal Ball’ was when [Peter] Frampton released ‘Frampton Comes Alive’ and [with] A&M, our wonderful record company, it was pretty clear that they had piled all of their assets over in Peter Frampton’s corner, because they were going to try to hit that one out of the park and they did. We had to sort of bide our time and do our work but it ultimately forced us to do that much better on the next record. ‘The Grand Illusion’ was the seventh record released on the seventh month of the seventh year of the seventh decade of the 20th century and it was crazy, wonderful good.

When you speak of biding your time, you guys definitely paid a lot of dues in those early years, though. It seems like it really must have taken a lot of belief in the overall mission to keep going and not lose faith in what you had going on. You recorded a lot of albums before any real success came along.

Well, we started out from a sort of uninformed and naive spot. The crazy thing was that the very first song that was released got right on the Billboard Hot 100. ‘Best Thing’ charted at No. 88 the first week with a bullet and then the next week it was 88 without a bullet and then the next week it was gone! The next time that we had something on the charts was really ‘Lady,’ which the first time it was released, it didn’t really get any push and didn’t get any respect. So we just had to go out and continue to play it live. I should say that ‘Lady’ actually did become a hit in three small places — Rapid City, South Dakota; Little Rock, Arkansas, and Provo, Utah. So that gave us an indication that we had something. We just kept at it and made our third record, ‘The Serpent Is Rising,’ which was very esoteric in comparison to the previous two [albums] and then ‘Man of Miracles’ [came out].

But ultimately when we went in to try and get ‘Man of Miracles’ played at our local radio station, they said “well, we’re not going to play anything from that, but that song ‘Lady’ of yours that came out two years ago, that’s a hit that didn’t get promoted” and WLS Radio in Chicago said “we’re going to play it once a night until it is a hit.” They were 50,000 watts, clear channel at the 890 AM frequency coming out of Chicago. You could hear it in Daytona Beach, for God’s sake. That set the whole box of wood on fire.

The band put in an unbelievable amount of work in the ‘70s, recording and releasing nine albums between 1972 and 1979. When you factor in shows, how did you pull that off?

Back then it just seemed like that was what we were supposed to do. That’s just what we did and we were really still honing our recording craft until we got to ‘Equinox’ and then there was a personnel change and Tommy [Shaw] came in and we had to sort of get [him] integrated and get to know each other there. ‘The Grand Illusion’ was the result of all of that and then [with] all of that pent-up 20-something year-old testosterone still flowing through all of our veins, we were just moving forward and whatever we were supposed to do next, we did next and it came out pretty good.

Starting somewhere in the middle with ‘Crystal Ball,’ ‘The Grand Illusion,’ ‘Pieces of Eight’ and ‘Cornerstone,’ you would expect that at the pace that you guys were moving that with one of those records, things might have gotten creatively compromised as a result of everything that you had going on.

Well, as we became more in-demand as a concert act, there was less time to be home and do what we do and get time off. It definitely took its toll on the interpersonal relationships between the band members. We had some troubles during ‘Cornerstone’ and ‘Paradise Theater’ went smoothly, but then after that we had more troubles and ‘Kilroy Was Here’ was the left turn on the steering wheel that kind of shocked the majority of our fanbase but ironically sort of helped spawn the next generation of Styx fans.

You guys came out at a good time because there were really no limits to what you could try it would seem like. You were only limited maybe by technology and even then, it seems like there was a lot of stretching to do whatever you could do.

Really, it was a time where considering that pop radio had typically been three-minute singles back in the ‘50s and ‘60s and then things would get stretched out a little bit [in the ‘70s]. In the spirit of ‘Stairway To Heaven,’ [with] ‘Come Sail Away,’ they wanted us to do an edit for radio and we did do an edit. That was supplied to radio stations, but most of them at the Top 40 level opted to play the six minute version, which blew our minds and we really said “wow, if our work is that good, then that bodes well for us.” Obviously, ‘The Grand Illusion’ was our biggest selling record and that was a great moment in time, creatively.

With so many songwriters in the band, how easy was it for you to find your place where you fit in, to be able to get your shots in with songs like ‘Miss America’ and ‘Great White Hope.’ How easy was it to get your place?

Those guys would always be out of the gate way ahead of me and I was maybe more concerned with paying attention to what was going on on the business side and the promotional side and less motivated to go into a room by myself and do what I did. Tommy and Dennis [DeYoung] actually having great lead vocal voices, whereas mine is sort of not as versatile of a tool as their voices were.

I sort of felt limited by what I thought I sounded good seeing that it’s kind of easier when you’re writing when you know you’re going to sing it yourself. So be that as they may, they were just more motivated writers and I was more involved [in other ways] — obviously, I played my guitar a lot. I was more concerned with the big picture and they were concerned with writing great material. Eventually, I’d get pulled into the process and get involved and something would happen, but I was not the guy who was going to sit down and write two albums worth of stuff. I basically got a couple of songs every record and had some help doing it.

I’d say that you contributed an important piece beyond the guitar work though, because the songs that you contributed really helped to add to the rock side of Styx that I think sometimes gets overlooked.

Well yes, I mean, I’m a pure rocker and in many ways, the skill set of the band didn’t lend itself to pure rock exactly. If I’d had a voice that had a little bit more bluesy soulful [feel] as opposed to the screaming white man, I probably would have been more prolific with it. But definitely, heavy rock is my favorite thing. I saw [Jimi] Hendrix play five times and I saw the Jeff Beck Group when Rod Stewart was on lead vocals and Ron Wood was the bass player. I [also] saw the Who a number of times live and that was really more the music that I wanted to do. But Dennis had far more pop melodic leanings than I did and even Tommy was more of an R&B/pop guy who could rock with the best of them. So all kinds of different things came out of Tommy and Dennis. My stuff was more narrow, because the few things that I did write, I wanted to make sure that the band had a rock edge presented on every record.

