As Styx prepares for summer tour, James "J.Y." Young hints at new studio project

Styx is considering a full-length covers project, according to founding guitarist James “J.Y.” Young — and why not? After all, Styx’s 2003 rendition of the Beatles “I Am The Walrus” “was our biggest airplay item of newly recorded music in the new millennium.”

This year marks both the 40th anniversary of Styx’s self-titled debut album, and 35 years since the release of the group’s triple-platinum effort The Grand Illusion. Styx is celebrating with yet another massive summer tour, to be held alongside fellow classic rock legends Ted Nugent and REO Speedwagon. The Midwest Rock ‘n’ Roll Express tour kicks off on May 1 in Hidalgo, Texas; additional stops are listed below.

In fact, the current lineup of Young, Tommy Shaw, Lawrence Gowan, Todd Sucherman and Ricky Phillips have performed more live dates since 1999 than all of the previous years combined.

Young, in a new interview with Billboard, says he doesn’t expect an album of new material from the band to follow. In fact, Styx’s most recent efforts have also been cover projects — though, in that instance, the Regeneration albums featured re-recordings their own most famous songs with Gowan, who replaced original lead singer Dennis DeYoung.

Young has something else in mind for any future Styx album of remakes, though he’s not ready to reveal the details just yet: “I’ve had a couple ideas of doing things that would ultimately be covers,” he says. “I think they would be very interesting ones, and with some collaborative participants that I can’t talk about (yet). But I’ve got some ideas.”

Here’s a look back at our recent thoughts on Styx and Ted Nugent. Click through the titles for complete reviews …

STYX – THE GRAND ILLUSION/ PIECES OF EIGHT LIVE DVD/Blu-ray (2012): At the moment of Styx’s earliest breakout successes, as it achieved these first- and second-ever triple platinum-selling albums, the band was already starting to go its separate ways. 1977’s Grand Illusion was the first to fully spotlight the trademark elements of both Dennis DeYoung and relative newcomer Tommy Shaw, and already you could see where Styx would eventually come to a fork in the proverbial road musically. Tracks like “Miss America” were brawny, six-string rockers, yet you also had the title track and the opening stanzas of “Come Sail Away,” Styx’s second Top 10 hit, which became showcases for DeYoung’s preening Broadway affectations. At the time, this seemed like the kind of creative tension that might keep the band working at a high level. In truth, the center could not hold.

ONE TRACK MIND: TED NUGENT, “FRED BEAR” (1995): The year that my dad passed away was, naturally, the toughest, and it was during that fall that something happened to change my feelings about this song. I already loved it, but it was an afternoon in the woods with my own son that brought the message home. We saw a nice buck bounding across a fresh clearcut, and I started to speak the familiar words, “we’ll have to tell Papaw Ken,” and they caught in my throat. Then my son began singing his broken version of “Fred Bear,” hollering out the refrain at the end of the song: “In the wind, he’s still alive.” It was one of those rare perfect moments in life, and I joined my son in singing.

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.

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.’

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Here are the dates and venues for the Midwest Rock ‘n’ Roll Express …

DATE/ CITY/ VENUE/ ON-SALE
Tue, 5/1: Hidalgo, TX, State Farm Arena, 3/9
Thu, 5/3: Albuquerque, NM, Hard Rock Casino Albuquerque Presents The Pavilion, 3/3
Fri, 5/4: Tucson, AZ, Anselmo Valencia Amphitheatre, 3/10 (no Ted Nugent)
Sat, 5/5: Las Vegas, NV, Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, 3/3
Sun, 5/6 Los Angeles, CA, Greek Theatre, TBA
Tue, 5/8: Denver, CO, Red Rocks Amphitheatre, 2/25
Thu, 5/10: Council Bluffs, IA, Mid America Arena, 3/2
Fri, 5/11: Oklahoma City, OK, Zoo Amphitheatre, 3/3
Sat, 5/12: Houston, TX, Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 3/10 (no Ted Nugent)
Sun, 5/13: Corpus Christi, TX, Concrete Street Amphitheatre, 3/3
Thu, 5/17: Charlotte, NC, Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, 3/10
Sat, 5/19: Virginia Beach, VA, Farm Bureau Live Amphitheatre, 3/10
Sun, 5/20: Alpharetta, GA, Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, 3/2
Thu, 6/21: Kansas City, MO, Starlight Amphitheatre, 3/2
Fri, 6/22: St. Louis, MO, Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, 3/9
Sat, 6/23: Ft. Knox, KY, Godman Army Airfield, 4/14
Sun, 6/24: Chicago, IL, Charter One Pavilion, 3/9
Tue, 6/26: Cincinnati, OH, Riverbend Music Center, 3/10
Thu, 6/28: Detroit, MI, DTE Energy Music Theatre, 3/3
Fri, 6/29: Scranton, PA, Toyota Pavilion at Montage Mountain, 3/2
Sat, 6/30: Cleveland, OH, Blossom Music Center, 3/3
Sun, 7/1: Atlantic City, NJ, Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa Event Ctr, 3/3
Tue, 7/3: Verona, NY, Turning Stone Resort Casino, 3/2
Thu, 7/5: Uncasville, CT, Mohegan Sun Arena, 3/30
Fri, 7/6: Big Flats, NY, Summer Stage, 3/1
Sat, 7/7: Gilford, NY, Meadowbrook U.S. Cellular Pavilion, 3/2

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The Something Else! webzine, an accredited Google News affiliate, has been featured in The New York Times and NPR.com's A Blog Supreme, while our writers have also been published by USA Today, Jazz.com and UltimateClassicRock.com, among others. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.