Styx’s third record ‘The Serpent Is Rising’ is the strongest of the Wooden Nickel era albums with its trademark mix of Midwest hard rock and British prog rock.
Written by: Eric
ALBUM: The Serpent Is Rising
LABEL: Wooden Nickel
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
LINEUP: Dennis DeYoung – organ, piano, synthesizer, lead vocals * James Young – guitar, acoustic guitar, lead vocals * John Curulewski – guitar, keyboards, vocals * Chuck Panozzo – bass, vocals * John Panozzo – drums, percussion, vocals
TRACK LISTING: 01 Witch Wolf * 02 The Grove Of Eglantine * 03 Young Man * 04 As Bad As This * 05 Winner Take All * 06 22 Years * 07 Jonas Psalter * 08 The Serpent Is Rising * 09 Krakatoa * 10 Hallelujah Chorus
WEBLINKS: Site Link
Call me crazy, but I think the four Wooden Nickel label Styx albums and ‘Equinox’ are the group’s best work. I’ll wager there are more than a few Glory Daze readers who will probably disagree, and yes ‘Grand Illusion’ is a shining example of pomp at its glorious best. But the five years signed to a label that provided next to nothing in promotion showed Styx at their most progressive and experimental.
On the other side of the coin, Styx have taken a bad rap from progressive fans who believe Styx were never prog enough to mix with company like Yes and Genesis and perhaps there is some truth to that. But in the end it comes down to a matter of personal taste and the quality of the music right?
The bands third record ‘The Serpent Is Rising’ is the strongest of the Wooden Nickel era albums with the trademark mixture of Midwest hard rock and British progressive rock. It would take them from Chicago night clubs and high school gymnasiums to Madison Square Garden and the L.A Forum a few years later.
James Young kicks the album off with the excellent ‘Witch Wolf’ and while I have never been a fan of his vocalist style, it works here delivering a powerful hard rock anthem that is unmistakably Styx. ‘The Grove Of Eglantine’ spotlights Dennis DeYoung’s prog rock leanings with all the dramatic flair he has become famous for.
The album’s first single ‘Young Man’ combines both sides of the band, but might have been just a little heavy for AM radio airplay and it’s a bit confusing as to why ‘Winner Takes All’ wasn’t pushed? It’s pop friendly with a great hook. It did appear earlier in the year as the flip side of the ‘You Need Love’ single off ‘Styx 2’ earlier in the year, but I guess radio programmers just didn’t pay attention.
The only downside of the record is the token John Curulewski track ‘As Bad As This’ which starts out fine until it segues into a reggae influenced waste of time with nonsense lyrics about a Plexiglas toilet. Whatever, just be glad CD technology allows for the ‘skip’ option! The album closes with two short experimental pieces. ‘Krakatoa’ will be familiar to Movie goers as Filmmaker George Lucas used the clip to introduce the THX Theater sound system which moves effortlessly into an arrangement of Handel’s ‘Messiah’ titled ‘Hallelujah Chorus’.
Try as they might, Styx hit the road outside of their Chicago home base playing gigs across the U.S supporting the album with occasional support slots for everyone from The Doobie Brothers and REO Speedwagon to Iron Butterfly.
While in the time honored Midwest tradition of playing everywhere and anywhere, headlining their own shows in such obscure hamlets as Spearfish – South Dakota and Scottsbluff – Nebraska, among other off the beaten track locales. Not exactly rock ‘n roll hotbeds, but just goes to show how hard they worked in light of an indifferent record label that did nothing for them.
‘Lady’ from the previous record was cruelly two years away from becoming a hit and we all know the hard work paid off in the end although it’s too bad Styx in the later half of the 21st century ‘s first decade without DeYoung – have lost their way, becoming nothing more than an ‘oldies’ band with no direction and at times, little class.