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Thread: FEATURED ALBUM: Styx - The Mission

  1. #1
    Moderator Poisoned Youth's Avatar
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    FEATURED ALBUM: Styx - The Mission

    Yeah yeah, I know.

    Being a huge Styx fanboy growing up, my voyage away from the band was in the 90s as I was getting so much more into progressive rock and jazz. Since Edge of the Century, there really isn't much that I cared for coming out of the Styx world (and even that album was a bit of a stretch). There last few attempts at studio albums were nothing impressive to these ears. However, admittedly I was so immersed in so much other music, it would have had to been extremely impressive to gain my attention.




    So here we are many years later and Styx puts out what, on paper, sounds pretty laughable - a 40 minute concept album about a mission to Mars. That's quite ambitious for a group that you'd expect should be singing about Social Security and the AARP. Anyway, to say the least I was skeptical. I was even more skeptical when the Styx thread was posted here a few months back with the music video for "Gone, Gone, Gone". The music was okay, but the video seemed a more rocking chair than rock 'n' roll.

    But I did buy the album based on the solid reviews. I must say that I was shocked at how much it began to stick with me after the 2nd spin. They really did come through. There's a lot of very memorable tracks on the album, and they did strikingly capture the essence of the band's classic 70s sound in many places. While there are a lot of moments on the album that are high points, my personal favorite track is "Red Storm", which captures everything that was great about the band on those classic A&M albums from 40 years ago. I should also mention that it was produced and recorded very well.

    Anyway, I'm sold and more than pleasantly surprised. Many similar projects from groups like this do not work out well. Don't get me wrong, as much as I love the result, the concept is still rather amusing. The liner notes explain the story better, but it doesn't make it any less campy to me.






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  2. #2
    Estimated Prophet notallwhowander's Avatar
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    You're right, those tracks are much better than I ever expected they would be.
    Wake up to find out that you are the eyes of the world.

  3. #3
    I wasn't sure what to make of it on the first listen, but by the third I was hooked. Very strong performances by all, particularly Gowan.
    I don't find the concept any more ridiculous than most progrock album concepts.
    I thought "Cyclorama" could have been a very good album if they had picked the 10 best songs, left out the Jack Black comedy sections, left out Billy Bob, and also thrown out the short unnecessary musical snippets.
    "Brave New World" had an EP's worth of good material.

  4. #4
    That's Mr. to you, Sir!! Trane's Avatar
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    Mildly curious, but I can't listen to any of these... Probably because of the side f the pond I"m on.
    my music collection increased tenfolds when I switched from drug-addicts to complete nutcases.

  5. #5
    Moderator Poisoned Youth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trane View Post
    Mildly curious, but I can't listen to any of these... Probably because of the side f the pond I"m on.
    Yes, those clips can't be accessed outside This region. If you do a search in YouTube, the whole album was posted by someone. I just won't post that here.
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    Member Koreabruce's Avatar
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    It's a great album. They really hit a home run this time. I think the whole thing flows well. Has Tommy Shaw discovered the fountain of youth or something? His voice apparently hasn't aged at all!

    Here's a fairly in-depth Huffington Post interview with Tommy Shaw that's illuminating. (There's also an Anthony Phillips interview re: the reissued Slow Dance at the bottom.) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/...b0c85b96c65e86

    (edit) Here's another good piece about the album, also including a link to the HD 88/24 high-resolution tracks.
    http://hiresaudiocentral.com/styx-of...-of-the-album/
    Last edited by Koreabruce; 07-17-2017 at 08:52 AM.

  7. #7
    Great record, so pleasantly surprised... Great melodies, ton of earworms, and it sounds great as well, top notch production.
    Last edited by Score2112; 07-18-2017 at 03:25 PM.

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    Member since March 2004 mozo-pg's Avatar
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    Count me as a mid-70s fanboy although I abandoned Styx completely after hearing Genesis, King Crimson, GG etc. I saw them live about 8 years ago and I was again converted. What an entertaining and powerful live band. There is so much melody and ear candy on the new album - really enjoying it and it sat in my CD player for over a week (lots of time for me). I was very impressed by Gowan and I thought the band often captured the essence of Styx music.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Koreabruce View Post
    It's a great album. They really hit a home run this time. I think the whole thing flows well. Has Tommy Shaw discovered the fountain of youth or something? His voice apparently hasn't aged at all!

