A&M Records, 1981
REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/02/2003
The first thing I wondered, upon realizing that the Daily Vault had never reviewed Styx's Paradise Theater, was whether our Fearless Founder was actually from Chicagoland. I know that my home town was on the very periphery of the Part Of Illinois Around The Big Shoulders, where Chicago arena-rockers Styx were as omnipresent as Cub games on WGN and Italian beef sandwiches when I was growing up. That meandering aside, I turned my attention to actually writing the damn review.
And I'm gonna start it off with a bit of Serious Rock Music Critic Heresy. Repeat after me: Styx Doesn't Suck.
One of the things I hate about most rock music reviewers is that there are certain genres that it's tres stylish to bash unceasingly. ( Rolling Stone being one of the worst offenders; when I said I write for this site because RS pissed me off at an early age, I wasn't joking.) One of those genres is the late-seventies early-eighties genre of arena rock, where musical alchemy mixed progressive rock with monster arena concerts. Journey, REO Speedwagon, Cheap Trick, Kansas -- lotta bands paid the rent with this stuff, and yes, some of it's drivel. But you know what? Some of it's pretty tasty. Paradise Theater falls in the latter category; Styx was never this good before, Styx would never be this good again, and when Styx was good -- when the band wasn't infighting or indulging in pop excess like the execrable "Babe" -- they were tight, y'all. Paradise Theater was Styx's high-water mark, and one of the greatest albums in rock history.
Let's look at the reasons why. First off, Styx was talented; the essential lineup of the glory days, Dennis DeYoung, Tommy Shaw, James Young, Chuck Panozzo, and John Panozzo, were a great group of musicians. The song selection on Paradise contains some of the best songs Styx would ever write: the hit singles like "Too Much Time On My Hands" and "The Best Of Times" had more hooks than a convention in Las Vegas. Other tracks like "Nothing Ever Goes As Planned" and "Lonely People" (both with a great horn part provided by the Hangalator Horn Section) and the driving intro of "AD 1928/Rockin' The Paradise" catch the listener immediately and pull them in. While nominally Paradise Theater is a concept album (the decline of a Chicago landmark theater is used as an allegory for America's decline in the late seventies), it never gets in the way of the CD, and songs like "She Cares" -- which has very little to do with the theme -- are still delightful.
The highlight, though, is "Snowblind," one of the two tracks written by James Young. Young is really Styx's unsung genius; in my opinion (which is what you read this review for, right?) Young was a better songwriter than either DeYoung or Shaw, and his tracks snarl and tear at your emotions. "Snowblind" is a bitter tale about drug addiction, brilliantly performed; when Young sings "Mirror, mirror, on the wall…" chills run down my spine. This is some great stuff, people.
Styx isn't cool anymore. So what? It means there's less of a crowd at the Paradise, and you can get some prime seats. Visit Paradise Theater today.
|Sorry, but this album just doesn't stand the test of time. Some of the choruses (chorusi?) and echo effects are stuck in the sappiest of '80s production techniques. This is more latter-day REO Speedwagon than classic Styx. I will grant that JY is the unsung, underrated songwriter of this group. One of the greatest albums in rock history? Puhhleeze. The Grand Illusion, Pieces of Eight and even Crystal Ball are far superior to this.|