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STYX and the Contemporary Youth Orchestra of Cleveland

A lot of projects have been tried over the past few years with rock bands and orchestras. Most times it marginally works by way of the orchestra really fleshing out the sound of the band and adding another dynamic. With this live one-off Styx show, they have taken it one step further. The band decided to work with the Contemporary Youth Orchestra of Cleveland, whose ages range from 13-19. Their youthful exuberance is what makes such a successful outcome.

Styx guitarist James “JY” Young describes it this way. “Rock & roll is really about youthful enthusiasm and youthful rebellion anyway.” Combined with the seasoned veterans from Chicago, the resulting record is one of the best live records in recent memory.

Styx DVD

I have been a major fan since the Styx II release and have seen them on many occasions. Buoyed by the additions of ex-Baby’s bassist/guitarist Ricky Philips, drummer Todd Sucherman and keyboardist/vocalist Lawrence Gowan, I’d have to say that the band seems more energetic than they have in years.

Perhaps the single biggest weapon in the Styx arsenal is the awesome talent of vocalist/guitarist Tommy Shaw. Many of my favorite cuts are his and he doesn’t disappoint in this set. Opening with “Blue Collar Man”, Tommy is in great voice and the energy from the stage is almost palpable.

“Lorelei” with JY on vocals continues the excitement before continuing on with a Willie Dixon blues number that works really well. Two new songs, “Just Be” and “Everything All The Time” prove that the band is not a spent creative force.

The highlight of the record is the excellent version of “Crystal Ball” featuring Tommy at his best. Everybody gets a bit of the spotlight with JY contributing “Miss America” and my home-boy Gowan giving us his solo hit “A Criminal Mind” which sounds great in a band atmosphere.

Throughout the show, the orchestra (115 piece with a 60 voice choir) led by director Liz Grossman, all seem to be enjoying the experience completely, often taking to the aisles to dance when they were not required in a segment. In particular, one of the young women of Violin One seems almost unable to contain herself in her seat, feeling at one with the music completely.

Original bassist and founder Chuck Panozzo joins the band towards the end of the show for a series of songs which includes a medley of 15 or so Styx classics.

This DVD also includes interviews with the band (which could have been longer) as well as a drum cam that follows Todd Sucherman, a photo gallery and two new Christmas songs also performed with the orchestra, along with the 140 minute show.

To sum up, this DVD is simply excellent!!!

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