That’s really what I enjoyed about the DVD is that it is a good reminder of Styx, the rock band, which is something I know that you guys have really emphasized since the band came back. Certainly, it can’t hurt having a powerhouse drummer like Todd Sucherman in your wheelhouse like that.

Well, God bless and God rest John Panozzo. He was really extremely strong behind the drumkit. He did a wonderful drum solo in a number of the sets that we would do live. Todd has fusion level chops and I mean, he was voted No. 1 rock drummer in the 2009 Readers’ Poll of Modern Drummer magazine. I don’t think John Panozzo ever made the top ten. John was obviously strong enough and talented enough to carry us a long way, but Todd grew up on our music, living in Chicago and it’s like having a new engine under the hood of this race car and I just love taking it out for a ride.

When you look back at the songs, is there a Styx song that you thought would do better? One that got away?

There was a song that was off our fourth album, ‘Man of Miracles,’ which basically got buried, called ‘Rock & Roll Feeling,’ which I was the lead vocalist on. It had kind of a Bachman-Turner-Overdrive feel to it, you know, [it was a] Bachman-Turner/Doobie Brothers guitar driven feel good [type of] rock and roll song. The record company liked it enough to even have us remix it, which we did and there was going to be a big push on that and I think that was going to be the lead single from the record, but then ‘Lady’ took off, so ‘Man of Miracles’ just got buried. It was probably the one pop song where I could have been lead vocalist and co-author of that in 1974 had a shot at making some noise.

But ‘Lady’ took over and then they decided to release a second single from ‘Styx II’ [called] ‘You Need Love,’ which ironically Dennis wrote and I sang. But ‘Lady’ was the magic on that thing. We still had our original manager with us and ultimately at the end of that whole process we’d had a Top 10 single in every city across the country. In most every city, it went to No. 1, actually and the ‘Styx II’ album became a gold record. As the single fell off the charts, the album kind of followed it down the charts. A couple of months later, we had never been on a national tour and it looked like there was a great opportunity that we had not capitalized on for whatever reason, so we decided to change management. It was all for the better, because then we got to A&M and we had to pay a price to change horses midstream, but ultimately it was very well worth it because A&M was clearly the spot we needed to be. They embraced us and we went onto great things there.

You mentioned the possibility of some new songs. What sort of writing has been going on in recent times. Can you talk about that?

Well, there’s a variety of different things. Tommy went and did a bluegrass record with Alison Krauss. He writes some stuff with Jack Blades and he makes these covers albums with Jack. There’s one new song that we never really got any push behind, ‘Difference In The World,’ that Tommy wrote. It’s kind of a minor key lament in a way, but it’s got a little bit of a rock edge to it. It’s a very nice song, but we were without a label. There’s no real plan and as we look out there, even the likes of McCartney and the Rolling Stones put out a new record and you never hear it on the radio. Journey, Foreigner, REO Speedwagon and Heart have all put out new studio albums in the last few years and you never heard one track ever on the radio.

So the incentive is dramatically diminished and we’re finding that our career has actually grown with these great DVDs that we’ve applied ourselves to, taking advantage of what we can do with the visual medium. But I think now, the picture is much clearer that you can do one great song at a time, go back to the ‘50s and do singles and make a great low-budget but clever and fun video and put it on our website and if it’s meant to catch fire, it will. If it’s not, we haven’t spent a billion dollars to try and push one track out there.

It’s a matter of having fun with the creative process to do something great and get it out there and see what happens. I think when we finally get around to it, we will do that, but it seems like there’s no great rush. We stay so busy on the road — we’ve toured constantly since July of ‘99, playing 110 shows a year. Our audience is out there on the live concert stage. Eventually, we’ll find the right thing and we’ll get that side of our career going again, but I just haven’t felt as if it was the right moment in time yet.

Is there anything else we need to cover?

No, I think that in my own personal opinion, the incarnation of Styx that [is currently] onstage, is the best version of this band that’s ever taken the stage. There’s just an incredible joy for all of us to be there and to perform. In my 40-some years of making records and touring like this, I realize that music has this incredible power that comes from a higher place and it’s channeled through myself and my bandmates.

We bring that incredible thing that we do collectively that we all possess on some small level. But when we do it together, it’s like this magical, joyful thing. I like to tell people that we have a semi trailer filled with toys and a bus filled with people to set up those toys and we just get to go play with them for an hour and a half. It’s just like we’re kids in a candy store. The crowd senses the joy that’s emanating from the stage and they reflect it back and it goes back and forth and by the end of the night, we’re all surfing this giant wave of joy and what’s to not like about that? Retirement? Never!


July 9, 2013 -- The April/May “The Midwest Rock ‘N Roll Express” tour with STYX, REO Speedwagonand Ted Nugent was successful in more ways than one. STYX and REO Speedwagon’s Rock to the Rescue charity organization not only raised thousands of dollars for local charities at each tour stop, but they also raised $108,000 which will go directly to the Boston One Fund, helping victims of the Boston marathon bombings.

Donations were collected along the 21-date trek when fans purchased a silent raffle ticket to win a guitar signed by all three acts.

