The first Styx album (self-titled, 1972) is an overlooked slab of pomp rock. It’s not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but any band wishing to open their debut long player with a thirteen minute epic fusing hard rock with flourishes of Aaron Copland and what sounds like a conversation with a New York cabbie must have something, right? With that track, ‘Movement For The Common Man’, Styx announced their arrival in a typically grand style. The rest of the album, while nowhere near as complete sounding as 1977’s ‘Grand Illusion’ or as obviously song oriented as any of the albums from then onward, still makes for interesting listening decades after its original release. 1973’s ‘Styx II’, by contrast, is a more sedate affair – sedate in the world of early Styx means still very much still pompous and overblown – but, naturally, a bigger input from vocalist/pianist Dennis DeYoung, brought with it a much stronger element of musical theatre.
With these two records as a solid grounding, the band went all out for their next long player ‘The Serpent Is Rising’. Released in October 1973 – the third Styx LP to hit the shelves in just eighteen months – it has to be said, it has less of a focus than its predecessors. It doesn’t sound as if Styx had been tempted to use up leftover material though, rather more that this time out, the gloves were truly off. Coming from the days when bands were allowed to spend record company money (no matter how meagre a budget) while still very much on a learning curve, it sounds as if Styx intended to throw everything at this recording bar the kitchen sink to find out, once and for all, what styles worked for them…and which ones really didn’t.
Jim Peterik is a legend. His work on various Survivor albums cements his place in the melodic rock history books, regardless of anything he has written or recorded since the 80s. Tracks like ‘American Heartbeat’, ‘Jackie Don’t Go’, ‘I Can’t Hold Back’ and ‘Poor Man’s Son’ are stone cold classics…and of course, it would take a hard heart not to be amused by the ‘Eye of The Tiger’ video with Survivor attempting to look tough whilst stomping through a warehouse.
Peterik’s post-Survivor projects have, understandably, been less high profile. After all, how can you follow a million selling rock band, radio play and worldwide number one singles?
2016 has been an interesting year. We’ve heard hundreds of albums and we’ve heard lots of good ones, but in comparison to the previous couple of years there has been a paucity of great ones. Nevertheless, there’s always gold to be mined and here are Real Gone’s top ten albums of the year.
[As always, in the interest of fairness, the choices are limited to those actually reviewed on the website]
After forming in 1989 – towards the end of melodic rock’s heyday – Seven attracted the attention of the legendary John Parr. With Parr as producer, the Brit AOR band recorded and released two moderately successful singles and subsequently toured with anyone who’d have them. They shared stages with the suitable (Richard Marx) to the questionable (Jason Donovan) and various acts in between . Although there were plans to release an album, the band were subsequently dropped by their record label and soon went their separate ways.
Active from the mid to late 80s, The Difference were a progressive rock band that, while indebted to the usual influences from Rush and the big progressive hitters of the era, also tempered their sound with various other more contemporary influences – ranging from 80s pop and AOR to the tight quirks of The Police. On their 1988 EP, the coming together of older prog sounds with an eighties sharpness results in some very pleasing music that, although hampered slightly by budgetary contraints, still presents some great ideas.