Name: “Crystal Ball”
Release date: 1976
Favorite track: “Shooz”
I have several Styx albums, filed with the rest of my collection in alphabetical order.
Every week, when I select a record to feature, I skip the Styx stack.
It’s not because I don’t like the band; I just don’t know ‘em. I honestly have no idea where those five or six records even came from.
When my boyfriend and I went home to visit family in Oklahoma, I told his parents about my untouched section of Styx albums, saying, “I don’t know one of the band’s songs.” They responded, “Oh, yes, you do.”
They played a few of Styx’s greatest hits on YouTube, and sure enough, they were right. Several, if not all, were familiar to me. It was fun hearing their perspectives about the group.
Now, almost a year later, I’m not afraid to pull out a Styx album for a vinyl feature. I didn’t choose the band’s sixth studio album, “Crystal Ball,” for any specific reason.
Before I dive into this album, I also wanted to let you know how psyched I am for Record Store Day Black Friday on Nov. 23. Much like Record Store Day in April, it means many independent record stores will offer exclusive releases. The list is available at RecordStoreDay.com/SpecialReleases.
I probably will try to snag a few items from FWB Vintage Records. I have my eye on Outkast's "Rosa Parks," Lake Street Dive's "Freak Yourself Out" and Sublime's "Greatest Hits."
I was automatically intrigued with this record when I saw Claude Debussy’s “Clair De Lune” on the track list. I’m a fan. The title is French for “light of the moon” if you didn’t know.
I started with “Clair De Lune/Ballerina” to alleviate my curiosity. The track is a Freddie Mercurylike grandeur.
It’s a fun listen. There is what I assume is a nod to the song on the album’s cover.
“Put Me On” is a natural album opener. I hate to throw out the overused term “high-energy,” but it’s just that. The progressive track would make an ideal concert opener, too.
It completely shifts to a slower pace near the three-minute mark, an interesting transition from hard rock to soft rock. I should confess now, I’m not a huge fan of progressive rock. I don’t hate it, but I definitely don’t love it.
I love the song title, “Mademoiselle,” and equally enjoy the lyrics. The surface level concept of a fascination with a jet-setting, mysterious woman charms me.
This was the first album to feature guitarist Tommy Shaw, and “Mademoiselle” was the first track to feature his vocals. It was also the first released single from the record.
Tell me where are you going
To London or Paris
To the Grand Hotel
Where do you go at the end of the day
Where do you go, when you spend time away
I’ve told you once (in my column), and I’ll tell you again. Names as song titles are a guilty pleasure. I instantly liked “Jennifer” because of its name alone.
The song itself really brings to mind Men at Work’s tropical sound and coy, tongue-in-cheek lyrics. It’s also a bit funky. The chanting reminds me of some of my favorite funk musicians, such as Earth, Wind & Fire.
The title track is a fundamentally good song with an inherently cool theme. The idea of a crystal ball, or seeing into the future, is an obviously interesting concept for a song — even more so for one that’s a touch experimental.
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
— “Crystal Ball”
“Shooz” is bluesy from the get-go. It feels like walking into a biker bar, and I love it — and I’m picky about blues songs.
Shaw played slide guitar for this track to give it that sound. ZZ Top lovers must dig this.
The album cover features, you guessed it, a crystal ball. It definitely has the same psychedelic vibes and dark graphics as some of my other records from the same time frame.