Styx

Styx's classic lineup consists of Dennis DeYoung (vocals and keyboards), Tommy Shaw (vocals and guitar), James Young (vocals and guitar), Chuck Panozzo (bass), and John Panozzo (drums). Todd Sucherman joined the band on drums in 1996 after John's death, and the band fired DeYoung and replaced him with Lawrence Gowan. The band has also had a couple rotating guitar and bass players, including Glen Burtnik and Ricky Phillips.

The first song I have a clear memory of is "Mr. Roboto" around age 8 or 9. The first CD I ever own was "Styx's Greatest Hits." I purchased the second Greatest Hits album, as well as "Big Bang Theory" and "Cyclorama," but that was all I knew until I started collecting records. Up until this point, I had been ignorant of the DeYoung/Shaw drama (I also wasn't alive when most of it happened). I was now able to appreciate all of Styx's catalog, both old and new material. At this point, I have all the studio albums, plus "Caught in the Act" (live album at the end of Styx's golden era), "Return to Paradise" (live album right before DeYoung was fired from the band, with Todd Sucherman on drums) and "Arch Allies" (double live album with REO Speedwagon, featuring the new lineup).

I think I like Styx because the songs are interesting, both lyrically and instrumentally, but still maintain the vibe of a classic rock band. DeYoung demonstrates some unique vocal qualities which I can't exactly describe (maybe a throaty, rough sound?) and an unbelievable vocal range. To be honest though, I kind of like the direction the band has taken since DeYoung left, but I've always been a fan of the harder songs, and less of the rock ballads and concept albums (even though they just released Mission). Shaw and Young are both excellent guitarists as well as impressive lead singers on many songs. As much as I like Panozzo's drumming on the classic Styx albums, I think Sucherman takes it up a notch, especially on live recordings. Put it all together and you have some amazing music with wonderful vocals and crazy instrumental parts.

Nate's Epic Styx Playlist

  1. Too Much Time on My Hands (Paradise Theater 1981)
  2. Superstars (Grand Illusion 1977)
  3. One with Everything (Cyclorama 2003)
  4. Lonely People (Paradise Theater 1981)
  5. Borrowed Time (Cornerstone 1979)
  6. Mr. Roboto (Kilroy was Here 1983)
  7. Grand Illusion (Grand Illusion 1977)
  8. Fooling Yourself (Grand Illusion 1977)
  9. Kiss Your Ass Goodbye (Cyclorama 2003)
  10. Lorelei (Equinox 1975)
  11. Best of Times (Paradise Theater 1981)
  12. Blue Collar Man (Pieces of Eight)
  13. Rockin' the Paradise (Paradise Theater 1981)
  14. Everything is Cool (Brave New World 1999)
  15. Music Time (Caught in the Act 1984)
  16. Miss America (Grand Illusion 1977)
  17. Edge of the Century (Edge of the Century 1990)
  18. Half-Penny, Two Penny (Paradise Theater 1981)
  19. Nothing Ever Goes as Planned (Paradise Theater 1981)
  20. The Grand Finale (Grand Illusion 1977)
  21. Brave New World (Brave New World 1999)
  22. Killing the Thing that You Love (Cyclorama 2003)
  23. Come Sail Away (Grand Illusion 1977)
  24. Renegade (Pieces of Eight 1978)
  25. I'm OK (Pieces of Eight 1978)
  26. Do Things My Way (Cyclorama 2003)
  27. Great White Hope (Pieces of Eight 1978)
  28. Lonely Child (Equinox 1975)

Styx (1972), Styx II (1973), The Serpent is Rising (1973), Man of Miracles (1974)

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I think Styx's early material sounds a lot like Uriah Heep for some reason. I haven't listened a ton, but these songs don't really stand out much. The most recognizable one is "Lady."

Movement for the Common Man (Styx): The first Styx song ever runs at a way-too-long 13 minutes. The ELP version of "Fanfare for the Common Man" is much better, but I'll give Styx credit because their version came out 5 years earlier.

