Styx II

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For Styx II (1973), the Chicago-based quintet continue much in the same vein as their eponymous debut. The primary difference was the inclusion of the Dennis DeYoung power ballad "Lady" -- which catapulted the combo into the Top Ten pop singles survey at an admirable number six. The collection was their first to rely entirely upon band-penned originals, kicking off with the rousing "You Need Love." The performance sounds similar to Queen's earliest sides, especially James Young's commanding vocals which provide a distinct and dramatic quality. The aforementioned "Lady" is equally dynamic, contrasting the delicate and ethereal introduction with the comparatively emphatic conclusion. The extended "A Day" is an outlet for Curulewski's underrated skills as both a composer and singer. The brooding melody is fused to an aggressive instrumental centerpiece highlighting the dual fretwork of Curulewski and Young as they rival the Allman Brothers' synchronous string-benders Duane Allman and Dickey Betts. "You Better Ask" is a more predictable straightforward rocker, again displaying Curulewski's diversity and versatility, although beyond that the track is not really all that interesting. Conversely compelling is DeYoung's transcription of a Johann Sebastian Bach tune, titled here Little Fugue in 'G'. The overture is played to great effect on an organ in the sanctuary of the Cathedral of St. James, located just down the street from the recording studio. Engineers ran audio cables between the two, capturing the interlude live. It takes the listener into another key entry, the seven-plus-minute "Father O.S.A.," "Earl of Roseland" and "I'm Gonna Make You Feel It" suitably bring Styx II to a close with a pair of hearty up-tempo harbingers, pointing toward the AOR direction that Styx would continue to explore on subsequent albums.

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