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Caught in the Act (Live)

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Album Review

Styx was one of the titans of the hugely popular AOR movement — along with Boston, Foreigner, Journey, and REO Speedwagon — embraced by the U.S. mainstream in the late '70s and early '80s. The end of the Chicago-based band's peak period coincided with one of the most ambitious and notorious projects of the time, the 1983 concept album Kilroy Was Here. Styx's tour to promote the album was a highly theatrical production based on the story line, which was conceived by vocalist/keyboardist Dennis DeYoung. The Kilroy Was Here tour was preserved for 1984's Caught in the Act: Live home video and double-live album (with identical cover art but different track listings and running orders).

To make sense of it all, it's important to first understand Kilroy Was Here. The story concerns a futuristic, ultra-conservative, right-wing society that has outlawed rock & roll and enforces censorship. DeYoung plays a rock star named Robert Orin Charles Kilroy (note the acronym) who is framed for a murder during one of his concerts. The crime was actually planned by the malevolent Dr. Everett Righteous, the founder and leader of the Majority for Musical Morality (MMM), who is played by vocalist/guitarist James Young. Bass guitarist Chuck Panozzo plays Lt. Vanish, and drummer John Panozzo plays Col. Hyde; they are Righteous' henchmen. Kilroy is wrongly convicted and sent to a prison ship. This prison features Robotos — robots mass-produced in Japan that take over many jobs performed by humans (a subplot that would also become relevant in real life). Vocalist/guitarist Tommy Shaw plays Jonathan Chance, the leader of an underground movement determined to bring back rock & roll and clear Kilroy's name. He manages to cut into an MMM mind-control television broadcast and play footage of a Kilroy concert. Chance's actions inspire Kilroy to overpower a Roboto guard, disguise himself as one, and escape. He leaves graffiti around the city as a message to Chance, and they meet up at the Paradise Theater (the title of Styx's chart-topping 1981 album), which is now the Museum of Rock Pathology that Righteous created using robots to re-enact Kilroy's last concert. Much of the rest unfolds as a normal concert CD with Styx cranking out hits and fan favorites like "Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)," "Snowblind" (with Young mentioning censorship legislation efforts by the government in his intro), "Too Much Time on My Hands," and "Come Sail Away." A few Kilroy Was Here songs like "Don't Let It End."

Styx always suffered the slings and arrows of critics, but the band really took a beating for the Kilroy Was Here album and tour. This fact, along with long-gestating internal tensions, resulted in Styx splitting up for several years while the members pursued solo projects. So, what about the big picture here? Perhaps the idea of music censorship seems silly, and looking back Kilroy Was Here and Caught in the Act: Live might appear heavy-handed and overwrought to some people almost 25 years after their release, but cultural and religious conservatives had truly stirred up the U.S. population at the time. They claimed that many rock artists' music and lyrics, including that of Styx, was a bad influence, and some of it was downright evil due to subliminal, backward satanic messages deliberately hidden in the music itself. (This alleged recording practice is also known as "backmasking.") But within two years this hysteria resulted in the formation of the Parents Music Resource Center by several Washington wives (who, to paraphrase a Styx classic, obviously had too much time on their hands), U.S. Senate hearings, and the bullying of the recording industry to "voluntarily" label albums with a "Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics" sticker if it was decided they included potentially offensive content. Quite simply, at the time of Kilroy Was Here and Caught in the Act: Live, the censorship issue was serious business, and Styx was fighting it head on. Rock & roll will always be under fire from certain segments of society, but the degree changes depending on the times and the political and cultural forces in power. Therefore, the topic of music censorship is both dated and timely, although by 2007 rap was in critics' crosshairs more than rock & roll. [Caught in the Act: Live is certainly the definitive Styx home video release. The only real drawback is the lack of liner notes, but the DVD, with the concert and music videos, captures Styx at its creative and commercial prime between 1977 and 1984.]

Customer Reviews

Great recording with original lineup

This album is a landmark from one of the best "progressive-rock" bands during their original heyday. This features songs recorded during their Kilroy tour, which was more of a theatrical experience than anything else, but if you are a fan of the original lineup this is a must have.

Crossing the River Styx

Captures the band at their live best. Has all the old classics from the band - including killer versions of Suite Madame Blue, Crystal Ball, Miss America and Blue Collar Man. Of course the Come Sail Away version is great as well. This is truely one of the best live rock albums you will find.

My Favorite Album Ever

This Album is one stunning hit after another. Suite Madame Blue has some of the all time vocals you will ever here and the Guitar solo near the end is 2nd to none. Crystal Ball is worth hearing over and over. Sadly this album was recorded as the band was falling apart from the Babe, Mr. Roboto rift in the band. 4 members wanted to ROCK and Dennis who I admire as a Rock Star was expanding his musical horizons??? With three lead singers Styx was and is one of the great bands of all time and their music will be played 100 years from now.


Formed: 1970 in Chicago, IL

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Although they began as an artsy prog rock band, Styx would eventually transform into the virtual arena rock prototype by the late '70s and early '80s, due to a fondness for bombastic rockers and soaring power ballads. The seeds for the band were planted in another Chicago band during the late '60s, the Tradewinds, which featured brothers Chuck and John Panozzo (who played bass and drums, respectively), as well as acquaintance Dennis DeYoung (vocals, keyboards). By the dawn of the '70s, the group...
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