Man in the wilderness – a tribute to a lyrical rock band called Styx (reprise)

The following post was written ten years ago, so please forgive the references to tours. Even if you are not a rock fan, take a peek at some of the lyrics.

Since my last musical post was about Rush, by venturing onto Styx you can guess that I was a head-banger in my youth – still am. Yet, with earlier musical posts on Jim Croce, Gordon Lightfoot, Harry Chapin and Bob Seger, with a little Springsteen, Dylan, and Elvis Costello thrown in, I must have interesting lyrics for the song to resonate with me. With Styx, the lyrics can be haunting and mystical as well as more concrete and still be meaningful. They had both. Unfortunately, when I say Styx, many people remember the more pop oriented songs in the 1980s, which actually led to significant creative differences and the band’s demise. When I think of Styx, I think more of the rock and roll version that filled the late 1970’s. This music is what the revived band is playing more of on tour these days.

The title of this post includes my favorite Styx song and you won’t find it on many Top 10 lists. Penned and sung by their lead guitarist, Tommy Shaw, “Man in the Wilderness” is very reflective and asks what am I all about? Here are some sample lyrics:

Another year has passed me by, still I look at myself and cry. What kind of man have I become?

All of the years I’ve spent in search of myself. And I’m still in the dark. ‘Cause I can’t seem to find the light alone.

Sometimes I feel like a man in the wilderness. I’m a lonely soldier off to war. Sent away to die, never quite knowing why. Sometimes it makes no sense at all. Makes no sense at all

The original band that hit it big in 1975 after Shaw joined them included Dennis DeYoung, the primary lead singer and key songwriter, James Young and the Panozzo brothers, Chuck and John. DeYoung penned many of the more mystical songs and his voice is as good as they come. My personal favorite of DeYoung’s is “Suite Madame Blue” which was written for the bi-centennial, but whose lyrics would be meaningful today as he speaks of America needing to reinvent itself, while remaining optimistic that it still can:

Red white, and blue gaze in your looking glass. You’re not a child anymore.

Red, white, and blue the future is all but past. So lift up your heart, and make a new start. And lead us away from here

DeYoung wrote and sang the lead on such tremendous hits as “Come Sail Away,” “Lorelei,” “Lady,” “Grand Illusion,” and “Light-up.” He also wrote some of the more pop songs in the 1980’s such as “Mr. Roboto” and “Babe” which were good, but caused the friction the band could never resolve. In fact, DeYoung does not tour with the band anymore and only Shaw and Young remain. One of the Panozzo’s (John) has passed away and Chuck only joins the band on occasion such as at a recent taped concert session which highlighted two of their albums – Pieces of Eight and Grand Illusion.  The current band is excellent and the cast is very talented and strong. I caught them in Milwaukee at the SummerFest in 2011 and they put on a great show.

The songs written by DeYoung above are all worth listening too, but they tend to show up on everyone’s Top Ten list. Another favorite of his that does not get as much airplay now is “Castle Walls.” It is vintage DeYoung and here is why:

Once in a dream, far beyond these castle walls. Down by the bay where the moonlit water falls.

I stood alone while the minstrel sang his song. So afraid I’d lost my soul.

There in the fog his song kept calling me. Leading me on with its haunting melody.

Deep in my heart a voice kept echoing. I knew I’d soon be wandering. Far beyond these castle walls.

With DeYoung’s voice and organ playing, John’s drumming and Shaw, Young and Chuck’s rhythmic guitars and bass, DeYoung would turn these words into magic.  Yet, let me highlight a few other songs, as the group was not all about mystical lyrics. My third favorite Styx song was written by Shaw before he joined the band and he brought it with him – “Crystal Ball.” While the title is the ethereal, it also is a reflection of what am I going to do next in my life?

I used to like to walk the straight and narrow line. I used to think everything was fine.

Sometimes I’d sit and gaze for days through sleepless dreams. All alone and trapped in time. All alone and trapped in time.

I wonder what tomorrow has in mind for me? Or am I even in its mind at all?

Perhaps I’ll get a chance to look ahead and see. Soon as I find myself a crystal ball.

Shaw also penned and sang about some of the more concrete trials and tribulations in “Blue Collar Man” and “Renegade,” but any inventory of great Styx songs must also include the contributions of James Young. “Miss America” is one of their better songs and is emblematic of the rougher edge of the band, while still telling a good story:

Are you really who we think you are? Or does your smile seem to wear your down.

Is the girl who you once were. Screaming to jump out?

Is the dream that you must live. A disease for which there is no cure.

This song speaks to the act that young women play to become Miss America. They cannot afford to be themselves. He asks is the real you screaming to jump out, which is a very insightful query.

