Styx - Cyclorama
Commercial Hard Rock
14 songs (57:53)
Release year: 2003
Styx, Sanctuary
Reviewed by Jeff
Major event

First off, I want to thank Danny and Max for giving me the opportunity to review the new Styx CD, "Cyclorama".

I've been a Styx fan for as long as I can remember; somewhere before junior high school. My collection started out with classics like "The Grand Illusion", "Pieces of Eight" and "Cornerstone". Over the years I expanded my Styx collection by becoming interested in earlier releases like "Equinox", "Crystal Ball" and "The Best of Styx"; an album which furthered my interest in tracking down the earlier studio releases of the songs which the best of compilation was based on. I was also lucky enough to see them live during the "Kilroy Was Here" tour in 1983.

When I first learned that we were receiving an advanced copy of "Cyclorama", I truly didn't think that I was going to want to review it. Ever since the dreaded "Edge of the Century" album, I had pretty much given up on Styx but have kept one ear tuned a far to whatever else they have been doing over the past twelve years. Since that time, I did buy the excellent live release "Return To Paradise" and the somewhat disappointing "Brave New World".

Styx has gone through some major line up changes over the years and one cannot view them as the same band anymore. Dennis DeYoung (keys/lead vocals) is now gone due to musical differences and tensions between Tommy Shaw and James Young. John Panozzo (drums) passed away in 1996 due to alcoholism and Chuck Panozzo (bass) has retired due to his battle with the AIDS virus. The current line up consists of core Styx members Tommy Shaw (guitar/lead vocals) and James (JY) Young (guitar/lead vocals), and new comers Todd Sucherman (drums), Glen Burtnick (bass/vocals), and Lawrence (Larry) Gowan (keys and lead vocals).

Knowing these line up changes, I was a bit skeptical as to how the other members talents would fit into the characteristics that have defined Styx 's sound throughout the years: bombastic rockers and soaring power ballads with big choruses and dominant keyboards.

My approach to listening to this album was based on the titles of the songs. Tracks like "Captain America" and "Fields of the Brave" had that harder rocking ring to them while titles like "Together" and "Killing The One That You Love" had the more ballad like feel to them. After listening to the tracks out of order, I started to play them from start to finish. The end result was a big surprise and a much welcomed one at that.

Styx has managed to put together an album in which all the songs were a collaborative effort and it shows. It is by far their best and most listenable release since "Paradise Theater". The new Styx has found a way to capture the feeling, intensity, and sound, of their classic songs, mixing in some modern rock influences and updating them for a new generation of listeners.

This album truly deserves a track by track analysis, so here it goes:

"Do Things My Way": has both a funky and psychedelic, trippy feel to it. It reminds me a little bit of "Too Much Time On My Hands" meets Soundgarden or Beatles. Tommy Shaw handles the vocals on this one. It begins with a Wurlitzer bass keyboard part that starts the track and goes through the whole tune. There's even some shaker and tambourine tracks to add to the mood of this song.

"Waiting For Our Time": One of my favorite new Styx songs and destined to become a classic! Tommy Shaw once again handles the vocals. It begins with a smokey acoustic guitar to be followed with power chords and chorus. The feel of this song reminds me of Bad Company's "Feel Like Making Love" meets Styx's "Lady" with a Creed heaviness to it. The song has the formula of the quiet part followed by a heavier bridge and and back again. It is also the first single from the album.

"Fields of the Brave": Another favorite of mine. It is sung by Larry Gowan. He sounds like a higher pitched Dennis De Young and at times George Harrison. This song just blows me away! It has a very Revolutionary/Civil War feel to it. The drums are played in 6/8 time giving it a marching feel to it. The chorus is very Queen like; majestic, grandiose and full.

"Bourgeois Pig": a 48 second song which Billy Bob Thornton makes an appearance on. The lyrics on this song give me the impression that Styx is throwing punches at Dennis DeYoung: "bourgeois pig, you got to big, you forgot where you came from, you big pop star, you took it to far ,you better get humble and them some". The song has a southern blues rock feel to it and leads right into the next track.

"Kiss Your Ass Good-bye": a great up tempo rocker in the vein of old school Cheap Trick meets Blink 182 sung by Glen Burtnick. It's catchy and is probably the most out of style song for Styx but man it works! Comic rockers Tenacious D even help out on the break. It's a happy little song about death during a bus ride to a gig. Shaw provides a 12 string solo and Gowan plays a harpsichord bit as well as some Elvis Costello like organ stuff, giving the song an almost punkish feel.

"These Are The Times": probably the most classic sounding Styx song on the CD, similar to the likes of a "Suite Madame Blue", or "Snowblind". It is sung by JY and is what Styx is all about. Soaring vocals, quiet piano passages, and slow emotional strong buildups to the final chorus. It has some scratched piano sounds at the beginning and 12 strings as well. Simply amazing!

"Yes I Can": a nice ballad sung by Tommy Shaw, very reminiscent of Damn Yankees. Includes plenty of acoustic guitars and percussion parts like a shaker and tambourine to help out with the style of the drums. It's a beautiful track, not sappy in anyway.

"More Love For The Money": another theatrical effort by Gowan with some guitar work very reminiscent of the Paradise Theater sound. Also has an English feel to it like Queen meets Beatles. Nice piano and organ parts.

"Together": Another Shaw song sung by Tommy that has a rockin' baptist, southern gospel feel to it with the help of the Hammond B3 organ. Again, the acoustic guitars play a key role.

"Fooling Yourself (Palm of Your Hands)": just a 49 second, acoustic vocal makeover rendition of the original found on "The Grand Illusion". Brian Wilson (Beach Boys) guests on it.

"Captain America": Another JY rocker in the vein of "Miss America" or "Half Penny, Two Penny". Great song once again showing the classic side of Styx. A strong riff with him powering out the vocals.

"Killing The Thing That You Love": originally titled "Lennon's Assassin", this is possibly one of the more ambitious tracks on the disc. It's haunting. At first you could mistake it for a Black Crowes or Train song. It starts off with Gowan singing with piano accompaniment, blending a mix of quiet parts that build to stronger passages. The mid section reminds me alot of Queen with the harmonizing guitar parts.

"One With Everything": another great track that contains Kansas like elements . Very group vocal oriented but the lead vocal is Shaw. It has some excellent keyboard work in it, very ELP like at times using organ and sine wave synthesizer sounds that also remind me of the "Cornerstone", "Pieces of Eight" and "Grand Illusion" days..

"Genki Desu Ka": reminds me of "Aku-Aku" from "Pieces of Eight". It uses a groove from Todd Sucherman's drum loop CD, "More Than Styx". Genki desu ka means, "how do you feel? Feel all right?" in Japanese.

There are also a couple of hidden bonus tracks, more like outakes.

Overall this album should please any Styx fan, even die hard ones of the Dennis DeYoung era. Again, the band is different but the Styx name remains the same. This album is already going to be one of my top 15 for 2003.


Killing Songs :
Waiting For Our Time, Fields Of The Brave, Kiss Your Ass Goodbye, These Are The Times, More Love For The Money, Captain America, Killing The Thing That You Love, One With Everything
Jeff quoted 89 / 100
Other albums by Styx that we have reviewed:
Styx - The Complete Wooden Nickel Recordings reviewed by Jeff and quoted
Styx - The Grand Illusion reviewed by Jeff and quoted CLASSIC
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