Styx was clearly one of my biggest musical influences from the mid to late 70's. Starting with the album Equinox and ending around the Cornerstone album was the era of influence on me. I felt that Styx became much too watered down and pop on Paradise Theater, and then completely lost their minds on Mr. Roboto. Cornerstone was pop, but it was a very unique set of songs that were the exception for me.
Starting with Equinox, I became completely fascinated with the song Suite Madam Blue, a song about our coutries bicentennial celebration back in 1976. It had this sort of haunting kind of melody in the first part, and then kicked into overdrive will some raw, huge synth sounds and raw driving guitar. The backing vocal harmonies were a little brash at times, but that was OK. This song defined my taste in rock. The use of great melodies, huge raw guitar and synths. Nothing like a cranked Marshall and raw synth leads from an Arp 2600 modular synth. Of course, Dennis DeYoung loved the sound of these, but hated the hassle of using the patch cords with no patch preset memory.
Crystal Ball was the next record that came along in 1976, and it was the first with Tommy Shaw. Crystal Ball was a great introduction to Tommy's excellent vocals. The song This Old Man, a song about the father of Dennis DeYoung, was a great example of the classic Styx backing vocal harmonies. Every guy in that band could sing, and the stacked backing vocal harmonies established that 'Styx sound' that was unlike any other.
The Grand Illusion is one of the best records ever made, period. A complete masterpiece from beginning to end. There must have been some divine intervention on this one, and ironically it was relesed on 7-7-77. This was written at a very depressing time for Dennis DeYoung and the band because they were about to get dropped from A&M because they had not had enough previous success. So they just wrote it from the heart. Dennis wrote song of hope such as Come Sail Away, as a way to sort of cheer himself up. Well, it ended up making a lot of people happy, as well. This record, Dennis had aquired a new synth called an Oberheim SEM 4 Voice, and began using it on every song, along with the Hammond B3, Arp String Ensemble, Arp Oddesy, a Fender Rhodes, and Yamaha C3 grand piano. The HUGE synthesizers you here on this record are all Oberheim 4 Voice. Actually, the eclectic song, Castle Walls, is one of my favorite songs of all time is is a very strong music influence.
Pieces of Eight was released in 1978, and was another masterpiece. However, I was a bit disappointed in the recording quality on this record. However, the band showed that they were still on a roll and in rare form. On this rcord, Dennis used the same synths, except he upgraded to an Oberheim 8 Voice, and bought a couple of Oberheim OBX's. Queen of Spades is the obvious favorite for me on this record, and a big music influence. Again, raw synth and guitar with an attitude was what it was all about. Back in those days, James Young mostly used a 60's Fender Strat through a homemade preamp called the Yoshinerator, named after a college electrical engineering buddy of James that built it for him, and that signal was run into late 60's Marshall Plexi's and early 70's Marshall metal panel JMP's. He used mid-70's Marshall cabs with the checkerboard grill cloth. Tommy Shaw mostly used a modified white Gibson Les Paul Custom through a Yoshinerator preamp and into a Mesa Boogie 60/100w amp. Back in the 70's there was only one amp made by Boogie, but those amps that Tommy used are now referred to as the Boogie Mark I. Tommy usually played through Hiwatt cabs in the studio and live. The older Hiwatt cabs were very heavy, dense, and produced a very solid low end.
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