Sound: We've grown a little bit... -- greets the audience Tommy Shaw from the Styx on their latest CD One With Everything: Styx & the Contemporary Youth Orchestra, out November 7th on New Door Records. Really, recorded at the concert with the aforementioned Contemporary Youth Orchestra, the CD features US rock legends together with 115-musician orchestra. The event took place in the Blossom Music Center in Cleveland in May 2006.
The set list combines classic Styx songs (like Blue Collar Man, Too Much Time On My Hands, Boat On The River) as well as covers (Willie Dixon's It Don't Make Sense, Beatles' I Am The Walrus).
There are definitely gonna be fans that will mumble about it's not money worth buying the CD with the same old songs we've all heard a million times before and the new arrangements doesn't make it any better. For those of you that share the opinion, Styx put two new songs Just Be and Everything, All The Time, which they wrote being inspired by working with an orchestra (as claimed by the band).
The fact the all the orchestra musicians are at their teens gave the original Styx sound more vibe. Styx play with a renewed energy as if they became a part of the youth orchestra. The collaboration gave the songs layers of different instruments, as well as different melodies, not evident from the first listen. While the CD is playing, you start to realize what a great opportunity you miss not being able to hear this live.
The title track was written in rehearsal by the whole band. They were writing it as a song that would define them -- past and present. Along with live tracks, for some strange reasons there's a studio version of Just Be (to make to number of songs up to 13). Boat On The River sounds very folk thanx to it's sad melody and natural-sounding instruments. The version on this album has a little bit of everything: Irish strings, Spanish guitar that suddenly turns into a Russian folk balalaika (or is that a mandolin). // 9
Lyrics: The range of the subject is really wild. Those old rock bands are really different from the new ones, who can make 5 albums in a row singing about love (I know that's an endless topic, but still). Like the new song by Styx Just Be is about self-critical people being deep unhappy inside and always pretending everything's cool. Or Miss America that is, according to Styx, A down and dirty look at some of the fleeting realities of fortune and fame.
The album is a great example of the famous Styx vocal harmonies. Instead of the former frontman Dennis DeYoung, the current vocalist Tommy Shaw is joined by guitarist James Young and keyboard player Lawrence Gowan, as well as 56 voices in the teens' horal. All together they create a slid background for Shaw's solo singing with massive back vocals and wo-oa choruses. // 8
Overall Impression: The whole idea for a rock band to record with an orchestra is great, the symphonic arrangements for sure add to the songs' rich sounding. But it's oh so old and you can't get rid of the feeling it's just another Greatest Hits record as if they couldn't find any more original way to present it. Though this might make quite an interesting record for Styx fans compared to their previous releases (like 2005's Big Bang Theory that was filled with covers). Besides there's a DVD of the concert being released simultaneously, which should be a must for any Styx fan.
Recording a CD with Youth Orchestra Styx were aiming to attract new fans to the band and more or less they achieved it. Though the guys still do all the old tricks they used to do since the '70s -- cheering up the crowd, telling the fans they are awesome, stretching the last song for 10 minutes by making the crowd yell yeah and telling how Styx love them, introducing each member of the band in a theatrical manner. And just when you think it's finally over, Tommy Shaw says Was that enough drumming for you? I mean, this all gives you the atmosphere of the concert, makes you feel like you're really among those happy fans screaming yeah and woo-hoo'ing in every pause of Shaw's speech, but I think it's a little bit too much for a record. // 8
- Kosh (c) 2006