VINCE NEIL – “You’re Invited (But Your Friend Can’t Come)” (1992 Hollywood single)
In 1992, post-split, Vince Neil was out of the gates fast with a killer new single, while we had to wait two more years for Motley Crue to make their move. It certainly seemed that Neil was winning the Crue vs. Vince competition, especially when his Exposed album with Steve Stevens was released in 1993. We had no inkling that the Crue were brewing something equally strong with John Corabi, but for the time being at least, Vince Neil was the winner of the round.
Vince didn’t have his solo band yet, so the players you hear on “You’re Invited (But Your Friend Can’t Come)” might come as a surprise. It’s 3/4 of Damn Yankees: Tommy Shaw, Jack Blades, and Michael Cartellone. The track was written by Neil, Shaw and Blades. Automatically, we know to expect some quality. This track was recorded for the movie Encino Man (or California Man) starring Paulie Shore and Brendan Fraser. The soundtrack version (4:27) and a single edit (3:53) are both included here.
“One, two, here we go!” The tune is a smoker, sharp and with wicked production. The cocky lyrics perfectly match the upbeat riff, certainly one of the best Shaw/Blades riffs yet composed. The single/soundtrack version is in fact superior to the final album cut that came a year later, even though that one included Steve Stevens with a seriously cool solo. This guitar solo ain’t half bad either, of course! Tommy Shaw is no slouch and it sounds like he’s having fun just losing his mind on guitar. There’s even more of that nutso finger tapping on the album version vs. the single edit, especially in the bananas intro.
If you like guitar, then you will definitely love one of the B-sides: a commercial Steve Vai instrumental called “Get The Hell Out of Here”. Opening with a flurry of notes, the song goes into a riff with some cool call-and-answer lead guitars. Definitely one of Steve’s more song-like structures, something like Satch is wont to do. Catchy, straight ahead, with plenty of thrills. Incredible harmonics! A great middle ground for those who love lead guitar but find Steve’s regular solo work a little too bookish.
The last song to go over is by a band called T-Ride, who put out one album in 1992. Joe Satriani called them “the future of metal”, but we’re all allowed to be wrong from time to time. Their tune here is called “Luxury Cruiser” which was also on their self-titled album. It’s hard rock for the 90s, and the singer can really wail when he wants to. It verges on progressive, due to its careening from one different part and tempo to another. Very technical, but not an amazing song.
Great single to have for the Vai and Vince tracks. Vai later released his on a compilation of soundtrack music, but otherwise this is a great purchase to fill some gaps in your collection.
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!
Remarkable! 49 years old, and still putting out some truly superlative records. What’s the secret?
Like their contemporaries Journey and Whitesnake, Styx have expanded to a seven-member band including new guitarist/songwriter/producer Will Evankovich. With just as many songwriting credits on the new album Crash of the Crown as Tommy Shaw has, this addition feels appropriate. James “JY” Young and Chuck Panozzo (original bassist, now part time) are the only links to the distant past. Styx have not always been the most focused on new music (14 year gap between Cyclorama and The Mission) but it seems like Evankovich has sparked their creativity. Two albums in a row, Styx have risen to high-water marks, pleasing fans and stunning critics.
If there’s a blatant concept this time it’s not as obvious, but recurring musical themes hint that there might be more going on than just 15 new tracks. Crash of the Crown is assembled from smaller chunks of music that flow together in one seamless whole, but the individual songs are all under four minutes, including two brief interludes.
Opening with a wicked Lawrence Gowan keyboard bit, “The Fight of Our Lives” is a powerful and catchy intro to this distinguished album. Tommy Shaw: lead vocals, backed by the increasingly thick Styx choir. Pay attention to the main guitar theme as it’ll be back. Beatles-y chords are another recurring affair. (The Fab Four sound like a major influence on both Crash of the Crown, and the new Dennis DeYoung album 26 East Vol. 2.)