    Here's a fairly in-depth Huffington Post interview with Tommy Shaw that's illuminating. (There's also an Anthony Phillips interview re: the reissued Slow Dance at the bottom.) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/...b0c85b96c65e86

    (edit) Here's another good piece about the album, also including a link to the HD 88/24 high-resolution tracks.
    http://hiresaudiocentral.com/styx-of...-of-the-album/
    Having seen them within the last 2 years, Tommy's voice is still in amazing shape in fact I think he is singing better than when he was younger.

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    I really like it. A very similar experience for me was last year's Kansas release - way better than it has any right to be!!!
    Prog's Not Dead

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by miamiscot View Post
    I really like it. A very similar experience for me was last year's Kansas release - way better than it has any right to be!!!
    To me, The Mission is much more interesting musically than Kansas' last album.

    I found more than an EP worth on Brave New World but only a couple of songs on Cyclomania

    This comes to a short 35 minute album with the most poignant being "While There's Still Time", "Goodbye Roseland" and "Brave New World (Reprise)":

    "Brave New World" (Tommy Shaw / James Young) ‎– 5:14
    "While There's Still Time" (Dennis DeYoung) ‎– 3:53
    "Number One" (Tommy Shaw) ‎– 4:33
    "Everything Is Cool" (Tommy Shaw) ‎– 5:19
    "Great Expectations" (Dennis DeYoung) ‎– 4:44
    "Heavy Water" (Tommy Shaw / James Young) ‎– 4:29
    "Goodbye Roseland" (Dennis DeYoung) ‎– 3:49
    "Brave New World (Reprise)" (Tommy Shaw / James Young) ‎– 3:31

    As for The Mission...

    Overall, I like The Mission apart from the short JY song toward the beginning, but it's also a frustrating album because "Time May Bend" , "Ten Thousand Ways" and "The Outpost" - part of my top 3 out of the best 5 - should have been longer. You don't go making something great like "Time May Bend" and stick the 2:30 version on the album, guys! For this reason, 4/5 stars instead of 4.5/5, on a Styx Scale.

    "Mission to Mars" is a solid ending, but "Brave New World (Reprise)" is a much stronger, uplifting (even if naive) song that fits perfectly at the end of The Mission.
    Last edited by yamishogun; 07-18-2017 at 12:26 PM.

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    I think it is really strong. Will be seeing them this fall and hoping they do at least a chunk of the new album.

  13. #13
    Killer production and sonics all around. But, I struggle with this one. The best songs are cut really short and a lot of the solos are cut really short, even quickly faded out. I don't get why. I'm really trying because everyone seems to love it... I've listened to it about 10 times now (even after reading all this glowing reviews here I slipped it on), but it is now shelved along with the new Kansas album. No earworms for me. But, damn it "sounds" freaking amazing.

    I would however jump at the chance to see them do the whole thing live. I think they would stretch it out.

  14. #14
    Member Since: 3/27/2002 MYSTERIOUS TRAVELLER's Avatar
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    I've always liked Styx up to and including Pieces of Eight
    After that they lost me, but the clips above sound like a return to 70s form... nice!
    Why is it whenever someone mentions an artist that was clearly progressive (yet not the Symph weenie definition of Prog) do certain people feel compelled to snort "thats not Prog" like a whiny 5th grader?

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    Moderator Poisoned Youth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Man In The Mountain View Post
    Killer production and sonics all around. But, I struggle with this one. The best songs are cut really short and a lot of the solos are cut really short, even quickly faded out. I don't get why. I'm really trying because everyone seems to love it... I've listened to it about 10 times now (even after reading all this glowing reviews here I slipped it on), but it is now shelved along with the new Kansas album. No earworms for me. But, damn it "sounds" freaking amazing.
    That's a good observation. I think it's a result of trying to fit "songs" within the concept album formula and having it so it blends together seamlessly. I honestly find this a frustrating aspect of progressive concept albums from artists like Neal Morse, Steven Wilson, and TFK. The difference in Styx's cases is that they bound themselves to an album length format, so it wouldn't be a stretch to suggest that many of the songs were truncated and arranged to fit the concept and stay tight and concise.
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  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Poisoned Youth View Post
    The difference in Styx's cases is that they bound themselves to an album length format, so it wouldn't be a stretch to suggest that many of the songs were truncated and arranged to fit the concept and stay tight and concise.
    Yeah. It sounds as if they made an album that was over 50 minutes long, and someone went in and mercilessly made cuts to fit it down to 40 minutes. Even the finale is oddly cut short, because it was really good, but fades quickly away.

