And after the next album I just missed any interest for that band for the years. So, after so many years, I still can say, that it's a strange album - "Boat on The River " is really on of Styx' greatest song ever, and "Babe" is one of the weakest. It looks, that album should be placed somewhere between "nothing good at all" category with just one great song. But returning back to this music again and again, I feel some kind of light attraction - nice voice, often melodic songs, quite technical arrangements.
To be honest, that album has it's own magnetism having almost nothing of good musical material. So, something between 2 and 3, but more 2 for prog-rock site.
Sadly "Cornerstone" turned some people off of Styx which is really a shame. It also exposed some fissures in the Styxian terra which were unnecessary because there really was no musical crisis here. While DeYoung's desire to branch out a bit into romantic territories somehow threatened the testosterone section of the group, the album remains filled with the Styx spirit. I have the sense that Dennis was still stoked with positive energy, and had Tommy and James not thrown their hissy and temporarily fired him some of the coming decline caused by animosity could have been avoided.
Tommy and JY wanted to compete more with their hard rock heroes but this was always a flawed strategy. And there were just as many of them as there were Angus and Nugent fans. The self-inflicted handwringing was taken too far, as their own sound was just as valid, and 30 years on it means more to me than anything from the Motor City Madman. And frankly, without Dennis, those albums would never have been half as good as they were. It's been many decades since I first listened to Styx and really hadn't listened to them much since the 80s, as my interests in other music took off.
Lately I have been going through grief and tumultuous times by any standard, temporarily losing the need for anything dark or difficult from music. I chose to revisit this old band from the Midwest and discovered the core body of work far more impressive than history credits them for.
The fans knew however, as this was the 3rd of 4 triple-platinum albums in a row. But to this day the band remains largely maligned by the rock press, proggers, administrative assistants, and barkeeps. All so unnecessary. It was good clean fun, great energetic melodic rock, and it remains so. Yeah, even Cornerstone. More succinct, with more acoustic guitar and Rhodes keys the sound is more velvety, seemingly more "pop" and yet there is much more going on here. The harmonies are fantastic and it's almost impossible for me not to sing along which is a frightening premise, I understand.
Colorful instrumental overdubs are all over the place adding much life to these tracks so often dismissed. Then came the song that elicited so many silly howls of protest, the big hit single "Babe. Apparently masculinities were threatened for the cool set. You'd think Roger Waters had left Pink Floyd and they continued without him or something. In truth it's really just a nice love song which along with "First Time" was Dennis indulging his McCartney appreciation. The song is a wonderful update of "Lady" in some ways.
The chord progression is just killer in the chorus, that dip in there which introduces a bit of dark blue to the valentine, it's such good songwriting. Then he lets in Tommy with that well composed melodic solo. It's not supposed to be Hendrix, guys.
Yet the whole album gets urine sprayed by legions of people. Shaw does slip up once with "Never Say Never" which gives hints of the mediocrity he was capable of, but he quickly redeems himself with "Boat on the River," a Styx fan favorite which also scored as a single with European audiences.
A nice departure, it closes side 1 with a folk-tinged mandolin piece, filled with yearning vocals, accordion, and traditional bass. Interestingly, some in their management did not want Boat on the album, and it was DeYoung who chest-thumped on Tommy's behalf and said Shaw's track would appear or else.
Styx was so good when they worked together. The energy level is very high here and I swear you can hear a little influence of Glam running through it. It's one of their best songs bar none. Hardly worth the mouthfoaming it brought on, though Dennis should have known better as the song is really weak. It would have been far more fruitful for the band to continue working together than divide into camps as they did. JY's "Eddie" provides the most hard rock on this album as he throws in some driving guitar-synthesizer lines.
Tommy closes the album with a dark and heavy confessional called "Love in the Midnight. His musical frustrations were manifesting in cocaine and ladies to a larger degree and here he discusses his "ravenous" late night self. It features some nice proggy instrumental dressings but mostly it is the vocal that sells it.
I can see Tommy singing this one and whenever that vein pops WAY out on his neck, you know a good vocal is coming. Great closer. I'm floored when people continue to say this album is full of soft ballads.
What album are they listening to? About two of the nine tracks fit that description, but much of this album rocks, exudes good energy, or is just plain diverse, ala the folk-vibe of Boat. So if you enjoy Styx but always avoided "Cornerstone" because of its reputation, do give it a chance. Seven of the nine tracks are very worthwhile for Styxians and about half are truly superb. While the party was almost over, Styx would have one more trick up its sleeve, the grandiose and symbolic farewell "Paradise Theater.
