Great, but flawed
By God of Thunder
This album came out during a time when creative difference between Dennis DeYoung, and Shaw and JY flared up. Dennis wanted to do concept albums and soft ballads. The other two just wanted to rock. This album is supposed to go in Dennis's direction, but Tommy's songs don't fit the theme. I'm not sure if JY's songs were intended to fit the theme either. The result is a very good but very confusing album, in which if you can understand the concept without doing any research, I applaud you. Dennis's idea was to use a former theater in Chicago, that was opened in 1928 and torn down in 1958, as a metaphor for the rise and fall of America. The album starts off with "A.D. 1928" which is an introduction to the album, the theater, and it segues into the next song, "Rockin' the Paradise," which depicts that everything is going well and everybody's having fun (the roraing 20's perhaps?). The theater, the country, paradise, ... everything is going great at this point. Then we have "Too Much Time on my Hands," whichI'm not sure how or if this song fits the theme. It could be argued that maybe it depicts people getting tired of paradise, and now they're just bored and looking for new ways to have fun, but I doubt that's what Tommy had in mind. Doesn't matter though, because it's a GREAT song. Next there's "Nothing Ever Goes as Planned," which is a good song, but I don't see how it fits the theme. Then there's the big hit "The Best of Times," a song that depicts "the end of paradise" (the Great Depression), but as bad as things are, Dernnis escapes his misery by being with his sweetheart and suddenly "the worst of times" become "the best of times." and everything in America is going horribly wrong Personally, I don't like the song, but this is masterful songwriting from dennis. He created a song that fits both the theme and the tastes of musical listeners. Casual radio listeners don't care about the theme, but people love ballads about love like this, which is why the song peaked at #3 on the Billboard charts. When you get the album, you realize this song does fit the theme masterfully. I have much respect to Dennis for this. Then there's "Lonely People," a brilliant song that depicts how miserable a lot of people in America are. Then there's the one song I don't like, "She Cares," that does not seem to fit the theme. Then JY gives us "Snow Blind," which is interesting. The itunes reviewer says it's a song about drug addiction, but given the context of the concept of the album, I interpreted this song as being about a guy looking in the mirror wondering why he is so miserable in what was supposed to be paradise. He's "Snow Blind" because he thought he was seeing paradise but really he was seeing misery. I may have that wrong though. Great song either way. Then we have the album's heaviest song, "Half Penny Two Penny," which depicts that things are now so miserable, people are moving out of America so they can be free. And then "A.D. 1958" depicts the end of the theater, the end of paradise, and the end of happiness in America. As a collection of songs individually, this is a great album. As a thematic album, it is very confusing due to the fact that not everyone was on board with the idea. Personally, I prefer the albums Crystal Ball, The Grand Illusion, and Pieces of Eight. But if you're a Styx fan, Paradise Theater is an album worth owning.