    Yomishogun pointed out above in the thread that Brave New World has a lot of good songs on it. I haven't listened to it in over a decade, yet I recall liking it back when it came out... so I pulled it out this morning on drive to work. Damn!! You know, this is SO MUCH better than The Mission it's ridiculous. It may even be better than Cyclorama, certainly more Styx'y than Cyclorama. I really have to think, much like the new Kansas album, that people are just thrilled that their favorite old band didn't put out a lifeless stinker. But let's not get carried away... The Mission is Styx's best album since Cyclorama or Brave New World, not Pieces of Eight.

  17. #17
    Member Koreabruce's Avatar
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    You forgot "IMHO."

    I do understand the criticism regrading the length, or more precisely, the brevity, of the individual tracks, and I had this same criticism myself. Regardless, I really, really enjoy this new record. Now I have to go and dig out Brave New World just to see if I agree...

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by Koreabruce View Post
    You forgot "IMHO."
    No I didn't.

  19. #19
    The hype around this album sort of piqued my curiosity. I was a big fan of the first eight Styx albums, but they lost me after Pieces of Eight, save a song here or there.

    I'd sort of given up on this album after hearing a few ho-hum tracks on Youtube, but then I saw it featured so I figured I'd give the whole thing a shot. I've given it two spins, and my verdict is still sadly, ho-hum. For me, the writing on this album isn't even a vague ghost of the glory years or Equinox - Pieces of Eight, or even the best of the earlier material. Yeah, it has some "Styxy" harmonies, but the songs themselves don't have nearly the creativity or power than 70s Styx has. No stretching, nothig really creative in the arrangements. only one keyboard solo that fades far too quickly. These are just generic rock anthems, nothing special to my ears, and nothing like the unique chemistry and dazzling showmanship the band had on their better 70s albums.

    I think it's cool they did a concept record, it's cool they made it sound good (though I think they paid a price with the album length constraint), and if people like it then I'm happy for them. But to me, holding this album up to their 70s output is almost a joke. It just doesn't compare in my book, not even close. And to me, it's not even that good an album to boot, lots of melodrama but little of substance, lyrically or musically. I'm sorry to say this, because nothing would have made me happier than getting an album from a band that ushered me into R&R so many years ago, but that's my take.

    Bill

  20. #20
    It took me 3 listens before I started to get it. I've now listened at least 15 times and really dig it.

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    Moderator Poisoned Youth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sputnik View Post
    For me, the writing on this album isn't even a vague ghost of the glory years or Equinox - Pieces of Eight, or even the best of the earlier material. Yeah, it has some "Styxy" harmonies, but the songs themselves don't have nearly the creativity or power than 70s Styx has. No stretching, nothig really creative in the arrangements. only one keyboard solo that fades far too quickly. These are just generic rock anthems, nothing special to my ears, and nothing like the unique chemistry and dazzling showmanship the band had on their better 70s albums.
    I obviously respect your opinion not to like the music, but as a die hard Styx fan growing up, I definitely considered myself among the most skeptical. Where I disagree with you is about the writing on the album. The three songs I shared all are distinct throwbacks to some of the finer Styx moments and would not describe any of them as "generic rock anthems". If anything, these songs could be criticized for how badly they ripped themselves off because they are that close to being "lost tracks" off of CB, TGE, Po8, or Cornerstone. They also happen to be the three longest tracks on the album.

    Edit: I should point out however, that I do agree where some of the other tracks on the album could be viewed as "generic" and nothing profound. But many of those tracks I'd still define as "catchy", and ultimately effective for my ears.
    Last edited by Poisoned Youth; 07-20-2017 at 10:12 AM.
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  22. #22
    Member since March 2004 mozo-pg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sputnik View Post
    The hype around this album sort of piqued my curiosity. I was a big fan of the first eight Styx albums, but they lost me after Pieces of Eight, save a song here or there.

    I'd sort of given up on this album after hearing a few ho-hum tracks on Youtube, but then I saw it featured so I figured I'd give the whole thing a shot. I've given it two spins, and my verdict is still sadly, ho-hum. For me, the writing on this album isn't even a vague ghost of the glory years or Equinox - Pieces of Eight, or even the best of the earlier material. Yeah, it has some "Styxy" harmonies, but the songs themselves don't have nearly the creativity or power than 70s Styx has. No stretching, nothig really creative in the arrangements. only one keyboard solo that fades far too quickly. These are just generic rock anthems, nothing special to my ears, and nothing like the unique chemistry and dazzling showmanship the band had on their better 70s albums.