A progressive guitar/keyboard riff brings us to “A Monster”. If anything it’s a song about the last two years. “Here’s to the prisoners trapped in their cages,” could certainly be about the current time, “a monster chasing its tail”. Big guitar solos and hooks make this an unorthodox and complex little winner.
Acoustics ring on “Reveries”, the first Gowan lead vocal. It has a big powerful chorus and the acoustic base is reminiscent of classic 70s Styx. But before too long, Tommy Shaw and JY rise up for a massive tandem electric guitar break. Stuff like this is why they need a third guitarist now, so the rhythm doesn’t drop out live. “Reveries” flows seamlessly into the dull rain of “Hold Back the Darkness”. The foreboding tune, like clouds warning to stay ashore, is spare with piano and acoustics forming the basis.
Winston Churchill’s words form a part of “Save Us From Ourselves”, always a nice touch in a rock song. It possesses a more upbeat pulse, but no less powerful. The Tommy Shaw refrain in the chorus is typically bright and rhapsodic. It builds into something stageworthy, and leads into the title track and single “Crash of the Crown”. Individually, this song impresses less on the radio. It belongs on the album, flowing in and out. It’s a component of a larger piece. Incidentally it’s the first Styx song with three lead singers. In order: JY, Shaw and Gowan, each with completely unique sections. Stick with it, and a riff from “Fight Of Our Lives” returns to knock you back in your seat. Then there’s some instrumental wickedness and robot vocoder madness. It is like three or four songs crammed into one and it’s boggling why it was chosen as a single. Except to impress the fact that Styx aren’t playing around.
You need a bit of a break after a workout like “Crash of the Crown” and so the folksy “Our Wonderful Lives” is the ideal tonic. A huge singalong chorus is backed by simple kick drums, acoustics, and accordion. It’s a beam of hope on an album born from dark times. Sounding a bit like “39” by Queen, and completed with a blast of Beatles-y horns.
The dark growl of a Hammond B3 transitions into “Common Ground”, slower and thick with the modern Styx harmonies. It has some very different parts, one pounding with heavy drums and one light and flighty. While it stands as a song to itself, it also works to transition into “Sound the Alarm”, an RSD single and album highlight. This handsome Shaw ballad is reminiscent of some of his past best and serves as a bit of a hippy-like anthem. “There is no future in the way it was,” Shaw sings correctly. All at once, it has ingredients similar to “Show Me with Way”, “Mr. Roboto”, “High Enough” and “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)”. There’s sorrow, there’s hope, there’s bombast and a digital pulse.
The digital pulse leads directly into the drum-heavy “Long Live the King”. It’s also the most Queen-like, with an absolutely May-ish solo. Imagine if you tried to build a Queen song on top of the drum beat from Guns N’ Roses’ “You Could Be Mine”.
Gowan has a brief piano segue called “Lost At Sea” before the proper song “Coming Out the Other Side”. This calm ballad has a taste of India with the tabla, but manages not to sound like the Beatles this time. It recalls rebirth, and there’s a killer solo to go on top. “To Those” goes full-blown upbeat triumphant Styx, a brilliant refrain brimming with adrenaline. “For those who do survive, find beauty in your lives. Don’t be afraid of love, stand up and rise above.”
Instrumental segue “Another Farewell” steers into the final track “Stream”, which sounds and reads like an ending to a story. Whether the band intended to or not, it seems they’ve made another concept album in Crash of the Crown. “We’ve never been a protest band,” insists Shaw, “We’re more like a gospel caravan trying to send out positive messages wherever we go.” If that’s the case, then “Stream” must be the happy musical ending, an upbeat drift into the fade.
Perhaps there’s a clue to Styx’s meaning in the packaging. Morse code hidden in the CD tray reveals the words “WHOS GONNA SAVE US FROM OURSELVES”.