"Like all Americans, we have watched the events in Boston and wondered what we could do to help. We know the fans of all three bands will once again rise with us to help our friends in Boston. We Are Boston!” -- STYX

"We feel such sadness for those innocent people in Boston who have suffered so much and are still suffering now. We think of those victims of senseless violence as we sign the guitar which is to be donated on their behalf each night. In our small way, we do what we do." -- REO Speedwagon

“The Nugent band and family are surrounded by Americans who care deeply about each other and are dedicated to give all we got in times of need. We again face a tragedy that we can all help with, and are proud of this charitable heart and soul effort.” – Ted Nugent

Spearheaded by Tommy Shaw’s daughter, Hannah Shaw, Rock to the Rescue is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, whose mission is to build strong, healthy communities through the support of grassroots organizations across the country. As of last year, at every STYX tour date Rock to the Rescue partners with a local group to give back through community outreach, fundraising, and volunteer support.

Rock to the Rescue originally started in 2001 as a result of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and is the brainchild of STYX singer/guitarist Tommy Shaw and REO Speedwagon singer/keyboardist/guitarist Kevin Cronin. The two musicians brought together bands and artists such as Bad Company, Journey, Survivor, Kansas, Lynyrd Skynyrd and many others to be part of “Volunteers For America” concert events in Dallas and Atlanta that ultimately raised over $775,000 for victims of 9/11, as well as the Port Authority police department in New York City. For more info:

New York, NY (April 25, 2013)—On November 9, 2010, Styx brought two of their most revered albums, 1977’s The Grand Illusion and 1978’s Pieces Of Eight to the stage at the historic Orpheum Theater in Memphis, Tennessee. Eagle Rock Entertainment will release this concert, The Grand Illusion/Pieces Of Eight Live, as a 2CD set on May 7, 2013. [

The Grand Illusion and Pieces Of Eight were both multi-platinum masterpieces that established Styx as a globally successfully rock act. This was the first time these albums were played live in their entirety. Showcasing the scope and sheer magnitude of the Styx sound, Tommy Shaw (vocals, guitars), James “J.Y.” Young (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Todd Sucherman (drums), Lawrence Gowan (vocals, keyboards), Ricky Phillips (bass, backing vocals), and Chuck Panozzo (bass guitar) perfectly portrayed what made their music so groundbreaking.

Since their 1972 inception, Styx has sold millions of records worldwide, and defined the AOR genre for a generation of fans. Known for melding the elements of prog-rock with searing hard rock guitar and stellar songwriting, the band has produced such beloved hits as “Renegade,” and “Come Sail Away.” The Grand Illusion/Pieces Of Eight Live is a fitting representation of an incredible career.

Eagle Rock previously released this concert on DVD, Blu-ray, and DVD/CD in January 2012.

Eagle Rock Entertainment is the largest producer and distributor of music programming for DVD, Blu-Ray, TV, Audio and Digital Media in the world. Eagle works directly alongside talent to produce top quality, High Definition and 3D programs, both concerts and documentaries, including The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, The Who, Queen, The Doors, Jeff Beck, U2, Peter Gabriel, Paul McCartney and Ozzy Osbourne. Eagle is a Grammy Award winning company and has received over 30 multi-platinum, over 50 platinum and over 90 gold discs, worldwide. Eagle Rock Entertainment has offices in London, New York, Toronto, Paris and Hamburg.


At every stop along "The Midwest Rock 'N' Roll Express" tour with STYX, REO Speedwagon and Ted Nugent, which kicked off in Grand Forks, ND last week at the Ralph Englestad Arena, STYX's Rock to the Rescue charity organization will be giving away a guitar signed by all three acts as part of a silent raffle. 75% of the proceeds will be donated to a local charity in Boston to help victims of the recent explosions. The remaining 25% will be given to local charities in the respective tour market.

"Like all Americans, we have watched the events in Boston and wondered what we could do to help. We know the fans of all three bands will once again rise up with us to help our friends in Boston. We Are Boston!" --STYX

"We feel such sadness for those innocent people in Boston who have suffered so much and are still suffering now. We think of those victims of senseless violence as we sign the gutar which is to be donated on their behalf each night. In our small way, we do what we do." --REO Speedwagon

"The Nugent band and family are surrounded by Americans who care deeply about each other and are dedicated to give all we got in times of need. We again face a tragedy that we can all help with, and are proud of this charitable heart and soul effort." --Ted Nugent

Spearheaded by Tommy Shaw's daughter, Hannah Shaw, Rock to the Rescue is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, whose mission is to build strong, healthy communities through the support of grassroots organizations across the country. As of last year, at every STYX tour date Rock to the Rescue partners with a local group to give back thorugh community outreach, fundraising, and volunteer support.

Rock to the Rescue originally started in 2001 as a result of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and is the brainchild of STYX singer/guitarist Tommy Shaw and REO Speedwagon singer/keyboardist/guitarist Kevin Cronin. The two musicians brought together bands and artists such as Bad Company, Journey, Survivor, Kansas, Lynyrd Skynyrd and many others to be a part of "Volunteers for America" concert events in Dallas and Atlanta that ultimately raised over $775,000 for victims of 9/11, as well as the Port Authority police department in New York City.

On Wednesday, April 3, 2013, Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr. (D-Brownsville) will welcome Mr. Ricky Phillips, bass guitar player for STYX, to the Texas Senate. Mr. Phillips will be honored on the Senate floor with a resoluation commemorating his musical career.

"Mr. Phillips' music has touched the lives of millions of people across the globe for more than forty years. Now, he calls Texas home. I am delighted to welcome Mr. Phillips to the Senate," Senator Lucio said.

Prior to joining STYX, Mr. Phillips has performed with The Babys, Bad English, Jimmy Page, David Coverdale, Ronnie Montrose, Ted Nugent and Eddie Money.

It's a moment that could easily go unnoticed amid the tension-building cacophony of Styx's current concert-opening intro chorus.

