Styxworld Live 2001
CMC International Records, 2001
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/04/2001
Whew… seems like only yesterday, Styx had released a live album, and things in the band looked rosier than a Chicagoan's cheeks in the middle of winter. Everyone was still coming to grips with the death of John Panozzo, but with new drummer Todd Sucherman, it sounded like everything was going to be all right in the world of arena rock.
Of course, it was a mere four years ago that Return To Paradise was thrust onto the market - and less than one year since Arch Allies - Live At Riverport, a dual live album recorded with REO Speedwagon, was thrown at us. It's also been two years since Brave New World, the last crapburger-posing-as-a-Styx-album, crashed with a thud off the charts. Since that time, Dennis DeYoung has been fired from the band he co-founded (while fighting a mysterious illness that kept him laid low), Chuck Panozzo has played less dates with the band (opening the door for one-time Styx guitarist Glen Burtnik to come back as bassist), and Lawrence Gowan stepped in on keyboards/vocals.
The end result, Styxworld Live 2001, is nowhere near as satisfying as Return To Paradise was. (Granted, almost all the "radio hits" are on Arch Allies; to re-hash them again would have been silly.) Simply put, this is not Styx.
No, wait, that's not entirely true. When Gowan tries to front the band, it sure as hell isn't Styx. Gowan just doesn't have the vocal ability to pull off songs like "Come Sail Away" and "Lorelei" as lead vocalist. Sure, anyone filling in for DeYoung would have a hard enough path, and he's a capable enough backing vocalist, but Gowan's undoing is based on his own limitations. Still not convinced? Imagine Tiny Tim replacing Lemmy in Motorhead. 'Nuff said.
When the band relies on James "JY" Young or Tommy Shaw to sing, things get a little better. Tracks like "Snowblind" and "Crystal Ball" do have some evidence of the sparks that made this band so wonderful in their early days. The choice to include some rare nuggets from Styx's past, including "Half-Penny, Two-Penny" (from Paradise Theatre) and "Sing For The Day" (from Pieces Of Eight) is also a nice step. However, Styx resorting to covers from other artists (and I don't give a damn that Shaw was in Damn Yankees, it 's not a Styx song !!!) raises one mother of a red flag. (Memo to the band: Consider dropping "Love Is The Ritual" - I mean permanently.)
So what does Styxworld Live 2001 ultimately suggest? First, the band would be better off retiring the songs that DeYoung used to sing leads on, and just focus on material that Young or Shaw can cover. Second, stop performing covers - for the love of all things holy, don't do that again. Third, fans need to get used to the fact that DeYoung will probably never be welcomed back by his former bandmates - and that the listeners need to do some adapting. Is it worth the effort? Styxworld Live 2001 doesn't quite answer that clearly - and this disc, in fact, will undoubtedly leave more questions than solutions.