Come Sail Away: The Styx Anthology (2 CD Set)
By Allan Hirt

Basic Information
Release Catalog Number: B0002104-02
Label: A&M/UTV/UMe
US Release Date: May 4, 2004
Review Date: March 25, 2004

Disc One (73:17)
1. Best Thing 3:14 (from Styx I)
2. You Need Love 3:45 (from Styx II)
3. Lady 2:58 (from Styx II)
4. Winner Take All 3:04 (from The Serpent Is Rising)
5. Rock & Roll Feeling 3:03 (from Man of Miracles)
6. Light Up 4:20 (from Equinox)
7. Lorelei 3:22(from Equinox)
8. Prelude 12 1:20 (from Equinox)
9. Suite Madame Blue 6:32 (from Equinox)
10. Shooz 4:46 (from Crystal Ball)
11. Mademoiselle 4:00 (from Crystal Ball)
12. Crystal Ball 4:34 (from Crystal Ball)
13. The Grand Illusion 4:37 (from Grand Illusion)
14. Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man) 5:29 (from Grand Illusion)
15. Come Sail Away 6:05 (from Grand Illusion)
16. Miss America 4:59 (from Grand Illusion)
17. Man In The Wilderness 6:57 (original from Grand Illusion; this is the "Previously Unreleased Full Length Version")

Disc Two (76:51)
1. Blue Collar Man (Long Nights) 4:06 (from Pieces of Eight)
2. Sing For The Day 4:57 (from Pieces of Eight)
3. Renegade 4:14 (from Pieces of Eight)
4. Pieces of Eight 4:44 (from Pieces of Eight)
5. Lights 4:38 (from Cornerstone)
6. Babe 4:26 (from Cornerstone)
7. Borrowed Time 4:58 (from Cornerstone)
8. Boat On The River 3:11 (from Cornerstone)
9. A.D. 1928 1:07 (from Paradise Theater)
10. Rockin' the Paradise 3:35 (from Paradise Theater)
11. Too Much Time On My Hands 4:32 (from Paradise Theater)
12. The Best of Times 4:18 (from Paradise Theater)
13. Snowblind 4:58 (from Paradise Theater)
14. Mr. Roboto 5:27 (from Kilroy Was Here)
15. Love Is The Ritual 3:48 (from Edge of the Century)
16. Show Me The Way 4:36 (from Edge of the Century)
17. Dear John 3:03 (from Return to Paradise)
18. One With Everything 5:56 (from Cyclorama)

Ratings (on a scale of 1 to 5, 5 being the best)
Overall: 5
Track Listing: 4
Sonics: 5

I. General Comments
The idea of a Styx box set has been kicking around and rumored (3 to 4 discs of stuff) for at least five years now, if not longer. I first talked with Dennis DeYoung about it in 1999 when Dennis was promoting his Ultimate Collection and right after the rift between Styx and DDY started to really grow legs. To sum up (if you don't want to click over to the interview), it was supposed to be out in 1999, but the whole mess between the parties basically mangled it being released in the fall of 1999. Hard to pull a cohesive set together when everyone is fighting.

Fast forward over four years later to 2004, where all lawsuits are settled and both sides have made proverbial peace (as much as you can when the split was as, shall we say not friendly, as this one was). When I first heard Universal was going to release yet another Styx compilation this year - this time a 2 CD one - I have to admit, I groaned. In print here in the USA, there's already Greatest Hits, Greatest Hits Part 2, 20th Century Masters, and mosty recently, Rockers. I must own more than 20+ Styx compilations all from over the world at this point, and the last thing I wanted at this juncture was another one. But I tried to reserve judgement until I had more information.

Once I heard from official sources sometime in February it was going to have the long rumored to be officially released "full length version" of "Man In The Wilderness". I was starting to get excited - maybe this wouldn't be a typical compilation. This week, when I got the sales sheet from UMe, I almost fell out of my chair to see it had RCA/Wooden Nickel and CMC/Sanctuary tracks. I was besides myself. A complete career retrospective! The only other disc to cross labels was the Canadian and Japanese-only one disc hits collection from the 90s that had "Lady" on it, as well as single edits of a few songs (and to this day, it is still the only place to get single edits of some of the Styx songs). A few days later, I had the actual Anthology in my hands.