But discerning fans should take note when guitarist James "JY" Young stoically strolls to the center of a mostly darkened stage Wednesday night near the tail end of the introductory video sequence and purposefully points to the nether regions of the sold-out Covey Center. The gesture is Young's homage to Babe Ruth famously calling his shot in the 1932 World Series -- but the real historical accomplishment is that the moment will mark the first time the "Godfather of Styx," as fellow guitarist Tommy Shaw often refers to him, has stepped on a stage in Provo in nearly 39 years.

That fact would not necessarily be of import were it not for the somewhat umbilical relationship between the one-time Chicago-based rock band and the hub of Utah County specifically, and the Beehive State in general.

That's because before Styx went on to chart 14 Top 30 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 and sell millions of albums during a magical run in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the band had a hit tune in exactly three towns, with Provo being one of them. Not only that, but several years before they graced sold-out concert stages at arenas from coast to coast, flying between cities and showing up to gigs in limousines, the members of Styx traveled 1,300 miles in a rented motor home to play their first -- and only to date -- show in Provo proper.

Styx performed at a local venue called the Ice House on Dec. 1, 1973. It's not often that an eventual bona fide star act travels cross country to play in a little local concert hall in a place like Provo -- and Styx's Ice House appearance has lived on in local concert lore throughout the intervening years.

While Styx has not played in Provo since then, the band has been to just about every other corner of the state, from St. George to Logan and Wendover to neighboring Orem. In fact, it's a safe bet to say that Styx has played more different venues in Utah than any other national touring band.

It's no stretch to say that despite the band's worldwide travels and an extensive turnover in members between then and now -- Young and part-time bass player Chuck Panozzo are the only originals -- Provo still holds a soft spot in Styx history.

"Oh, tremendously," said Young in a recent phone interview. "I mean, the first time, I can even remember back in my teenage years when myself as a musician got recognized in any way shape or form, those things sort of stay with you. The band that I had with my brother that was sort of a precursor to Styx, all those things, every little milestone that we had, are the kind of things that you'll never forget. And particularly Utah, which just is a unique place unto itself for a variety of reasons, yeah, and the trips back and forth that were filled with drama -- all those things just kind of will always be with me."

In light of Styx's return to Provo on Wednesday, which just happens to also mark Young's 63rd birthday, we thought it would be enlightening to revisit the band's legendary Ice House concert and the events that led to it.

Read the entire story HERE!

Read an expanded Q&A between Doug and JY HERE!

The Midwest prog-rock band known as Styx has a history that looms so large, the band always found it hard to put new music over all of its hits of yore. It’s not fair at all, because the records have been more than solid, not surprising given the songwriting talent in the band, starting with guitar duo Tommy Shaw and James “JY” Young, and continuing through the Canuck force on the keyboards, Larry Gowan, a respected solo artist in his own right.

But in the spirit of giving the fans what they so richly remember as a magic spot in their lives and in music in general, Styx has gone straight at the goods like a locomotive, crafting the plush DVD “The Grand Illusion/Pieces Of Eight Live.” As alluded to in the title, what we’ve got here is a celebration of both albums in their entirety, captured on tour in 2010. And what a one-two punch: “The Grand Illusion,” released in July 1977, and “Pieces Of Eight,” issued in September 1978, both went triple platinum in the U.S., with the carryover causing “Cornerstone” to go double platinum, “Paradise Theater” to reach triple platinum and “Kilroy Was Here” to attain platinum status before the band collapsed and took a long hiatus. Acrimony with previous keyboardist Dennis DeYoung spilled into the courts, and the band never completely recovered.

“We obviously had finally figured out who we were and what we were supposed to be doing,” muses JY, asked to give us a glimpse into the band’s past, specifically, why these two records hold such sway within classic rock legend. “Tommy had just joined the band, with the departure of John Curulewski after the ‘Equinox’ album. Tommy was the replacement, and ‘Crystal Ball’ was him getting to know us and us getting to know him — very talented guy. And it all came together for ‘Grand Illusion,’ which was our biggest-selling record. On that record, we were more in sync, personally and professionally as individuals, than we ever were before or after. I think it really shows. And then ‘Pieces Of Eight’ has, I think, the two best rock songs that Styx ever did in ‘Renegade’ and ‘Blue Collar Man.’ And then for this, our manager sort of polled our fan club base and what have you, and we looked at the songs that were still in our set that we enjoyed playing, and that get a great response. And, I mean, those two albums held the bulk — not all of them, not everything, certainly — but a large chunk of songs we play every night are from those two records.”

Both records are loose concept albums about integrity and creative ideals, with “Pieces Of Eight” introducing the lure of money into the mix. The economic malaise of the late 1970s was part of it, too, something that resonates when Styx plays some of these songs today.

When Styx guitarist James 'JY' Young (center, with bassist Chuck Panozzo, left, and Tommy Shaw, right) writes his memoir, he says he'll title it "Confessions of a Third-Chair Clarinetist," according to his biography at Young learned to play piano and clarinet — both of which he says he hated practing. He and his brother, Rick, pooled their money and bought a guitar to share in the summer of 1964, and the rest is history.

“Certainly ‘Blue Collar Man’ is kind of ironic,” Young agrees. “That song is based on a friend of Tommy’s who desperately wanted to get a job and couldn’t find a job and hated being in the unemployment line, and he sort of related these things to Tommy. So, lyrically, it was inspired by a friend and his trials and tribulations, in the sense of being unemployed and how that made him feel. And so, unfortunately, it seems like the typical nature of the economy, that it’s going to go through good and bad phases, and we’re clearly in a downturn here. I mean, you can’t count on these things. You don’t even really think about it sometimes. You’re performing in front of an audience, and you see how they respond to it, and I think we’re doing a great job of performing it. But, yes, I think one of the reasons the crowd is responding to it is that it’s a resonant thing now. The money is not there, and the search for the money tree is just something that gets in the way a lot of times in a capitalist situation or in any situation. So there’s a certain resonance, yes.”

