Number: N/A (Official Reference Disc, No Artwork)
Total Time: 58:07
US Release Date: 2/18/03
Review Date: 1/18/03 (updated 2/7/03)
Track Listing and Lengths
1. Do Things My Way (4:57)
2. Waiting For Our Time (4:12)
3. Fields Of The Brave (3:22)
4. Bourgeois Pig (0:49)
5. Kiss Your Ass Good-bye (3:13)
6. These Are The Times (6:44)
7. Yes I Can (3:51)
8. More Love For The Money (3:48)
9. Together (4:46)
10. Fooling Yourself (Palm Of Your Hands) (0:39)
11. Captain America (3:53)
12. Killing The Thing That You Love (5:36)
13. One With Everything (5:56)
14. Genki Desu Ka (6:14)
(on a scale of 1 to 5, 5 being the best)
3.5 (if you put it in comparison to other Styx albums; for a point of
reference, I'd give Grand Illusion a 5, Paradise Theater a
b) 3.75 if you like a good album in this genre
I wrote this review initially on 1/18 when I got the advance, but I
wanted to give this a good "burn-in" time, which is a good
test for any album. This album still is in my music rotation, and I
have not tired of it - it gives a good first impression and continues
to grow on me. Easily Styx's strongest and most consistent effort in
years, with or without Dennis.
What grabs you immediately from Cyclorama is it feels like an
album, not a collection of tracks - which is what Brave New World
felt like. And after way too many live albums, it's nice to hear
what the band can do. You can definitely hear influences like Queen,
the Beatles, Sum 41 (yes you read right), and possibly even Cheap Trick
or Supertramp at times. Are there some clunkers on here? Absolutely
... out of 14 tracks, I'm not going to like them all. But overall, it
really is a good album (and yes, I would recommend it even if I didn't
like Styx; if you're a fan, there are sometimes those albums you know
you like, but know others would hate). Will Cyclorama be my new
Grand Illusion? No. But will I listen to this before most of
BNW? Absolutely. The past few years have been acrimonious to
say the least and it's time to get on with the music and let that speak
for itself and what Styx can do.
I'd be doing a dishonest review if I didn't bring up anything about
Dennis - do I miss Dennis in the vocal mix and in other ways? Sure -
you now have an appreciation of what he did bring to the table, but
it does not detract from the album at all. The current lineup can be
very proud of this. I can see me listening to this album, which is not
something I can say about some stuff I own (Arch Allies, anyone?).
I am not sure about its commercial prospects ... this is gonna be a
hard sell outside of the core fans or people who like classic rock,
despite some of the songs that sound more modern. Cyclorama is
the kind of album that will sell better on tour because people will
hear some of the tunes and then go to the souvenir stand.
This album has already caused controvesy with Styx fans vs. dedicated
Dennis fans in terms of some of the lyrical content, and what it does
or does nor mean/imply. Whether or not the guys intentionally are venting
at Dennis (I could see where "Bourgeois Pig" could be interpreted
this way, among others), we will never know 100% for sure and I say
get over it. If you choose not to like Cyclor ama or buy it for
this reason, then don't. Simple as that. But if Dennis and JY/Tommy
can move on, so should the fans.
as critical as I have been of Lawrence and some of his live performances
of songs like "Come Sail Away", I absolutely love two of his
songs here and have included them as standouts. I always said that if
they moved in the direction of "Criminal Mind", it'd be a
good thing. Gowan is not Dennis, and he brought himself to the table
- he did not try to be a DDY clone on record.
Having said that, between
Cyclorama and Dennis' "My G-d Can Beat Up Your G-d"
(which is a good tune that will hopefully be released on an eventual
studio effort from DDY), I'd say Styx fans (if they can put their biases
down) have lots to cheer about. Cyclorama still sounds like Styx
in many ways, but in many ways it does not sound like the Styx of old
in any way, shape, or form. Styx
definitely looked in the past to go forward, but it's not an album that
wallows in the past to make it faux nostalgia and a bad trip (which
is a very good thing). You
can tell they put a lot of effort in this, and the nearly three to four
years on the road honed their skills and sound as a unit - it paid off.
Cyclorama is a welcome addition to the Styx catalog, and an album
that bridges old and new Styx that should please fans old and new alike.
Of The Brave", "One With Everything", "More Love
For The Money", "Killing The Thing That You Love", "These
Are The Times"
be remiss if I didn't compare this to other similar efforts (that I
either liked or didn't). Compare this to Journey's Arrival (Columbia,
2001) , which was their first effort without Steve Perry. I liked Arrival,
but Cyclorama kicks its butt IMHO. And since, the band (Journey)
has tried to shy away a bit from it, hence the Red 13 EP. Arrival
even went through two cycles - the original Japanese release, which
was criticized as being too ballad heavy, and the eventual US/European
release which was better and more balanced.
