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After successfully establishing themselves as one of America's best commercial progressive rock bands of the late '70s with albums like The Grand Illusion and Pieces of Eight, Chicago's Styx had taken a dubious step towards pop overkill with singer Dennis DeYoung's ballad "Babe." The centerpiece of 1979's uneven Cornerstone album, the number one single sowed the seeds of disaster for the group by pitching DeYoung's increasingly mainstream ambitions against the group's more conservative songwriters, Tommy Shaw and James "JY" Young. Hence, what had once been a healthy competitive spirit within the band quickly deteriorated into bitter co-existence during the sessions for 1980's Paradise Theater -- and all-out warfare by the time of 1983's infamous Kilroy Was Here. For the time being, however, Paradise Theater seemed to represent the best of both worlds, since its loose concept about the roaring '20s heyday and eventual decline of an imaginary theater (used as a metaphor for the American experience in general, etc., etc.) seemed to satisfy both of the band's camps with its return to complex hard rock (purists Shaw and JY) while sparing no amount of pomp and grandeur (DeYoung). The stage is set by the first track, "A.D. 1928," which features a lonely DeYoung on piano and vocals introducing the album's recurring musical theme before launching into "Rockin' the Paradise" -- a total team effort of wonderfully stripped down hard rock. From this point forward, DeYoung's compositions ("Nothing Ever Goes as Planned," "The Best of Times") continue to stick close to the overall storyline, while Shaw's ("Too Much Time on My Hands," "She Cares") try to resist thematic restrictions as best they can. Among these, "The Best of Times" -- with its deliberate, marching rhythm -- remains one of the more improbable Top Ten hits of the decade (somehow it just works), while "Too Much Time on My Hands" figures among Shaw's finest singles ever. As for JY, the band's third songwriter (and resident peacekeeper) is only slightly more cooperative with the Paradise Theater concept. His edgier compositions include the desolate tale of drug addiction, "Snowblind," and the rollicking opus "Half-Penny, Two-Penny," which infuses a graphic depiction of inner city decadence with a final, small glimmer of hope and redemption. The song also leads straight into the album's beautiful saxophone-led epilogue, "A.D. 1958," which once again reveals MC DeYoung alone at his piano. A resounding success, Paradise Theater would become Styx's greatest commercial triumph; and in retrospect, it remains one of the best examples of the convergence between progressive rock and AOR which typified the sound of the era's top groups (Journey, Kansas, etc.). For Styx, its success would spell both their temporary saving grace and ultimate doom, as the creative forces which had already been tearing at the band's core finally reached unbearable levels three years later. It is no wonder that when the band reunited after over a decade of bad blood, all the music released post-1980 was left on the cutting room floor -- further proof that Paradise Theater was truly the best of times.
Performance CreditsStyx Primary Artist
Dennis DeYoung Keyboards,Vocals
Tommy Shaw Guitar,Vocals
James Young Guitar,Vocals
Billy Simpson Horn
Dan Barber Horn
Steve Eisen Saxophone
Mike Halpin Horn
John Haynor Horn
Mark Ohlson Horn
Chuck Panozzo Bass,Bass Guitar,Vocals
John Panozzo Percussion,Drums,Vocals
Technical CreditsStyx Arranger,Producer
Rob Kingsland Engineer
Gary Lotzzo Engineer
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
When this album came out (yes, it was an 'album' back then!), I listened to it so many times that I wore it out. I am so happy to find it here at B&N in a CD, along with other faves of mine. In my life, I haven't bought that much music--albums, cd's, or otherwise--and can't say that I have EVER listened to one all the way from beginning to end--until this one. Styx Paradise Theatre is more than many songs stuck on the same CD, some you'd never care to ever hear. Paradise Theatre is a story--a real tear jerker, if you listen to all the words--about a theatre alive and thriving at one time, only to fall to ruins and be forgotten through time. All the songs follow this theme with meaning, bringing the theatre alive again for a short time. Also, there are some really good singles that you'll want to hear again and again. I highly recommend this album or CD or whatever form you get it in. One thing I suggest, though, is to try to get the words--they really help you gain a full understanding and appreciation of the story.
I tried, I really tried to enjoy this Styx release. For me, it was a huge let down. Though probably their most popular release, it a far cry from the nearly mystical experience of listening to previous releases. I would say that it is their worst recording ever, but I reserve that judgement for Kilroy Was Here.
Love this CD. Brings back great memeories of listening to it when I was growing up.
This album is a must for any Styx fan. Paradise Theatre was recorded at the band's peak (they still rock!).
This album deserves the title "Best Concept Album Of The Year," even to this day. Songs like "A.D. 1928" (the prologue that precedes "Rockin' The Paradise") and the Oberheim-driven "Too Much Time On My Hands" truly are classics. Such classic pieces that I prefer listening to on the road. This doesn't "Stynx" - it's truly the best of times.