Styx was now a lean mean live machine and needed an album that reflected their new harder rocking direction.
Written by: Eric
ALBUM: Crystal Ball
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
LINEUP: Dennis DeYoung – keyboards, synthesizers, vocals * Chuck Panozzo – bass, vocals * John Panozzo – drums, percussion, vocals * Tommy Shaw – electric guitar, acoustic guitar, vocals * James Young – guitar, vocals
TRACK LISTING: 01 Put Me On * 02 Mademoiselle * 03 Jennifer * 04 Crystall Ball * 05 Shooz * 06 This Old Man * 07 Clair De Lune/Ballerina
WEBLINKS: Site Link
The band’s second album for A&M and the first to feature upstart guitarist Tommy Shaw, replacing original member John Curulewski who left the band abruptly on the brink of a major tour.
The well worn tale of Shaw getting the call from Styx while playing in a Montgomery, Alabama bowling alley made for good copy, but the pint-sized guitarist was no stranger to Chicago, or Styx, who spotted him in a windy city club with the seminal band MS Funk months earlier.
Hired immediately, the band with the newly minted Shaw spent a good seven months on the road in Bicentennial year, honing their stage shows in support of the brilliant ‘Equinox’ album while preparing for their much anticipated follow-up. They were now a lean mean live machine and needed an album that reflected their new harder rocking direction.
‘Crystal Ball’ was released in October of ’76 and opening with a typical pomp riff and keyboards, ‘Put Me On’ is a division one rocker and it’s off to the races with Shaw’s first lead vocal appearance on a Styx album ‘Mademoiselle’ turned out to be the albums hit single.
It just skimmed America’s top 40, but also received heavy airplay in Canada, in particular Quebec where the lovely city of Montreal dovetails into the lyrics. Canada picked up on the band early on, and clearly the song was an attempt to capitalize on some of that success.
Not sure what ‘Jennifer’ was all about, a bit creepy lyrically, but Shaw’s ‘Crystal Ball’ is the albums crucial centerpiece and still stands as one of their finest moments. Released as a single, it never charted, but saw resurgence in airplay following the wildly successful ‘The Grand Illusion’ and is now a well deserved staple on classic rock radio.
Winding down ‘Shooz’ doesn’t go anywhere, average at best, but DeYoung’s ‘This Old Man’ and interpretation of Claude Debussy‘s ‘Clair De Lune/Ballerina’ are beautifully over the top and grandiose as only they could pull off, or get away with.
A transitional album that is often overlooked; ‘Crystal Ball’ while not up to the same standards as its predecessor or the gazillion selling ‘The Grand Illusion’, certainly stands as one of the group’s best. Naturally, even more endless roadwork followed with artists as diverse as ZZ Top and Blue Oyster Cult to Climax Blues Band and Hall & Oates.
But the band also earned headlining status across Canada (supported by Moxy) and the U.S. in regional markets not normally known as ‘hotspots’. With the band on the rise and in the not too distant future, they would be ruling the concert circuit and charts as one of the biggest bands in the world.