Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Styx - Paradise Theatre

Today (January 19th) marks the thirty-fifth anniversary of Paradise Theatre, the tenth studio album from Styx. This 1981 album spent sixty-one weeks on the US Billboard Album chart, including three weeks at the number 1 spot. It also reached number 30 in New Zealand, number 8 in the UK, number 6 in Sweden and number 5 in Norway.

This was a concept album, telling the fictional account of Chicago's Paradise Theatre from its opening night to its final curtain call and ultimately abandonment. It was meant to mirror the changing times in America from the late 1970's to early 1980's. Joining the usual band members on the record was a horn section consisting of Dan Barber, Steve Eisen, Mike Halpin, John Haynor, Mark Ohlson, and Billy Simpson.

Side one begins with "A.D. 1928", a short piano piece to set the tone of the theatre's opening. The melody line appears later more full on the closing track of side one and also on the second to last track of side two.

"Rockin' the Paradise" was a mainstream rock favorite, hitting number 8 on that US Billboard chart. It was often accompanied on the rock radio stations with the preceding opener. The video for this track was the tenth one to air on MTV on August 1st of 1981. I always loved the energy of this one, with a hard-driving beat and catchy guitar hooks. It is one of those tunes you just have to crank the volume on when it comes on.

The second single was "Too Much Time on My Hands"; it soared to number 68 in Australia, number 9 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 4 in Canada, and number 2 on the US Billboard Mainstream Rock chart. The lyrics tell of a guy who desperately needs to find something to keep him occupied. The synthesizer melody was a perfect fit in the new-wave sound of the time.

"Nothing Ever Goes as Planned", the third single, stalled at number 54 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number 33 in Canada. While this one might not get much airplay today, I like its big top boldness complete with Dennis DeYoung's vocals at the center like a ringmaster.

"The Best of Times" was the first single from the album. It hit number 52 in Germany, number 42 in the UK, number 26 in New Zealand, number 23 in Australia, number 16 on the US Billboard Mainstream Rock chart, number 3 on the US Billboard Hot 100, and number 1 in Canada. This reflective narrative, with its nod to Charles Dickens' Tale of Two Cities title, rounds out a near perfect half of a record. This was something you hoped for a lot back in the day - so you could put down the needle and listen for a good fifteen minutes before getting up again to change the record.

Side two opens with "Lonely People" and a big horn line that gives the song a very heavy and powerful weight.

"She Cares" takes a lighter tone with a pop-rock love tune penned and sung by Tommy Shaw.

James Young takes the vocal lead on the next track, which he co-wrote with Shaw. "Snowblind", a song about cocaine addiction, charted at number 22 on the US Billboard Mainstream Rock chart. It has been easily over thirty years since I last heard it, but I think the track is still very solid.

Young continues with "Half-Penny, Two-Penny", another hard rocking tune. You have to be quick to catch the reference to Leave It To Beaver, the idyllic 50's sitcom, in the lyrics.

"A.D. 1958" ends the tale, two years after the theatre closed its doors. The estimated six-month demolition job took a full twenty-four months to complete.

"State Street Sadie", a twenty-eight second piano outro, closes the record.

My older brother was a Styx follower and had a copy of Paradise Theatre on vinyl. I've never really owned a copy myself in any format, save for the singles that appeared on a greatest hits CD. This was one I think I might have listened to a good bit back in the day had I owned it myself.

For more from Styx, click here.

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