Styx guitarist James "JY" Young on Dennis DeYoung: Musical theater was clearly his priority

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Co-founding Styx guitarist James “JY” Young, examining the departure of original vocalist Dennis DeYoung, wishes him well — though he confirms a long-held notion about what split the initial lineup apart.

“He really went off in this musical theater thing and that was clearly his priority,” Young says. Fellow guitarist “Tommy (Shaw) and I play in a rock and roll band. We want to tour a lot. We want to do a lot of things that are affiliated with that. We don’t want to take time out after waiting 13 years to get this thing back together after breaking up in ’83.”

Indeed, Young, Tommy Shaw, Lawrence Gowan, Todd Sucherman and Ricky Phillips are hitting the road again this summer with REO Speedwagon and Ted Nugent. Dubbed the Midwest Rock ‘n Roll Express, the 30-date tour begins in May. This rebuilt version of the group, in fact, has performed more live dates since 1999 than all of the previous years combined.

“So we just have a brand new group of guys that have found the joy in being in the road,” Young says, in an interview with Guitar International. “Where there are some people who just aren’t cut out for the road and Dennis is one of those guys. He really didn’t like being out there.”

Styx’s latest DVD release showcases their live show, as the band performs two of their classic albums — The Grand Illusion and Pieces of Eight — in their entirety. Meanwhile, DeYoung is also at work on a new live film, this time performing acoustic versions of classic Styx material.

“Dennis was an incredibly gifted guy in so many ways,” Young adds, “and I truly wish him well, health and happiness and everything he does in the future.”

Here’s a look at previous thoughts on Styx. Click through the links for complete reviews …

SOMETHING ELSE! FEATURED ARTIST – STYX: A band suspended forever between the formalism of Dennis DeYoung’s Broadway pretensions and the harder edges of James Young and Tommy Shaw, Styx sounded different every time it came on the radio. Yet, critics insisted, somehow the same: Mediocre. They were, by turns, soft-prog keyboard-tweaking intellectuals, CroMagnon guitar shredders and dorky show-tune pompsters … though with very little circumstance. Every gesture, as Lester Bangs once wrote, is writ huge — to the point of flatulence. (DeYoung knows he’s not English, right?) That makes them easy to hate, or love, or whatever. They were, at once, everything … and thus, to many, nothing. Yet … how many times have we turned this stuff up? Here, we sort through it all (the adult-contemporary crap, the hair-sprayed arena rock, the robot thing) to uncover a few clues to Styx’s enduring fame — from ‘Equinox,’ ‘Crystal Ball,’ ‘Grand Illusion,’ ‘Paradise Theater’ and, yes, even ‘Kilroy Was Here.’

ONE TRACK MIND: STYX, “DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD” (2011): There’s a world-weary melancholy, a hard-won realism, to Styx’s new song that didn’t exist in Tommy Shaw’s fun-rocking “Renegade” days, and that points the way out of the band’s more recent habit of backtracking. It’s not just the rest of Regeneration, Vols. I and II, which finds Styx rerecording some of its best-known tracks with next-generation singer Lawrence Gowan. In fact, since the departure in 1999 of Dennis DeYoung, Shaw and Co. have issued five concert recordings and — in the last four years alone — at least seven best-of packages. Styx’s most recent original long-player was Big Bang Theory from all the way back in 2005, leaving many to wonder if the group was spent creatively. Fast forward to “Difference in the World,” as Shaw, over a plaintive guitar shape, admits: “It’s hard to keep from giving up. It’s hard to make a difference in the world today.” But, through the course of a complex and involving musical soundtrack, Shaw rouses himself to try again — in a nice metaphor for the band itself.

TOMMY SHAW – THE GREAT DIVIDE (2011): Don’t come in looking for a pickin’-and-grinnin’ “Renegade,” or a hillbilly take on “Too Much Time on My Hands” — two of the more memorable sides he’s written and recorded with Styx, his rock and roll day job. No, The Great Divide, featuring 11 new songs that Shaw either wrote or co-wrote, finds him on guitar, mandolin and resonator guitar alongside a terrific group of rootsy talents. Shaw comes by all of this honestly, believe it or not. The Great Divide is no bored dilettante move. As a boy growing up in Montgomery, Ala., Shaw remembers sitting in the backseat of a 1958 Chevy listening to the legendary Grand Ole Opry radio broadcasts from WSM in Nashville. And he brings that same sense of wonder and exuberance to the project.

DEEP CUTS: STYX, “MISS AMERICA” (1977): There’s a real simple reason why I like “Miss America”: it’s that dope guitar riff. A good, straight, down the line, butt-kicking head thrashing American riff. That aggressive galloping riff, performed by Shaw, goes hand-in-hand with JY’s snarling vocals, who sneers at the facade of the USA’s most famous pageant, and after one of DeYoung’s surging synth surges, Young takes a solo. He’s not a terribly original guitarist, but it’s as nasty as his vocals. “Miss America” was one of those moments when Styx was actually great, putting that dual lead-guitar attack to some good use. They didn’t do that enough for my tastes, but when I go back and play the high school soundtrack of my memories, this is the Styx song that gets the airplay on my mental radio.

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