“Grand Illusion” has taken on a different type of resonance, “because it’s an escapist album in a way,” Young says. “ ‘Come Sail Away,’ anyway, is certainly an escapist song. But ‘Grand Illusion’ as a whole is certainly talking about everything you see on the television. Now, more than ever, with the Internet and everything going viral immediately, there’s more communication across the planet than there’s ever been. But all that fame-based stuff that is flying by you at light speed on your television, on your smartphone or what have you, isn’t necessarily a substantive thing.”

But for all the lyrical heft placed over irresistible hooks, high-fidelity production and dramatic performances, back in the late ’70s, Styx had to get out there and sell the band’s music, just as it is doing so capably now, duking it out on the road with some of the greats of classic rock. The band found itself gamely competing with Thin Lizzy, Journey, Rush, UFO, Blue Öyster Cult and Ted Nugent, to name a few. But there was one band that really forced Styx to step up its game.

“Aerosmith was a band I definitely looked up to, that I thought had really gotten out ahead of us,” Young explains. “I really dug the toughness of the guitar-bass nature of their sound. And the true irony was that they were sort of going through their first meltdown when our ‘Grand Illusion’ album was peaking on the charts, and we were put on as an opening act on a tour with them in the Northeast. And we were loaded for bear. The guys from Extreme, who are from the Boston area, they said they went to that show, and Styx just came along and killed everybody in their opening 60-minute set. And Aerosmith came out, and they were fighting on stage and all drugged out; we kind of stole the night pretty much every night back then. I don’t know; we were five young men that definitely were willing to go far out of our comfort zone to find the pathway of opportunity, and we managed to do some great work.”

“And the soil was very fertile then,” he continues. “Radio was very fertile, on a number of different angles. A song like ‘Renegade’ now is being used by the Pittsburgh Steelers, has been for the last 10 years, to fire up their fan base at Steelers home games. But that was an era when there was great opportunity and there was a lot of radio. It was a time when Top 40 radio or pop radio went from playing three-minute songs that were sped up, to all of a sudden embracing a six-minute ‘Come Sail Away.’ And for us, it was a magical time, because that creative thing that started in the ’60s, with the British Invasion with bands like Cream and what have you, ultimately became mainstream, in kind of a crazy, wonderful way.”

Give credit to radio, because it was actually quite hard to classify Styx. In the context of the day, the band was considered quite hard rock, and also somewhat a part of the small progressive-rock fraternity (anchored by Kansas), until it was decided that the band would spearhead a new genre: pomp rock!“Well, I suppose that there was an element of pomp,” laughs James. “I mean, ‘Lords Of The Ring’ (laughs), I think is the peak of our pomposity. We’d never played it live before until last year, for this live DVD, and it came out great.”

For the record, Young says “Castle Walls” and “Superstars” were never played live, either — until now.

“I was very satisfied by it,” he continues. “For the visuals, we’ve got kind of a mini-Pink Floyd-ian type thing put together by a college buddy of mine. I went to the engineering school, he went to the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute Of Technology, went on to make feature films. But he was an animation director for a while before making features. And he did some wacky, wonderful stuff in that ‘Lords Of The Ring’ segment. But yeah, pomp … we were always a bunch of different things, with different sort of battling forces within the framework of the band. Because I very much wanted us to be a harder band, a Deep Purple-y kind of thing, but we didn’t really have a vocalist for that, in a sense. I mean, Tommy can sing ‘Renegade’ and ‘Blue Collar Man,’ and he’s a rock singer with the best of them, but he’s got other sides to him, that, when he tends to write, he tends to not write rock songs; he tends to write more melodic, introspective-type things. Tommy has a very broad range of things that he’s capable of writing, that he’s motivated to write, and the writer has to just go with where the muse takes him, in a sense.”Even further afield from JY’s six-string tendencies was the notorious writer of “Babe.”

“Dennis was much more of a mainstream writer,” Young says. “Dennis was always geared more toward … even toward theatre, way back in the early days, the softer, ballad-y thing, and he sort of got dragged kicking and screaming into the rock thing by me, in a sense. I was clearly more of a rock ’n’ roll guy; I wanted to rock up everything those guys came up with, and Tommy would sort of go back and forth. I mean he’s very happy … He just did a bluegrass record, which I think is just an aside for him. So these labels put on us … I think the most difficulty we had, we succeeded mightily in North America, and then the manager and the record company said, ‘Well, let’s take this thing to Europe now,’ and we were at the wrong part of the cycle over there, because over there, it was Johnny Rotten time when we arrived, and everybody was saying, ‘Well, this pomp rock or prog rock you guys are doing, that’s yesterday’s news.’ Britain was all about New Wave. That was brought about by economic circumstances, perhaps, more than anything else, but the Brits tended to be slightly ahead of the curve in a lot of ways. Certainly in the ’60s they were ahead of the curve, and then in the late ’70s, they came to be looking for something else.”

