The Grand Illusion

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The Grand Illusion
Styx - The Grand Illusion.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedJuly 7, 1977
Recorded1977 at Paragon Recording Studios, Chicago
Styx chronology
Crystal Ball
The Grand Illusion
Pieces of Eight
Singles from The Grand Illusion
  1. "Come Sail Away"
    Released: August 1977 (US) [1]
  2. "Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)"
    Released: January 1978 (US) [2]
Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4/5 stars [3]
The Daily Vault(B-) (1998) [4]
B (2006) [5]
Rolling Stone(favorable) [6]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide2.5/5 stars [7]

The Grand Illusion is the seventh studio album by Styx. Recorded at Paragon Recording Studios in Chicago, the album was released on July 7, 1977. 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.

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 mid-to-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're not what they appear.[8]

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 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.[9]

"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).[10] 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.[11] The composition features a number of time signature changes. The intro and outro are performed in 6/8 time, led by Shaw's acoustic guitar tracks and DeYoung's synthesizer melodies. The vocal sections of the song are in 4/4. The instrumental features a synthesizer solo in 7/4 time, before returning to 4/4 for the final chorus. After a brief intro recap, there is a brief break with two measures of 5/8 time, and then a return to the 6/8 meter, with another synthesizer solo, before fading out.

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)[12] 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


  1. ^ "Styx singles".
  2. ^ "Styx singles".
  3. ^ DeGagne, Mike. Styx: The Grand Illusion at AllMusic. Retrieved April 29, 2020.
  4. ^ Christopher Thelen (1998-08-08). "The Daily Vault Music Review: Styx - The Grand Illusion (1977)". The Daily Vault. Retrieved 2013-02-09.
  5. ^ Melanie Love (2006-06-13). "The Daily Vault Music Review: Styx - The Grand Illusion (1977)". The Daily Vault. Retrieved 2013-02-09.
  6. ^ Joe Fernbacher (1977-11-03). "Rolling Stone Music Reviews: Styx - The Grand Illusion". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2011-08-13.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ "Styx and their long fall from grace".
  9. ^ Fox, Doug. "Styx: Welcome to "The Grand Illusion/Pieces of Eight" show". Daily Herald. Retrieved 2019-10-22.
  10. ^ Mitchell, Jay. "Behind The Song Come Sail Away". Behind The Song.
  11. ^ Styx Shaw 1982 Mary Turner, retrieved 2021-10-23
  12. ^ 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.

External links[edit]