Genesis album Calling All Stations (1997, Atlantic), their first
(and only) without Phil Collins was not a great album, and a commercial
flop on a grand scale. So much so the band called off its US tour even
after scaling back the size of the venues. It had some decent songs,
and promise for the future if they had gone in certain directions.
The Joe Jackson Band's Volume 4 (due March, 2003, from Rykodisc),
is another thing altogether. You have all four original members and
the album is awesome. I already have put this in my top 10 for 2003.
Like Cyclorama, it has a sense of nostalgia while clearly moving
Overall, the production is better than BNW - you can tell it
was made as a band. I have equated BNW to Yes' Union and still
stand by that (just compare the JY/Tommy tracks to Dennis' - the mixes
and sound is different). Since we all know now it really was more like
that, it's not hard to overcome the sonic inequalities of BNW
(which didn't help it). As you may have heard on the samples up on StyxWorld.com,
Todd's drums are tremendous in the mix. The real thing does not disappoint
when you hear it on CD - kudos to the mixing and mastering job because
everything (meaning all instruments) seems to sit right in the mix and
song-to-song, it's not out of whack. The mastering job is good as well
- it didn't detract from the mix or bring anything out that shouldn't
have been there. As Tommy said:
"We did the record as a band. In most cases each writer would bring
the genesis of a song, then throw it to the band to expand upon. It
was very much like 'The Grand Illusion' album
you know, all of
the songs went through the gauntlet. We all poked and prodded, added
and subtracted, changed and molded each one into a Styx song that really
represents the band today."
By Track Analysis
Do Things My Way - Lead Vocals: Tommy Shaw
I didn't like the synth bass/a capella opening much, but it kicked in
about 25 seconds in and that was that. This one sounds like an updated
Styx sound - old meets new. Good uptempo album opener. This one should
be a good live tune. I could see them opening up a show with this until
they drop it LOL ("Everything Is Cool", anyone?)
2. Waiting For Our Time Lead Vocals: Tommy Shaw
We've all heard this one, so I won't wax poetic about it. But sonically,
it sounds much better not on MP3, WMA, or RM. The "annoying"
treatment on his vox aren't as noticeable here - it's harmony stuff
that maybe encoding messes up. They'll do this one live especially since
it's the single, but I'd sooner hear some of the other tunes :) Here's
Tommy on this song:
"The song 'Waiting For Our Time,' that's the one where suddenly
we had our centerpiece
that was the jewel in the whole record
right there, like a little musical spokesperson. It embodied everything
we wanted in a new STYX song. And J.Y. and I just sort of stumbled on
that. We started writing and playing around with something. It really
kind of came from self-doubt. We almost scrapped it. My wife and these
friends were doing some painting in our house, J.Y. and I took a break
and came in complaining, 'We're not getting anywhere.' And they were
all going, 'That sounds great, I love that part, that searching part,
man, that sounds great.' And we're like, 'You do? Let's go back out
there and listen to it.' That gave us enough encouragement to stick
with it, and the next thing you know, it was pretty much what you hear
on the record."
3. Fields Of The Brave - Lead Vocals: Lawrence Gowan
Did Styx become Queen? This reminds me of mid-period Queen, and that's
a good thing. I would actually like to hear this one live, and would
be a strong tune.
4. Bourgeois Pig - Lead Vocals: Billy Bob Thornton
OK .. I know what you're saying - "Billy Bob"? Well, it's
not what you are thinking, and it's short. Don't worry, Styx is very
much here on this tune. Not a live tune.
5. Kiss Your Ass Good-bye - Lead Vocals: Glen Burtnik
I almost wanted to sing "Where You Goin' Now" over the first
part of the chorus (just try it when you get it LOL). It's an uptempo
Glen tune that is pretty good. They'll do this one live at some point
I'm sure. Some have likened this to Sum 41, and here's what Glen had
know (the punk sound is) stretching a little, but I kind of feel I've
always brought -- even on the Edge of the Century album, which was the
first album I did with Styx, Love is the Ritual wasn't really your standard
kind of Styx song -- so I always feel I tend to bring something a little
more to the band and hopefully it fits in. You know, I've got three
kids around my house, well, my youngest, my 11-year-old daughter, listens
to a lot of young punk bands. So I've been hearing a lot of that stuff
through the walls and through osmosis and I've really come to really
like a lot of these bands like Sum 41, Blink 182, so that probably has
somewhat influenced me and maybe that led to 'Kiss Your Ass Good-bye'."