Lady (Styx II): The most famous song to come out of these albums. It doesn't get much airplay, and it was re-recorded for the first "Greatest Hits" album in 1995. I feel like this version sounds overly rigid, but I grew up with the 1995 recording. The version on "Arch Allies" is excellent with a killer piano intro.

You Better Ask (Styx II): I like the slow groove chorus and the slightly hectic organ part.

As Bad As This (The Serpent is Rising): There's a hidden track with the title of "Plexiglass Toilet." It rates probably one of the weirdest songs I have ever heard. It tells of a mother's warning to her son, "don't sit down on the plexiglass toilet." It sounds like something out of the Muppets. You have to listen to it to believe it.

Man of Miracles (Man of Miracles): The intro for this song sounds very very very much like the intro for Muse's "Knights of Cydonia." After that, the song is alright.


Equinox (1975)

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This is Styx's first big album, breakin' into the big time! My favorite songs are "Lorelei" and "Suite Madame Blue."

Light Up: I am no expert, but I am pretty sure this song is about drugs. Maybe because of the line "all I need is just one hit to get me by" but what do I know. I really like the drawn out intro and the way the beat of the song kind of bounces, especially during the chorus. There's a cool clapping part towards the end, if you're into that sort of thing.

Lorelei: This song has started growing on me recently. I like the way the song comes together in layers, especially with the sharp staccato guitar part harmonizing with the vocals. The guitar riffs during the chorus are great too. The best part of the song comes towards the end, when it's just vocals, then the guitar comes back in with an awesome riff. There's an amazing version on "Paradise Theater" with an extended guitar solo.

Lonely Child: You have to wait a couple minutes for the song to get good, but I think it's worth the wait. The best part are the vocal harmonies, they kind of remind me of Uriah Heep.

Suite Madame Blue: This isn't necessarily my favorite Styx song, but it follows my favorite Styx formula. It starts with a haunting intro with minimal instrumentals. The band jumps in after the second verse. The song builds and builds, then gets quiet again. Then the best part: mega-jam session! I love the drum fill that brings the band back it, it's really powerful. It's similar to "Come Sail Away" and "Crystal Ball." Great versions on "Caught in the Act" and "Return to Paradise."


Crystal Ball (1976)

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This album is alright, I guess they were trying to build up some energy before they kick ass on the next album. My favorite song is "Crystal Ball."

Put Me On: I like this song because you can hear its intro on 'roids at the beginning of "Heavy Water" on the "Arch Allies" album.

Mademoiselle: I like the vocal harmonies during the choruses.

Jennifer: The best part of the song is the intro, which gets repeated throughout the song.

Crystal Ball: Another Styx-formula song, with less of a jam session. The song gets good right when they sing "IIIIIIIII just gotta knowwwwwwww" and the drum fill hits. There's a nice live version on "Caught in the Act."


The Grand Illusion (1977)

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This is definitely the best album, and it put Styx on the map in permanent marker. These songs are exceptional both musically and lyrically, hitting on themes of fame/fortune and looking for life's meaning. Guess you'll just have to give it a listen. My favorite songs (there's so many!) are "The Grand Illusion," "Fooling Yourself," "Superstars," "Miss America," and "The Grand Finale."

The Grand Illusion: Such a great way to open this album. This song has some of the most uplifting lyrics of any song I know. It's all about how we may be jealous of the perfect people we see on "radio, TV, or magazines," but it's just a "grand illusion." My favorite line, "deep in side we're all the same." The guitar solo is one of my favorites. The rhythm guitar offers a sharp, staccato harmony, with the solo containing an almost chainsaw, power-tool sound. The live versions are epic, and I think Sucherman's drums add a lot on the "Return to Paradise" and "Arch Allies" albums.

Fooling Yourself: I love the crazy synth intro, it used to remind me of what electric bagpipes would sound like (obviously my younger self had never heard bagpipes before).

Superstars: This song is da bomb. The combination of vocals and synchronized guitar parts makes it great. The solo is pretty chill, but the best part is when the band drops out and slowly builds the song back up while you hear whispers of "superstar...". This part always gives me chills.