Disc one covers the period 1972 - 1977, and disc two 1978 - 2003. The songs are presented chronologically on each disc and grouped by album. It's an interesting way to listen because all compilations to this point have really jumped around. You really get to hear the progression/growth/change in the band as time went on. It's nice to see "Dear John" here, as it is a fitting tribute to Styx drummer John Panozzo who sadly passed away in 1996 and was subsequently replaced by Todd Sucherman.

The
"Previously Unreleased Full Length Version" of "Man in the Wilderness" is the lone rarity here. The difference is a longer playout at the end; the rest of the song is the same. It's a nice little thing to have, and should be the biggest attraction for die-hard Styx fans to pick this one up (but hopefully not the only one).

For you Styx trivia buffs, the working title of the release was not Come Sail Away, but The Best of Times.

II. So How Does It Sound?
In a word: fantastic. Although my review copy is not the final master or EQ, if what I heard is any indication, you will all be thanking the folks over at Gateway Mastering Studios. I assume Bob Ludwig did it (again, I had no information listed), as he has done a lot of the Styx releases recently. Come Sail Away: The Styx Anthology does not sound NoNoised (to my ears), and has great dynamic range.

For grins and yucks, I compared "You Need Love" and "Lady" to the 1999 Japanese K2 remaster from The Best of Styx (1973 - 1974) (RCA/BMG BVCM-31021), which, along with the other 3 CDs (Styx II, SIR, MOM) which were released at the same time, I considered to have the best sonic versions of the RCA albums (sans Styx I, which only saw release from One Way here in the USA, and sonically, it was not the best CD ever). "You Need Love" is a bit louder than the one from TBOS, and is not as bright. The overall instrumentation seems to have excellent tonal balance. The TBOS version is a bit brighter and more "aggressive" - more of a rock mix (if you will). The Anthology version is a tad more laid back and smooth. I like both; it's just different mastering styles. However, things like cymbals do seem to sound more "natural" on the Anthology release.

"Lady" on TBOS is definitely a bit brighter than the one on Anthology. But the one on Anthology IMHO smokes the TBOS version. Hands down. The piano again, sounds more natural and when it kicks in, the cymbals do not have the sibilance/bright popping out at you as it does on TBOS. Again, both are good. But if I had one, the Anthology version is certainly better to listen to.

I also compared "Come Sail Away" and "Mr. Roboto" from this release to their counterparts on 1995's Greatest Hits. "Come Sail Away" was a bit brighter on GH, also mastered by Bob Ludwig at Gateway. The Anthology version is a bit less bright and more natural. Very close to the GH version, but definitely better. Sounds like it came from a higher quality transfer (such as 96 kHz/24-bit) or had better electronics for A/D converters.

Sadly, I noticed a glitch at 3:28 (almost 3:29) into "Come Sail Away" on my reference copy. I don't know if it is because of the burning process, my player, the file used to EQ, or the original tape (heaven forbid!), but there was a momentary noticeable popping sound. I hope this is corrected for the final master.

"Mr. Roboto" had similar sonics - a bit more bright on GH, and the one on Anthology less bright, more natural, and detailed.

I also compared "One With Everything" on Anthology to its counterpart on Cyclorama. I'm not one for calling for a remaster of a one year old album, but yeesh ... I really like the version on Anthology. Gateway should do all Styx releases. Period. No slight against Dan Stout (Colossal Mastering in Chicago) who did Cyclorama, but wow. The drums sound so much more natural in the master on Anthology. The whole song is not as "in your face" as it is on Cyclorama - much like the 1999 Japanese remaster of the RCA stuff is a bit more aggressive. Personal tastes and mastering styles, but man, I'm throwing my hat in the ring to redo Cyclorama :)

NOTE: Keep in mind what I heard is not the final mastering/EQ, so things may change on the final Anthology release. I will update this review accordingly for the final version. Final mastering tends to add a bit more high end/sheen to a disc.

(If you are curious how I did my test, I did it with flat EQ using a Marantz PM-7000 stereo amp with a Marantz CD6000OSE CD player. I didn't tweak EQ as I wanted them to be fair tests.)

III. Minor Song Gripes
No compilation will ever be perfect. If you're going on chart factor (that is, songs that cracked the top 40), the following songs are missing: "Why Me" (Cornerstone), "Never Say Never" (Paradise Theater), "Don't Let It End" (Kilroy Was Here), "Music Time" (Caught In The Act), and "Love At First Sight" (Edge of the Century). The press release said Anthology has 12 of the 16 top 40 songs for Styx; I think they missed one (minor factual quibble).

