the Crüxshadows and Tommy Shaw, mentioned Tenacious D and GWAR in reviews, linked to songs by Sublime in others... My earliest favorite songs were by the Sweet and Queen ("Fox on the Run" and "Another One Bites the Dust" if you're curious). But my very first true obsession, music-wise, was with Styx.
Styx, Styx II, The Serpent is Rising, Man of Miracles, Crystal Ball, Cornerstone, Pieces of Eight, Equinox, The Grand Illusion, Paradise Theatre, Kilroy was Here... These became my best friends. Those last three became my favorites, their mixture of rebellion and hope being just what I needed to survive the tumultuous waves of junior high. Then disaster! Styx was splitting up! But Tommy Shaw and Dennis DeYoung and James "JY" Young all released solo albums. (Hint: they eventually reformed and are still touring today. I particularly like their album Brave New World, among their newer stuff.)
But what does all this have to do with musical criticism and composition and all that stuff I was talking about earlier? Patience... I'm getting there!
What a lot of people who are only familiar with their later albums might not be aware of is that Styx was considered "progressive" rock, and were way ahead of their time. I've been listening to their albums tonight, and have heard sounds from some of their earlier albums (and while Styx released their first studio album in 1972, they formed in 1961, so they started early on in the rock scene) that are still being used today by such disparate people as Tenacious D and GWAR. My husband commented on one of their songs last night by saying, "That's really 80s," to which I responded, "This song is from the early 1970s." It was off Man of Miracles, I believe, which was released in 1974 (this was prior to Tommy Shaw joining the line-up in 1975; the first album he was involved in was Crystal Ball). Styx was years ahead of its time, and the sounds are still inspiring musicians even today, decades later. That, to me, is pretty impressive, and it has helped me understand why I like the sounds I like, why I become focused on specific bands and certain sounds, and how it all ties in together.
I like Tenacious D because they use a lot of the same sorts of sounds as early to middle-1970s Styx. I like GWAR because they use some of the same sounds as the harder rock that Styx was known for in the mid to late 1970s. I like the Crüxshadows because they espouse a lot of the same uplifting ideas that many of my favorite Styx albums put into my brain at an early age (even if those ideas were of the "Hey, sit on it and rotate" sort from songs like "I'm OK" on the Pieces of Eight album). I like Dennis DeYoung's solo album Desert Moon because you see in it the reasons he became the driving force behind such a popular band - it was instantly likable, the driving guitar and moody ballads, and every person I played it for fell in love with it. I like Tommy Shaw because he creates intelligent songs in a diverse variety of styles. While they're not always instantly likable, like Dennis' stuff, they grow on you and in the end, I think they are better overall for that. So, for all that, and because they rock, Styx continues to be a strong favorite in my repertoire of music. While Dennis DeYoung no longer tours with them, due to his health issues, and to disagreements with the direction of the band, and while original member and drummer John Panozzo tragically passed away in 1996, they continue to carry on the tradition of rocking. Thanks, guys. You have shaped my life in ways you will probably never know.
(*) PS: "Music Time" by Styx, the only studio song from the otherwise-live album Caught in the Act, was universally panned, but I loved it. After all... "I love music..."