“So yeah, I have no trouble being called a progressive band; I think it’s probably the best characterization of our body of work. But the original three or four writers — if you include John Curulewski, because he played a role in shaping the sound of the band, when he was in the band for the first five albums — it’s kind of scattered all over the place. I would almost say — not exactly, I don’t want to make the comparison — but you can look at George Harrison in this latest Scorsese thing. George was kind of his own guy, off in a different spot, and Lennon and McCartney were clearly very different from each other, but they just had a way of making stuff happen. To write an album, they’d do a song a day (laughs). That’s what McCartney was talking about in this Harrison thing, and you’re thinking, ‘Wow, on your week off, you’re going to write a song a day’ (laughs).”

As for the future, well, we’re back to the original premise, this idea of Styx’s past being so fertile and fun, so full of opportunity, what’s a guy to do, especially when reaching the age when most folks retire. So what’s next?

“I’m not sure,” Young says hesitantly. “It took a whole year to post-produce this. We really have a busy touring schedule, and everybody in the band is scattered across North America. It was easier to get together and do things when we were in the same city, and now it’s hard to get together and do things. The last time we had a studio album goes back to 2003. Well, 2005 was ‘The Big Bang Theory,’ but neither one of those got tremendous traction in any way, shape or form. The record company side of it has just gotten that much more nebulous. You know, I think we’ve been somewhat befuddled about, well, if we do a record, how shall it be released? Who shall promote it? And what record company would we like to do it? And then there’s just no good answers, because I don’t think anybody really knows. It’s simpler to just sort of continue to tour and have our audience build this way, do a track here, do a track there.”

“But the DVDs we’ve done have had a profound reaction,” he adds. “The one we had in 2006 with the Contemporary Youth Orchestra from Cleveland — and I’m not saying it’s changed our lives, partly because we’re not going to go out there and play with youth orchestras as a way of making a living, or even touring — but there was magic captured that night, and I would not let it leave until I felt that the audio was the finest we could possibly make it. And 96 tracks of audio was a daunting challenge. Unfortunately, we only had about six cameras, and some of them didn’t work at some points in time, so we spent a lot of time really fine-tuning that thing. And we’ve done a similar thing with the new “Grand Illusion/Pieces Of Eight” thing, but I think we did a better job capturing it than the last time. But I like making new DVDs. We’re going to figure out another project, I think. I mean, we need to make a new record at some time, or at least make a serious attempt to go write four or five new songs and put out an EP. There are so many questions that we don’t have answers for the moment, and when those answers become a little more obvious to us as a collective, we’ll take action on them. But right now, I’m not … I don’t have the energy to go start a new project. I’m sure Tommy will come up with something, and I’ll jump on that bandwagon (laughs).”

by Martin Popoff for Goldmine

Today, Styx's lineup is (top, from left) Chuck Panozzo, Ricky Phillips, Todd Sucherman; (bottom, from left) James 'JY' Young, Tommy Shaw and Lawrence Gowan. Ash Newell photo/publicity photo.

Styx’s pre-popularity catalogue is only known to dedicated fans of the band that bother digging into the band’s history. One of these is The Serpent is Rising, and its mere mention divides even the diehards into either those who think it’s one of their best, and those who think it flat-out sucks. Most fall into the latter group, including the band members. Dennis Deyoung himself called the album not only Styx’s worst, but the worst album ever made. Ouch. Surely it can’t be THAT bad, right?

The Serpent is Rising is Styx’s third album, and has a sound that is quite different from the Styx most people have heard. Serpent boasts a much more hard-rocking sound than other Styx releases, even going into heavy metal territory at times. This will come as a surprise and will catch pretty much anyone, whether they are a hater or fan of Styx, completely off guard. Take the opener, for example. Witch Wolf is a hard rock song complete with a foot-stomping guitar/synth riff, numerous guitar solos, and an excellent chorus with the traditional Styx harmonized vocals, and organ backing. Truly an awesome song, and a great way to kick of the album. Witch Wolf aside, there other heavy tracks on the album. Jonas Psalter tells a story of a ruthless pirate captain who conquers all he desires and is then assassinated. The song is one of the proggier numbers on the album, with many different parts and time signatures, and is one of the better tracks. The title track is the heaviest and darkest on the album. The riff is pure heavy metal, with an eerie chorus, and a raspy vocal delivery from John Curulewski (who was in Styx before Tommy Shaw). The remaining rockers: Young Man, 22 Years, and Winner Take All are also good songs, but not quite as good as the aforementioned. The songs on Serpent also do a good job at displaying Styx`s progressive side, as many of them change pace throughout the song.

Although the rockers are the focus of the album, it does have song variety. The Grove of Eglantine is not as “hard” as the rocking tracks. It has a nice bassline in the verses, and is overall very melodic. It really is a beautiful song, until you realize what The Grove of Eglantine is, and then, well, I’ll let you decide what to make of it. As Bad As This is a mostly acoustic ballad with drums and synths coming in at parts to accentuate, and conveys a sad, depressing mood. Also of note here is the hidden track, Plexiglass Toilet. It`s more of a joke track than anything else, dealing with a child’s fear of... you know. Personally, I don’t care for it, but it is uplifting after the depressing As Bad As This, and puts a smile on your face when you hear it.

Now, the problem with this album, is simply that it`s too erratic, in a few different ways. For one, it can’t keep just one mood going. Some songs are dark and dead serious (As Bad As This, The Serpent Is Rising, Krakatoa), while almost every other track is happier and upbeat. Some of the songs just feel out of place next to each other, and in some cases, out of order. Krakatoa could have served as a really dark interlude had it been placed elsewhere in the album (like Radiohead’s Fitter Happier, for example), but even then the mood would have been broken by the happier songs. The Hallelujah chorus just doesn’t feel like it fits at all on this album. Aside from this, songwise, the album is pretty uneven. Don’t get me wrong, none of them are bad, but some just tower over the others (Witch Wolf, Jonas Psalter), while others are fun, but forgettable (22 years, Winner Take All).

