Pieces Of Eight


A & M Records, 1978


REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck


I’m not going to lie; despite being a classic rock connoisseur, Styx has never really come across my radar. Everyone knows the big singles and they are fun to be sure, but it wasn’t as if their albums were just clamoring to be listened to...that is until I picked up Pieces Of Eight at a local used book store. I briefly scanned the track list, saw what I would probably consider my two “favorite” Styx tracks (“Blue Collar Man” and “Renegade”) and decided “Why not?” for three bucks.

What greeted me was a confusing mess of an album, featuring a band that seemed to want to be an arena rock group one moment, a pop sensation in another, and a progressive entity when they weren’t feeling those other two genres. I suppose that inner struggle came across in some of their biggest singles: “Come Sail Away” and “Mr. Roboto” differentiate themselves in unique ways from a traditional pop song. So now experiencing Styx in their “natural born environment” provided a glimpse of their career.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

In search of that one sound, Styx doesn’t really pull anything off particularly well. The proggier moments, such as “Lords Of The Ring” or “I’m Ok” lack the complexity and proficiency of a Yes, Genesis, or Rush. There are attempts to reach a certain scale of grandeur, whether it’s flourishes of an organ, sustained guitar solos, or “epic” subject matter, but it just isn’t captivating in the slightest.

As a big Tolkien fan I particularly took umbrage at the lyrics for “Lords Of The Ring.” I am not saying that you have to quote Tolkien directly, but let’s face it, if you name a song after a massively successful fantasy series, you might want to do better than “All hail to the Lords of the Ring / To the magic and mystery they bring.” Oooooo, powerful stuff there, guys...

To be fair to Dennis DeYoung and Co., the two most successful moments on the record are the two famous singles (“Blue Collar Man” and “Renegade”), and they tell a decent story with some professional, occasionally inspired musicianship. Between the two, “Renegade” has always seemed to me the more complete package; the opening a cappella vocals set the tone and the band keeps that mood going throughout the rest of the song. And while I don’t want to throw out too many political hot takes, “Blue Collar Man” certainly remains a prescient topic in the Age Of Trump.

So considering the frequency with which the aforementioned singles receive radio play, I can’t give a reason why it would be worth pursuing the rest of Pieces Of Eight. And quite frankly, if this was the commercial and artistic peak for the group, that speaks a great deal about the rest of the discography for Styx...stick to the singles and greatest hits collection, folks.

Rating: D+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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