On ‘Equinox’, Styx began their transition from progressive rock to an altogether more commercial brand of pomp, it was a precursor of things to come.
Written by: RichardB
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
LINEUP: Dennis DeYoung – keyboards, vocals, synthesizers * John Curulewski – guitars, vocals, synthesizers * James Young – guitars, vocals * Chuck Panozzo – bass, vocals * John Panozzo – drums, percussion, vocals
TRACK LISTING: 01 Light Up * 02 Lorelei * 03 Mother Dear * 04 Lonely Child * 05 Midnight Ride * 06 Born For Adventure * 07 Prelude 12 * 08 Suite Madame Blue
WEBLINKS: Site Link
Having signed with Wooden Nickel Records at the start of the 1970’s Styx had managed to build up a steady following regionally although it wasn’t until the release of ‘Lady’ which became a US top ten hit in late 1974 that they achieved the breakthrough. This gave Styx the confidence to secure a major deal with A&M Records and the rest of course is history.
Evidence that Styx were attempting to cast off the shackle of their progressive leanings is apparent when a flurry of synthesizers and choppy guitar introduce us to ‘Light Up’. Here Dennis DeYoung croons the lyrics to this love song which has a quirky vibe but is full of melodic intent nonetheless. Maybe it sounds a tad dated by today’s standards but its delicious hookline never fails to please.
The familiar strains of DeYoung’s synthesizer introduce us to the more conventional rocker ‘Lorelei’ which acts as a showcase for Styx’s distinctive multi-part harmonies which all fans have come to know and love. However ‘Mother Dear’ is a musical blip which doesn’t fit comfortably with the rest of the material on side one and the album as a whole.
It’s a little too left field both lyrically and musically. The keyboard dominated instrumental bridge in particular has a ethereal quality about it. However this approach was utilized to much greater effect on ‘Come Sail Away’ from the ‘Grand Illusion’ album, in my opinion. The haunting acoustic intro and powerful chorus of ‘Lonely Child’ guarantees satisfaction for all fans of pomp rock.
It also provided a template (though in this case a more effective one) which was re-visited on later Styx albums – it has a marked similarity to ‘Queen Of Spades’ in structure but with less guitar histrionics from JY. The forceful ‘Midnight Ride’ penned by James Young is the obligatory hard rocker which is a suitable platform for JY’s fiery guitar work. ‘Born To Adventure’ is equally rousing with it’s galloping guitar and DeYoung’s commanding vocal presence coming to the fore.
‘Equinox’ is perhaps best remembered for it’s closer the timeless classic ‘Suite Madame Blue’. This lengthy epic is probably one of the greatest pomp rock songs of all time and is synonymous with this musical genre as a whole. It was intended to be a metaphor for the state of an American Nation approaching bicentennial year but it’s theme is equally relevant in today’s troubled climate.
On ‘Equinox’, Styx first began their transition from progressive/pomp rock to an altogether more commercial (and thus palatable) brand of pomp. It was a precursor of things to come and one which paved the way for their enduring commercial success. For me ‘Equinox’ represented a quantum leap forward from previous offerings.
It’s here where all of Styx’s early promise blossomed for the first time – in fact it’s one of my favourite Styx albums. The quality of the material and musicianship was much improved with even the vocal harmonies sounding more polished this time around. All of these noticeable attributes were further enhanced by a first rate production job.
Entire Album (Select Tracks)