Anecdote: I wasn’t able to get this Styx EP with seven exclusive tracks on Record Store Day, so I knew I would have to pay the “late tax”. I was surprised that pretty much every copy for sale on Discogs was coming from Russia. Given the current situation I didn’t want to risk having a record coming in from Russia. I found one from somewhere else (Estonia perhaps) and bit the bullet and ordered. Two days later I got an email saying, “We are relocating to Russia! We will mail your record from there!” I almost asked to cancel but decided to be patient, and it has finally arrived. In perfect shape. Whew.
To accompany their excellent new album Crash of the Crown, Styx released an EP with two exclusive studio bonus tracks, and five live. Not bad value for an EP when all of them are previously unreleased. The record is on beautiful, heavy transparent blue vinyl, is low on surface noise, and just sounds wonderful!
The title track “The Same Stardust” opens, and it’s a theme we often hear in science: we are all, every one of us, made of the same matter from a star that exploded billions of years ago. It’s a unifying theme, but not a wimpy song. A crescendo of drums leads us to an upbeat rocker with lead vocals by Lawrence Gowan. There’s a great little riff after the chorus, and Gowan’s lead vocal recalls the Beatles. “Walk away from hate!” he sings, reflecting the sentiments of the Fab Four. Tommy Shaw sings the powerful bridge and then rips into a melodically cool solo. Easily of album, or single quality.
The second exclusive studio song is called “Age of Entropia” and it is best described as progressive like Styx of old. Tommy sings this number with a gentle acoustic opening. It builds into a more robust construction in time, really sounding like only one band: Styx. Good song but less instant.
Side two contains the live material, and the side opener is a track as desirable as the unreleased studio songs, if not more: a new live version of “Mr. Roboto” from 2020! This often shunned hit has finally been recorded again in a live setting, now with Gowan on vocals. It’s been tuned down a bit, but it still thrills. As soon you hear that trademark keyboard opening, you can’t help but smile. Especially knowing how rarely it gets played live. We all miss Dennis DeYoung but it is clear that Tommy Shaw doesn’t really want to hear about him. Gowan does an admirable job, as do all the Styx vocalists, as there is a lot going on. He even adds some of his own flare. There’s a slightly harder edge on this “Mr. Roboto” and that’s just fine.
Another treat, at least to those in the know, is “Radio Silence” from the excellent album The Mission. One of the best tunes from that sci-fi concept album indeed, and the first live release of any song from it. So that’s special, even if Crash of the Crown may very well have topped The Mission. That’s subjective…but possible.
Classics follow, dominated by Tommy Shaw tuneage. “Man in the Wilderness” has the same vibe as the newer material, cut from the same cloth. The heavy solo section is jaw-droppingly cool with wicked wah-wah effects. James Young gets the spotlight on his heavy hitting “Miss America”. Always a welcome listen, his unique vocal stylings are necessary for the overall Styx sound. And that riff! Speaking of riffs, Tommy closes the disc with the legendary “Renegade”. Still classic, still awesome, still hard to resist the urge to shake it! And though it does sound tuned down, Tommy’s voice has an incredible timeless youth.
The Same Stardust is a damn near essential add-on to your Crash of the Crown album. It would have made an awesome bonus disc to a deluxe version of…oh, man. After what I paid for this, if they put The Same Stardust on a future deluxe edition of Crash of the Crown, I’ll be pissed!