25212The S's Continued.........
- May 2, 2008791. ROINE STOLT – THE FLOWER KING – 2001Although many consider this to be the first official Flower Kings album it was actually released as a Roine Stolt solo project. The band on the album is what would become The Flower Kings and some of the songs have remained a part of The band’s live set over the years. This really is a great album. Stolt’s guitar playing is at the forefront and he continues to be an underrated master of the instrument. The general songwriting of the album is also very strong with shades of what was to come with The Flower Kings. The album opens with the title track which was used as an encore number by The Flower Kings for years. The middle of the album is a mix of instrumental and vocal tunes all very well done. The 7th track is the epic 20 minute “Humanizzimo” which contains everything fans of Stolt have come to love over the years. Overall I think that this album is a must own for fans of The Flower Kings and / or Stolt. It is one of the best things he has ever done in my opinion.792. STYX – PARADISE THEATER – 1980Styx was one of my favorite bands back in the day. They were never as progressive as most of the bands that I liked, but they were able to meld a mix of pop, rock and progressive rock like no other band. I have most of their albums on vinyl, but have only replaced this one on CD. “Paradise Theater” was Styx at the top of their game. The album is conceptual in nature with the theme of the birth and death of an old vaudeville theater in Chicago . I pretty much like every song on this disc. The weakest song was one of the biggest hits from the album Dennis Deyoung’s ballad “Best Of Times” and even it is not bad. Each of the three main songwriters in Styx got to strut their stuff on this album and still remain within the concept. There were several big hits from this disc, but it is the album tracks that make it special. Songs like “Nothing Ever Goes As Planned”, “Lonely People”, “She Cares” and one of James Young’s best rockers “Half Penny Two Penny” are all great. Of course the big hits “Snowblind”, “Rocking The Paradise ”, and “Too Much Time On My Hands” are what most people know from this album. ‘Paradise Theater” is one of Styx ’s best and a must own for fans.793. STYX- BRAVE NEW WORLD – 1999In the mid-80’s Styx imploded and broke up for several years. The band made a brief comeback in the early 90’s with the “Edge Of The Century” album (minus Tommy Shaw) and then went back into hibernation. So it was with much anticipation when it was announced that Shaw was back in the fold and the band would release “Brave New World” at the end of the decade. Unfortunately tensions were still high within the band and the album turned out to be a bit of a letdown. I find this to be a rather disjointed effort. It starts out with a Tommy Shaw tune “I Will Be Your Witness” that could almost be something that the Back Street Boys could have recorded. This is not a good thing. Dennis Deyoung’s contributions are very heavy on ballads and with the exception of “Goodbye To Roseland” are bland even for Deyoung. For the most part this is just very average Styx . The title track (and it’s reprise at the end), and “Everything Is Cool” are probably the highlights of the disc. I usually like James Young’s contributions, but his “Heavy Water” is not nearly up to what he has done before. After this album came out Dennis Deyoung would be kicked out of the band with Shaw and Young carrying on the Styx name. If you are a Styx fan this album is worth owning, but it is far from essential and is probably one of their weakest discs.794. STYX – CYCLORAMA – 2003“Cyclorama” was the first album from the “new” version of Styx after the departure of Dennis Deyoung at end of the 90’s. This lineup had been a touring unit for the previous 3 years consisting of Styx veterans Tommy Shaw, James Young, and Chuck Panozzo. Along with them were Todd Sucherman (who first appeared on the “Brave New World Album”), Glen Burtnik (who had appeared on the “Edge Of The Century” album) and Canadian keyboardist Lawrence Gowan. A lot of people have refused to accept any version of Styx without Dennis Deyoung in it, but for the naysayers I have to say that “Cyclorama” is a really really good album. Each of the band members contribute to the writing with Glen Burtnik and James Young really shining on this one. Burtnik contributes “Kiss Your Ass Goodbye” and “Killing The Thing That You Love”. Although the band denies it, both songs seem to be direct shots at Dennis Deyoung. Even if they were not written with that in mind the band had to know that people who bought the album would take the meaning that way. James Young is at the absolute top of his game on this album. “Captain America ” is a great song and “These Are The Times” may be the best thing Young has ever written. Lawrence Gowan’s two songs are both solid too. I don’t think Tommy Shaw’s material is quite as strong as a lot of his classic stuff, but he still has that great voice and his guitar rocks a lot more here than on earlier works. The best song on the album is the progressive rocker “One With Everything” which for me ranks right