Slapdash Session: Styx, THE GRAND ILLUSION

TWow, man!  That ZEBRA is psychedelic!he Grand Illusion, 1977

Some geographic areas are stuck with unavoidable oversaturation of radio play, beyond all sense of recognition.

Springsteen || Jersey.
Mellencamp || Indiana.

Can LA avoid The Doors?  Or SF the Dead?

Styx is one of those unstoppable earworms for Chicago rock radio.

Let’s brass tack “unavoidable” here, shall we?

How many different versions have you heard on some of the best-known hits?

Can you quote the stupid throwaway line from a LIVE version of one of the overplayed songs, during the STUDIO version?

Because whenever I hear Dennis DeYoung belting “I think of childhood friends, and the dreeeeeeeeeams we had”, I find myself uncontrollably chiming in:

“Ah, we had dreams!”

I smile when I shout it.

Then grimace, like biting into a too-sweet apple on a humid day.  Too much, Dennis!  I’m super-saturated in your long-haired “Broadway Blues-rock” miasma.

The Grand Illusion is the first Styx album I recognized doing a rough-beast-slouch toward a Broadway musical feel.  And yes, that slouch did eventually culminate in the Bethlehem of  Kilroy Was Here and “Mr. Roboto”.

But don’t call it a concept album.  Styx didn’t do “concept albums”.   The Grand Illusion isn’t fucking TOMMY.  It’s “Lullaby Ziegfield Follies of 1977” — only fraught with meaning.

so if you think your life is complete confusion
’cause your neighbor’s got it made
just remember that it’s a grand illusion
and deep inside we’re all the same

Wow, that sings-along a LOT better than it reads.

Here’s the thing, and this is not the only Slapdash Tape that has this issue.  Most of these albums have 3-5 good songs, and a bunch of crap.

The Grand Illusion scorecard:

Enjoyable Bombastic Junk:

– “The Grand Illusion”:  epic, ridiculous synth and chunky guitar interplay, with George M. Cohan writig ans singing the lyrics.
– “Angry Young Man”:  good ol’ Tommy Shaw single.

– “Come Sail Away”:  Oh, you know you want to sing along, and see if you can hit the high notes at the end of “they climbed aboard their starship, and headed for the SKIIIIIIES!”  Come sail away with me, lads.

Decent B-Side:

– “Miss America”:  bonus points for the sarcastic riff from the actual “here she comes, miss america” song.

Unlistenable:

“Superstars”

“Man in the Wilderness”

“Castle Walls”

And I only listened to the last track, “The Grand Finale”, to remember why I never, ever listened to the back half of The Grand Illusion.  You could see Dennis DeYoung, high on megalomania, thinking, “This — THIS! — will be the lift-the-disposable-lighters-in-the-air moment, before they file out to the parking lot of Alpine Valley, to their custom cargo vans and their sad, patheitic lives, lives to which at least I have brung a modicum of hope and beauty.”

Ah, Dennis, you had dreams.

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