For Styx, the more radio friendly style of ‘Cornerstone’ continued on ‘Paradise Theatre’ albeit laced with theatrics.
Written by: RichardB
ALBUM: Paradise Theatre
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
LINEUP: Dennis DeYoung – keyboards, vocals * Chuck Panozzo – bass * John Panozzo – drums, percussion * Tommy Shaw – guitars, vocals, vocoder * James Young – guitars, vocals
Additional Musicians: Steve Eisen – saxophone * Dan Barber, Mike Halpin, John Haynor, Mark Ohlson, Billy Simpson – horns
TRACK LISTING: 01 AD 1928 * 02 Rockin’ The Paradise * 03 Too Much Time On My Hands * 04 Nothing Ever Goes As Planned * 05 The Best Of Times * 06 Lonely People * 07 She Cares * 08 Snowblind * 09 Half Penny Two Penny * 10 AD 1958 * 11 State Street Sadie
With ‘Cornerstone’, Styx had ditched their pompous leanings in pursuit of a far more commercial approach which firmly cemented their major league status. However, it was a bitter pill to swallow for many long term devotees who felt the band had failed to heed the sage advice implored by DeYoung on ‘Pieces Of Eight’.
Still in Styx’s defence it’s a fine line for any band to walk, between satisfying the record company’s demands for increased sales and the happiness of your hard core fans. For Styx, the more radio friendly style of ‘Cornerstone’ continued on ‘Paradise Theatre’ albeit laced with theatrics.
The album is an ambitious concept as it was a fictional account of Chicago’s Paradise Theatre from its opening (on the eve of the Great Depression) to closing (and eventual abandonment) in the mid 1950’s). Intended as a metaphor for America’s changing times from the late 1970s into the 1980s, it was also an expansion of the theme that Styx had first touched upon when they wrote ‘Suite Madame Blue’. That song was also representative of the US (in bicentennial year).
In keeping with the theatrical theme, the album sides are divided into ‘Act One’ and ‘Act Two’. DeYoung opens proceedings with the piano driven ballad ‘AD 1928’ which segues perfectly into the upbeat rocker and fun listen ‘Rockin’ The Paradise’ – a rallying cry for the American nation. This must have sounded like music to the Americans ears given that they had lived through the turbulent 1970’s. Shaw takes the mike for the upbeat synth-driven ‘Too Much Time On My Hands’. The guitars ensure it is firmly anchored in AOR territory though it is very different from anything Styx had attempted previously, much like ‘Urgent’ was for Foreigner.
DeYoung has a field day wrapping his larynx around ‘Nothing Ever Goes As Planned’ this has a cod reggae beat and funky horn section, avoiding vaudeville – but only just. Act one closes, with the ballad ‘The Best Of Times’. This was a huge hit for Styx though fortunately it manages to sidestep the cloying sentimentality of a ballad like ‘Babe’. Act two opens with the punchy ‘Lonely People’. Again DeYoung commands proceedings (he’s always had a taste of theatrics) – though it’s a little too schmaltzy for my liking.
A brief moment of introspection is allowed for the Shaw penned ‘She Cares’ and then it’s into the haunting ‘Snow Blind’ a song notably critical of drug addiction. ‘Snowblind’ was not without controversy as Tipper Gore (Al’s wife) of the Parents Music Resource Center (‘PMRC’) branded it as ‘Satanistic’. Ironically ‘Snow Blind’ doesn’t feature in the PMRC’s ‘Filthy Fifteen’ (maybe it’s in the ‘dirty thirty’?) alongside such luminaries as Sheena Easton (I kid you not!).
James Young handles the lead vocal on the obligatory hard rocker ‘Half-Penny, Two-Penny’ a song whose lyrics about wealth and the American dream have a timeless quality just as pertinent today. Album closer ‘AD 1958’ is a continuation of ‘AD 1928’ though this time more lyrically downbeat. Proceedings are finally brought to an end with the brief piano instrumental ‘State Street Sadie’ which echoes the nostalgia of the 1920’s.
‘Paradise Theatre’ successfully managed to bridge the gap for those long term fans of ‘Equinox’ and earlier, together with those new recruits won over by ‘Cornerstone’. Presumably the album’s nostalgic tone also struck a chord with a disillusioned American public at large (grown weary of the Carter administration). They purchased ‘Paradise Theatre’ by the truckload sending it to the pinnacle of the US album charts whereupon Styx became the first group to be awarded four consecutive multi-platinum albums.