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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