According to the lengthy liner notes, Styx went into Crash of the Crown with no compromises and came out of it with the album they wanted. With a diverse set of instruments at hand, they clearly had no inhibitions. The end result is an album less direct the The Mission, but dense with ideas compacted into mere minutes of songs. Fortunately most of those ideas were really excellent. Any time a band like Styx makes an album, there’s a fear it will be the last one. It sounds like this band has plenty more fuel left in the solid rocket boosters. Whatever the future holds, Crash of the Crown is the kind of triumph any young band would hold as their magnum opus. With Styx, there is so much history it’s futile to compare.
STYX – The Grand Illusion / Pieces of Eight Live (2011 Eagle Records)
Although legacy bands like Styx may not write and record new music as often as they used to, there have been a couple interesting effects from this. Legendary discographies have been mined by a handful of classic bands, playing rare tracks live that haven’t been played on a stage in decades, if ever. Sometimes, bands play full albums. A few even play two! Styx chose The Grand Illusion and Pieces of Eight for live resurrection.
Dipping back to 1977 and 1978, Styx picked two of their best records to perform. Kind of the “sweet spot” between Tommy Shaw joining the band on Crystal Ball, and the drama with Dennis DeYoung on Cornerstone. There are numerous of songs they never played live with Lawrence Gowan on vocals before, if at all! They had to re-learn their own songs to put on this concert. You can’t accuse them of taking the easy way out!
Tommy even tells you where the side breaks come!
With Todd Sucherman on drums, the songs are naturally heavier here. Gowan’s voice lends a different sound to them too. Bassist Ricky Phillips is rock solid as always, but original bassist Chuck Panozzo still comes out to play bass on the odd track live. His rumble on “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)” is nice and prominent in the mix.
The songs have other notable differences, like more guitar solos. James Young does Dennis’ old spoken word part on “Superstars”. Some might wonder, “Why listen to this, when you can play the original albums with the original members any time you want?” It would be unwise to compare the talents of Gowan and Dennis, but why can’t you just be a fan of both? Some people want to hear Gowan singing “Come Sail Away”, and especially “Castle Walls” which was only played once before in 1978 and a handful of times in 1997. There are many such songs on this recording. “I’m OK” (which Gowan sings) was dropped after 1979, until this tour. “Lords of the Rings” (James Young on vocals) was only played once in 1978.
There are stories, and songs for the diehards. This isn’t a package for someone looking for greatest hits. It’s also not the same as listening to an old album. This is for the Styx fan who loves the past and present equally.
STYX – Cornerstone (Originally 1979 A&M, 2020 Universal red vinyl reissue – limited to 1000 copies)
With Cornerstone, Styx were on their fourth album in their most successful incarnation: Dennis DeYoung, James Young, Tommy Shaw, and Chuck & John Panozzo. Shaw was the newest member and a fierce creative force in songwriting, on guitar, and with his own lead vocals. Styx had a string of hits with this lineup including Crystal Ball, The Grand Illusion, and Pieces of Eight. Cornerstone would be their biggest yet. Though imperfect, it’s loaded with memorable songs and dynamite performances from the poppy-pretentious-prog-rock quintet.
What a terrific song “Lights” still is, with that big fat keyboard lick and Tommy Shaw’s delicate lead vocal. You can hear why the punk rockers sought to eradicate the likes of Styx and their contemporaries. But Cornerstone went to #2 in the album charts, and “Lights” was one of the singles released in Europe. It’s a song about performing on stage, something that most of us will never be able to relate to. But there’s something in its sincerity that is just charming. “Give me the lights, precious lights, give me lights. Give me my hope, give me my energy.”
Another single follows called “Why Me” (which wasn’t intended to be a single, but we’ll get into that). A head-bopping light rock delight. One of those tracks where you say, “Yeah, decent song.” You might forget about it later; you might forget which album it’s on. But it’s cool, especially when a blistering saxophone solo hits the speakers.
The big hit is in the third slot: legendary power ballad “Babe”, Styx’s only #1. Its strength is its pure corniness. Surely, it must have been corny in 1979 too. Yet a word comes back to me – “sincerity”. Dennis DeYoung sounds completely sincere singing, “Babe, I love you,” like he means it. Indeed as I research the album, “Babe” was written for Dennis’ wife. You can hear it. And if I was writing a song for my wife, you’d find it corny too.