    I think it's cool they did a concept record, it's cool they made it sound good (though I think they paid a price with the album length constraint), and if people like it then I'm happy for them. But to me, holding this album up to their 70s output is almost a joke. It just doesn't compare in my book, not even close. And to me, it's not even that good an album to boot, lots of melodrama but little of substance, lyrically or musically. I'm sorry to say this, because nothing would have made me happier than getting an album from a band that ushered me into R&R so many years ago, but that's my take.

    Bill
    Sorry you didn't like this one Bill. I agree that it doesn't match their 70s output (how often does this happen? - maybe the Allmans Hittin the Note but it's extremely rare) but I love Gowan's vocals, the harmonies, and the tunes are catchy to my ears. I still respect your review because I'm sure you listened with an open mind.

    EDIT - I didn't see Cozy's review so you must be happy with both respect you. lol

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by Poisoned Youth View Post
    I obviously respect your opinion not to like the music, but as a die hard Styx fan growing up, I definitely considered myself among the most skeptical. Where I disagree with you is about the writing on the album. The three songs I shared all are distinct throwbacks to some of the finer Styx moments and would not describe any of them as "generic rock anthems". If anything, these songs could be criticized for how badly they ripped themselves off because they are that close to being "lost tracks" off of CB, TGE, Po8, or Cornerstone. They also happen to be the three longest tracks on the album.

    Edit: I should point out however, that I do agree where some of the other tracks on the album could be viewed as "generic" and nothing profound. But many of those tracks I'd still define as "catchy", and ultimately effective for my ears.
    Interesting. I'll give you Cornerstone, the album where I think Styx basically jumped the shark (actually I was thinking that a lot of this material reminded me of stuff like Lights from Cornerstone, a pretty mild and generic tune, imo). But not the other albums, not to my ears anyway. Those three tracks, plus Gone Gone Gone, are the best on the album, I'll grant that as well.

    But all the really great Styx material had something "special" happen. Think of that break in Man in the Wilderness, where the song takes on a totally different character, or the synth section of Come Sail Away, the synth solo in Renegade leading to the breakdown. Where is all this kind of stuff on The Mission? Where is stuff like Suite Madame Blue, Castle Walls? I'm not saying every song has to be like that, but there's nothing like that at all on The Mission. This is the kind of stuff that made Styx, Styx. And this is the type of stuff that would really elevate this material to the level of their 70s best, imo. I just don't hear it. To me, they aimed for Grand Illusion/Piece of Eight, and wound up with something more akin to the rather tepid Cornerstone (minus Babe, mercifully, though the opening fanfare has some uncomfortably Mr. Roboto moments in it ). I guess that's better than nothing and I shouldn't be surprised that uber Styx fans would be happy.

    And really, I'm happy for you (and them). If you like it, that's all that matters. But I'm just not hearing 70s greatness here, and to me the album could have been a LOT better (though it also could have been a LOT worse).

    Bill

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    Member since March 2004 mozo-pg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sputnik View Post
    And really, I'm happy for you (and them). If you like it, that's all that matters. But I'm just not hearing 70s greatness here, and to me the album could have been a LOT better (though it also could have been a LOT worse).

    Bill
    I'm not sure it's a fair to compare music released in 2017 and expect it to sound like the 70s. I made this point earlier that this very seldom happens. I can only think of a few examples. Maybe Crimson (PtB) and the Allmans (HtN) did it.

  25. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by mozo-pg View Post
    I'm not sure it's a fair to compare music released in 2017 and expect it to sound like the 70s. I made this point earlier that this very seldom happens. I can only think of a few examples. Maybe Crimson (PtB) and the Allmans (HtN) did it.
    Yeah, I get that, and I agree.

    But I'm not the one making claims this album would "slot nicely between Grand Illusion and Pieces of Eight." The band, and some fans seem to be saying that. I gave this album a listen only because, if this were true, I might like my first Styx album since 1978. Turns out that, for me, it was not true; not even close. On top of this, after two listens, I can safely say that the album isn't one that I'd bother spinning that often. It doesn't send me screaming from the room, but for me it's just tepid, whether it has a 70s sound or not. So for me, it failed to be a great 70s sounding album, and failed to be a modern sounding album that I could get into.

    My comments were mostly geared at the impression that this album is some kind of "return to 70s form," perpetuated largely by the band themselves. I simply don't hear it. I think they had some good ideas, and had they given them some more twists and turns, let the songs breathe and evolve a bit more like so much of the classic Styx material does, then they might have had something. But it's that impression that this is a return to 70s form that I'm largely responding to, not my innate expectation that Styx sound like they did in 1977. They brought that comparison on themselves.

    Bill

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