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Styx - 1973 The Serpent Is Rising

ALBUM: The Serpent Is Rising
LABEL: Wooden Nickel
YEAR: 1973
CD REISSUE: 1991, BMG, ND90594


LINEUP: Dennis DeYoung - organ, piano, synthesizer, lead vocals * James Young - guitar, acoustic guitar, lead vocals * John Curulewski - guitar, keyboards, vocals * Chuck Panozzo - bass, vocals * John Panozzo - drums, percussion, vocals

TRACK LISTING: 01 Witch Wolf * 02 The Grove Of Eglantine * 03 Young Man * 04 As Bad As This * 05 Winner Take All * 06 22 Years * 07 Jonas Psalter * 08 The Serpent Is Rising * 09 Krakatoa * 10 Hallelujah Chorus


Call me crazy, but I think the four Wooden Nickel label Styx albums and 'Equinox' are the group's best work. I'll wager there are more than a few GD readers who will probably disagree, and yes 'Grand Illusion' is a shining example of pomp at its glorious best, but the five years signed to a label that provided next to nothing in promotion showed Styx at their most progressive and experimental. On the other side of the coin Styx have taken a bad rap from progressive fans who believe Styx were never prog enough to mix with company like Yes and Genesis and perhaps there is some truth to that, but in the end it comes down to a matter of personal taste and the quality of the music right?

The Songs
The bands third record 'The Serpent Is Rising' is the strongest of the Wooden Nickel era albums with the trademark mixture of Midwest hard rock and British progressive rock that would take them from Chicago night clubs and high school gymnasiums to Madison Square Garden and the L.A Forum a few years later. James Young kicks the album off with the excellent 'Witch Wolf' and while I have never been a fan of his vocalist style, it works here delivering a powerful hard rock anthem that is unmistakably Styx. 'The Grove Of Eglantine' spotlights Dennis DeYoung's prog rock leanings with all the dramatic flair he has become famous for. The album's first single 'Young Man' combines both sides of the band, but might have been just a little heavy for AM radio airplay and it's a bit confusing as to why 'Winner Takes All' wasn't pushed? It's pop friendly with a great hook. It did appear earlier in the year as the flip side of the 'You Need Love' single off 'Styx 2' earlier in the year, but I guess radio programmers just didn't pay attention. The only downside of the record is the token John Curulewski track 'As Bad As This' which starts out fine until it segues into a reggae influenced waste of time with nonsense lyrics about a Plexiglas toilet. Whatever, just be glad CD technology allows for the 'skip' option! The album closes with two short experimental pieces. 'Krakatoa' will be familiar to Movie goers as Filmmaker George Lucas used the clip to introduce the THX Theater sound system which moves effortlessly into an arrangement of Handel's 'Messiah' titled 'Hallelujah Chorus'.

In Summary
Try as they might, Styx hit the road outside of their Chicago home base playing gigs across the U.S supporting the album with occasional support slots for everyone from The Doobie Brothers and REO Speedwagon to Iron Butterfly while in the time honored Midwest tradition of playing everywhere and anywhere, headlining their own shows in such obscure hamlets as Spearfish - South Dakota and Scottsbluff - Nebraska, among other off the beaten track locales. Not exactly rock 'n roll hotbeds, but just goes to show how hard they worked in light of an indifferent record label that did nothing for them. 'Lady' from the previous record was cruelly two years away from becoming a hit and we all know the hard work paid off in the end although it's too bad Styx in the later half of the 21st century 's first decade without DeYoung - have lost their way, becoming nothing more than an 'oldies' band with no direction and at times, little class.

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#1 | chewie on November 22 2007 02:54:10
You are not alone in this thought, I absolutely love the JC version of Styx. Man Of Miracles is my fav, though with its nasty(in a good way) organ sound on the title track and the beauty of Golden Lark and Suzanne... Oh yeah, we were talking about SIR.... The solo in Young Man is just awesome!! Witch Wolf Rocks really hard!
#2 | rkbluez on November 30 2009 02:25:53
Love this album...early Styx rocked...still play the song Young Man regularly...what a great song that is...but the rest of the album is killer also...Styx 'Styx' is still my fav from this era.
#3 | trillion1999 on October 07 2011 01:44:24
Styx II and Man Of Miracles are my favorites of Styx from the Wooden Nickel-years.Though somehow I managed to find an autographed copy of this one for next to nothing on a flea-market.I love the plexiglass-toilet jam but could do without the lyrics.All Styx-detractors should hear the pre-Tommy Shaw-years IMHO.Thumbs Up

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