Regeneration, Volume I & II

Styx

It's one thing to record a show of hits; it's another to step into a recording studio and re-record those same hits. And when you do that, you can do one of two things: change it or leave it the same. Some of the more creative types — far too numerous to name — reinvent the songs, embellish them with new rhythms or tempos, different instruments, key changes, another singer. Some fans find those kind of changes difficult to swallow. So much for experimentation, huh? Well at least Styx pretty much left things alone on the double Regeneration, Volume I & II.

Originally for sale exclusively at their live shows, Regeneration Volume I & II was meant for fans, which may explain the lack of extreme alteration of 16 classic hits from the band and Damn Yankees. It definitely works as a way of introducing the current lineup of the band, which, in addition to long-standing members James Young, Tommy Shaw and Chuck Panozzo, also features keyboardist Lawrence Gowan, bassist Ricky Phillips and drummer Todd Sucherman. And I'll go so far as to say that from a technical standpoint, these recordings definitely pack a more dynamic punch than their previously recorded counterparts.

In addition to 13 Styx favorites, there's new one called "Difference In The World." It's a rather harmless, tepid track without the hooks the band is known for. Gowan's vocals on "The Grand Illusion," "Lorelei" and "Come Sail Away" are liable to upset the Dennis De Young disciples out there, but they're serviceable at best. In concert, Gowan is really in his element; here he is merely redoing a famous vocal. As a keyboardist, he does get to step out of line once or twice during the break on "Come Sail Away."

"Blue Collar Man" is one song that didn't need to be re-recorded, partly because this version is so much like the original — save for the modern reverb, Gowan's harmony and slinky solo — you'd think it was the original. Young doesn't fare much better with "Miss America," although his vocal on the song seems a tart more succinct. And somehow through it all, when Styx re-recorded "Coming Of Age" and "High Enough," they managed sound eerily like Damn Yankees. OK, so Tommy Shaw is in both bands, but still…it makes you wonder.

I can listen to Regeneration, Volume I & II with a certain amount of appreciation for what little detours they do take (along with the musicianship — Sucherman is a monster drummer), but I still have to scratch my head and wonder why they didn't just go ahead and cut a new batch of songs. Studio time is studio time. But then it hits me. Perhaps like so many other classic rock bands, they simply don't have the desire to compete with their past. Better to just go with your best stuff, I suppose. Come sail away…

~ Shawn Perry

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