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The Grand Illusion

A&M 4637
Released: July 1977
Chart Peak: #6
Weeks Charted: 127
Certified 3x Platinum: 11/14/84

John PanozzoChuck PanozzoDennis DeYoungTommy ShawJ.M. YoungStyx blends the progressive, keyboard-oriented intellectualism of primitive Yes with the gritty Cro-Magnon sense of guitar mania that used to be equated with such third-generation bands as Grand Funk and Bloodrock. Styx also possesses a strong sense of musical dramatics: on one album, the group actually equaled the foreboding drama of the Doors' "Horse Latitudes" with an ode to lava and fire entitled "Krakatoa."

Grand Illusion sallies forth with cuts that encompass the rage of heavy metal and the lugubrious smoothness of "progressive" haze. The most dynamic song on the album, "Miss America," simply 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. Styx better watch out because if Bert Parks ever heard this song he'd send his legions of runners-up to stomp the group back into its Stygian depths. The rest of Grand Illusion maintains the same kind of musical imagery Styx has had all along: simple, effective noise for the teenager in search of a progressive thrill.

- Joe Fernbacher, Rolling Stone, 11/3/77.

Bonus Reviews!

With each album this five-piece group continues to refine its act. Grand Illusion is its most mature creation, as this concept LP is an existentialist commentary on the human condition. Crafty synthesized orchestrations give the instrumentals a polished feel while the lyrics and story line maintain continuity. The luxury of having three capable yet distinct vocalists and writers aids in making the LP diverse and imaginative. Best cuts: "The Grand Illusion," "Fooling Yourself," "Miss America," "Castle Walls," "Superstars."

- Billboard, 1977.

With The Grand Illusion, Styx catapulted to Top Ten and multi-platinum status, thanks to the hit single, "Come Sail Away." Although the group's sound was still based in art-rock, the best moments on the record occur when they fit majestic pomp into the constraints of a pop song like "Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)" or "Come Sail Away." * * * *

- Stephen Thomas Erlewine, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

Styx - The Grand Illusion
Original album advertising art.
Click image for larger view.

Further reading on
Super Seventies RockSite!:

Album Review: Pieces of Eight

Album Review: Cornerstone

Album Review:
Paradise Theater

Album Review:
The Grand Illusion - Live

Single Review: "Babe"

Styx Lyrics

Styx Videos

It was The Grand Illusion that put Styx over the top and began a string of commercial successes that didn't stop until Styx splintered in 1984. * * *

- Gary Graff, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.

The keyboards! The synthesizers! The hair! -- gather round, kids, this is what arena rock used to sound and look like. The first of four platinum albums from the Chicago band, featuring new guitarist/vocalist Tommy Shaw, this texturally rich, theatrical effort lives up to its grand billing. But cynics throw styx suggesting this "pompous work of bombast" be called The Grand Delusion. * * * *

- Zagat Survey Music Guide - 1,000 Top Albums of All Time, 2003.

Styx, with their big, layered harmonies and a kitchen-sink approach to production, epitomise for many people everything that is good -- or indeed bad -- about AOR. The band's seventh album, The Grand Illusion, brought together the various strands of prog, rock and pomp that would begin a string of four multi-platinum albums for Styx. The album reached Number Six in the US and spent nine months on the Billboard chart.

The album includes the Chicago-based prog-rockers' second Top Ten hit "Come Sail Away," which reached Number Eight on the Billboard album chart, and a Top Thirty single in James Young's "Fooling Yourself." But the most dramatic track on the album, and one which was to become a firm fan-favourite, was "Miss America," which continues the theme of combining the keyboard ethos of the progressive movement, with the crunching guitar riffs of their more rock-oriented peers.

It is the first of Styx's albums to feature Tommy Shaw, replacing original guitarist John Curulewski. Throughout the album it's Shaw's guitar work that shines, melding with that of founder member James Young, while Dennis DeYoung sings hysterical lyrics with a shrill confidence.

As of 2004, The Grand Illusion was the #73 best-selling album of the 70s.

- Hamish Champ, The 100 Best-Selling Albums of the 70s, 2004.

 Reader's Comments

CoCo Turtle

As Hamish correctly notes, Styx was the first band to land a single into the top 10 of the Billboard album charts. Congratulations mates!

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