By 1974, Styx were still mixing it up, fusing their brand of midwest rock n roll with British progressive rock, and getting bashed up by music snobs at the same time.
Written by: gdmonline
ALBUM: Man Of Miracles
LABEL: Wooden Nickel
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
LINEUP: Dennis DeYoung – lead and backing vocals, keyboards * James Young – lead and backing vocals, guitars * John ‘JC’ Curulewski – guitars, keyboards, backing vocals * Chuck Panozzo – bass, backing vocals * John Panozzo – drums, backing vocals
TRACK LISTING: 01 Rock & Roll Feeling * 02 Havin’ A Ball * 03 Golden Lark * 04 A Song For Suzanne * 05 A Man Like Me * 06 Lies * 07 Evil Eyes * 08 Southern Woman * 09 Christopher, Mr Christopher * 10. Man Of Miracles
WEBLINKS: Site Link
We’ve covered nearly every Styx album through their back catalogue, except for the glaring omission of this one: from 1974. It was after perusing Dennis DeYoung’s own catalogue (after the review of his latest 2020 album ’26 East Vol 1′) just to see what we had online. There are still a few backloaded articles to get up online, but first, we needed to attend to ‘Man Of Miracles’.
By 1974, Styx were into album number 4, as arguably they continued on with their record label Wooden Nickel who quite frankly were as useless as tits on a bull. Nevertheless, the Chicago stalwarts stuck it out and left for better pastures with A&M Records the following year.
The band were still mixing it up, fusing their brand of midwest rock n roll with British progressive rock, and getting bashed up by music snobs at the same time. This musical combination would move onto bigger and better things by the time Styx hit A&M Records, as their 1975-1980 era would show.
‘Rock N Roll Feeling’ kicks off the show. It’s a bouncy number at a touch over three minutes and features JY on lead vocals. It’s bouncy, boogie like in places, amid a load of clanky piano from DDY. This shortened boogie like approach follows up on ‘Havin’ A Ball’. Prog fans will be wondering what the heck is going on!
The first of the DDY sung tunes appears with ‘Golden Lark’, and immediately you hear the difference over the first two tracks. It’s sort-of prog, more a hymn that has been likened to a cross between Jethro Tull and Procol Harum, especially where strings meets cello meets organ. Yes, we are definitely in the 70’s.
‘A Song For Suzanne’ is an obvious dedication from DDY to his wife, but musically, this heralds Styx’s deep dive into a classic progressive near symphonic side which would reveal itself in the albums to come. There are a few bands which I am reminded of when listening to this track, but probably Starcastle is the one that stands out the most for me.
‘A Man Like Me’ which hovers in the two-minute range sees JY return with another boogie oriented number, this time sounding like Foghat. Quite clearly, James was a significant contributor during Styx’s Wooden Nickel era. ‘Lies’ is a rollicking affair at a touch under 3 minutes. It moves in the same direction as some of the late 60’s bubble gum pop rock, traces of which you can hear on the vocal harmonies.
Taking a more subdued approach is the prog ballad ‘Evil Eyes’. DDY takes us through this jaunt with a wistful vocal and piano. We would hear more of this style from him in the years to come. ‘Southern Woman’ has JY returning to the vocal stand, while DDY draws upon his Jon Lord inspired ivory work to emulate the great Deep Purple. This one shuffles about musically but is quite rocky nonetheless.
‘Christopher Mr Christopher’ is an ode to the patron saint of travellers St Christopher, and I guess the religious connection comes back to the band’s Chicago catholic roots, but still, this track is kinda endearing. Finishing up with the title track, this is about as pomp and bombastic as Styx ever got prior to the A&M era. maybe, just maybe it’s the best song ever sung by JY. There’s loads happening on this one and deserves a deeper inspection through your headphones or earplugs.
The album wasn’t that successful, reaching #154 on the Billboard Charts, but Styx continued to build their impressive live and touring schedule all through this timeframe, which as mentioned above, secured paydirt with a record deal to a major national/international label. ‘Man Of Miracles’ flies in the face of what is predominantly Styx’s most prog like album up till this point, and from this moment on, things would take a major u-turn on the road to success.
Man Of Miracles