For Deke’s review at Arena Rock, click here!
“Hey everybody it’s Music Time!”
Sorta, anyway! Styx were just about toast after “Mr. Roboto“, and Tommy Shaw didn’t want to sing any more songs about androids. (Mars, however, was fine.) He departed to check out some Girls With Guns, but not before Styx put out one more product before hiatus. That would be the traditional double live album, which was actually Styx’s first.
Styx have lots of live albums now, but only two with Dennis DeYoung. Caught in the Act is essential for a few key reasons. It sounds great although there are clearly overdubs in places. It is the only one with the classic lineup of DeYoung/Shaw/James “JY” Young/Chuck Panozzo/John Panozzo. And it has plenty of classic Styx songs that still shake the radio waves today.
Like many live albums, Caught in the Act contained one new song. Dennis DeYoung wrote the uppity “Music Time”, a very New Wave single without much of the punch of old Styx. Shaw was so nauseated that he barely participated in the music video. “Music Time” isn’t one of Styx’s finest songs. It’s passable but clearly a misstep. No wonder it was a final straw of sorts for Tommy Shaw.
With that out of the way, on with the show. Styx opened the set with “Mr. Roboto”, a mega hit that got a bad rap over the years until nostalgia made it OK to like it again. Fortunately only two songs from Kilroy Was Here were included, the ballad “Don’t Let It End” being the other. Live, “Roboto” pulses with energy, far more than you would expect. The disco-like synthetic beats complement the techno-themed lyrics. Every hook is delivered with precision. With the human factor that comes out in a live recording, “Roboto” could be one of those songs that is actually better live.
Styx have always been a diverse act, and this album demonstrates a few sides of the band. Shaw and Young tended to write rockers, and “Too Much Time On My Hands”, “Miss America”, “Snowblind”, “Rockin’ the Paradise” and especially “Blue Collar Man” are prime examples of the best kind. Long nights, impossible odds…yet a killer set of rock tunes. Then there are the ballads. “Babe” is a slow dancing classic, and “The Best of Times” is even better. Finally, the tunes that verge on progressive epics: “Suite Madame Blue”, “Crystal Ball” and “Come Sail Away” have the pompous complexity that punk rockers hated so much. This album is a shining live recreation of some of rock’s most beloved music.
The 2018 CD reissue on BGO Records sounds brilliant with depth, and has a nice outer slipcase. You’ll also get a nice thick full colour booklet with photos and an essay that goes right up to 2017’s The Mission. BGO is a well known, respected label. This reissue is a must.