If Styx were going to crack the big time then their next album would have to be the one, and as a body of work, ‘Pieces Of Eight’ delivers in spades.
Written by: gdmonline
ALBUM: Pieces Of Eight
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
LINEUP: Dennis DeYoung – vocals, keyboards * Tommy Shaw – vocals, guitars * James Young – vocals, guitars * Chuck Panuzzo – bass * John Panuzzo – drums
<TRACK LISTING: 01 Great White Hope * 02 I’m Okay * 03 Sing For The Day * 04 The Message * 05 Lords Of The Ring * 06 Blue Collar Man (Long Nights) * 07 Queen Of Spades * 08 Renegade * 09 Pieces Of Eight * 10 Aku-Aku
WEBLINKS: Site Link
Styx departed 1977 with a platinum selling album in the bank. ‘The Grand Illusion’ was a near perfect blend of prog and pomp which contained a commercial edge allowing it to grace the charts. The band reignited their creative juices in readiness for their crucial follow-up. If Styx were going to crack the big time then their next album would have to be the one.
And as a body of work, ‘Pieces Of Eight’ delivers in spades. There are moments on this album you’d swear that they were cast-offs from ‘The Grand Illusion’ recording sessions, such is the similarity.The trio of DeYoung, Young and Shaw share the burden of most of the songs, spreading their vocals and instrument parts accordingly. Certainly Shaw’s presence bought the band additional fans with his youthful appearance, and no doubt additional sales of LP’s and cassettes.
The album kicks off with the boxing theme ‘Great White Hope’, a track that showcases James Young on vocals and guitars. A real rabble rouser this one, highlighting the cause of the underdog in typical Rocky Balboa fashion! ‘I’m Okay’ is an album highlight for me (among many), with loads of keyboard/organ parts, a memorable hook, and a deft chorus.
With an album like this there just has to be a place for an acoustic ballad, and ‘Sing For The Day’ takes up that role. A lovely rambling folk-like piece with Tommy Shaw’s high vocal parts a perfect fit. ‘The Message’ is the lead-in introduction for ‘Lords Of The Rings’. I’m sure even our Texan friends Hobbit will be impressed by the title, the song is a big sounding piece with wall-to-wall keyboards loads of gothic imagery to boot, and a nod to Rush like prog a la ‘A Farewell To Kings’ during the bridge and end sequence. This is another James Young/Dennis DeYoung effort, the duo obviously knew how to pen a good tune in their day.
The first of the hit singles appears with ‘Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)’, a staple tune on radio throughout the midwest for many years. The familiar organ intro from DeYoung and feedback wail from Shaw propels this song to legendary status. The chorus and theme is straight out of the Survivor school of AOR, with impossible odds, backs to the wall all getting the obligatory mention.
‘Queen Of Spades’ ranks as one of Styx’s finest hard-rock moments. Great lyrics, imagery, and some fiery lead work from James Young. Pray tell to all you men out there that you never get tangled up with a woman like the song portrays. God help you! The band’s second hit single ‘Renegade’ follows the manic schizophrenia of the previous song. Shaw does the honours again on vocals, the tale of an out-of-luck cowboy who is the run.
The title track ‘Pieces Of Eight’ is a lilting piano based ballad crafted by DeYoung, which touches on the past, but serves as a benchmark for future compositions as well. The album tails off with the instrumental ‘Aku-Aku’ which drifts off on a Alan Parsons approved cloud of melancholy.
For me personally, most of their albums up to this point in time appealed to me greatly. From ‘Cornerstone’ onwards, the attraction waned, as it did for many other longtime Styx fans, their style which moved toward a big-show band was a big turn-off. Thankfully they fixed things up on the excellent 1990 album ‘Edge Of The Century’ but since the departure of main-man Dennis DeYoung, the band have suffered mixed fortunes once again. Let us hope they can return to former glories.
Entire Album (Select Tracks)