Picks of the Litter

Bryant Lewis and Joel Corbin

This Edition's Litter: Classic Rock

Bryant's Pick: Styx: Return to Paradise

Recent reports of Styx's demise were greatly exaggerated. That's because they're now back with a great new 2 CD live album. The album includes songs from their tour plus some great new additional studio tracks. Styx: Return To Paradise revisits all those great Styx classics that shaped the rock world of the seventies and early eighties. "Come Sail Away", "Too Much Time On My Hands", and "Blue Collar Man" are just a few of the classic rock favorites found on this great album.

Styx was born in the 1970's, consisting of a synthesis of blazing guitars, great vocals, and melodic keyboarding. They first broke out with the hit "Lady", then followed it up with, among others, "Suite Madame Blue" and "Renegade" (all included on the album). These songs were part of Styx's rampage through the seventies, in which multiple albums hit the platinum mark and tours were continually sold out.

An interesting aspect of Styx is that many of the songs include positive messages and offer commentaries on our changing society. For example, "Miss America" examines how superficial beauty is in our society. This combination of great music and sincere lyrics has attracted quite a diverse group of followers from different backgrounds and generations.

Styx began touring again just last year, after a four year hiatus. I attended one their concerts this summer, and it was absolutely fantastic. Unlike some bands' concerts, Styx played all the typical fan favorites, and left their newer, self-promotional new stuff in the dressing room. The show included lasers, pyrotechnics, and other crowd pleasing gimmicks that added to the excitement but didn't take away from the great music and atmosphere. What you will find on this CD is exactly what I found that warm summer evening -- music with the special touch only a live, supercharged performance can offer.

Joel's Pick: The Doors: Strange Days

Jim Morrison's death in 1971 spelled the end for the chart topping streak of The Doors. Those who weren't alive to experience their music firsthand were familiarized with Morrison through Oliver Stone's The Doors, starring Val Kilmer. But the Doors were more than the antics of their lead singer. His sometimes disjointed lyrics, when coupled with their well-performed music resulted in some of the best albums of the 1960's and 1970's.

The remaining members of The Doors have stirred interest lately with the release of a four-disc boxed set. However, someone wishing to experience the best the group has to offer need not spend so much money. Instead, go buy a copy of their second release, Strange Days. This album is my favorite, because it is so effective in combining Morrison's somewhat eccentric poetry with excellent musicianship, resulting in a set of songs that flow well against one another.

The album begins with the title track, in which Morrison's voice is combined with an echo effect, which seems odd at first but is realized as appropriate after the lyrics are absorbed. "You're Lost Little Girl" slows the mood down, not wanting the energy to peak too early. "Love Me Two Times" and "Unhappy Girl" return to an upbeat, smooth style that benefits from consistently good keyboarding and drumming. "Horse Latitudes" changes everything; it's a bit of Morrison poetry spoken (and shouted) over strange sounds and wailing from the band. The album changes back to a standard style with "Moonlight Drive" and "People Are Strange." The loud "My Eyes Have Seen You" gives the guitar a chance to shine, followed by the soporific "I Can't See Your Face In My Mind." The album concludes with "When The Music's Over," a drawn-out opportunity to feature each performer.

Strange Days is best experienced all at once, so the mood and tempo changes can be felt pushing against one another, but at only 35 minutes, it doesn't take up your whole day. This album should be on your Christmas list, but if you don't find it under the tree, go buy it. I know you'll enjoy it as much as I have.

Questions or comments? Write us!
Bryant: brlewis@indiana.edu; Joel: jcorbin@indiana.edu.

Eric Seymour

Robert Schiener

Bryan Wilhelm

Bryant Lewis
Joel Corbin