DELVING INTO THE PAST - MIRACLES HAPPEN (OR THEY USED TO)
Cleiton Braz Silva | BRAZIL | 10/22/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"As contradictory as it may be for lovers of the old and good Rock and Roll, putting on a Styx CD may indeed shock, if not trouble, many around you, chiefly those who are fans of Black Sabbath or Kiss. Not a heavyweight like the former, always catering for Heavy Metal freaks, nor an ambitious act like the latter, responding to those ever in the mood for a visual bombardment; instead, this American group named after the eerie mythological river of death - from Dante's Inferno - was more like a music crucible in which all genres could be melted into powerful, emotional, and oftentimes bizarrely arranged tunes.
Still keeping this bizarre that had pervaded its predecessor The Serpent is Rising and already announcing the epic tone of its successor Equinox - arguably the best Styx album - Man Of Miracles is a good token of what a combination of fine melodies, heavy arrangements, and exaggerated vocals can produce. "Rock & Roll Feeling" and "Havin' a Ball," open this their fourth album, giving the impression that the band is in the mood for a rave-up, with John Curulewski and James Young's unrelenting guitars making the listener think that all the guys wanted to do in this album was to get a kick from playing sheer Rock and Roll - Got it wrong. "Golden Lark" and "Song For Suzanne," sung by Dennis De Young - whose distinct voice unmistakably came to symbolize Styx - and accompanied by his (at the time) state-of-the-art keyboards, are there to soothe all ears.
The record goes alternating pure Rock songs, "A Man Like Me," "Southern Woman," and "Lies" with exquisite, elaborated tunes, "Evil Eyes" and "Christopher, Mr. Christopher," closing with one of the heaviest Styx songs ever, the title cut "Man of Miracles," whose theatrical, soundtrack-like introduction was typical of Art Rock groups and artists, namely King Crimson, ELP, and Rick Wakeman. But only a cursory or untrained listener would put them down as progressive. True, there's some of the sophistication peculiar to Art Rock -quite popular during the first half of the 1970s - in their music, though not enough to be a peer of names like Genesis and Yes. Instead, Styx was, if not the inventor, one of the greatest contributors, along with Journey, to establish of what became known as Arena Rock (some say Pomp Rock ........ or more recently named Corporate Rock), or in other words, Rock music to be played to a selected audience, one with a taste for high production and sound quality, supportive of the Glitter Rock headed by David Bowie, Elton John and Queen, and despising the misbehavior and straightforwardness of Punk groups like Sex Pistols and Ramones.
For those wishing to experiment a morsel of the highly creative seventies, and listen to an exponent of one of the many styles current of that decade, Man of Miracles is not Styx aiming its commercial stardom - which happened with songs like 1979's "Babe" and 1980's "The Best Of Times" - but it's one of their best; a musical feast that makes us feel the last twenty five years or so, with few exceptions, have let us down in the middle of mediocrity and dullness, believing that miracles are seemingly out of date.
Serious split personality
BENJAMIN MILER | Veneta, Oregon | 04/30/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Man of Miracles, Styx's final album with Wooden Nickel simply proves how this band simply needed a better label and a stronger musical identity. Here the band was having a hard time deciding whether to be a prog rock band or a straightforward hard rock band. James Young is perhaps the most predictable, as he tended to prefer hard rock. Dennis DeYoung went for both ballad and prog rock epics. John Curulewski was perhaps the most schizophrenic because one song he would write would be a prog rock epic, the next a straightforward boogie rocker (maybe that's the reason so many Styx fans welcomed Tommy Shaw, after all he was more consistent). But there are several good songs make this album worth getting (but Styx newcomers are obviously advised to start with their first four major label outings, Equinox, The Crystal Ball, The Grand Illusion, Pieces of Eight). The first two cuts, "Rock and Roll Feeling" and "Having a Ball", even from just looking at the titles, are straight-ahead rockers. Next is a Dennis DeYoung ballad, "Golden Lark", not done in the style of "Lady" or "Babe", but in prog rock fashion. DeYoung also gets to show off his new machine, an ARP String Ensemble, an keyboard that certainly served the band well during their major label days (including the synth solo on "Come Sail Away"). "A Song For Suzanne" is also from DeYoung, another prog rocker, but not in ballad form. James Young gives us "A Man Like Me", which, unsurprisingly, given the guy's hard rock background, is a straightforward hard rocker. They also give us a cover of the Knickerbockers' "Lies" (a song, in which the original had many fooled it was a new Beatles song back in the mid '60s). "Southern Woman" is by far the most effective of the rockers, almost reminds me of Kansas, but without the violin. The title track, which ends the album, is a great prog rocker, with some nice synth work. I have always felt the second half of the album was better than the first. By the way, the cover can't be beat!
In 1980 RCA, I'm pretty certain, was jealous that Styx was so much more successful with A&M than they ever were on Wooden Nickel reissued all four of their albums, replaced with some truly horrible covers (I can only imaging the reaction of horror a Styx fan might have when seeing one of these reissues), and two of their titles renamed (Styx II became Lady, Man of Miracles was shortened to just Miracles). On the reissue, Miracles replaced "Lies" with Dennis DeYoung's own "Unfinished Song" (I guess legal reasons, the band probably didn't get proper permission to do a cover of "Lies"). "Unfinished Song" first appeared on the flip side to the single of "Young Man" ("Young Man" also appeared on The Serpent is Rising, while "Unfinished Song" was previously a non-LP single cut). Like The Serpent is Rising, "Unfinished Song" is that rare occasion where Styx was using the Mellotron, and Dennis DeYoung happily plastered this ballad with it (either the Mellotron belonged to someone else, or DeYoung ran into one of the instrument's mechanical problems that made him quickly get rid of it in favor of the much more reliable ARP String Ensemble).
Luckily by this time, things were starting to look up for Styx. Not too long after this album came out, "Lady" from Styx II (1973) started showing some nationwide chart action that got them signed to a major label with even better albums to come.
As already mentioned, Man of Miracles might not be the best place for a newcomer, it's still worth having for the established fan."
One of the best STYX albums
Lee J. Davito | 06/18/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"a correction for the fact that James Young isn't the only original member left in the band.....Chuck Panozzo is still on bass....Chuck has been diagnosed with AIDS/HIV POS...and only tours as his health permits....
Tommy Shaw has been on board since the CRYSTAL BALL album...
Much like REO SPEEDWAGON....who only has one original member left in the keys player-Neil Doughty......but Kevin Cronin has been a long time member and bassist Bruce Hall has also been on board since 1978.
Two fantastic bands that share a common ground of losing most original lineup......both these bands did their most significant works in the early stage of their careers....the first 7 or 8 albums....before selling out and getting cheesy."