It was 1977 when Chicago-based progressive rock band Styx released their seventh studio album, The Grand Illusion. Having been formed five years prior, the band became renowned for the contrasts in their sound, juggling hard rock guitar with acoustic; synthesizers with acoustic piano and upbeat tracks with power ballads in a theatrical sort of way. While their early releases brought them moderate success, it was The Grand Illusion that granted them breakout recognition, with over three million copies sold in the US alone (Triple Platinum) and hit singles like “Come Sail Away” and “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man).”
I was 15 when The Grand Illusion came out and played the LP nonstop at home, so I was quickly taken down memory lane when I came across this 2016 video of lead singer Tommy Shaw performing “Fooling Yourself,” his own composition, with the Cleveland-based Contemporary Youth Orchestra (CYO). Shaw was 24 at the time of the original release and 63 when he performed the song with the CYO. It is the only youth orchestra in the US dedicated to the study and performance of contemporary orchestral repertoire and aside from commissioning new works since their founding in 1995, the CYO collaborates with a variety of rock artists through their annual series ‘Rock the Orchestra,’ which has included the likes of Graham Nash, Pat Benatar, Jefferson Starship and such.
Given the apparent age of most of the orchestra members, it is undoubtful that they would have come across the music of Styx or any of the other rock musicians outside of the realm of the orchestra’s mission and watching them perform the music with sheer delight sent chills down my spine.
I remember being thrilled by the song because of lead keyboardist Dennis DeYoung’s melodic solos (performed on an Oberheim synthesizer) dominating the mix, as well as the numerous time signature changes that happen throughout the song, from the introduction (6/8) to the vocal sections of the song (4/4) to the synthesizer solo (7/4) and such.
In order to refresh your memory, here is ‘Fooling Yourself’ as performed by the Contemporary Youth Orchestra with special guest Tommy Shaw:
For comparison, here is the original version:
Does this music bring back memories or is this your first time being exposed to it? Feel free to share your comments below!