Styx - The Complete Wooden Nickel Recordings
Hip-O Records
Classic Progressive/Hard Rock
Disc 1: 15 songs (70:40) Disc 2: 20 songs ( 65:07)
Release year: 2005
Reviewed by Jeff
Major event

If you are interested in hearing what Styx's music sounded like before their commercially accessible albums like "Grand Illusion", "Pieces of Eight", "Cornerstone", "Kilroy Was Here" and "Paradise Theater", than look no further. "The Complete Wooden Nickel Recordings" is a much welcomed release for those that have had a hard time finding the first four Styx albums on CD, most of which are out of print.

"The Complete Wooden Nickel Recordings" is a two disc set that compiles the first four Styx albums released between 1972 and 1974: "Styx", "Styx II", "The Serpent Is Rising" and "Man of Miracles", including one bonus track, "Unfinished Song". All songs have been digitally remastered. The sound quality is excellent and a big step up from the quality and mastering on the albums which were released on CD individually through RCA years ago. I have "Styx II", "The Serpent Is Rising" and "Man of Miracles" from when they were released on the RCA label as "digitally remastered". The audio quality on the RCA "remasters" is much lower. I can vouch that songs on "The Complete Wooden Nickel Recordings" release is one thousand times better! The dynamic range and audio output is fuller and much stronger than the previous releases. Side by side, there is no comparison.

The art on the CDs is indicative of wooden nickels, the label the first four Styx albums were released through. CD 1 includes the albums "Styx" and "Styx II" and is labeled heads. CD 2 includes the albums "The Serpent Is Rising" and "Man of Miracles" and is labeled tails. The booklet contains pictures of the original cover art work as well as some liner notes. Unfortunately there aren't any lyrics. The CD cover is actually pretty cool. It is a shadowy picture of the ferry man of the dead in a boat waiting to take souls across the river "styx".

Styx was America's answer to some of the English rock outfits of that time. The earlier Styx music mixes the rock elements of Deep Purple with a dash of southern boogie blues rock (check out the tracks "Southern Woman", "Rock And Roll Feeling", "You Need Love" and "Witch Wolf") and the classical/progressive rock ingredients found in ELP and Yes (check out the tracks "Man of Miracles", "The Grove of Eglantine" and "Movement For The Common Man"). De Young was a very prominent keyboard player back in the day. He fully utilized the Hammond rock organ, sounding like Deep Purple's John Lords with his keyboard runs and arpegios. JY smoked on the axe with his blistering rock guitar leads. Most of the lead vocals on the earlier albums were switched off between Dennis De Young and James "JY" Young. However, guitarist John Curulewski also handled some lead vocals, which gave Styx an "interesting" characteristic as his vocal style was very different from the other two. Just check out the King Crimson like "The Serpent Is Rising" and "A Day". He was a part of the whole that was to be replaced by Tommy Shaw come the album, "Crystal Ball", making Styx even more dimensional both in songwriting and performing, reaching a wider, more commercial radio friendly audience.

"The Complete Wooden Nickel Recordings" represents Styx at a time when they sounded hungry and rocked more convincingly than on later efforts. The most recognizable track on this package is "'Lady". Also during this earlier phase of their career, Styx did their renditions of cover songs like "Lies", "Fanfare For The Common Man", "Little Fugue In G" and "Hallelujah Chorus".

This CD is definitely worth the purchases. You get four albums worth of material for the price of two, remastered! And it takes up less space on the shelf! I really hope other Styx albums like "Equinox", "Crystal Ball", "Grand Illusion", "Pieces of Eight", "Cornerstone", "Kilroy Was Here" and "Paradise Theater" will also get the remaster treatment at some point.



Killing Songs :
CD1: Movement For The Common Man, What Has Come Between Us, Best Thing, You Need Love, Lady, Father O.S.A., Earl Of Roseland, I'm Gonna Make You Feel It CD2: Witch Wolf, The Grove Of Eglantine, Jonas Psalter, Man of Miracles
Jeff quoted
Other albums by Styx that we have reviewed:
Styx - Cyclorama reviewed by Jeff and quoted 89 / 100
Styx - The Grand Illusion reviewed by Jeff and quoted CLASSIC
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