Tonight's The Night We'll Make History
3 Out Of 5 Stars
Once "Babe" became Styx's biggest hit ever, Dennis DeYoung began to push his vision onto the band. There was always a dichotomy in the classic Styx lineup, with DeYoung wanting to be more commercial and theatrical, while Tommy Shaw wanted to be a harder rocker. "Paradise Theater," Styx's first major attempt at a concept album, has DeYoung's imprint on it, from the theater concept of Chicago's (and thereby, America's) decline through the 70's.
The concept is pretty fizzy, even if the singles hold up well. "Too Much Time On My Hands" was a venture into MTV Video for the band, while "The Best of Times" tried to capture the big balled success of "Babe." JY got his point across on "Snowblind," again dealing in the decline of things as seen through both a coke addict's eyes and lack of a future vision. (Ditto "Nothing Ever Goes to Plan.") The opening "AD 1928/Rocking The Paradise" was a crowd-pleaser designed to wake up a stadium filled with concert goers. It's hard to ignore, however, the thinness of the production, which just screams late 70's (the album was issued in 1981).
Because of the splits between Show, DeYoung and James Young (who also wanted harder rock), "Paradise Theater" is an uneven album, even though it became the band's biggest success to date. That success solidified DeYoung's commitment to theatrical concepts, which led to the "Kilroy Was Here" album (better than this) as well as driving the band towards breaking up. JY got the last laugh on "Half Penny, Two Penny" (which was highly reminiscent of "Miss America" on "The Grand Illusion"), foretelling the teardown of the Paradise but scratching at the dissent in the band. "I wanna shake myself free, Back home across the sea, where I know I'll be free..." he shouts, just before DeYoung re-enters the stage with a solo piano to reinforce the shakey concept with "AD 1958," a longing for the good old days and keeping alive "The Memories of Paradise." The band exits with an old-timey 20's sounding piano fade, but ultimately, "Paradise Theater" was grand-thater rock: just like you remember the seventies.