A natural follow up to this Dennis-fest is a solid Tommy Shaw rocker called “Never Say Never”. One of those album tracks that couldn’t stand on its own as a single, but has a perfect slot on side one after the big ballad. That is an important slot for any rock band’s side one. You have to get the blood pumping and the circulation back into the extremities with something that has some pep. Because before you know it, the side will be done.
And side one closes on an epic: Tommy’s mandolin-inflected “Boat on a River”. Shaw on mandolin, guitar and autoharp. Dennis on accordion, Chuck Panozzo on double bass with a bow. Although fully acoustic with no electric, “epic” is the best word to describe it. Perhaps it is a precursor to the the current popular “sea shanty” trend. Well, Styx did one in 1979.
Side two kicks off with a blast: “Borrowed Time”. It’s amusing to hear Dennis start the song by saying, “Don’t look now, here comes the 80s!” But this fun romp will be almost completely forgotten when you are suffocated by “First Time”, one of the most syrupy ballads ever foisted upon us. Too syrupy, though the string section is a nice touch. And it would have been the second single, had Tommy Shaw not objected. “Babe” was a smash, and so “First Time” was selected to follow it. Tommy expressed concern at two ballads in a row for the first two singles, and threatened to quit the band over it. Things got so nasty that Dennis DeYoung was briefly fired and then re-hired over the issue. And thus “Why Me” was chosen as second single instead. Probably for the best…though you never know.
What do we need now? A James Young rocker! “Eddie” is his sole writing and singing credit on Cornerstone. And it rocks hard, James pushing the upper register of his voice. You wanna talk deep cuts, well “Eddie” is one of the best. Interestingly it’s also one of those songs where the verses are slightly better than the choruses.
The closing slot on Cornerstone is left to Tommy Shaw’s “Love in the Midnight”, an interesting choice, echoing the side one closer when it opens acoustically. It is the most progressive of the songs, featuring an absolutely bonkers Dennis keyboard solo and suitably gothic “ahh-ahh-ahh” backing vocals within a section with odd timing. Things get heavy and punchy. Definitely going out with a bang and not a whimper on this one.
This transparent vinyl reissue looks and sounds nice. It’s a gatefold sleeve with lyrics, pictures, and moustaches. Not as cheap as buying a vintage vinyl or CD…just a lot nicer to look at.
“If you coulda gotten a camera up in a tree, you mighta been able to talk to Ted.” – Tommy Shaw
Who doesn’t love a bromance? Tommy Shaw and Jack Blades formed a lasting one with Damn Yankees and it’s obvious in this summer 1990 interview. They finish each others’ sentences and talk over each other like excited kids. MuchMusic’s Michael Williams hosts this excellent interview as they discuss:
Getting signed to a label
Working with Ron Nevison
Terrible Ted and the “wimp police”
Tommy’s “critically acclaimed” solo career. Haha!
You’ll even see Michael’s Ted impression. Check out why live Much interviews were always best.
WE WISH YOU A METAL XMAS AND A HEADBANGING NEW YEAR (2008 Armoury)
Yep, It’s another Bob Kulick album with various guests. You know what you’re going to get. Let’s not dilly-dally; let’s crack open the cranberry sauce and see what a Metal Xmas sounds like.
Generic! A truly ordinary title track features the amazing Jeff Scott Soto on lead vocals, but it’s a purely cookie-cutter arrangement with all the cheesy adornments you expect. Ray Luzier fans will enjoy the busy drums, but this does not bode well for the album.
Fortunately it’s Lemmy to the rescue, with “Run Rudolph Run”, an utterly classic performance with Billy Gibbons and Dave Grohl. All spit n’ vinegar with no apologies and nary a mistletoe in sight. I remember playing this for my sister Dr. Kathryn Ladano in the car one Christmas.
