The Grand Illusion
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46 of 48 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon January 17, 2006
I did not own a single Styx album until recently - which is odd because the group was highly popular during the late 1970s/early 1980s when I was a teen (all 80s teens liked Styx right?). My suspicion is that it may have had something to do with the fact that I was a Yes and Pink Floyd freak at the time and was unyieldingly provincial in my listening habits, although it may have been a subconscious observance of what I refer to as the "Styx stigma". For whatever reason, I am sorry I waited this long because The Grand Illusion (1977) rocks like nobody's business and Styx is a darn good band.

As a huge fan of progressive rock (I am still a raving Yes-head), the whole package appeals to me on many levels: soaring three and four part vocal harmonies by excellent high tenors; super Hammond organ work; blazing Rick Wakeman-esque Moog (synth) solos; great synthesizer tones; dynamic acoustic/hard rock contrasts; agile ensemble work (all of the musicians are very good); and to top it all off, wonderful harmonic and melodic development. Mix in the heavily distorted guitar of Led Zeppelin along with the thunderous and tight rhythm section of Deep Purple and the blueprint for The Grand Illusion is pretty much drawn out. Although superficially similar, this album is light-years ahead of previous works such as Equinox (1975) and Crystal Ball (1976). In spite of the fact that those albums are very good (and recommended) they do not exhibit the compositional sophistication of The Grand Illusion.

