Man of Miracles

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Man of Miracles was Styx' fourth and final album on the Chicago-based indie label Wooden Nickel and even though the band had co-produced their previous two efforts -- The Serpent Is Rising and Styx II -- former producer John Ryan returned to the fold for this project. His presence may have contributed to the collection's polished feel not only in terms of production value, but the quintet -- featuring John Curulewski, Dennis DeYoung, brothers Chuck Panozzo and John Panozzo and James "J.Y." Young -- seem to have made concerted strides toward becoming increasingly palatable to the mainstream rock crowd. The pumped up anthemic "Rock & Roll Feeling" is the first of two collaborations between Young and Curulewski. The other, "Havin' a Ball" follows with a further example of their departure out of prog and into comparatively accessible rock & roll. They certainly haven't lost their penchant for diversity however, as DeYoung's haunting and poignant "Golden Lark" provides a brief deviation from his dark "Evil Eyes," or the melodically and texturally rich power ballad "A Song for Suzanne." Styx had not worked many cover tunes on to their studio LPs, making the spirited interpretation of the Knickerbockers' Fab Four soundalike "Lies" a welcome and familiar inclusion. They pull it off exceptionally well, remaining faithful to the original while unleashing their own performance style. The rough-and-ready "Southern Woman" also delivers the goods in a big way, laying down a briskly paced boogie that conjures the rhythm and soul of Delta R&B. Instrumentally, DeYoung shines once again with alternately sanctified and searing electric organ runs. Fittingly, the title track "Man of Miracles" bears a resemblance to the grandiose and somewhat over-the-top delivery that informed incipient Styx sides such as the "Movement for the Common Man." Increased national attention resulted in the combo simply outgrowing the admittedly limited distribution and promotion that Wooden Nickel could offer. They were more than ready to take their music to the next level and a potentially larger audience. 1975 saw them sign with A&M Records and, although Curulewski stayed for the recording of their next disc Equinox (1975), he was permanently replaced by Tommy Shaw before Styx hit the road to support it. Shaw became a missing link of sorts, supplying the aggregate with much of their best and most memorable material during the late '70s and early '80s.

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