When Lemmy opened his yap, she proclaimed “This is bullshit! How come they get to make albums and not me?”
Lemmy Kilmister, pissing people off since day one, has done it again. You can buy the CD for “Run Rudolph Run” even if the rest is utter shit.
A silly “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” by Alice Cooper echoes “The Black Widow”, but novelty value aside, is not very good. A joke song can only take you so far, and Alice is usually far more clever. (At least John 5’s soloing is quite delicious.) And even though Dio is next, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” comes across as a joke, too. Which is a shame because the lineup is a Dio/Sabbath hybrid: Tony Iommi, Rudy Sarzo, and Simon Wright. Dio’s joyless, dead serious interpretation is amusing only because of its unintentional dry humour.
Funny enough, Geoff Tate’s “Silver Bells” has the right attitude. Even though Geoff is perpetually flat, his spirited version (with Carlos Cavazo, James Lomenzo and Ray Luzier) kicks up some snow. That makes me happy, but it pains me to say that Dug Pinnick’s “Little Drummer Boy” (with George Lynch, Billy Sheehan and Simon Phillips) doesn’t jingle. Ripper Owens, Steve More & pals team up next on “Santa Claus is Back in Town”, so bad that it borders on parody.
The most bizarre track is Chuck Billy’s “Silent Night”, with thrash buddies like Scott Ian. Chuck performs it in his death metal growl, and it’s pure comedy. Oni Logan can’t follow that with “Deck the Halls”, though it’s pretty inoffensive. Stephen Pearcy’s “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” adapts the riff from “Tie Your Mother Down” and succeeds in creating a listenable track. “Rockin’ Around the Xmas Tree” is ably performed by Joe Lynn Turner, sounding a lot like a Christmas party jam.
The final artist is Tommy Shaw with John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War is Over)”. It’s an authentic version and while not a replacement for the original, will be enjoyable to Styx fans.
Christmas albums by rock artists are, let’s be honest, rarely worthwhile. This one has only a handful of keepers so spend wisely.
Tommy Shaw’s second solo album What If didn’t have a big hit like Girls With Guns. It did have some solid if lesser known songs. Production wise, the edges are a little sharper.
Hot opener “Jealousy” boasts a cool sax solo, and a memorable chorus beefed up with soulful backing vocals. Second up, “Remo’s Theme” is from the movie Remo Williams, a forgotten film with a decent lead song. Unfortunately the drums have that electronic gate that indicates samples, but fits the 80s vibe of “Remo’s Theme”. It sounds like a Miami Vice episode waiting to happen.
Shaw goes for the dusky nightclub scene with “Reach for the Bottle”. Songs can paint pictures, and this one is made for drinking. The electro-funk of “Friendly Advice” however just reeks. Musicians would slap me and point to it as a high point of sheer playing ability, but I’m holding my nose over here. It gets better on “This is Not a Test”, still lodged deep in the 80s but in a good way. The subject matter is right out of 1985: the threat of nuclear war! This was a popular subject in the 80s, just ask Ozzy.
The second side opened with “See Me Now”, an inspirational energising tune, carefully composed like…layers of gouda on a cheese sandwich. Dig? It tastes good, but too much is probably not good for you. “True Confessions” is similarly a pop guilty pleasure. God that drum sound is awful! Moving on, “Count on You” has a Floydian (80s of course) ballad vibe, with more of that tasty sax. “Nature of the Beast” is another ballad with terrific melodies and more of them drum samples. Finally “Bad Times” ends the album with a “good time” song. Loads of saxophone, upbeat hooks, and less obtrusive drums.
What If is not a bad album, but some the production gets to way too clunky on some tracks. When it’s played closer to rock and roll, the basic instruments, it works far better.
GETTING MORE TALE #747.5: Girls With Guns and Friends With Records
If you’re keeping up on things, you know I’ve been downsizing. When it’s stuff that I care about, I like to make sure it goes to a good home. I gave Iron Tom his signed Iron Maiden poster back. Some of my Lego made its way to a friend at work who has four kids. The rest of my junk just went to Goodwill.
