|Styx Big Bang Theory||Frontiers Records|
Ah, covers albums…an inspired reflection on one's past, or a desperate attempt to continue one's recording career? |
In this case - the former – I think Styx is a valid artist to provide their own take on some classic rock songs as they really are the definition of a classic rock band.
They have been there and lived it and from what can hear on this record, still have something to offer fans.
Not every track here can be called an outright winner though and I found myself disliking a couple of tracks I thought would be sure-fire favourites. On the other hand, I also found myself liking songs I thought were left-field choices to include.
More so than any other album reviewed this year, I think fans will debate the merits of this album ad-nauseum, so I'll do my best to get to the point and let the fans deliver the final verdict – if they ever can agree…
Styx 2005 is stalwarts Shaw, Young and Sucherman, joined by Lawrence Gowan (who surely has earnt his stripes by now) and new boy Ricky Phillips (Bad English, The Babys, Coverdale/Page).
This is not the place for a debate over the line-up – everyone loves Dennis DeYoung, but this is the band as it is now and some would do well to accept that and get on with life.
Track By Track:
I'm the biggest fan Gowan as a solo artist and adore his voice, but for whatever reason cannot warm to this cover of I Am The Walrus. But, it has been warmly received and led to this album being recorded, so what do I know.
I Can See For Miles sees Tommy Shaw doing his best Roger Daltrey. I like the style of this track. The band captures the vibe of the original and has some fun with it. The songs feature some impressive guitar work and (I think) will be well received.
Can't Find My Way Home sees Tommy at the mike again, with a faithful rendition of the Blind Faith classic. As a stripped back acoustic track, the song has a feel good vibe and Tommy's voice sounds brilliant. Force of habit has me waiting for the crashing hard rock finish (ie. the House Of Lords version), but I'll get over that.
It Don't Make Sense sees James Young up front for this bluesy 70's rock track. I'll be the first to say I don't like James' voice for the most part and tend to skip his songs…but the bluesy swagger and laid back style of this song suits his voice perfectly.
Time to rock again and Gowan's back to front I Don't Need No Doctor – originally by Humble Pie. I love the fact this is a fast rocker and Gown sings his heart out. The band put an update stamp on the track and I can imagine this one will be rolled out on the upcoming tour.
One Way Out is a track I'm still not convinced by…it's a cute little boogie number featuring Tommy Shaw, who sounds very comfortable here. They take the Allman Brothers southern feel and recreate it well. This one will be down to personal taste.
A Salty Dog is a Gowan sung version of the classic Procol Harum ballad. But I'm not digging this one either – despite Gowan's vocal being strong, emotional and faultless.
Summer In The City is one track I was worried about, but it seriously rocks and I'm pleased to say is my pick of the album. Tommy does a killer job on vocals and Todd and Ricky provide the thumping rhythm section needed to carry this track into greatness.
Time for James Young again, this time on the Hendrix all-time classic Manic Depression. Once again the bluesy swagger of the track fits the voice and I'm surprising myself in saying I like the track.
Talkin' About The Good Times is an obscure inclusion – the original by The Pretty Things. Lawrence Gowan takes on lead vocals for a song which mirrors the attitude of I Am The Walrus and again features a Beatlesque vibe. It's ok – again I'm surprising myself by not being totally sold on something that features Gowan.
The dark and moody classic rock of Locomotive Breath is another song I'm not generally a fan of, but again find myself liking it due to it fitting James Young's voice and attitude perfectly.
Find The Cost Of Freedom is a mere 1 minute long – an acoustic guitar the lone accompaniment to some sweet harmony vocals. An interesting segway into another all-time classic – the Free staple Wishing Well. No one could do any damage to this great track and Tommy Shaw sound well at home singing it, with the band sounding a natural to cover it.
Blue Collar Man @ 2120 is a take it or leave it conclusion to the album. It's a classic song that would be almost impossible to corrupt. This version sees the band slow it right down for a bluesy 6 minute plus version. Tommy's altered vocal and tempo creates a strong mood and I think most will enjoy this adaptation. Different for sure…but ok. However, I know some will hate it – something about sacrilege perhaps?
Those not into the band generally might find something interesting here but established Styx fans have probably already made up their mind!
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