Tag Archives: Styx

Which 70s and 80s bands deserve a critical rehabilitation?

This is prompted by some comments deep within the comments thread of a rather silly Alan McGee post on The Guardian Music Blog by Jasonaparkes and Jforbes, which speculated as to which half-forgotten or critically maligned acts deserve a non-ironic critical rehabilitation.

Not that I’m talking about mainstream critical opinion here, not the opinion of actual rock fans.

  • Dire Straits: If you don’t come from Britain you’ll probably be amazed at the way Dire Straits have acquired the critical pariah status they have.  They tend to get lumped in with Phil Collins as the music people who bought two or three albums a year listened to, while all the self-described cool people were busy listening to jangly indie. While it’s true that, at least around the time of the mega-selling “Brothers in Arms” that they did attract the attention of very large numbers of annoying people called ‘Kevin’, that’s not a fair way to judge the actual music.  While their music suffered from the occasional lapse of taste, a distressing proportion of which got released as singles to be lapped up by the Kevins, most of their albums, especially “Love Over Gold” stand up well; some very witty lyrics and fantastic guitar playing.
  • Supertramp: I have to confess all-but forgetting this band until I recently picked up their live double “Paris” a few months back.   Seventies soft-rock has never been the most fashionable of genres, but I’d forgotten just how good they were.   Another band for which their commercial singles don’t really represent what they were about; it’s the prog epics like “Crime of the Century” and “Fools Overture” where they shine.
  • Styx: Another band I had to completely reassess recently.   When I saw them supporting Deep Purple a couple of years back their barnstorming live performance completely blew the headliners away. Sometimes big vocal harmonies and hard rock guitars go together well.  The 70s production values of their albums sound a bit tame now, but as they showed live, the songs themselves stand up.
  • Journey: Yes, I’m talking about the 80s commercial version of the band rather than the early 70s jazz/prog outfit. Yes, some of their power ballads descended deep into Camembert territory, but they could also be a great hard rock band when they want to, another case of listen to the albums, not just the single. And Neil Schon is an incredible guitarist – his jazz-metal shredding sound like no-one else.
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