For Styx fans, I am sure I have left off several of your favorite songs. They have a huge body of work. And, please do not construe this as a slight on the later songs, some of which I noted above. They are very good, but different from the earlier work and caused the band to break up over differences in direction.That is unfortunate, but not unusual for bands. Most bands do not make it as long as they did. To their credit, Styx’s  body of work can stand up to many and if you catch the current tour, you will be greatly entertained. Listen out for “Man in the Wilderness.” It is very powerful when heard live, as are most of their songs.

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Let’s go to a concert

Whether it is a local band or one who has sold millions of songs, attending a venue to hear live music is thrilling and makes you feel alive. My wife and I have stumbled into live music on vacation which was a treat and we have made special plans to attend artists of renown. We have even gone to see our friend play piano in one of his bands  on very short notice. This post is dedicated to him as he suffered a stoke yesterday and may not make it. We are thinking good thoughts for him and his family.

Let’s honor him together and take a trip down memory lane. Please feel free to offer some of your thoughts and experiences.Together, my wife and I have seen some fairly big name performers and with very few exceptions were worth trip. I have even taken my boys to see some artists that my wife has not cared for, but were excellent to us – I could not drag her to see ACDC, Styx or Rush, for example, but we enjoyed the heck out of them. Yet, I was able to get her to see the Allman Brothers, which was well worth the effort.

Some of the well-known artists we have been fortunate enough to see include: Bruce Springsteen, who will leave you worn out, but you could hear just one more; Paul McCartney, from which I had to text my Beatles fanatical brother to guess where we were, Elton John, where we saw three generations of fans singing word for word with Elton; Eric Clapton, who brought along Buddy Guy and Derek Trucks for kicks; Tina Turner, the best performer around; Heart, led by Ann Wilson, one of the greatest Rock and Roll singers around; Tom Petty, who is so very underrated even with his tremendous body of work; Steve Winwood, what a thrill; Rod Stewart, who my wife had to see, but I enjoyed as well; Bob Seger, one of my all time favorites where we got tickets in the nose bleed section; KD Lang (once with Tony Bennett),  who can sing almost anything and does the best version of “Hallelujah” you will ever hear; Bonnie Raitt, God she is great; Peter, Paul and Mary, a wonderful treat, Chicago, where it rained half the concert, and George Benson, a great guitarist and performer.

In some smaller venues, we saw Mary Chapin Carpenter, who is genuine, talented and funny; Elvis Costello, who my wife did not want to see, but enjoyed immensely; James Taylor, several times and always a treat; Jimmy Buffett, who is especially entertaining when seen with your drunk brother-in-law; Jackson Browne, who actually disappointed (avoid the first concert tour date), but whose music I love nonetheless and Flogging Molly, which was a wonderfully unique experience. We also saw: Arlo Guthrie (twice), Marcia Ball (go see her if you can), Marshall Tucker (a band with a tragic history), Altan, a neat Irish band, Blood, Sweat and Tears, Foreplay, Harry Connick, Jr. and I am sure I am leaving off several others. My wife has gone to several with my daughter that were interesting from Owl City to Emilie Autumn, who apparently throws muffins at her audience.

Yet, we have seen some nice local bands that were a thrill, from Jazz to Blues to Swing to Pop. We have bought their CDs to honor their performance and help them out. But, the CDs also provide some memories taking us back to Montreal, New Orleans, Killarney, San Francisco, Blowing Rock or even home in Charlotte or Winston-Salem when we lived there. There is a Cajun restaurant in my home city that has live music every day. A neat memory of ours is my oldest son being asked to sing along with an Irish family in a pub near Watertown, Ireland as he was the lone American who knew the words to a song.

Music heard at home or in your car is a wonderful experience, but hearing live music makes it memorable. My wife won’t listen to Elvis Costello at home, but she enjoyed his concert, e.g. Yet, let me close with a tribute and memory of our friend Eddie, who had the stroke. Eddie plays in several groups, but the last time we heard him play was at his oldest daughter’s wedding a few months ago. It was also memorable as my wife played social director and got everyone up to dance, including Eddie’s mother. God be with you Eddie. You make us feel better about our lives with your music.

So, let me hear from all of you. What are some of your memorable experiences? Have you seen some of same folks? Do you have friends that play?

