This is the debut album from the AOR and pomp legends from the southside of Chicago – Styx.
Written by: Eric
LABEL: Wooden Nickel
CD REISSUE: 1998, One Way (USA), OW35130
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
LINEUP: Dennis DeYoung – organ, piano, synthesizer, lead vocals * James Young – guitar, acoustic guitar, lead vocals * John Curulewski – guitar, electronics, vocals * Chuck Panozzo – bass * John Panozzo – drums, percussion
TRACK LISTING: 01 Movement For The Common Man – a) Children Of the Land – b) Street Collage – c) Fanfare For The Common Man – d) Mother Nature’s Matinee* 02 Right Away * 03 What Has Come Between Us * 04 Best Thing * 05 Quick Is The Beat Of My Heart * 06 After You Leave Me
WEBLINKS: Site Link
Arguably America’s first pomp rock album, the Styx debut is nothing short of a rock classic. Most of us know their story moving between the late 60’s bands Tradewinds and TW4 eventually changing their name to Styx at the bequest of their infamous label Wooden Nickel.
Southside Chicago boys were obviously transformed by the hard rock of Jimi Hendrix, Grand Funk Railroad and the British art rock sounds coming from across the pond. I don’t think anyone at the time had illusions Styx would become one of the biggest bands in the world, but all the elements that made this band great can be found on this record and it’s a beauty.
A bold move opening the record with the thirteen minute plus, four part ‘Movement For The Common Man’ loosely based on the Aaron Copeland masterpiece, but it works. The first ‘Movement’ is ‘Children Of The Land’ a Grand Funk styled hard rock number ending on a psychedelic note with groovy organ and guitar interplay.
It fades into ‘Street Collage’ featuring interviews with a few of the older generation on the streets of Chicago. Growing up in the Windy City at the time myself, I can relate to the local accents and conversations of the time, but its back to the music with the group’s version Copeland’s ‘Fanfare For The Common Man’. This is followed by the closing ‘Mother Nature’s Matinee’ and the first appearance of Dennis DeYoung on vocals.
To be honest it’s a welcome relief from JY’s rock growl, never one of my favourite vocalists and while ‘Movement For The Common Man won’t go down as a progressive rock masterwork, it proves that Styx were as experimental as their British counterparts and deserve credit where credit is due. From here on Styx take a more conservative direction with ‘Right Away’ and ‘What Has Come Between Us’, the later featuring some nice harpsichord work from DeYoung.
But it’s ‘Best Thing’ that gives the band some pop credibility with a song that landed the band on the lower 80’s of the Billboard charts. A big surprise, but it would be three more years before they would experience anything close to its success again. A bit of a slide in quality on the last two tracks although ‘After You Leave Me’ written by funk superstar George Clinton is the best and again it’s sung by James Young leaving me to wonder why Dennis was relegated to just two lead tracks and background vocalist?
Whatever the politics of the band at the time, the Styx debut is a solid effort and belongs in every serious collection and once again it’s a reminder of just how great this band were and how far they have fallen from grace.