Monday, May 20, 2013

Styx: "The Best of Times" (from the great Paradise Theater)

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Okay, let's head back through the mists of time...

Say what you want about Styx, when they were good, like at the height of their powers from 1977 to 1983, they were... really pretty good.

Oh, they're still around, sadly minus Dennis DeYoung, but those were the glory years, culminating in 1983's Kilroy Was Here, which featured "Mr. Roboto" and "Don't Let It End."

The Grand Illusion (1977), with "Don't Sail Away," was fine, as were Pieces of Eight (1978), with "Renegade" (played to much fanfare in the second half of Pittsburgh Steelers home games to rally the defense -- always an amazing thing, as I can attest), and Cornerstone (1979), with "Babe," but to me Styx hit its peak with 1981's Paradise Theater, truly a great album, the band's chemistry shining and each individual songwriter (DeYoung, Tommy Shaw, James Young) contributing his particular voice to the enterprise. It really is quite fantastic, even if it's also very much a product of its time, mature, adult-oriented soft rock of the early '80s.

To me -- and this is one of the first albums I can remember liking, back when I was first becoming a fan of pop music as a pre-teen) -- the best part of the album has always been the end of "Half-Penny, Two-Penny," a potent critique of American capitalism, and "A.D. 1958," the last two songs on the album before the short outro, "State Street Sadie," but there's no denying that the melancholy "The Best of Times," the moving end of Side 1, is among the best songs of the band's long career.

Seriously, go back and listen to this whole album. Discover, or rediscover, what Styx was all about. There's a lot to like.

And watch this, the music video for "The Best of Times," also very much a product of its time, for better and for worse:


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