August 16, 2023 Playlist

Hippy Xmas!
(Junk Vinyl from the golden decade 1968-1977)
Styx "The Grand Illusion" (1977)

Styx "The Grand Illusion"  1977 (USA)
Happy Hippy Xmas! All the music on the show this week is sourced from crusty old vinyl elpees, mostly the kinds of little-known things you find in the "dollar bin" at used record stores. Sometimes you find hidden gems there, other times uncool records from artists that were once cool but no longer! Styx is a great example of the latter: in the late 70's and early 80's, they were one of the most popular groups in America (especially here in the upper midwest) - though they had very little success overseas and music critics despised them. Their career imploded with the cringe-tastic concept album Kilroy Was Here (1983) and in retrospect they are seen by most through the cursed lens of "Mr. Roboto". But on the plus side: Styx was a talented band with a keyboard virtuoso and two hotshot lead guitarists, tight harmonies from three lead vocalists, plus two of the members consistently wrote hit songs. Their sound was highly derivative of British classic and progressive rock. In particular I think they often sound like Queen (and concidentally, bassist Chuck Panozzo is kind of like an American Freddie Mercury - except that he survived AIDS and is still alive!) It's also easy to put them in the same bin as other popular "corporate rock" artists of their era such as Boston, Journey, and Foreigner. But honestly, I think they are better than most of those bands and their string of hits are memorable and distinct classic rock gems! Three of the best are on this album and heard on the show this week: The titular track is a masterpiece of proggy pomp-rock (shades of ELP) and has genuinely great lyrics (profound truth sung in regular language anyone can understand.) Dennis DeYoung also wrote the immortal "Come Sail Away", which was designed to be an epic to rival "Stairway To Heaven" and its lyrics incorporate two awesome ideas: UFOs AND YACHT ROCK! The third hit from this album was Tommy Shaw's "Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)" which nicely blends prog synths and acoustic guitars with another solid lyric. The rest of the album is also pretty good (in particular another proggy number entitled "Castle Walls", and "Miss America" by James Young, the third singer-songwriter in the band who produced no hits). Styx already had a few hits before The Grand Illusion ("Lady", "Lorelei", and "Mademoiselle" were their first three Top 40 singles - can you sense a theme there? They also had a flop single called "Jennifer"!) But this one was the Big Hit Record that made the group into superstars (in America) for about five years. If you want more, Pieces Of Eight (1978) is the most similar to TGI, but I think Paradise Theatre (1981) may be their true masterpiece, though being "a concept album in a very early-80's Top 40 pop-rock style" it is obviously pretty dated (and not the usual territory for Kosmik Radiation!) Earlier albums Equinox (1975) and Crystal Ball (1976) are also solid "American prog" efforts, though the four(!) albums they made in 1972-74 are mostly not that interesting. Cornerstone (1979) is the really sucky album that includes their only #1 hit, the Barry Manilowesque "Babe" which completed their cycle of "hit songs about chicks" (actually "Lady" and "Lorelei" are both pretty awesome!) And about that aforementioned Kilroy Was Here: it was an overambitious wreck, but the albm itself isn't really that terrible - the cringey bits are mostly a good chuckle, and it's only half as long as Pink Floyd's over-rated The Wall from the same era! 
Artist Song Album Year Country
SweetwaterMy Crystal SpiderSweetwater1968USA
   --> Shadows
The CorporationI Want To Get Out Of My GraveThe Corporation1969USA
RedboneNew Blue SermonettePotlatch1970USA
MashmakhanDays When We Are FreeMashmakhan1970Canada
Headstone3 O BBad Habits1974UK
60,000,000 BuffaloMaid Of Constant Sorrow
(probably inspired by the Bob Dylan and Joan Baez versions)
Nevada Jukebox1972USA
EpitaphOutside The LawOutside The Law1974Germany
Rare BirdIcebergRare Bird1969UK
StyxThe Grand IllusionThe Grand Illusion
StyxFooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)The Grand Illusion
StyxCome Sail AwayThe Grand Illusion
StyxLight UpEquinox1975USA
AmbrosiaDanse With Me George (Chopin's Plea)Somewhere I've Never Travelled1976USA
The IllusionIf It's So
   --> Life Cycle Theme
   --> Dr. Stone
If It's So1970USA
(with Mike Pinera and Mitch Mitchell)
Strange PlaceRamatam1972USA
RamStoned SilenceWhere? (In Conclusion)1972USA
Good GodFish EyeGood God1972USA
Bodacious DFGood FolksBodacious DF1973USA
Force Of NatureSimbaForce Of Nature1974USA
Green Lyte SundayMy Own TimeGreen Lyte Sunday1970USA
SugarloafThings Gonna Change SomeSugarloaf1970USA
Buzzy LinhartTime To GoMusic1970USA
QuatermassLaughin' Tackle
   --> Entropy (reprise)

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