Regeneration Volume I & II
Eagle Records, 2011
REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/05/2011
“Give me a job, give me security / Give me a chance to survive”
-- “Blue Collar Man”
If forced to select a single word to describe this album, I would choose “unnecessary.”
It’s hard to know what to think these days about the raft of surviving ’70s and ’80s bands, chugging along mining the nostalgia circuit—the current triple bill of Journey, Foreigner and Night Ranger being a prime example. I mean, everybody’s got to make a living, and it surely hasn’t gotten any easier in recent years, whether you’re located inside or outside of the shambling ruin that is the modern music industry. While it can be strange and sometimes disheartening to watch longtime bands become increasingly hollow shells, gate-collecting jukeboxes churning out the hits with two or three or four original members conspicuously absent, it’s a perfectly rational decision to make if you’re straddling sixty with no other marketable talents.
So what you get, more and more, is bands with just enough of the original juice left to keep soaking their fans’ wallets a little longer. Increasingly, these patched-together groups have resorted to re-recording the old hits that have kept them viable for the past 25 years with their current lineup, as if to prove to the world they can still make that same familiar sound even though X or Y or Z (or all three) are no longer with the band. (And not incidentally, so that the current lineup can benefit from whatever album sales they may be able to eke out.)
Styx is a Chicago band from way back, having formed in 1972 around the rhythm section of brothers Chuck and John Panozzo and lead vocalist/keyboardist Dennis DeYoung. Help soon arrived in the form of guitarist/vocalists James “JY” Young and John Curulewski, and this five-man lineup persisted three moderately successful years until Curulewski abruptly exited and was replaced by Tommy Shaw. The band’s classic lineup then produced a string of hit singles (“Babe,” “Come Sail Away,” “Crystal Ball,” “Renegade”) and albums (The Grand Illusion, Pieces of Eight, Paradise Theater) that virtually created the template for arena rock, tempering the group’s initial prog leanings in favor of soaring power ballads and thundering, mostly predictable rockers.
The ensuing internal drama provided abundant material for one of the best episodes of Behind The Music in the show’s history, so I won’t belabor it, but suffice it to say that 1983 was the last time DeYoung and Shaw managed to tolerate being in the group at the same time for more than a brief reunion or two. Since 2003, Shaw and Young have anchored a lineup that includes latter-day tap-ins Lawrence Gowan (a DeYoung soundalike) on keys and vocals, Ricky Phillips on bass, and Todd Sucherman on drums. Founding bassist Chuck Panozzo also sits in from time to time on tour, and on this album (brother John passed away in 1996). The group’s one-sheet proudly notes that the current quintet plus one has now “been together longer than any other lineup in the band’s 40-year existence”—a declaration of victory of sorts for the Shaw-Young camp. Whatever, guys.
Regeneration, Volumes I & II is an album consisting primarily of re-recordings of Styx classics by the current lineup—basically a replication of their current live set in the studio. I would compare the results to an omelet made with fake eggs; it kind of looks the same, kind of smells the same, and kind of tastes the same, but it’s definitely not the same. It’s not that these re-recordings are in any way sub-par. They are professionally done and in most cases remarkably similar to the originals. For exactly that reason, they are fundamentally unnecessary. The best recordings ever issued of “The Grand Illusion,” “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man),” “Lorelei,” “Sing For The Day,” “Blue Collar Man,” “Too Much Time On My Hands” and all the rest already exist, and these aren’t them.
There is exactly one new song to be found here, “Difference In The World,” and it does nothing to promote the idea of Styx returning to a recording studio anytime soon. The only other “new” content consists of Styx versions of two Tommy Shaw tunes that he carried back from his early ’90s band Damn Yankees; I wish he hadn’t. “Coming Of Age” is generic, dated arena rock, and “High Enough” is a power ballad so flaccid a double-dose of Viagra couldn’t help it.
Does this album succeed in demonstrating that the current touring lineup can reproduce the sound of classic Styx accurately and professionally? Indeed it does. Will this album help Shaw, Young et al to sell concert tickets as they continue the stretch drive to top off their retirement savings accounts? Indeed it will. Is there any other conceivable reason for this album to exist? Not really.
|What a pathetic, cynical review. Sure, most bands around for forty years have had some personnel changes. So what? For anyone to suggest that they have no business continuing to perform and enjoy the fruits of their life's work is absurd.|
|"For anyone to suggest that they have no business continuing to perform and enjoy the fruits of their life's work is absurd." I agree, which is exactly why I didn't do what you claim I did. You might want to work on the whole reading comprehension thing.|
|I also had to chuckle at "cynical." I mean, we're talking about a situation where a band is inviting their fans to pony up for inferior latter-day remakes of songs *that they already own*. Yes, it's a free market and a free country and the Styx guys are just trying to make a living. All the same, it seems pretty clear to me who's being cynical in this scenario.|
|Agree on the unnecessary part 100%. This is just regurgitation for profit pure and simple. Drag out existing songs and rerecord them? How bereft of creativity is that? Styx has become the poster child for the undignified decline of a has-been outfit.|