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Cornerstone
Styx

A&M 3711
Released: October 1979
Chart Peak: #2
Weeks Charted: 60
Certified 2X Platinum: 11/14/84

If you take away the 2001: A Space Odyssey pretensions of Cornerstone's cover art, the social observations of "Why Me" and "Borrowed Time" and the orchestral deployment of Dennis DeYoung's synthesizers, Styx can be appreciated for what they are: an overambitious but impeccably professional pop group.

Styx has always understood the value of a good hook and the guitar riff or vocal harmony to carry it: on their early LPs for Wooden Nickel, they recorded a cover version of Todd Rundgren's "Broke Down and Busted" and the Knickerbockers' protopunk raver, "Lies." Plenty of platinum later, the band still puts its music where the money is. "Babe" and "First Time" are both lush DeYoung ballads, the latter fortified by Styx' trademark harmonies and the Wagnerian fuzz of overdubbed electric guitars in the manner of their 1973 hit, "Lady." "Lights," enlivened by a bouncy beat and a hint of horns, boasts yet another hook on which you could hang your AM radio. And guitarist Tommy Shaw's exuberant "Never Say Never," a winning shot of pop & roll bolstered by a surprisingly aggressive beat, outshines the lot.

Too often, though, Styx falls prey to their own ambitions as art-rockers, and Cornerstone is no exception. "Love in the Midnight" is a particularly melodramatic exercise. The shrieks of a synthesizer in full solo, a brooding satanic chorus, the gentle acoustic prelude -- it's all there, all unnecessary and applied with an extremely heavy hand. Styx already has the hooks and harmonies to carry the day as the Midwest's hard-rock answer to Abba. The rest is just a grand illusion.

- David Fricke, Rolling Stone, 12/13/79.

Bonus Reviews!

This release does not deviate from the high gloss, professional rock that listeners have come to expect from this quintet. The nine cuts offer a nice balance between rockers, ballads and midtempo numbers. One cut, "Boat On The River," sounds like a European folk song while "Why Me" contains a hot saxophone solo by Steve Eisen. The other songs fit into the standard rock mold though they are highlighted by the crystal clear harmonies and high musicianship of the band members. High production standards and sumptuous sound make Styx at times sound like Queen or Supertramp. Lyrics, reflecting seemingly eternal optimism, sometimes are melodramatic. Best cuts: "Why Me," "Babe," "Borrowed Time," "Lights."

- Billboard, 1979.

"Babe" became Styx's first number one single and its accompanying album, Cornerstone, saw the band expanding their pop accessibility without dispensing the art-rock traditions that made them famous. * * * *

- Stephen Thomas Erlewine, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

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