One aspect really sticks out to me about this record. When Tommy Shaw joined the band four years earlier he brought a more accessible writing style with him and it culminated in '78 as three of his songs from "Pieces of Eight" got promoted into heavy rotation on radio stations and sent sales of that album through the roof. Long time head honcho Dennis DeYoung understandably felt he was no longer the sole star of the show and decided that on "Cornerstone" he needed to stage a comeback of sorts by contributing more tunes this time around.
Since his faux prog material no longer thrilled the masses as it once had he opted to take the "if you can't lick 'em, join 'em" approach and tried to compose stuff that resembled what he heard on the airwaves. That tactic, while it appears to be quite logical and failsafe, is the kiss of death for a songwriter's reputation and has the adverse effect of changing a group's image from being instigators to followers. Styx took no risky chances on "Cornerstone" and that's why it should hold very little interest for the residents of Progland.
The tune has operatic overtones on the verses and the choruses are strong due to the layered harmonies but the middle instrumental section is a letdown. It's rather trite compared to say, Genesis, but calculated to pose no threat to the ears of the average Joe. DeYoung's "Why Me" is next and it exemplifies the point I made in the previous paragraph.
Supertramp was at their peak in the late 70s so Dennis simply emulated their style. The bouncy electric piano is a blatant rip-off and they even brought in a saxophonist to duel with the guitar on the bridge to complete the imitation. There's no crime in giving a nod to one's successful competitors but when the result is an inferior product that lacks the focus and class that makes that particular band unique it's downright embarrassing.
The dubious "Babe" follows. In that era there were outfits like The Little River Band, Ambrosia and Pablo Cruise that were scaling the charts with slick soft rock ballads right and left. DeYoung wanted in on that action, obviously, so he penned this schmaltzy piece of fluff. This is so far from prog it might as well be a cut from the Bay City Rollers but it also achieved its main objective by becoming Styx's first 1 single so who am I to judge? A prog reviewer, that's who! Cornerstone is best known for including the group's only 1 Billboard Hot Single, the power ballad " Babe ".
The album represented a musical transition for Styx, as the band emphasized its pop sound more than the progressive rock influences that dominated their first eight studio albums. From a songwriting standpoint, Cornerstone is dominated by Dennis DeYoung and Tommy Shaw —each is credited as sole songwriter or co-writer for five tracks on the album including two collaborations between the pair. Consistent with most of Styx's catalog from to , DeYoung's contributions to Cornerstone found the most success on the charts.
The first single to be released was also to become Styx's only US 1 single: " Babe ", which DeYoung wrote as a birthday present for his wife Suzanne. Shaw, however, expressed concern that releasing two ballads in a row would alienate the band's hard rock fan base. He felt strongly enough that he threatened to leave the band over the proposed release.
Shaw's major contribution to the album was the folkish " Boat on the River ", which became the band's biggest European hit. James Young had one song on the album, the hard rocker "Eddie", which was aimed at Edward Kennedy , unsuccessfully pleading with him not to make a run for the U. Young used a guitar-synthesizer solo. Instrumentally, the album demonstrated the shift to a more pop-oriented and organic sound. While commercially successful, Cornerstone brought to light the first fragmenting of the group's collective artistic vision.
These divisions would continue to deepen, ultimately leading to Styx's dissolution following the release of the album, Kilroy Was Here. After all, the Chicago-spawned quintet had achieved multi-platinum status on their own terms with previous art-rock efforts like The Grand Illusion and Pieces of Eight — their seventh and eighth studio LPs, respectively — while enduring the abuse levied at them by some critics.
So they threw themselves into the task at hand and duly filled Cornerstone to the brim with songs like "Why Me," "Never Say Never," "Eddie" and "Love in the Midnight," which notably dispensed with any hint of the complicated arrangements or cerebral wordplay found on prior efforts. Yet all this was merely the beginning for Shaw and DeYoung, both of whom decided to try some new directions. For Shaw, this meant whipping out a mandolin and breaking things down to a folky and philosophical level on "Boat on the River," featuring DeYoung on accordion and Chuck Panozzo on double bass.
DeYoung, meanwhile, applied his crystal-clear tenor to a birthday love letter to his wife Suzanne called "Babe," which promptly shot to No.