When I was about 10 years old, I had one of those K-Tel compilation records. There are only two things I remember about that album: 1) ELO’s Don’t Bring Me Down and 2) Styx’s Renegade. The latter was played so many times that even my mom knew the words.
That was the beginning of a beautiful one-sided friendship. Over the next couple of years, I purchased every Styx album up to that point, and continued collecting every time a new release showed up in the record stores. (Remember those??)
The pandemic took some wind out of my sails in regards to new releases in the rock world, so imagine my surprise when I got home the other day to find a package waiting for me at the front door. My Let’s Rock partner in crime had ordered the new Styx album for me. I must admit, I had no idea that they were even recording, let alone releasing their latest, Crash of the Crown.
I think it’s fair to assume that I’m a bit of a Styx fan. I usually have a ritual when I get a new Styx album: No disturbances, just me and my liner notes, as I listen to the record for the first time as loud as possible (without bothering the neighbours).
I followed my ritual with Geddy, my trusty new Jack Russell co-reviewer, crashed out next to me. (It’s safe to assume I’m a bit of a Rush fan, too)
Let’s do this. Let’s Rock does our reviews a little differently than other sites. We simply listen to the album and type our first reaction in real time. Call it a First Reaction.
- The Fight Of Our Lives
Very cool, proggy intro. I love Lawrence Gowan (apparently, you can call him, Larry, too) and I’m very happy to have a fellow Canuck in this band. Wow, sounds like about 20 voices singing together in this one. Ever since the ending of Crystal Ball, Styx guitar solos always make me smile. “Nothing can stop us, No one can stop us now,” I love Tommy Shaw’s lyrics. It should be noted, that Shaw is in my top 3 or 4 rock musicians of all time. His songwriting/voice/guitar work is right at the top in my humble opinion. He’s plowin’ on this one. Great start.
2. A Monster
Still proggy, which is great. Damn, Tommy sounds good. Drummer Todd Sucherman is an absolute beast. Some very nice tempo changes in this one. This is very classic Styx sounding. It always amazes me how much is going on in a Styx song, without sending too crowded. Good Lord, Sucherman drum break. I need to practice. There’s JY with some vocals, and, as always, a crisp solo. He’s just so good. Love this track.
Tommy on acoustic…always something to look forward to on a Styx album. (Crystal Ball, Fooling Yourself, Lights, Love in the Midnight, Yes, I Can, Radio Silence) Lawrence singing on this one. Oooh, that’s a crunchy guitar sound in the chorus. Tasty little guitar solo. Sounds like Tommy. It should be noted that Styx has an unbelievable rhythm section with Sucherman and Ricky Phillips/Chuck Panozzo. That was something I really noticed on the last tour in Laval. Sucherman and Phillips made this band sound HEAVY.
4. Hold Back The Darkness
Straight into this tune. Starts with Larry and then to Tommy. They complement each other so well. Holy crap, the choruses on this album are huge. Very nice production. Super cool guitar solo. This album is making me feel like a teenager.
5. Save Us From Ourselves
Piano intro. Dark, plodding. Amazing harmonies. “We could all use a miracle now.” Ain’t that the truth. Shit, this is a cool tune. They just have so many twists and turns in every song. JY solo again. He deserves more credit as a soloist. Every solo fits so perfectly in to the song. Oh, song is over. They’re quick on this album.
6. Crash Of The Crown
Awesome intro. One thing that really stands out on this album…Woohoo, JY singing. Always love his vocal parts. He ha so many lead vocal songs in the early days…now it’s such a treat when he sings. I digress…oh, now it’s Lawrence singing. Cool. Very funky…GO RICKY GO. I digress again…the thing that stands our on this record is Sucherman. He is all over the place. This is a drumming masterpiece. Nice little piano interlude. Was that Lawrence way up high there…Good Lord. This song would be a hit on any album Styx ever released. I’m having so much fun listening to this. Very cool Queen type vibe at the end. That song right there was worth the price of the cd. I need a break after that.
7. Our Wonderful Lives
Could this be a flashback to Fooling Yourself. That guitar sound is so Tommy Shaw. Trumpet solo. Has Styx ever used a trumpet? Damn, Tommy still has that range, He’s always been my favourite vocalist ever.
8. Common Ground
A lot of acoustic. Thank the rock Gods. Sucherman…teach me your ways. Holy shit. More drum solos, please. Wondering if the guys were all together when they recorded the vocals or if it was done with remotely. The harmonies are spot on. Larry is defying age and seems to be getting stronger vocally. Sexy little solo at the end.
9. Sound the Alarm
I could listen to this voice every day and never get tired of it. It’s just incredible. Everything fits perfectly. No showboating, just everyone for the song. Please play this album start to finish on your next tour.
10. Long Live The King
Cool keyboard sound. Nice vibe on this song. Harmony lead break. Makes me think of Mademoiselle from Crystal Ball. Great bass line. Short and sweet.
11. Lost At Sea
GOWAN. He’s pretty good on that piano thing. Wow, this is short. Done
12. Coming Out The Other Side
Lots of piano on this album. Gowan again. Tommy harmony. I’m pretty sure he could harmonize with a fart and make it sound like Styx. Sucherman again…such unique drumming. Nice slide guitar…Tommy? Beautiful piano outro.
13. To Those
Aggressive vocals from Larry. Such a nice guitar sound. Todd, stop it…you’re making all of us wannabe drummers look bad. And he makes it sound so effortless. I remember that from the Laval show. Bluesy solo. Sweet.
14. Another Farewell
Eerie keyboards. Weird. It’s finished. Maybe 20 seconds
Classic Styx harmonies. Weird song, but good. just arpeggiated guitar and voice. Slide solo again. Here we go. Long solo…No, Don’t fade out…Keep going.
OK. That was fun.
This is a fantastic album. Amazing musicianship. Great vocals. Sucherman. Excellent production from Will Evankovich. Lots of Tommy Shaw. But most importantly, just stellar songwriting.
You can’t ask for anything more from a Styx album? It was a surprise release for me, but damn, this is a great listen.
Even Geddy seemed to enjoy it…At least he didn’t run away, and that’s always a good sign.