By: Jim Cheesman
Published: Feb 27, 2003
It’s not difficult to find a Styx song
on the radio these days.
“Come Sail Away” and “Blue Collar
Man” are staples on classic-rock stations. “Babe” is played in adult
contemporary formats, and even the cult favorite “Mr. Roboto” turns
up occasionally on 1980s shows – not to mention TV
But finding new music from Styx and other
classic-rock bands on the radio is another story. Narrower formats
and listeners’ changing tastes have left many of the most popular
acts of the rock era struggling to get their music out over the
“It’s definitely a challenge for them these days,”
said Dan Rahman, program director for Classic Rock B-102.7 in Sioux
Falls. “A new song from a group like Styx might be played on only
one station per market – if that – while a newer group like matchbox
twenty might be played on three or four.”
Last week, Styx
released its latest studio album, “Cyclorama,” to generally positive
reviews. More importantly, the group – which plays a co-headliner
show with REO Speedwagon on Saturday night in Brookings – is getting
some airplay with the first single. “Waiting For Our Time” was the
most-played new song on classic-rock radio last week and also is
part of B-102.7’s rotation.
“On one hand, it says a
lot because more people are getting to hear it,” said Styx guitarist
James “JY” Young. “But on the other hand, it doesn’t because, quite
frankly, not a lot of new songs are being played on classic-rock
More important benchmarks, Young says, are the
mainstream rock charts, where the band is competing with the likes
of 3 Doors Down, Godsmack and Bon Jovi. Styx was No. 30 on last
week’s Radio and Records survey and No. 37 on Billboard’s mainstream
rock chart. It’s Styx’s first appearance on the Billboard mainstream
rock chart since 1990’s “Love is the Ritual.”
classic-rock band that has made what we feel is one of the best
records of our lives, this is a pretty good start,” Young said.
“Some of the newer bands may have an easier time getting their songs
played and getting videos on MTV and VH1.
“The cards we’ve
been dealt are different. We’re perceived as a group that is not
current. Our mission and goal with this album is to re-establish
ourselves as a contemporary act.”
There is precedent for such
transformations, he said.
“There was a moment where Aerosmith
was faced with the same thing, but they found a way to come back,”
Young said. “And Santana is one of my favorite examples of
“Is it going to happen for us? I don’t know. But we’ve
put out an album that we strongly believe gives us that
“Cyclorama” was released Feb. 18 – four years after
the group’s previous studio album, “Brave New World,” sold only
100,000 copies and the band went through a major lineup change.
Dennis DeYoung was replaced by Canadian
keyboardist/vocalist Lawrence Gowan. Another founding member,
bassist Chuck Panozzo, is now semi-retired but played on a few
“Cyclorama” tracks and appears with the band at selected
Panozzo was replaced by former Styx member Glen
Burtnik, who ironically took over for frontman Tommy Shaw for a
period in the mid-1990s.
Both Gowan and Burtnik have
extensive writing and singing credentials to go along with Shaw and
Young’s history with the band that dates back to the
The new lineup became road warriors, playing more than
400 shows since 1999 and meshing as a group before hitting the
studio last year.
Young says the process of making
“Cyclorama” was much like the one the band followed for 1977’s “The
Grand Illusion” album, regarded by many as Styx’s finest.
wrote all of the songs together in the same room,” he said. “Each
person would come in with either a fully developed idea or just a
nugget, and we would bash at it a while until it was something we
were all happy with.
“We had gotten away from that process
for our most recent albums, and I think the results were obvious.
People just didn’t identify the sound with Styx.”
diverse writers and lead singers, there were contrasting styles to
deal with, and those differences show up on the new album. But there
are common threads, most notably the group’s trademark harmonies
that appear on every track.
“Our three-part and four-part
harmonies are probably the most recognizable sound of this band,
along with the powerful rock underpinning,” he said. “This album
definitely sounds like the Styx people remember but with a more
current edge to it.”
Guest appearances by Brian Wilson, John
Waite, Billy Bob Thornton, Jude Cole and Tenacious D members Jack
Black and Kyle Gass give the album some added
Highlights of Saturday night’s 90-minute set will be
four songs off “Cyclorama” and a 14-song, nine-minute medley of fan
favorites that weren’t necessarily big hits.
trying to feature new songs in a set, you want to make sure you
balance that with songs that people remember,” Young
And, of course, there will be full versions of the
group’s greatest hits, which Young refers to as “the soundtrack for
people’s gloriously misspent youth.”
Reach Jim Cheesman at
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