So where does that leave us? Is Serpent Styx’s best album? No. Is it the worst album ever made? Once again, no. Serpent is actually a great album. Full of good songs and a few great ones that make for an enjoyable, yet fractured listen and may become one of your favorites if given a chance. Even the lesser songs are at least enjoyable. It`s worth checking out if you're a Styx fan, and even if you`re curious as to what them doing heavy metal may sound like. However, it is not a good starting place for those new to Styx.

The practice of performing albums in their entirety gives both artists and their fans the chance to hear the hits and underappreciated deep cuts as well. However, in many cases, most of a classic album is in the set anyway. Styx's 2012 three-disc (two CDs and one DVD) release The Grand Illusion/Pieces of Eight Live is a fine example of giving casual fans and diehards the best of both worlds, and there's certainly an audience for this, since both 1977's The Grand Illusion and 1978's Pieces of Eight went triple-platinum in the United States. This performance was recorded and filmed at the Orpheum Theatre in Memphis, Tennessee on November 9, 2010. Vocalist/guitarist Tommy Shaw, vocalist/guitarist James "JY" Young, vocalist/keyboardist Lawrence Gowan, bass guitarist Chuck Panozzo, bass guitarist Ricky Phillips, and drummer Todd Sucherman give a passionate, assured performance that salutes these albums specifically while generally and wistfully honoring the bygone days of the album era when listeners absorbed an entire slate of songs as one cohesive work, not just a single. (Shaw makes references to "side one" and "side two" of these albums, and the clever rear-screen video on-stage shows a teenage boy playing the actual original Styx vinyl LPs on a turntable and flipping them over.)

The biggest hits on The Grand Illusion are "The Grand Illusion," "Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)," and "Come Sail Away," but "Miss America," "Man in the Wilderness," and "Castle Walls" also stand out as they demonstrate the breadth of Styx's grasp of hard rock, pop, and progressive rock despite often being tagged as a prime example of an AOR and arena rock band. Pieces of Eight staples "Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)" and "Renegade" reach energetic highs, and "Sing for the Day," "Queen of Spades," and "Pieces of Eight" help tie the album together. In a perfect world, the classic lineup would still be together, but Gowan does a superb job of performing vocalist/keyboardist Dennis DeYoung's parts (without the occasional nasally pinch of DeYoung's higher register) and the underrated Sucherman is the glue that holds it all together. (Original drummer John Panozzo died in 1996).

DVD extras include detailed interviews with crew members and the band about the technical aspects of putting on a show like this and a nice piece on the subtle "Aku-Aku" fadeout from a musical standpoint. (The rear-screen video pullback shot during "Aku-Aku" is breathtaking). What truly matters in the end is that a band's music is kept alive, regardless of the lineup, and The Grand Illusion/Pieces of Eight Livesucceeds admirably.

When Styx recently became the latest band to engage in the “full album performance” concept, they did so with an added twist.

The Chicago-bred classic rockers took 70,000 pounds of equipment on the road in 2010 for a short series of dates to mount full album renderings (with extensive, awesome video visuals to boot) of not one, but two of their classic albums. Thankfully, they captured one of those nights, filming their Memphis performance at the Orpheum Theater with an 11-camera high definition shoot.

Fans can enjoy the results of their efforts in the newly released ‘The Grand Illusion/Pieces of Eight – Live’ release, which is available now on DVD, Blu-Ray, CD and digital download.

A pre-show crawl of text (humorously mimicking the classic ‘Star Wars’ intro, complete with orchestral accompaniment) notes that the late ’70s were years where Baby Boomers “seriously flexed their creative muscles.”

That thought certainly applies to ‘The Grand Illusion’ and ‘Pieces of Eight,’ released back to back in 1977 and 1978, two albums that at last brought Styx into full arena rock superstardom.

Many of the songs from these albums are still staples in the Styx canon to this day and you know them well, songs like ‘The Grand Illusion,’ ‘Come Sail Away,’ ‘Blue Collar Man,’ ‘Renegade,’ etc.

They’re all performed here by the current Styx lineup, arguably perhaps a better band now than the Styx of the ‘70s, thanks to the considerable contributions from powerhouse drummer Todd Sucherman, vocalist Lawrence Gowan (who replaced original Styx lead vocalist Dennis DeYoung in 1999) and former Babys bassist Ricky Phillips, who come together with charter members James ‘J.Y.’ Young and Tommy Shaw to bring the ‘Grand Illusion’ and ‘Pieces of Eight’ material into the present century. Even retired Styx bassist Chuck Panozzo is on hand, guesting on a number of songs throughout the night.

Performing the full albums presented a few challenges, Young shared with the audience, as there were songs on the albums that the band had never performed live before.

Set to the side at the time as being “too hard to accomplish,” Young jovially bellowed that they had worked past that theory and were ready to “prove that wrong right now,” as he introduced the ‘Grand Illusion’ album cut ‘Superstars.’

The best moments within this new live package come from hearing those long-buried album cuts like ‘Superstars’ and in particular, the especially proggy moments on ‘Pieces of Eight’ like the spacey keyboard intro of ‘The Message’ that morphs into the equally progged-out ‘Lords of the Ring.’

But it’s also the delivery of the material, which Styx chose to address very properly one album side at a time, with a particularly animated Tommy Shaw (that’s ‘Tommy ‘Bleepin’’ Shaw to you, as he’s billed mid-show by Young) announcing the end of each album side and asking the fans, “What do we do now?”

“Flip it over!” is the reply in unison from the audience and it’s so on the money that you feel like they musthave rehearsed that part, right?

