On this day in music history: July 7, 1977 – &…

On this day in music history: July 7, 1977 – “The Grand Illusion”, the seventh album by Styx is released. Produced by Styx, it is recorded at Paragon Studios in Chicago, IL from Early – Mid 1977. Making significant headway since moving from Wooden Nickel/RCA Records to A&M in 1975, Styx head back into the studio at the beginning of 1977 in between tours to record their seventh studio release. With lead vocalist and keyboardist Dennis DeYoung leading the way, the band’s next album features five of the eight songs written or co-written by him. The tracks are bonded together by a loose concept of struggling “for meaning in life in an increasingly consumerist society”. The centerpiece of the album is the epic power ballad “Come Sail Away” (#8 Pop), a six minute plus long track that is split into two movements. Beginning as a gentle piano based ballad, it increases into a up tempo bombastic rocker led by DeYoung’s spirited lead vocal. The song is an immediate smash on rock radio, and though cut thoroughly in half when it is released as a single, “Come Sail Away” crosses over to Top 40 pop radio, and quickly becomes one of Styx’s signature songs. The song is later parodied on the animated series “South Park” in the episode “Chef Aid” when it is sung by Eric Cartman (Trey Parker). Spinning off another single with the Tommy Shaw penned “Fooling Yourself (Angry Young Man)” (#29 Pop), “Illusion” provides the Chicago based rock band with their long awaited breakthrough. It becomes their most successful album to date and the first of five consecutive million or multi-million sellers. The LP’s now iconic cover artwork is painted by San Francisco based artists Alton Kelley and Stanley Mouse, best known for their famed album covers for Journey, The Steve Miller Band and The Grateful Dead. Kelley and Mouse base their cover art on the painting “Le Blanc-Seing” by Belgian surrealist artist René Magritte. Original press run copies of the LP come packaged with a 24" x 24" poster of the band. Originally released on CD in 1984, the album is remastered and reissued in 2008 as a SHM-CD in Japan. It is also remastered and reissued as a 180 gram vinyl LP by Friday Music in 2011, and a later reissue by UMe in 2015. “The Grand Illusion” peaks at number six on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 3x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.