I would say that 1981 had something great and that would be the release of Paradise Theater.
Styx has a great comeback from what I would say was a lacking release the 2 years previous, Cornerstone.
Track 1, A.D. 1928
Dennis De Young starts off on vocals with a player piano backing him which fades into;
Track 2, Rockin' The Paradise
Singing about how "our generation" need to look to the future, and that with determination, cheating the "schemers who cheat all the rules" and fighting back against (white collar) corruption can advance the country.
Track 3, Too Much Time On My Hands
It starts out with a wicked synth slide downwards and then into the main deep beat. Chuck's bass comes in following with John on the drums. Tommy breaks in talking about how he's so bored with life and is suprised he's not crazy. The chorus "is it any wonder I've got to much" *CLAP* *CLAP* time on my hands" became (and still is) one of those things that when it's played live, you clap because it's such a fun song.
We get a wonderful guitar solo break coming back into the final verses and then the "wind down" clock rings fade the song out.
Track 4, Lonely People
I would say this is one of the "weaker" songs on the album. I love a lot of Styx songs and this by far is still up there but I would say I prefer to listen to others before this one.
A common theme in a lot of the songs on this album include some Saxophone and Horns playing and we get that here, first the song openes with a nice bass and guitar track, and Dennis comes in on vocals.
Talking about having it all and having the "GQ" blues, then switching to working "the dame damn job for 13 years" and you've saved for a paradise vacation, but when you arrive it's a disaster.
Overall a very catchy song with a guitar and sax solo.
Track 5, The Best Of Times
This song is a classic. It starts with the same notes as A.D. 1928 with Dennis on vocals playing a piano.
All I can say is that this is really a great Rock Ballad and it is a song that shows some of the best of this album.
The harmonies, the double-tracked guitar solo and everything have been turned into a wonderful soundtrack and the lyrics and vocals by Dennis are superb. The Best and Worst of times looked at, but in the end The best of times, are when I'm alone with you"
Track 6, Lonely People. I think this is the weakest track on the album but still not too bad. It starts off with a rainy night and the sound of a man playing his Saxophone. His neighbor in the apartment is angry and starts banging telling him to stop.
John Panozzo starts off on the drums and is followed by a Brass Band, the music stops and fades and Dennis starts on vocals along with a bass and drum line.
Singing about an old movie house being torn down and the memories he has. And the "Lonely people" above and below the streets.
Track 7, She Cares
This is really a Tommy Shaw Rock Ballad. Talking about a love with whom he tried to stay true to but had problems, they had their troubles but she is always with him. This song includes some acoustic guitar, piano, a sax solo and some good music.
Track 8, Showblind
JY is always the harder rocker so his songs are typically heavier than any of the other songs. So it seems misplaced but it's still a great song.
Initially censors thought this song played backwards had to deal with satanism, even though it's clearly about cocaine. I believe at the time Tommy was now just starting into it and it's talking about how it's "Harmless and innocent, you devil in white"
It's got some great harmonies in here and a nice synth line. The guitar solo is solid and overall it's a great song on this album.
Track 9, Half-Penny, Two-Penny
JY opens fast, with a great guitar riff. with the vocals talking pretty much about money and the problems it causes. "Justice for money what can you say. We all know it's the American way" using the song for the most part to talk about the decay of America and using an interlude in the song with the noise of construction. The Paradise Theater is being ripped down and a passer by sees his buddy the construction worker and talks about it. Then a great fast paced solo from JY breaks into the final verses.
Track 10, AD 1958
Half-Penny, Two-Penny fades into this track which has the final set of lyrics.
And so, my friends, we'll say goodnight,
for time has claimed his prize,
but tonight can always last,
as long as we keep alive,
the memories of Paradise
Track 11, Street Side Sadie
This is a quick little piano diddy after the album has completed.
Overall this really is a great album, especially if you want more than just the Greatest Hits. Along with Grand Illusion, Pieces of Eight and Even Cornerstone you pretty much get their hits and a few gems that never got much radio play.