What to do with my rock magazines? Ages ago, when I first got married, I gave my rock mags to an old buddy named Len. I decided to do the same again. Len is a massive Kiss fan, and most of my remaining magazines were Kiss. I had some Kiss comics from the 90s in there too. I knew he’d appreciate them. I also had a stack of CDs to give to him; CDs that I replaced with updated versions, like Shaw-Blades.
Len popped over to pick up the magazines, bearing gifts in return! Records, in fact. Not just any run of the mill records either. Rare ones. Two of these records were on my “Holy Grail” list, once upon a time. Wanna see what he brought?
“I know you’ve been really into Styx,” said Len. He presented me with Tommy Shaw’s first solo album Girls With Guns! Seven months ago, I got my first CD copy. Now I have the LP, too. When it rains it pours! I’m looking forward to spinning it on vinyl, as it was originally intended.
Next: something I’ve never even seen before. An LP copy of 1977’s Quiet Riot I! This is a somewhat puzzling record. It’s definitely not an original Japanese LP, or the cover would be in colour and there wouldn’t be the notation “featuring Randy Rhoads”. On the inner label, you’ll find the 1983 Quiet Riot logo used from Metal Health on. Most likely, this is a bootleg LP. The back cover has the song lyrics laid out the same as my bootleg CD. There’s no CBS/Sony logo anywhere on the package. Therefore, this has to be a bootleg. Does that bother me? No way! This is just as interesting to me. It will be fun to spin this one on vinyl for a change. The first two Quiet Riot albums were the very definition of “Holy Grail” items for me, for many years!
Lastly, something I’ve never seen before: a Judas Priest 12″ maxi-single from 1981! This record is an official release on CBS, from Holland. The song choices are perplexing: older tracks from 1978 and 1979, nothing from British Steel. “Rock Forever” and “Hell Bent for Leather” occupy side one, while the epic “Beyond the Realms of Death” takes up all of side two.
According to Discogs, this record was originally included as a bonus single with early copies of Unleashed in the East, but my copy is not one of those. On the back it says 1981 CBS, so there is no way it was packed with Unleashed when it came out in 1979. This copy is a later version re-released in the Netherlands, but it’s unclear why. Anybody know?
Some cool stuff and head-scratchers here for sure! These will be well loved in my collection. Thanks Len!
TOMMY SHAW – Girls With Guns (1984 A&M, 2013 BGO Records)
When Styx split, both Tommy Shaw and Dennis DeYoung were quick to release solo albums. All we had to judge them by was their new singles. Dennis came out of the gates with a ballad (“Desert Moon”). As 12 year old kids in 1984, we took no interest in what Dennis was doing. Tommy Shaw, on the other hand, had a bright pop rocker called “Girls With Guns”. It was loud, fun and featured a great music video all done in a single take. Neither song sounded like Styx, but “Girls With Guns” sounded more like what we were into.
Dennis’ album outsold Tommy’s, but Tommy’s rocks better.
The title track is of course the main feature. Dated with 80s keyboards or not, it is still a great song. This was proven by Tommy when he performed it acoustically without the keys. It’s just rock with joy, and a great beat.
“Come In and Explain” has a progressive Styx vibe and easily could have worked in that context. Instead, it’s a great Tommy Shaw solo track. It has a blue collar groove but highbrow keyboards. Another great song is the ballad “Lonely School”. It has a classic sound, albeit a cheesy classic sound. The album alternates between cool and corny, and some songs that straddle the line. There’s nothing dreadful.
This CD was a “holy grail” item of mine for years, but was reissued in 2013 as a remastered double CD with Shaw’s second album What If. The CD also features two extended songs, presumably because vinyl couldn’t hold the full length. Glad to have Girls With Guns in my collection, though I won’t be racing to play it every week.