This presentation really highlights what sometimes feels like the lost art of assembling and sequencing an album that was so important back then. Styx strategically anchored each album side with pivotal moments. It seems so normal now, but can you imagine dropping the needle for the first time on side two of ‘Pieces of Eight’ and hearing ‘Blue Collar Man’ for the first time?

Apply that same thought to hearing cut one, side one, the title track of ‘The Grand Illusion.’

With ‘The Grand Illusion’ and ‘Pieces of Eight,’ the collective members of Styx assembled two now-classic albums that nearly 35 years later, they’re very justifiably proud of. And their present day recreation of both albums flat out rocks.

‘The Grand Illusion/ Pieces of Eight – Live’ release is essential viewing and listening for both hardcore Styx fans and anyone that has ever wanted to dig deeper beyond the radio hits. Styx has created an excellent documentation that pays appropriate tribute to two classic AOR albums.

What’s up next on our wishlist if they’re game to tackle it? We’d love to see Styx tackle a similar twofer featuring the ‘Equinox’ and ‘Crystal Ball’ albums.

Today, Styx released a new live DVD, Styx: The Grand Illusion/Pieces Of Eight Live via Eagle Rock Entertainment. You can catch a preview of the performance by watching our exclusive video presentation of "Fooling Yourself" below.

The performance was recorded November 9, 2010, at the Orpheum Theater in Memphis on a tour that saw the band -- Tommy Shaw, James “JY” Young, Chuck Panozzo, Lawrence Gowan, Ricky Phillips and Todd Sucherman -- perform both these albums in their entirety for the first time.

The 20-song, two-hour and 11-minute DVD was also released as a Blu-Ray and DVD/2CD. It features high-def visuals recorded in DTS-HD Master Audio, Dolby Digital 5.1 and LPCM Stereo. The DVD also includes a bonus feature, “Putting On The Show,” an inside look at the people and equipment needed to stage such a massive spectacle.

Last fall, Styx released Regeneration, Volume I & II (Eagle Rock Entertainment). In addition to 13 Styx classics and one new song, “Difference In The World,” the album also includes interpretations of “High Enough” and “Coming Of Age,” originally recorded by Damn Yankees, which featured Shaw, along with Night Ranger’s Jack Blades, Ted Nugent and drummer Michael Cartellone.

Re-recording old hits seems to be a trend these days for classic rock bands, and here is Styx joining the party with their new Eagle Rock release Regeneration Volume I & II, a 2CD set of brand new versions of many of the top songs in their catalog done by the current incarnation of the band. Of course, this line-up of Styx has now been together for some time, and comprised of Tommy Shaw (guitar, vocals, mandolin), James Young (guitars, vocals), Lawrence Gowan (vocals, keyboards), Todd Sucherman (drums), and both Ricky Phillips & Chuck Panozzo on bass (Chuck plays with the band on a part time basis).

You get some expected as well as unexpected classics here from the Styx cannon. Tunes such as "The Grand Illusion", "Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)", "Come Sail Away", "Renegade", "Blue Collar Man", and "Crystal Ball" are all songs that any Styx collection would not be complete without, and the band do a great job with note for note reproductions of these staples. Tommy Shaw still sings as great as he did 30 years ago, which you can plainly hear on "Sing For the Day", and Gowan does his fantastic Dennis De Young impression throughout, so many of these tunes don't sound too much different from their original studio counterparts, except with 2011 production values. Nice to hear cuts like "Lorelei" and the hard rocking "Queen of Spades" and "Snowblind", as well as the folky "Boat on the River". 'JY' also proves that he can still rock out quite hard on his blistering track "Miss America", and the band even throw in a new tune here called "Difference In the World", a more acoustic based number with some great melodies and rich vocal harmonies, with Shaw especially sounding amazing. As an interesting bonus, the band decided to do updated versions of two Damn Yankees hits (the band Shaw was in with Jack Blades & Ted Nugent back in the early 90's), the rocking "Coming of Age" and "High Enough". Both are executed quite well, and it was fun to hear them again after all these years in the 'Styx way'.

Depending on your take of the whole 're-recording of old songs' trend, this will no doubt effect whether you want to take the plunge on Regeneration Volume I & II. In my view, this is a fun CD, a brand new 'hits collection' if you will, with a few surprises and bonus cuts thrown in for good measure. For the die hard Styx fan it's a no brainer.

New York, NY-- Styx Will have its entire career encapsulated within the 16 tracks of Regeneration, Volume I & II on a double-disc to be released via Eagle Rock Entertainment on October 4.

With over 30 million records sold in North America alone, Styx is one of the most beloved rock bands on the planet. Tommy Shaw, James "JY" Young, Chuck Panozzo, Lawrence Gowan, Ricky Phillips and Todd Sucherman have been together longer than any other lineup in the band's 40-year existence.

In addition to thirteen Styx classics and a brand new song "Difference In The World," Regeneration, Volume I & II also includes interpretations of "High Enough," and "Coming Of Age," originally recorded by Damn Yankees, which featured Shaw, along with Night Ranger's Jack Blades, Ted Nugent and drummer Michael Cartellone. The band had originally re-recorded these acclaimed anthems to sell only at their lives shows, as they continued to tour the globe and introduce a new generation of fans to their chart-topping hits. Now, for the first time, this music is being made commercially available.

Eagle Rock Entertainment has previously released Styx: One With Everything, a DVD and Blu-Ray filmed with The Contemporary Youth Orchestra of Cleveland. Upcoming in December will be The Grand Illusion/Pieces of Eight- Live, on DVD/CD, DVD and Blu-ray.

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