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The Mission is a thrilling return to Styx's progressive roots, complete with a courageous & visionary concept. A captivating adventure unfolds across 14 tracks, 249 million miles from home! With a sound as big as a galaxy & two years in the making, it embodies a throw-back progressive-rock feel. Recorded at Blackbird Studios in Nashville, The Mission comes complete in a true hi-fidelity analog recording & mixed with a larger than life sound. For the first time in 14 years, an all-new studio album is set to launch on June 16, 2017. The Mission is a go!
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Overall opinion (keep in mind this is the first spin):
This is a great album and SUPER ambitious for Styx. They get high marks for that. While I don't think it's the second coming of "the big two", there are definitely points that do hit that lofty goal.
One bitch: the Production to me is super dry throughout and that's not a quality that I dig with my STYX stuff. It NEEDS that reverb/delay to help give it that "STYX SOUND". My opinion, but I grew up (and old) with the band. If this came out in the 90s, I'd get why they dried things out so much, but STYX isn't a grungy band. For me, Cyclorama's production was more 'lush'. One other comparison to Cyclorama - I'm finding that Gowan's tracks are the standouts.
I caught the interview with Tommy the other day about how he explains the characters that each bend member is playing- Tommy as the pilot, Lawrence as the first officer, JY as the naysayer, the others as scientists or something like that (I forget), so I do get that these are 'character pieces' which is an ok idea, just as ok as it was on 'Kilroy Was Here'. BUT - I knew the concept of KWH, so it made sense. To those that didn't know, it was "What the heck is THIS??" Not sure that'll happen with 'The Mission', but it could.
Keep in mind, I'm listening online as I don't have the CD (with the book, etc.) in my hand... will have it later tonight.
This is a cool way to open the album and super proggy for Styx, which is great. As a piece of music, I like it. The one thing that immediately strikes me is how DRY the production is. I would think for an 'Overture' that it'd have a 'Bigness' to it that could've been brought to the track via a bit of delay and reverb.
Gone Gone Gone:
Great track. Gowan sings the crap out of it. Nice to hear Styx kicking into high gear and nice to hear JY and Tommy's guitars just going for it. Radio seems so void of guitars that I find myself going through withdrawal symptoms...
Again, I'm struck by how dry the track sounds. It's STYX so I expect a bit more production.
Hundred Million Miles:
Pretty stripped down and straight ahead rock track. The highest harmony here is a bit overkill (and I'm a sucker for good harmonies). They've got some chorus on Tommy's voice, but again, super dry. Some of the harmonies seem like they don't cut off at the same time. As a song, it's got a good vocal hook in the chorus.
Trouble at the Big Show:
I think this one is from the Dr. Righteous Outtake Reel (and I actually like Heavy Metal Poisoning and that character too). JY... sometimes I love him to death and sometimes I find him annoying as hell. When I don't like him, it's usually vocal related. JY is a great harmony singer. If you want to see how much he brings to the party, listen to his solo album "City Slicker" and listen to the harmonies on it. His harmony singing is a HUGE part of the Styx sound and is a necessary component. But man, when he does his lower "Double Life" voice, I find it completely and utterly ... not my thing. I'd rather have a "Captain America" or "These Are the Times". This one's a wah-covered, bluesy track with some cool harmonies and a good guitar solo. But I can't get past JY's lead vocal and am thankful that there's only one JY-led track here.
Again, the production on the vocals drives me nuts. It's dry but it's also wrapped in chorus, which I don't dig and was one of the reasons that I HATED the Regeneration albums.
So far, this is a track that I will be skipping with repeated plays. It might grow on me. Sorry JY!
Beginning is a bit like "Shine On You Crazy Diamond". Okay... NOW it sounds like STYX to me, at least the beginning. The production is so much better here. The vocals aren't layered in chorus and there's a nice reverb on Tommy's vocal that brings it out. Tommy's voice... man, he's got such great pipes. Some cool bass parts from Ricky Phillips here too. Great harmonies in it that are reminiscent of the "Papa Papa's" in "This Old Man". I like this track. I don't know how 'catchy' or 'STYX' it is. It seems that STYX is not going for 'mass appeal' on this track but just for music to fit their concept. When the band kicks in, again, all of the production seems to be rolled off and everything is super dry again. Just gives it a home-demo quality.
