The Grand Illusion

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The Grand Illusion
Studio album by
ReleasedJuly 7, 1977
StudioParagon Recording Studios, Chicago
Styx chronology
Crystal Ball
The Grand Illusion
Pieces of Eight
Singles from The Grand Illusion
  1. "Come Sail Away"
    Released: September 1977 (US)
  2. "Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)"
    Released: February 1978 (US)
Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic [1]
The Daily Vault(B-) (1998) [2]
B (2006) [3]
Rolling Stone(favorable) [4]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide [5]

The Grand Illusion is the seventh studio album by American rock band Styx. Recorded at Paragon Recording Studios in Chicago, the album was released on July 7, 1977, by A&M Records, intentionally choosing the combination 7th on 7-7-77 for luck[citation needed]. The release was a smash worldwide, selling three million copies in the US (Triple Platinum) alone. Some estimates have the album at over 6 million copies sold. The album launched the band to stardom and spawned the hit singles "Come Sail Away" and "Fooling Yourself." The title track also received substantial FM airplay, but was never released as an official single.

The album cover art is based on Rene Magritte's 1965 painting, "The Blank Signature."

Background and songs[edit]

As with much of Styx's catalog, many of the songs have quasi-medieval/fantasy lyrics and themes. Some are allegories and commentaries on contemporary American life and the members' experiences in an American rock band in the late 1970s, such as "Castle Walls," "Superstars," "Miss America" and the title track, which touches on "The Grand Illusion" of fame and fortune and how they are not what they appear.[6]

Classic Rock critic Malcolm Dome rated the title track as Styx all-time greatest song. He also rated "Come Sail Away" as the band's 7th greatest song.[7]

Tommy Shaw wrote the emotionally deep song "Man in the Wilderness" after watching a Kansas performance in Detroit, which they had played as the opening act. He has called it "Epic! Unlike any presentation of rock music I'd ever experienced. To go that big opened up all kinds of ideas in my mind, and the next time I was alone with my acoustic, the song more or less unfolded itself." The acoustic rocker’s lyrics stem from his experiences of rising to fame with Styx as well as his brother being sent off to fight in the Vietnam War, as a pawn for the strategies of politicians in Washington, D.C.[8]

"Come Sail Away" uses sailing as a metaphor to achieve one's dreams and the yearning to sail away. The lyrics touch on nostalgia of "childhood friends," escapism, and a religious theme symbolized by "a gathering of angels" singing "a song of hope." The ending lyrics explain a transformation from a sailing ship into a starship: "They climbed aboard their starship and headed for the skies," words evoking biblical verses from Ezekiel (1:1-28).[9] However, DeYoung revealed on In the Studio with Redbeard (which devoted an entire episode to the making of The Grand Illusion) that he was depressed when he wrote the track because Styx's first two A&M offerings, Equinox and Crystal Ball, had sold fewer units than expected after the success of the single "Lady." Musically, it combines a plaintive, ballad-like opening section (including piano and synthesizer interludes) with a bombastic, guitar-heavy second half. In the middle of the second half it features a minute-long instrumental break on synthesizer, characteristic of progressive rock, after which the guitar returns with a catchy chorus.

"Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)" was written by Shaw. It was originally based on Shaw's initial perception of DeYoung who was an "angry young man" who viewed the group's successes with a wary eye and grew angry or depressed with every setback. It was only in later years that Shaw began to see himself in the lyrics, and the song took on a more personal meaning to him.[10]

The closing track, "The Grand Finale," combines the themes of the songs on the album.

Track listing[edit]

Side one
No.TitleWriter(s)Lead vocalsLength
1."The Grand Illusion"DeYoungDeYoung4:36
2."Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)"ShawShaw5:28
3."Superstars"Young, DeYoung, ShawShaw, DeYoung (Spoken Part)4:00
4."Come Sail Away"DeYoungDeYoung6:07
Side two
No.TitleWriter(s)Lead vocalsLength
5."Miss America"YoungYoung5:02
6."Man in the Wilderness"ShawShaw5:50
7."Castle Walls"DeYoungDeYoung6:00
8."The Grand Finale"DeYoung, Young, ShawDeYoung1:57






Chart (1977/78) Peak position
Australia (Kent Music Report)[11] 49
U.S. Billboard 200 6


Name Chart (1977) Peak position
"Come Sail Away" U.S. Billboard Hot 100 8
"Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)" 29


Region Certification Certified units/sales
Canada (Music Canada)[12] Platinum 100,000^
United States (RIAA)[13] 3× Platinum 3,000,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.


  1. ^ DeGagne, Mike. Styx: The Grand Illusion at AllMusic. Retrieved April 29, 2020.
  2. ^ Christopher Thelen (1998-08-08). "The Daily Vault Music Review: Styx - The Grand Illusion (1977)". The Daily Vault. Retrieved 2013-02-09.
  3. ^ Melanie Love (2006-06-13). "The Daily Vault Music Review: Styx - The Grand Illusion (1977)". The Daily Vault. Retrieved 2013-02-09.
  4. ^ Joe Fernbacher (1977-11-03). "Rolling Stone Music Reviews: Styx - The Grand Illusion". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2011-08-13.
  5. ^ Brackett, Nathan; Christian Hoard (2004). The Rolling Stone Album Guide. New York City, New York: Simon and Schuster. p. 789. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8. rolling stone styx album guide.
  6. ^ "Styx and their long fall from grace". 3 December 2015.
  7. ^ Dome, Malcolm (February 18, 2022). "The 10 best Styx songs". Classic Rock. Louder Music. Retrieved 2022-06-19.
  8. ^ Fox, Doug. "Styx: Welcome to "The Grand Illusion/Pieces of Eight" show". Daily Herald. Retrieved 2019-10-22.
  9. ^ Mitchell, Jay (28 December 2013). "Behind The Song Come Sail Away". Behind The Song.
  10. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: Styx Shaw 1982 Mary Turner, retrieved 2021-10-23
  11. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 297. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  12. ^ "Canadian album certifications – Styx – The Great Illusion". Music Canada. Retrieved 2 April 2022.
  13. ^ "American album certifications – Styx – The Great Illusion". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 2 April 2022.

External links[edit]