|First posted 7/30/2011; updated 8/6/2020.|
The Grand Illusion
Released: July 7, 1977
Charted: July 30, 1977
Peak: 6 US, -- UK, -- CN, -- AU
Sales (in millions): 3.0 US, -- UK, 5.0 world (includes US and UK)
Genre: classic rock
Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.)
Total Running Time: 38:59
3.941 out of 5.00 (average of 16 ratings)
Quotable: “Led Styx steadfastly into the domain of AOR rock” – Greg DeGagne, All Music Guide
About the Album:
Styx formed in Chicago in 1971. They signed a deal with Wooden Nickel and released their debut album a year later. Three more albums followed, but the band were definitely not taking the world by storm. However, in 1975, radio picked up “Lady” from the band’s second album two years earlier and it became a top-ten hit. Styx subsequently signed a deal with major label A&M and their next two albums, Equinox (1975) and Crystal Ball (1976), produced top 40 hits “Lorelei” (#27) and “Mademoiselle” (#36).
Their seventh album, appropriately released on 7/7/77, “led Styx steadfastly into the domain of AOR rock.” MD They blended “the progressive, keyboard-oriented intellectualism of primitive Yes with the gritty CroMagnon sense of guitar mania that used to be equated with such third-generation bands as Grand Funk…Styx also possesses a strong sense of musical dramatics” JF and imagery with “simple, effective noise for the teenager in search of a progressive thrill.” JF
“Built on the strengths of Come Sail Away’s ballad-to-rock metamorphosis…and on the high harmonies of…Tommy Shaw throughout Fooling Yourself,” MD The Grand Illusion became a top ten album and the band’s first platinum seller. MD It “introduced Styx to the gates of commercial stardom” MD as it went on to become the band’s first of four consecutive multi-platinum albums.
Dennis DeYoung appeared to be the clear star considering he’d sung lead on the band’s two top-ten hits to date: “Lady” and “Come Sail Away.” In fact, he helmed most of the band’s future top-ten hits, including the #1 song “Babe” as well as “The Best of Times,” “Mr. Roboto,” “Don’t Let It End,” and “Show Me the Way.” However, Shaw was also becoming a force in the band, writing and singing “Fooling Yourself,” and future top 40 hits “Blue Collar Man” and “Renegade” and top-ten hit “Too Much Time on My Hands.”
Shaw had joined the band while they were touring in support of Equinox and became a full-fledged member on Crystal Ball. “He’d now clearly settled into his role in the band and his guitar work, along with James Young’s, is full and extremely sharp where it matters most. Even the songwriting is more effluent than Crystal Ball… shedding their mystical song motifs for a more audience-pleasing lyric and chord counterpoise.” MD
Young gave the band a rare triple threat, showcasing his chops on the hard-charging Miss America, a tune which garnered decent airplay at album-rock stations. The song’s “pulverized growl [also] reveals the group’s guitar-savvy approach to six-string rock.” MD The song was intended as a “scathing attack on the Miss America pageant” WK although at least one critic felt it accomplished the opposite of its intention, saying it “reeks of misogynistic misdirection. What Styx thinks is a compliance with current feminist fashion turns out to be nothing more than a spiteful acquiescence to sexual bigotry and impotence.” JF
The song’s intent, however, fit with what DeYoung described as the album’s theme: “the struggle to overcome self-deluding superficiality in order to affirm one’s genuine value. This theme was reflected in the lyrics of the album’s title track: ‘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.’” WK
The song Castle Walls has an interlude inspired by Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells”, which served as the theme for the 1973 horror film The Exorcist. It has been noted that John Carpenter’s 1978 horror movie Halloween used a musical theme which had similar characteristics to the interlude of “Castle Walls.” WK
Granted, Styx has never been a critics’ favorite. I am a firm believer, though, that personal taste should always be about what one likes just because one likes it. I argued this point in more depth in my June 27, 2010 blog entry/essay called, appropriately, “The Styx Defense.” So go ahead and pull out the album again and listen to it without shame. I’m certainly playing it again for the umpteenth time.
A 2012 DVD featured Styx performing The Grand Illusion and Pieces of Eight albums live in their entirety.