Classics: Volume 15, by Styx
As someone who is by no means unfamiliar with the music of Styx and especially their greatest hits compilations, this particular cd is a compilation that the band’s second label, A&M Records, put together for the label’s 25th anniversary as a way of celebrating the group and its music while the band was going through a hiatus during the 1980’s. The end result is a compilation for a band that has hardly needed more compilations, but one that not only includes the hits that the band had with the label but also some lesser known tracks that are also of interest to many listeners of the group. In fact, while one can recognize the familiar core of big hits that the band had here, it is the extra tracks and slightly deeper cuts that mark this compilation as being such a worthwhile one. Making it slightly longer than the usual length of Styx retrospectives gives the chance to hear a bit more depth than one otherwise would and that is something that this listener at least enjoys and appreciates to a high degree. And if you are a fan of Styx it is easy to like this cd a lot as well and so I can give it a warm recommendation.
This particular disk is fourteen tracks long, 70 minutes in length, and it contains a mix of hits and deep cuts that is rare in a retrospective with such obvious label monetary interests. We begin with Babe, the only #1 Styx has had. After that we have a couple of other familiar hits, “Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)” and “Come Sail Away,” which demonstrate the blue-collar as well as the piano ballad sides of the band extremely well. After “Crystal Ball,” which is an enjoyable song from the mid 70’s, we get “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man),” another familiar hit. This is followed by “Light Up,” a generally enjoyable tune, and then the familiar “Mr. Roboto.” This is then followed by “Renegade,” a classic Styx song that is sometimes left off of their retrospectives, and the Paradise Theatre standout “The Best Of Times,” which hits really hard in these times. “Don’t Let It End,” an impressive hit, is followed by the moving “The Grand Illusion,” which promises that all of us are the same once you strip away the superficial qualities of life. Then there is the powerful “Suite Madame Blue,” after which the album closes with the popular “Too Much Time On My Hands” as well as “Miss America.”
Overall, it is clear to see that Styx has a core group of hits that any worthwhile compilation will include as well as a much larger group of great songs that could be included but are not necessarily included. The strength of this collection is in the fact that it includes most of the songs that one would consider to be big hits from the band’s A&M years at the time—it does not include “Show Me The Way” because those come from the early 1990’s comeback—as well as some wonderful album cuts. If you look at the songs that this album includes that other compilations don’t, getting “Don’t Let It End” and “Sweet Madame Blue” in particular is a major gain that makes this album the best of the Styx compilations I have heard so far. I think I may very well listen to more Styx compilations as they become available, but at least for the moment, this is the compilation of the three that I would rank most highly so far at least and that is not something I say lightly. Albums like this demonstrate that Styx’s musical as well as commercial relevance and excellence were both highly valued by A&M and that it is a shame that not everyone has been able to recognize it.