And if you want to quibble on completeness since nearly every release is represented, also missing are tracks from Greatest Hits ("Lady '95", but you get the real version here) and the two from Greatest Hits Part 2 ("Little Suzie" and "It Takes Love"), not to mention anything from Brave New World. Even though the band was basically coming apart at the time, and even now, the band ignores that album even live, I would have liked to have seen "Everything Is Cool", which is arguably the best song on there AND is the most "classic" Styx sounding track they had done in a long time up to that point. I'll also bring up that "Music Time" is also missing not only from a chart standpoint, but it ignores Caught In The Act. In fact, nothing appears from that release on Anthology.

Also missing are other rare tracks. That to me is the biggest disappointment here. Here are some songs that could have made the cut:
1. The live version of "Crystal Ball" from the Roadie soundtrack. I would have preferred this to the studio version.
2. The live version of "Boat on the River", which is on the European version of Caught In The Act, and was also on an old European 12", not to mention a CD single from about 10 years ago. Again, I'd rather have this than the studio version here.
3. The live version of "Heavy Metal Poisioning" from the "Music Time" single. Now, I can see why this wouldn't be released, but still ... it's an official b-side.
4. The Gulf War version of "Show Me The Way". A&M released the WAVA version (there are two GW versions, actually) as a promo reel-to-reel in 1990/1991 (I own it; it's a cool collectible). Again, another substitution for the plain ol' studio album version.
5. The Styx version of "Chain Me Down", which was at least demoed (and is rumored to have been multitracked) for Grand Illusion, but dropped for "Miss America". "Chain" was later re-recoreded and released on James Young's first solo album, City Slicker.
6. Any track from the unreleased live album from 1978 sitting in UMe's vault. Maybe this will be disc 2 of the oft-delayed Grand Illusion Deluxe Edition. The reels of this live album actually showed up on eBay a few years ago. In many interviews from the period, the band (and specifically Tommy Shaw) talk about a live album that was due to be released.
7. The "Son of Edge" demos; some of these have shown up in other forms, but it would be cool to hear them in their original form. It is extremely doubtful these will ever get out.

Since I am a die hard Styx fan, take all of this with a grain of salt. A more casual buyer or fan may not care, but it would have been cool to see more than just the longer version of "Man In The Wilderness". That said, getting one track from a band that has notoriously guarded such rarities is a GOOD thing. I now have one more Styx rarity officially than I did before.

IV. Artwork
My review copy did not have the artwork, so I'll update this section when I see the final release. If it's up to the quality of the music and sonics, I doubt I'll be disappointed.

V. Conclusion
As if you couldn't tell, I really like this compilation - a lot. Is it complete? No. But it's the most complete and balanced career retrospective you will find for Styx, period. More would be overkill. Kudos to UMe for licensing the RCA/Wooden Nickel and CMC/Sanctuary tracks (granted CMC/RCA/Sancturary are all owned by one parent company, BMG). You will not hear me often praising a Styx compilation. This is a set that satisfies both the die hard as well as the casual fan. My minor gripes are just that - the gripes of someone who knows there's more out there.

It's clear that songs from Kilroy and Edge were sacrificed since they are the least represented (from a studio A&M album perspective) to get RCA/Wooden Nickel era ones on as well as some of the later ones. I can live with that, although "Don't Let It End" is a fairly noticeable omission.

As a collector, I can only hope that this new Anthology, the release of the 20th Century Masters DVD (reviewed here), and the Caught In The Act DVD (slated to be released the same day as Anthology) are the beginnings of more good things from UMe and Styx back catalog. Maybe the Grand Illusion Deluxe Edition will finally be released. Maybe the remasters for the A&M studio albums that were supposed to be released in 1995/6 will be released. Heck, maybe even 5.1 surround versions of certain A&M albums will be released on SACD or DVD-A. I can already hear songs like "Too Much Time On MY Hands" and "Mr. Roboto" in surround in my head; I know how *I'd* mix them.

I also hope BMG/RCA decides to re-release the early material, and allows Gateway Mastering to remaster the early Styx albums. If what they did is any indication of the quality of the master tapes, bring it on! I'd buy 'em the day they were released.

In the meantime, Styx fans of all types (casual, die-hard, and anything inbetween) should really go grab this one when it is released on May 4th. Highly recommended.