This is wonderful and crisply produced progressive hard rock and certainly provides me with a great deal of enjoyment - after all isn't that what rock is all about? All in all, this is an engaging and superb album, a heck of a lot of fun to listen to, and is highly recommended along with Pieces of Eight (1978). For those new Styx fans (like me) that enjoy this band and want to explore other progressive hard rock bands, the album Point of Know Return (Kansas, 1977) might also prove enjoyable.
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38 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on August 30, 2003
There are a number of artists who seem to suffer from the unfortunate fate of their creativity not aging well. Styx is such a band. Often ridiculed for their slickly produced *corporate* rock, as well as supposedly coming off as an anemic version of some notable British progressive rock artists, the guys had to feel some tremendous hurt from the constant harsh criticism - which still exists more than 25 years after their major success THE GRAND ILLUSION was released. To many, most of Styx's material is simply no more than a dated joke.
Under my assumption, the responses to Styx's material seem to fall into two major categories: (1). Music fans listen to it, and dismiss it as a cheesy, watered-down, pretentious mess. They would want nothing more to do with this. (2). Music fans listen to this, and love the catchy melodies, but will try their hardest to refrain from admitting so, for fear of losing their *hipness* credibility.
But other than everything listed in the above paragraph, the biggest fans of this music are the ones who grew up with it when it was released. The adults around that time knew the negative reputation bands like Styx were receiving, but some youngsters around that time period were more than likely oblivious to the artist-bashing, and nevertheless, enjoyed the music just fine. I consider the latter to be the most blessed, as the saying goes, "what they don't know won't hurt them."
But, all historical insights aside, I've always enjoyed Styx's music, and I was never bothered by the slick productions of their music, or anything else for that matter. I found it to be highly enjoyable, quality music created by talented musicians, and still do.
THE GRAND ILLUSION exhibits accessible hard rock with progressive rock flourishes integrated into the mix to create a highly compelling brand of rock. There seems to be a theme that runs throughout the entire album - a theme that states no matter how successful, or unsuccessful one is, no matter what kind of career one has, no matter what lifestyle one lives, no matter what one does or does not have, it doesn't make you any better, or worse than any other individual. Believing so is simply a "grand illusion."
I've seen and heard for the longest time Styx being knocked as a band trying *too* hard to be like Queen. I honestly never understood that, as Styx never seemed to exhibit enough *Britishness* in their sound to even come close to imitating Queen (even if those supposed accusations were true.) However, small traces of British progressive rock bands (e.g. Yes, Genesis, Jethro Tull) do come to mind when I listen to this music. Queen comes to mind as well, but - like the aforementioned Brtish progressive bands - in small traces. On the whole, I find Styx's music to be - more or less - unique.
The bombastic, anthemic, theatrical opening of the title track (which I absolutely love) brings resemblance to Genesis and Jethro Tull, and is possibly the closest thing to resemble *Britishness* on this disc. Meanwhile, the megalomaniacalesque, grand vocals on some of the verses resemble Yes and Queen to an extent. But overall, Styx's music seems so Americanized, it refrains from sounding like a largely derivative thing. Thematically speaking, this track features lead singer Dennis DeYoung stating the negative aspects that come with the package of being a "rock star." The lyrics seem to state that the lifestyle many ordinary blokes dream of living is not all it's cracked up to be. This is exemplified in the aforementioned title track the most. However, fame - the pros and (mostly) cons of it -- plays a big part of the thematic element that runs throughout the disc.
"Angry Young Man" seems like a message to the punks of the day. When reading these lyrics, it's easy to see that Styx were trying to send out a positive, optimistic message. Cynics (especially of this generation) will read these lyrics and scoff until they run out of breath. I'll be the first to admit that they do seem a little dated in their naivete, but the natural creativity, and the sincere, heartfelt optimism is hard not to be moved by, and, let's be honest - it's nice to be able to take a break from cynicism, as it gets old really fast.
"Superstars" is one of my favorite tracks. A mid-tempo rocker with some lovely, touching vocal harmonies which happen to share more in common with R&B/Soul than they do with rock. "Come Sail Away" has aged well to me. The haunting and achingly moving chorus has not left me one bit, and those lyrics I find to be absolutely poetic and beautiful. An all-around beautiful and moving track. Guitarist James Young writes and sings lead vocal for the sneering "Miss America," the edgiest, crunchiest tune on the album. James' snarling vocal burns with a white-hot passion ( and cracks me up hysterically.) A track which may please many cynics. Who would have thought? "Castle Walls" is the most *proggish* on the album - a track which starts off fairly low-key and melodic, before showcasing some lovely vocal harmonies. Then we are treated to a brief instrumental section of over-the-top theatrics which recall the many progressive rock giants of the early and mid-70s.
I love this music, regardless of the negative criticism surrounding it. Just try to enjoy the music for what it is - great music made by talented musicians - and forget about the *hipness* or lack of it. Enjoy.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on February 26, 2000
"The Grand Illusion" is one of Styx's finest efforts, with its excellent combination of pop and art-rock and the constant positive message throughout the album that implies that one should be proud of him- or herself for who they are ("The Grand Illusion", "Fooling Yourself"). A must have for classic rock fans, and the quintessential Styx studio album. Album Highlights: "The Grand Illusion", "Fooling Yourself", "Come Sail Away", "Castle Walls".
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on May 24, 2010
I love this album by Styx very much.That out of the way,this 24-karat gold remaster(by Kevin Grey) offers little,if any,sonic upgrade over the A&M 1980's CD.The volume level is still low and while there's a bit more detail (in the quieter moments) and a bit less muddiness,it still sounds rather flat and lifeless.In fact,if you are new to this album and haven't heard the old CD,you might come under the impression that this disc wasn't remastered at all,just something thrown into the marketplace to cash in on the 80's CD reissue craze.On the plus side,it does contain the poster that was included in the original 1977 release,though the colors look a bit off.All in all,the Audio Fidelity "The Grand Illusion" gold CD isn't horrible,but it's certainly not worth forking the extra money over. (P.S: For those who need a sonic upgrade,try getting the 2009 Japanese SHM-CD remaster(UICY-93921),which IMO destroys both the A&M and the AF ones,sounding crystal-clear,powerful and minty-fresh.Yes,it's pricey and hard to find,but you won't regret it in the end.)
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on May 5, 2010
This gold CD release is not worth the price and really isn't an upgrade. Compared with the original CD this disc lacks passion and involvement. I actually still prefer the original CD because it is engaging and fun to listen to.

This gold CD does have increased detail and resolution, but somehow it comes off as sterile and analytical. I have listened to it several times with an open mind and really tried to like it, but I still find myself reaching for the original US CD release. Do yourself a favor and spend the cash on another disc.

