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Styx & The Contemporary Youth Orchestra
One With Everything
New Door Records
www.styxworld.com


Let me get this out in the open right away. I am a Styx fan. I grew up listening to their music, and over the past ten years, I have seen their live show at least five times. Their origins go way back to Chicago in the '60s, when Chuck and John Panozzo (bass and drums, respectively), along with Dennis DeYoung on vocals and keyboards, had a band called Tradewinds. By the mid-70s, they had changed names a couple times and picked up James "JY" Young and Tommy Shaw to provide the now familiar guitar sounds and added vocals. They were now called Styx, and they had put a couple hits under their belts with "Lady" and "Lorelei". With this lineup, and albums such as Equinox (1975), Grand Illusion (1977), Pieces Of Eight (1978), and Paradise Theater (1981), their position in rock history had been solidified. A painful legal settlement in 2001 allowed Shaw and Young to continue touring with the Styx name, without Dennis DeYoung. The current band lineup consists of Tommy Shaw, JY, Lawrence Gowan (vocals & keyboards), Todd Sucherman (drums), Ricky Phillips (bass), and occasional appearances by Chuck Panozzo.

Inevitably, it seems, when an aging rock band sees its sales slipping away, they look for a way to repackage and reissue their most popular material. Two of the usual options are recording a live album or collaborating with an orchestra. Fortunately, with this offering from Styx, we get both. Unfortunately, some of the songs that would seem to lend themselves most easily to symphonic collaboration are conspicuously absent. You won't find "Lady", "Lorelei", "Babe" or "Come Sail Away" on this release. All of these more melodic tunes have the taint of Dennis De Young on them. These are all still performed live by the current lineup of Styx, but seem to be unacceptable for a recording from which royalties would have to be paid. You will, however, hear many of the hits penned by Tommy Shaw, James Young or any post-De Young bandmate from the interim years. In addition, there is a good cover of The Beatles' "I Am The Walrus", and an oddly placed, new release, studio recording called "Just Be". The cover is pretty faithful to the original, with some brass and background chorus added from the Contemporary Youth Orchestra (CYO). The new song leaves much to be desired. Its lyrics and musicianship are utterly forgettable and fall far short of the mark set by previous Styx ballads. It seems like they had to put something new on the album, and they had this dog lying around that didn't make the cut for a previous release.

The biggest marketing point in this effort is the addition of the Contemporary Youth Orchestra, so I'll say a few words about their contribution here. The CYO consists of two parts. There are 115 individuals making up the symphony and 56 in the chorus. It's obvious throughout the live performance that the symphony adds depth to every song. I can only imagine how much more the effect was felt at the concert itself, before going through the production filter. In many places the symphony is more felt than heard. There are notable exceptions. The high water mark can be heard in "Fooling Yourself". The symphony solos the intro and the arrangement allows it to provide a great amount of support throughout the song. The chorus, however, can hardly be heard in most songs. When it is heard peeking out now and then, it's hard to tell if it is the chorus or the crowd singing along. Once again, I don't know whether to blame the arrangement or the recording. Either way, the vocal chorus of the CYO did little to enhance these classic songs. At least they had great seats for the show!

One With Everything does what is expected. It provides new-and-improved packaging for classic tunes. It keeps the Styx name alive and kicking, to provide for future tours. It definitely gives a solid product that any Styx fan should buy. This should make the band, and their creditors, happy. I'm sure I'll keep this one in my car for a while, and continue to buy their tickets each time they travel through the Denver area.

-Brian Lumberg

Track Listing:
1. Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)
2. One With Everything
3. It Don't Make Sense (You Can't Make Peace)
4. I Am The Walrus
5. Just Be [Studio Version]
6. Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)
7. A Criminal Mind
8. Everything, All The Time
9. Too Much Time On My Hands
10. Crystal Ball
11. Miss America
12. Boat On The River
13. Renegade


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