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Styx - Regeneration Volume I & II (Eagle Records)

6 December 2011

Though casual fans remember Styx for misty-eyed ballads by former frontman Dennis DeYoung including “Babe” and “The Best of Times” or the campy sci-fi fare of his “Mr. Roboto,” concert audiences know the band’s muscular engine helmed by Tommy Shaw and founding guitarist James Young. Like fellow arena-rock stalwarts Journey, Styx have continued to tour and create new music for over a dozen years without their famous ex-singer. Regeneration allows current fans to hear the band’s classic rock staples as they’ve heard them in concert.

The most recent release by 80s pop heroes Squeeze, Spot the Difference, was cut from similar cloth. The current arrangements to well-traveled Styx songs like “Come Sail Away” are quite faithful to their original studio counterparts, but really, it’s not that hard to “spot the difference.” If you’re going to be disappointed to hear something a bit fresh or different, you’re better off sticking with the old records. It’s readily apparent from Shaw’s voice on his 1978 single “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)” that he’s no longer 25 years old, but Shaw’s mellowed tenor is richer and still full of conviction. To their credit, the whole band play these old songs with passion and energy.

Keyboardist Lawrence Gowan substitutes for DeYoung’s voice on majestic single “The Grand Illusion.” With the appropriate studio treatment, he’s a pretty close fit, although he avoids DeYoung’s penchant for showtune-y vibrato. An accomplished solo artist in his own right, Gowan’s keyboard work is dazzling and confident.

Lesser known in North America, Cornerstone track “Boat on the River” features a gothic Americana treatment, replete with minor key mandolin, acoustic guitar, accordion and Appalachian harmony. Another surprising choice is the inclusion of Shaw’s #3 single with Damn Yankees, “High Enough.”

Though not as prominent compared to DeYoung’s and Shaw’s compositions, James Young’s hard-edged material has long featured in Styx’ stage show. Regeneration’s second disc includes the galloping guitar heroics of the fiery “Miss America.” Young’s sinister and creepy vocal delivery during his foreboding “Snowblind” arguably tops the original from 1981’s Paradise Theater.

15 year veteran Todd Sucherman anchors the band on drums with conviction, capably nailing the progressive flourishes of DeYoung’s material, bringing the thunder to “Queen of Spades” and fitting the swing of “Renegade” right into the pocket. Principal bassist Ricky Phillips adds a bit more groove to “Blue Collar Man” than founder Chuck Panozzo did in 1978, though Panozzo still contributes bass to “Fooling Yourself.”

Ultimately, Regeneration is a two-way gift. It’s something for current Styx devotees to enjoy. Its purchase also provides a means for fans to thank their heroes for soldiering on, and staying fighting fit.

 

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