Styx – The Grand Illusion (1977)

FrontCover1Styx is an American rock band from Chicago that formed in 1972 and became famous for its albums released in the late 1970s and early 1980s. They are best known for melding hard rock guitar balanced with acoustic guitar, synthesizers mixed with acoustic piano, upbeat tracks with power ballads, and incorporating elements of international musical theatre. The band established itself with a progressive rock sound in the 1970s, and began to incorporate pop rock and soft rock elements in the 1980s.

Styx had eight songs that hit the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100: “Lady”, “Come Sail Away”, “Babe”, “The Best of Times”, “Too Much Time on My Hands”, “Mr. Roboto”, “Don’t Let It End”, and “Show Me the Way”. Other notable songs include “Renegade”, “The Grand Illusion”, “Blue Collar Man”, “Crystal Ball”, “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)”, “Rockin’ the Paradise”, “Boat on the River”, and “Suite Madame Blue”. Styx has had four consecutive albums certified multi-platinum by the RIAA, as well as 16 top-40 singles in the US, eight of which hit the top 10. Seven of their eight Top 10 singles were written and sung by founding member and former lead singer Dennis DeYoung, including their No. 1 chart topper, “Babe”. DeYoung has not been part of the band since 1999, after being ousted by guitarists James “J.Y.” Young and Tommy Shaw in an acrimonious split. Styx have sold over 54 million records worldwide.

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The Grand Illusion is the seventh studio album by Styx. Recorded at Paragon Recording Studios in Chicago, the album was released on July 7, 1977. The release was a smash worldwide, selling three million copies in the US (Triple Platinum) alone. Some estimates have the album at over 6 million copies sold. The album launched the band to stardom and spawned the hit singles “Come Sail Away” and “Fooling Yourself.”

As with much of Styx’s catalog, many of the songs have quasi-medieval/fantasy lyrics and themes. Some are allegories and commentaries on contemporary American life and the members’ experiences in an American rock band in the mid-to-late 1970s, such as Castle Walls, Superstars, Miss America and the title track, The Grand Illusion.[citation needed]

The emotionally deep song “Man in the Wilderness” was written by Tommy Shaw after watching a Kansas performance in Detroit, which they had played as the opening act. He has stated it was “Epic! Unlike any presentation of rock music I’d ever experienced. To go that big opened up all kinds of ideas in my mind, and the next time I was alone with my acoustic, the song more or less unfolded itself.” The lyrics stem from his experiences of rising to fame with Styx as well as his brother being sent off to fight in the Vietnam War, as a pawn for the politicians in Washington DC.

Single

“Come Sail Away” uses sailing as a metaphor to achieve one’s dreams and the yearning to sail away. The lyrics touch on nostalgia of “childhood friends,” escapism, and a religious thematic symbolized by “a gathering of angels” singing “a song of hope.” The ending lyrics explain a transformation from a sailing ship into a starship, by narrating that “they climbed aboard their starship and headed for the skies” which also imply biblical verses from Ezekiel (1:1-28).[7] However, DeYoung revealed on In the Studio with Redbeard (which devoted an entire episode to the making of The Grand Illusion), that he was depressed when he wrote the track after Styx’s first two A&M offerings, Equinox and Crystal Ball, sold fewer units than expected after the success of the single “Lady”. Musically, it combines a plaintive, ballad-like opening section (including piano and synthesizer interludes) with a bombastic, guitar-heavy second half. In the middle of the second half it features the proggish minute-long synthesizer instrumental break, after the solo finished, the guitar-heavy returns with a catchy chorus.

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“Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)” was written by Shaw. It was originally based on Shaw’s initial perception of DeYoung who was an “angry young man” who viewed the group’s successes with a wary eye and grew angry or depressed with every setback. It was only in later years that Shaw began to see himself in the lyrics, and the song took on a more personal meaning to him.[citation needed]. The composition features a number of time signature changes. The intro and outro are performed in 6/8 time, led by Shaw’s acoustic guitar tracks and DeYoung’s synthesizer melodies. The vocal sections of the song are in 4/4. The instrumental features a synthesizer solo in 7/4 time, before returning to 4/4 for the final chorus. After a brief intro recap, there is a brief break with two measures of 5/8 time, and then a return to the 6/8 meter, with another synthesizer solo, before fading out.

The closing track “The Grand Finale” combines the themes of the songs on the album.(wikipedia)

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Other than being their first platinum-selling album, The Grand Illusion led Styx steadfastly into the domain of AOR rock. Built on the strengths of “Come Sail Away”‘s ballad-to-rock metamorphosis, which gained them their second Top Ten hit, and on the high harmonies of newcomer Tommy Shaw throughout “Fooling Yourself,” The Grand Illusion introduced Styx to the gates of commercial stardom. The pulverized growl of “Miss America” reveals the group’s guitar-savvy approach to six-string rock, while De Young pretentiously struts his singing prowess throughout the title track. Shaw’s induction into the band has clearly settled, and his guitar work, along with James Young’s, is full and extremely sharp where it matters most. Even the songwriting is more effluent than Crystal Ball, which was released one year earlier, shedding their mystical song motifs for a more audience-pleasing lyric and chord counterpoise. Reaching number six on the album charts, The Grand Illusion was the first to display the gelled accomplishments of both Tommy Shaw and Dennis De Young as a tandem. (by Mike DeGagne)

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Personnel:
Dennis DeYoung (vocals, keyboards)
Chuck Panozzo (bass)
John Panozzo (drums, percussion)
Tommy Shaw (vocals, guitar)
James Young (vocals, guitar, synthesizer on 04.)

Inlets

Tracklist:
01. The Grand Illusion (DeYoung) DeYoung 4:36
02. Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man) (Shaw) 5.20
03. Superstars (Young, DeYoung) 3.46
04. Come Sail Away (DeYoung) 5.52
05. Miss America (Young) 4.53
06. Man In The Wilderness (Shaw) 5.39
07. Castle Walls (DeYoung) 5.57
08. The Grand Finale (DeYoung/Young/Shaw) 1.54LabelB1*
**

The Blank Signature, 1965 by Rene Magritte:

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Surrealism aimed to transcend the realist depiction of scenes available to ordinary perception. Under the influence of the new discipline of psychoanalysis, surrealists made use of such techniques as dream analysis to uncover the unconscious workings of the mind and the symbols that the unconscious works with. Not much of Magritte’s oeuvre consists of literally inconsistent images, but at least one famous image does, The Blank Signature.

This painting utilizes a technique like that of the Schuster fork, and illustrates how the mind constructs the impossibility. The mind puts together the separate elements into a “coherent” whole of these parts. The horse is thus bisected by a patch of background grass. Also, one of the tree trunks is in front of the horse but its base is behind the horse. It certainly seems that these elements are inconsistent with our conception of a rider in a forest. For example, it qualifies as an occlusion illusion, since reversal of occlusions is sufficient to produce a consistent image. (renemagritte.org)

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