Man in the Wilderness – A Tribute to Styx

Since my last musical post was about Rush, by venturing onto Styx you can guess that I was a head-banger in my youth – still am. Yet, with earlier musical posts on Jim Croce, Gordon Lightfoot, Harry Chapin and Bob Seger, with a little Springsteen, Dylan, and Elvis Costello thrown in, I must have interesting lyrics for the song to resonate with me. With Styx, the lyrics can be haunting and mystical as well as more concrete and still be meaningful. They had both. Unfortunately, when I say Styx, many people remember the more pop oriented songs in the 1980s, which actually led to significant creative differences and the band’s demise. When I think of Styx, I think more of the rock and roll version that filled the late 1970’s. This music is what the revived band is playing more of on tour these days.

The title of this post includes my favorite Styx song and you won’t find it on many Top 10 lists. Penned and sung by their lead guitarist, Tommy Shaw, “Man in the Wilderness” is very reflective and asks what am I all about? Here are some sample lyrics:

Another year has passed me by, still I look at myself and cry. What kind of man have I become?

All of the years I’ve spent in search of myself. And I’m still in the dark. ‘Cause I can’t seem to find the light alone.

Sometimes I feel like a man in the wilderness. I’m a lonely soldier off to war. Sent away to die, never quite knowing why. Sometimes it makes no sense at all. Makes no sense at all

The original band that hit it big in 1975 after Shaw joined them included Dennis DeYoung, the primary lead singer and key songwriter, James Young and the Panozzo brothers, Chuck and John. DeYoung penned many of the more mystical songs and his voice is as good as they come. My personal favorite of DeYoung’s is “Suite Madame Blue” which was written for the bi-centennial, but whose lyrics would be meaningful today as he speaks of America needing to reinvent itself, while remaining optimistic that it still can:

Red white, and blue gaze in your looking glass. You’re not a child anymore.

Red, white, and blue the future is all but past. So lift up your heart, and make a new start. And lead us away from here

DeYoung wrote and sang the lead on such tremendous hits as “Come Sail Away,” “Lorelei,” “Lady,” “Grand Illusion,” and “Light-up.” He also wrote some of the more pop songs in the 1980’s such as “Mr. Roboto” and “Babe” which were good, but caused the friction the band could never resolve. In fact, DeYoung does not tour with the band anymore and only Shaw and Young remain. One of the Panozzo’s (John) has passed away and Chuck only joins the band on occasion such as at a recent taped concert session which highlighted two of their albums – Pieces of Eight and Grand Illusion.  The current band is excellent and the cast is very talented and strong. I caught them in Milwaukee at the SummerFest in 2011 and they put on a great show.

The songs written by DeYoung above are all worth listening too, but they tend to show up on everyone’s Top Ten list. Another favorite of his that does not get as much airplay now is “Castle Walls.” It is vintage DeYoung and here is why:

Once in a dream, far beyond these castle walls. Down by the bay where the moonlit water falls.

I stood alone while the minstrel sang his song. So afraid I’d lost my soul.

There in the fog his song kept calling me. Leading me on with its haunting melody.

Deep in my heart a voice kept echoing. I knew I’d soon be wandering. Far beyond these castle walls.

With DeYoung’s voice and organ playing, John’s drumming and Shaw, Young and Chuck’s rhythmic guitars and bass, DeYoung would turn these words into magic.  Yet, let me highlight a few other songs, as the group was not all about mystical lyrics. My third favorite Styx song was written by Shaw before he joined the band and he brought it with him – “Crystal Ball.” While the title is the ethereal, it also is a reflection of what am I going to do next in my life?

I used to like to walk the straight and narrow line. I used to think everything was fine.

Sometimes I’d sit and gaze for days through sleepless dreams. All alone and trapped in time. All alone and trapped in time.

I wonder what tomorrow has in mind for me? Or am I even in its mind at all?

Perhaps I’ll get a chance to look ahead and see. Soon as I find myself a crystal ball.

Shaw also penned and sang about some of the more concrete trials and tribulations in “Blue Collar Man” and “Renegade,” but any inventory of great Styx songs must also include the contributions of James Young. “Miss America” is one of their better songs and is emblematic of the rougher edge of the band, while still telling a good story:

Are you really who we think you are? Or does your smile seem to wear your down.

Is the girl who you once were. Screaming to jump out?

Is the dream that you must live. A disease for which there is no cure.

This song speaks to the act that young women play to become Miss America. They cannot afford to be themselves. He asks is the real you screaming to jump out, which is a very insightful query.

For Styx fans, I am sure I have left off several of your favorite songs. They have a huge body of work. And, please do not construe this as a slight on the later songs, some of which I noted above. They are very good, but different from the earlier work and caused the band to break up over differences in direction.That is unfortunate, but not unusual for bands. Most bands do not make it as long as they did. To their credit, Styx’s  body of work can stand up to many and if you catch the current tour, you will be greatly entertained. Listen out for “Man in the Wilderness.” It is very powerful when heard live, as are most of their songs.

.