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“MIDWEST HAS IT’S OWN ROCK SOUND”
BY BRUCE MEYER
THE HUTCHINSON NEWS
MARCH 14, 1978
Rock ‘n’ roll has always been subject to a lot of geographical influences. It began in the South, a blend of blues and country with a beat, but spread rapidly and evolved wherever it found a home, from Los Angeles to Liverpool.
And the places where rock is most at home tend to evolve their own “sounds,” readily identified by anyone with even a passing interest in the music. Currently, California has its own mellow sound — typified by the Eagles and Linda Ronstadt and the South is stronger than ever with hard-driving guitar bands like Marshall Tucker and the Outlaws.
Then there’s the Midwest. Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland and a dozen other Midwestern cities have long been known as hotbeds of rock fever, but for some reason no “Midwest sound” has ever been defined.
In the last few years a different sort of rock blend has developed in the Midwest, a synthesis that falls roughly between Britain’s art-rockers (Yes, Genesis, ELP) and the latterday heavy metal boogie bands (Aerosmith, Ted Nugent). Kansas — which leans more toward the arty side — is one successful example of this kind of group.
But perhaps the best Midwestern band of all right now is Styx, whose eight long years in the music business are finally beginning to pay off big.
Using last year’s superb “Grand Illusion” album as a springboard, the five members of Styx seem destined for the Big Time at last.
Which raises the question — why has it taken them so long? Styx guitarist James Young (J.Y.) answers: “My opinion is the whole thing is 25 percent talent and 75 percent having your business together — knowing what to do when. And we didn’t. There are a lot of talented bands that never surface — and in some ways, with progressive bands, it’s more difficult still.” That’s the word J.Y. uses for Styx’ music — “progressive” — and he concedes that it’s one of those terms that means something different to everyone. “But to me,” says J.Y., “progressive (rock) is music with a hard edge — that’s attractive to concert audiences — that is also self-indulgent enough to include an extended guitar solo, an extended synthesizer passage from time to time, without vocal communication to the audience.”
It takes time to evolve a musical identity as complex as Styx’ — and the band has put its eight years of experience to good use, on stage as well as in the studio. “You don’t have a style when you start out,” says J.Y., “you’re shooting for a style … and we (the members of Styx) had such diverse influences, it was hard finding our own space, and yet please everyone in the group. “We explored a lot of directions …had to assess what our strong points are — a hard rock approach, the vocals, the dramatic changes and dynamics, the synthesizer work. So we’ve retained all these things and they’re pretty much the keys to everything we do.” They are also the keys to the emerging Midwest school of rock — and Styx is at the head of the class.
1973 Styx II
1974 The Serpent is Rising
1974 Man of Miracles
1976 Crystal Ball
1977 The Grand Illusion
1978 Pieces of Eight
1981 Paradise Theatre
1983 Kilroy was Here
1984 Caught in the Act (Live)
1990 The Edge of the Century
1997 Return to Paradise (Live)
1999 Brave New World
2001 Styxworld Live 2001
2002 Live at the Rivers Edge
2003 21st Century Live
2005 The Big Bang Theory
2006 One with Everything (Live)
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