up there with the band’s classic material. All in all I can’t quite give the album 5 stars, but it is a very strong 4 star disc. For all of those who never gave this album a chance because of Deyoung absence you should really check it out.795. SWEET – LIVE AT THE MARQUEE – 1989I always liked Sweet back in the day. Their brand of bubblegum glam rock was unique and no one else sounded like them. I have quite a few of their studio albums on vinyl, but this is the only CD I own. This album was recorded at the Marquee in 1988. The band was not original by this time and only featured Andy Scott and Mick Tucker from the classic lineup. All the big hits are here including “Ballroom Blitz” “Love Is Like Oxygen”, “Fox On The Run” and others. There are also some cool instrumental solos including a keyboard solo of “Fanfare For The Common Man” which is very similar to the ELP version. The songs are all performed well and the band sounds tight. Their trademark vocal gymnastics are all in fine form as well. 4 extra studio tracks are also include which are all fairly average. This is probably not an essential Sweet album, but it does rock and is worth owning.796. THE SWORD – AGE OF WINTERS – 2006The Sword are a relatively new band from Austin Texas who would really love to be the second coming of Black Sabbath. The music here is very similar to Ozzy era Sabbath and although they do it very well, the material is somewhat derivative. The main knock on this band is the vocals. They have two guys who sing neither of which have very good voices. Upon repeated listening I got used to them and they don’t bother me as much as when I first picked this up, but the vocals are definitely the weak link in this band. The music is riff heavy and thick. Again, very much in the same vein as Black Sabbath. The lyrics are mainly sword and sorcery stuff which personally I like, but will not be everyone’s cup of tea. This album grew on me with each successive listen and I really enjoy it a lot. It will be interesting to see how these guys expand their sound as they get more experience. If you like Ozzy era Sabbath you should eat this one up. For younger people into The Sword go back and check out early Sabbath for the origins of this sound.797. SYLVAN – POSTHUMOUS SILENCE – 2006Sylvan hail from Germany (I think) and remind me a lot of bands like Sieges Even, Porcupine Tree, or fellow countrymen High Wheel. This album is a concept piece that all runs together as one long story. The music is all solid and the vocals good. I don’t have any of the band’s other albums, so I can’t really compare to what they have done before, but if this is any indication I would like to check out some of their other stuff.798. SYMPHONY X – TWILIGHT IN OLYMPUS – 1998If you cross Dream Theater with Tony Martin era Black Sabbath you would come up with a fairly good approximation of what Symphony X sounds like. Personally I love this band, and this album, one of their early works, is a great piece of epic sounding progressive metal. Instrumentally the band is tight with guitarist Michael Romeo and Keyboardist Michael Pinnella especially standing out. Vocalist Russell Allen sounds very similar to Tony Martin who in turn sounded a lot like Ronnie James Dio. If you like your metal vocals with a lot of power Allen is one of the best. Highlights on this disc include “ Church Of The Machine ” and the 13 minute plus “Through The Looking Glass”. Symphony X would go on to do probably stronger albums, but this early one is well worth picking up.799. SYMPHONY X – VThis was the album that introduced me to Symphony X and remains one of my favorites from the band. In fact it may be their best album so far. Although progressive metal is to be found here, this is probably the band’s most melodic release. The album is a concept piece that runs as one long song for close to 60 minutes. The guitars and keys are great with Russell Allan’s vocals soaring over the top. There is not much more I can say about this one. If you like quality melodic progressive metal this is a great one and a good place to start with Symphony X.800. SYMPHONY X – THE ODYSSEY – 2002For their next ambitious project the band put forth a musical version of Homer’s classic “The Odyssey”. Projects like this can come across as pretentious and cornball, but Symphony X manages to pull off a very nice release here. The album is actually divided in two parts with the first half 7 individual songs and the second half the epic “Odyssey” saga that clocks in at almost 25 minutes. The first half of the album is a definite move back into a heavier direction from the band’s last album “V”. The keyboards are more buried in the mix and the guitars generally more riff oriented. Although I love “V” I also enjoy the more metal oriented Symphony X as well. The epic at the end reminds me a lot of “Twilight In Olympus ” with it’s telling of the ancient Greek tale. The music is a bit more progressive oriented here and with a nice mix of styles that the band flourishes on. Symphony X is a band that deserves more recognition than it gets, they should be playing stadiums instead of clubs.
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