With their close harmonies and heavy guitars, the band Styx epitomized the theatrical rock sound of the 1970s. They took their name from the mythological river of death in the ancient Egyptian culture. Since then, their albums have sold in the multi-millions, and they've scored Top 10 hits in three different decades. Styx has regrouped and released a new album called Cyclorama.
After many hit singles and albums, it seemed like Styx had reached the end of their run in 1985. For 10 years, the various members pursued solo projects, then decided to reunite in 1996 for a tour to support their greatest hits album.
Styx went through a metamorphosis in 1999, adding new members to the original line-up of singer and guitarist Tommy Shaw and guitar player James "J.Y" Young. Cyclorama is their first studio album without former singer and keyboard player Dennie DeYoung, who left the band after a series of controversies.
Original Styx guitarist "J.Y." tells what it's like working in the recording studio in the 21st century.
"Well, I think that technology has changed in the studio, and you're able to do things now you couldn't do before," he says. "But you still need a great song, a melody, you need great lyrics, you need a concept for what you're trying to accomplish. The tools have just gotten more sophisticated, but nonetheless, it still requires an artist's and a craftsmen's ears and hands to make it happen."
For Cyclorama, Styx recruited a roster of guest vocalists, including actor Billy Bob Thornton, as well as 1980s pop star John Waite and singer-songwriter Jude Cole. As "J.Y." explains, Beach Boys member and legendary producer Brian Wilson added a magical touch to the song, Palm of Your Hand.
"We had this incredible arrangement that Glen, our new bass player, came up with," says Glen. "It's sort of a Beach Boys harmony arrangement of the Styx song, Fooling Yourself, which, of course, is from the Grand Illusion album. But it's very different from the original, and we thought it would be great to get Brian's voice on the harmonies, which he happily added, and that was just a great moment."
Styx has influenced a whole generation of bands, such as Creed, Nickelback and Staind, who combine alternative rock with a theatrical approach. Guitarist James "J.Y." Young says the band's new album acknowledges hard rock, metal and even punk, while retaining their signature, classic rock sound.
"The only thing that I really find different for those bands than Styx is that they're not going to the harmony vocal choruses like we always did," he says. "My sense is that the pendulum is coming back in our direction."
"J.Y." feels that Styx has to be true to their past, and the loyal fans who have stayed with them over the decades, while recognizing who they are now and trying to find a sense of balance.
"I think that's the challenge for a band in our shoes at this stage of our career, is to hang on to the things that people recognize and know and love about us, but still not be afraid to take a few steps further forward into the water to just see how else you can rearrange things and recreate things and then put them in a contemporary lyrical context. And, all of a sudden, you have a new record."
This January, Styx embarks on a U.S. tour, with the first series of shows in the south and midwest. From Cyclorama, due on February 18, here's Styx, with One With Everything.