6. These Are The Times - Lead Vocals: James Young
Again, you've heard this one. Not going to go into detail. Probably
the most overall "classic Styx" sounding tune on the whole
CD. I didn't take to the MP3, but hearing it for real smoothed out the
sonic issues I had. Definitely a tune they'll kick the tires on live.
Here is JY on this tune:
"'These Are the Times' is really an intervention song and what
the lyrics are have kind of evolved -- what they are at this stage and
what they were when Tommy and I first wrote it. When we first started
working on it was seven years ago, it was more about, Tommy was heavily
involved, and still is, with drug interventions, and very supportive
of a lot of groups that do work in that field and I've been through
a number of those, notably with our dearly departed first drummer John
Panozzo. The song was about intervening in someone's life, kind of in
a way that Chuck (Panozzo), who is now openly a gay man who has come
out and announced that he's HIV-positive and his struggles with this
-- it's about supporting him. Ultimately, what the lyrics finally evolved
into, in a way, was the passing of my younger brother from a lymphoma
and when we had to take him off life support. When we were in his room,
everyone was around crying and it was very emotional and from the next
room comes the sound of Jimi Hendrix's 'Purple Haze.' This is in the
intensive care unit and I said, 'This is my brother speaking to me,
speaking to us.' And it lightened the mood. 'I hear voices from beyond
the veil,' it sort of inspired that line, Tommy and I collaborated on
that. So that song has kind of become about helping those, that there
is something to live for, for those that think there isn't."
7. Yes I Can 3:51 - Lead Vocals: Tommy Shaw
This is a Damn
Yankees 3 reject (well, reject is a strong word ... the album
was never released). Starts off with just TS and acoustic gtr. This
one hits me more like one of Tommy's solo ventures, but with a modern
Styx sound to it. Good harmony work, and you can almost hear Dennis
singing on this one if they had done this with him; it's just that kind
of tune. I can see international audiences latching onto this like they
did "Boat On The River". Not a hit like BOTR, but it's just
one of those tunes. Beatle-esque musical ending. They may/may not do
this live; this could stay an album track for me. Not a favorite at
all, but tolerable.
8. More Love For The Money - Lead Vocals: Lawrence Gowan
Styx meets the Beatles and Queen ... I really think Lawrence is showing
his influences on his sleeve based on this album. Suprisingly, Larry
is 2 for 2 in my book. This coming from the guy who hates his renditions
of Dennis tunes live. That's saying a lot.
9. Together - Lead Vocals: Tommy Shaw
OK, a track I genuinely don't like. Welcome to modern Tommy, although
vocally, production is better than 7DZ. It kicks in around 1:00, but
it feels like an album track. Would have been a hit around 1980 - reminds
me a bit of REO when it kicks in.
10. Fooling Yourself (Palm Of Your Hands) 0:39
This is the a capella "Fooling Yourself". Nice to have, and
cool to hear Brian Wilson, but not a track I needed.
11. Captain America - Lead Vocals: James Young
From the second this kicks in, you know this is all JY. Reminds me more
of something from "City Slicker", actually. This is more typical
solo JY with Styx playing backing band IMHO Although this is better
than a lot of the solo JY stuff. I can see them doing this live a few
times but ultimately dropping it from the set.
12. Killing The Thing That You Love - Lead Vocals: Glen Burtnik
The piano intro lets you know this is a moody tune. I can see this one
being done live. In some ways reminiscent of "Criminal Mind"
to me. I like this one (take the Dennis lyrical content controversy
out ... I don't listen to lyrics). And when you hear it sung, you can
tell it was once called "Lennon's Assassain". The instrumental
part when it's heavy is reminiscent of older Styx, too.
13. One With Everything - Lead Vocals: Tommy Shaw
This one is more old Styx-sounding in many ways, with a modern twist.
Vintage synth emulation (more Keith Emerson in sounds and solo style
- you'll hear when you get the CD). Odd-time middle, which is a nice
thing to hear in 2003 :) I took to this one instantly. Another live
14. Genki Desu Ka - Lead Vocals: Harmonies and little solo flourishes
from LG and TS
This is not Aku-Aku. It's a bit more uptempo, and is definitely a modern
sound - closer to things like "I Will Be Your Witness" from
BNW. The Tenacious D bit kicks in mid-way through ... it's entertaining.
And after after the short bit, it has a short a capella bit to wind
up the album. Album track, probably not going to be played live.