Yup... 'Man in the Wilderness II'. The bass line, acoustic, and keyboards at the beginning are SO similar... even the guitar break in the middle is similar. The verses are totally evocative of the image of being a solo guy in a space ship so far away from the planet. Great chorus here and very 'STYX' to me. When listening to it in the context of the album, it's definitely a standout.
The Greater Good:
Oh man, I love Gowan on this track. He puts in a brilliant vocal here. The chorus is a bit flat for me and not 'Styx Big' but it's not really that kind of track.The verses are superb. It's such a 'Gowan track'. The track is actually a duet between Larry and Tommy and it comes off brilliantly - a back and forth conversation between their characters. A bit of 'Queen' creeps in, which, again, is so 'Gowan'. So far, this is my favorite track. Those that give Gowan a hard time for not being DeYoung- it's a ridiculous statement. He's so worthy of his position in the band. He brings a LOT to the party.
Time May Bend:
Another Gowan lead vocal and a good one. A proggy beginning that jumps into main track. The harmonies are a bit loud in the mix and, of course, dry. The guitar solo is great. Is that an Ebo?
Ten Thousand Ways:
This is a little segue with great harmonies.
I dig the radio messages that they've sprinkled into this album. Helps to set the mood of the concept. Tommy on acoustic guitar here (noticing lots of acoustic on this album- cool!). Another very proggy track and reminiscent of the middle of "A Day" from 'Styx II' just in its feel once it gets going. This is typical EARLY Styx. Starts slow, gets fast, good chorus. Good track. The guitar solo section is very much like Rush from the 'Hemispheres' days (which is a favorite Rush album of mine). This is a super ambitious track for Styx. Kind of like this album's "One With Everything".
All Systems Stable:
A segue. Not really a song.
Again, Gowan shining with this piano piece that also has acoustic guitar and strings and some harmonies that intrude a bit (my opinion). Nice Brian Mayish solo. COMPLETE Queen. This guy is such a good player.
Another Gowan-led track. This one's a great one too! The beginning reminds me of 'Camera Eye' (another Rush track). HUGE chorus. I actually got chills when that kicked in. Very 'YES-ish' chorus. This is a great track. Very big sounding and so 70s. It's a total high point. This should be a single. It's very cool and very very catchy. This is one of those songs that actually meets the hype "This is definitely as good as any Pieces of Eight or Grand Illusion track".
Mission to Mars:
Piano based track and again with a heavy prog influence. This doesn't sound like Styx to me, it's (again) like early Yes or even Crosby Stills and Nash in some points. It's like all of this stuff has been tossed into the pot and stirred up. It's way cool and SOOOO different for Styx.
I give it 4 1/2 stars out of 5.
THIS is the album I have been waiting for. Yes, we understand, Tommy didn't like the concept theory back in 1983 with Kilroy, but this takes everything to the next level. Songs like Gone Gone Gone, Hundred Million Miles Away, Locomotive, Radio Silence, The Greater Good, they all have it. There isn't a bad song here. You can hear some Bowie-like choruses on Hundred Million Miles Away, and you can hear little snippets of Man in the Wilderness on Radio Silence. This definitely feels like I am listening to the Man of Miracles-Crystal Ball era of it all. It has every era of Styx thrown in on this one, and I love it.
Highly recommend listening to this with headphones on. The music sucks you in and doesn't let go until you've completed your mission to Mars.
Good job Styx, and thank you again for giving me something special!
1) Consistently virtuosic instrumentals throughout
2) Flawless vocals
3) Rock-solid lyrics
4) That signature Styx mix of psychedelic/blues/jazz/funk influences
5) An inspiring theme, well executed
At the risk of sounding punny, this album is stellar. Absolutely musical-whiplash, jaw-dropping stellar. I simply can't imagine a world in which Space-X's first Mars crew isn't listening to it at full volume as the engines throttle up. Seriously.
These guys have created a very intriguing musical adventure! There many, many great things happening!! Their harmonies are fantastic! The creative juices were flowing when they wrote these songs! The song in 5/4 flows beautifully!!!
It is a terrific thing that they did something this good after all the years they have been together!!
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Plus, Todd is a great drummer.