I first heard Styx on the K-Tel compilation High Voltage. It included "Too Much Time On My Hands," one of the many singles from this release that helped define arena rock. The guitars, the attitude, and the thoughtfulness on this release outdistance many of the other bands in this era. Here, in 1980, was a concept LP that focused on something concrete: the closing of a Chicago theatre and how its closing impacted the world.
Starting out with the same melody as "The Best Of
Times," this release begins with the subdued yet oddly humorous
"A.D. 1928." The lyrics of this track begin with "Tonight's the
night we'll make history / As sure as dogs can fly." In other
words, it's not likely. "Rockin' The Paradise" introduces the
listener to what Styx has always been known for -- driving rock and
roll. The lyrics by Dennis DeYoung, Tommy Shaw, and James Young
propel this song until the ending chorus, which sets up the iconic
"Too Much Time on My Hands."
One of the main reasons I always like revisiting this release is the way songs that never really struck a nerve with me suddenly do and I learn something more about my own taste in music. This time, "Nothing Ever Goes As Planned" did just that, with lyrics that take the story of the theatre a step further. And the other hit, "The Best Of Times," is more about the theatre than a relationship, as one would think on first listen. However, it suffers from trying to be two things and not really succeeding at either. It wants to be the great ballad that closes Act One of this release and it also wants to be a great love ballad, but relies on cliches like "I feel so helpless like a boat against the tide" until the sappy meter goes off the chart with "I know if the world turned upside down..you'd always be around." Good to make out to, but ultimately just doesn't cut it.
Act Two recovers nicely with "Lonely People" and "She Cares," before dipping into a Led Zeppelin-ish haze called "Snowblind," powered by a guitar solo that sets up the ripping conclusion. After that, I really lose interest. "Half-Penny, Two-Penny" and "A.D. 1958" tie up the record that leaves the Paradise Theatre condemned.
I wanted to like this release more than I did when I spun it this week. I just couldn't wrap my head around it and while there is a legendary status that surrounds this release, I don't honestly know if it is well-deserved. While the first few songs are strong, most of the rest quickly fades into mediocrity.
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