This is not a rant against Audio Fidelity in the least, they certainly have released some great sounding CDs. However, this particular release is a fail in my opinion. Better luck next time AF.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on December 25, 2010
HERE is a excellent remaster on Gold disc. The pure flat Response of the cd brings you closer to the real master. This is a true way to get to the original sound. This is one of Styx best CDs yet. Great sale price on disc makes it a sure gift this holiday season.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 24, 2004
In 1977 Styx released what I would consider to be their finest album,The Grand Illusion. While I don't consider Styx one of the greatest bands of all time or anything,Styx was and still is a good band.The Grand Illusion is the album to back that up.The first half of the album is almost flawless,with such songs as The Grand Illusion,Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man),and Come Sail Away,all appearing on the first half of the album.Three big hits out of the 4 songs one that half,that's quit an accomplishment esspecially if you compare it to most albums released today.Side two contains Miss America,and Castle Walls as highlights,and while some of the songs sound dated by today's standards,remember The Grand Illusion came out in 1977.When compared to other albums of its time period,The Grand Illusion isn't really strange, and hasn't dated any worse.For the time it came out having three hit singles on the radio or charts was a big deal,it was the 80's before it was common for groups to have 4 or 5 top 40 singles from one album.Any The Grand Illusion is Styx at their best,the Grand Illusion remains a rock and roll classic.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on November 9, 1999
This is the best CD Styx has ever made (and will ever make). Shaw's Fooling Yourself and Man in the Wilderness, DeYoung's Grand Illusion, Come Sail Away and Castle Walls, and JY's Miss America are all Styx classics. It's just a shame that DeYoung decided he wanted to be the next Barry Manilow and write all ballads (Babe) because he was capable of writing some decent progressive-type songs.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on August 31, 2000
I categorize Styx albums in two categories: pre Tommy Shaw and Tommy Shaw because Shaw's presence changed the musical direction in which the band was going, mostly for the better.
In the "pre-Shaw" period, "Equinox" is unquestionably the group's best album. In the Tommy Shaw era, "The Grand Illusion" is easily their best work and overall the band's best album ever. Few albums by any band are as completely listenable and entertaining from first track to last. In addition to the the band staples "Fooling Yourself", "Come Sail Away", and "Miss America", come several other tracks worth mentioning, such as "Castle Walls" and my personal favorite, "Man in the Wilderness". If I had to choose the weakest song on "The Grand Illusion", it would be "Superstar", but I even like that song, albeit not quite as much as the rest of the album.
"The Grand Illusion" is in my mind Styx's pinnacle album, as they followed it up with "Pieces of Eight", which was not quite as commercially successful and bordered on being somewhat pretentious (their next three albums, "Cornerstone", "Paradise Theater", and "Kilroy Was Here" would prove to be even more so). "Illusion" captures Styx at its creative and commercial zenith, and aside from their Greatest Hits album and "Equinox" is the only other Styx album a serious fan needs.
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28 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on May 22, 2010
As you can tell from the title I'm more than disappointed in this reissue.

Let me begin by saying that I have one other Audio Fidelity release as well as several DCC gold CD's and they are all excellent (all mastered by Steve Hoffman).

I have had this album in 3 versions since 1979:
a. The original A&M record (was not too bad as I recall).
b. The Mo Fi half speed mastered album (Oh how I wish I still had that !!).
c. The horrible A&M (1989 or so) CD (which until now has not ever been re-mastered).

I also have several of these songs from the 2 disc "Gold" best of.

This disc is only a mild step up from the standard CD but both are terrible !!
They are flat, one-dimensional and totally lacking in any drive or punch.
I would have expected more even from the dim-witted record companies re-issue ???

I'll be kicking myself another hundred times that I ever got rid of my 300+ vinyl records back in the 80's. I have poorly made copies of the Mofi 1/2 speed record that make this gold CD sound like a 1960's transistor radio.

Don't buy it.....

Todd

P.S. I'm listening to this on over $10k of hifi equipment including a high end player with HDCD capability. HDCD is NOT 24/96 but uses a trick (I won't go into it) to get closer to 20bit resolution (still @44.1khz sampling) in the middle frequencies !!
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