Come Sail Away: One of the most famous Styx songs, you'll probably recognize it. This song has some of the greatest drum fills, but you have to wait over 2 minutes for any drums to come in. The piano intro is really good and the last couple minutes of the song are killer, after the band comes back in and blows your mind. The live versions on "Return to Paradise" and "Caught in the Act" are pretty similar with an extended ending with extra guitar soloing.

Miss America: The intro is great, in that it doesn't give you any idea of what's in store during the rest of the song. This is probably the hardest rockin' song on the album, with Young providing his darker, heavier vocals. There's some awesome keyboard riffs and an intense guitar solo. I really like the way the live versions on "Caught in the Act" and "Return to Paradise" start the song.

Man in the Wilderness: This song has an awesome guitar solo section that you don't really see coming. I also really like the syncopated vocal harmonies during the chorus.

Castle Walls: This song seems alright at first, but then stops, changes its mind to be more awesome, and does it. You'll know it's happening when the keyboards come in with their spooky B-horror movie sound. Honestly, the whole song is good, so enjoy the whole thing.

The Grand Finale: Man, I wish this song was longer. They take the parts of "Superstars" that give me chills, and add in lines from "Come Sail Away" and "The Grand Illusion." It needs to be longer.


Pieces of Eight (1978)

eight

This album is a good follow-up to "Grand Illusion" and there's some great songs on here. My favorite songs are "Great White Hope," "I'm OK," "Blue Collar Man," and "Renegade."

Great White Hope: I like pushy sound of the song, emphasized with the rushed drum sound and intense guitar. The song is about boxing n' stuff.

I'm OK: I love the way this song opens. It's a great song to listen to when the world's got you down, and the best thing you can say is "I'm OK." It sounds like it could be the opening song for some sort of musical. The guitar solo in the middle is pretty cool, and the backup vocals interject a few words towards the end, almost like fireworks going off.

Sing for the Day: Another energetic, uplifting song. The keyboard solo is nice.

Lords of the Ring: I just like when they sing "Lords of the Ring."

Blue Collar Man: This song is really good, but I think it's one of my favorites because of how amazing it sounds live. The short rhythm with the guitar and drums gives the song a powerful push forward. The guitar solo is sick (that's all the description I can offer), especially with the drum backbeat. Doesn't matter which live version you check out, but there is a cool one featuring both Styx and REO Speedwagon on "Arch Allies."

Queen of Spades: As with most Styx songs, it opens with a subdued vocal-heavy intro, but then picks up speed a couple minutes in for some intense guitaring. The chorus line is awesome, with the emphases on "beware of the Queen Of Spadessssss!"

Renegade: One of the most famous Styx songs. The live versions are great, but this is one song that sounds even better when you go back and listen to the studio version. The opening vocals are perfectly crisp and clear, with complete silence in between each phrase. It also has one of the most memorable guitar solos of any Styx song. It can be heard live on "Return to Paradise" and "Arch Allies," with an extended solo section at the end on both albums.


Cornerstone (1979)

corner

This album is alright, I guess Styx was saving up their energy for "Paradise Theater." My favorite songs are "Borrowed Time" and "First Time."

Lights: I like the funky instrumental interlude.

Babe: I'm not a huge fan of this song, it's too cutesy for my tastes. However, the interlude offers a few seconds of excitement. The "Return to Paradise" live version is the best one.

Boat on the River: I'm not one for acoustic guitar songs but this one is alright. I guess it's supposed to sound like an Italian romantic song, but it also sounds like something you might hear when traveling through an eastern European country.

Borrowed Time: The synth intro is pretty neat, building up quietly before the guitar screams in. I also like when DeYoung shouts "don't look now, but hear come the 80's!" The chorus is my favorite part, with the high pitched vocals and the fast paced drum beat. Try to sing along but don't hurt your voice. Pretty good guitar solo too.

First Time: The backup vocals are clutch, especially when they sing "don't be afraid of love." There's some nice drum fills scattered throughout and a great guitar solo.

Eddie: I like the vocal harmonies during the chorus.

Love in the Midnight: Big fan of the choral vocals with the guitar backup before the keyboards come in with a spazzy solo.


Paradise Theater (1981)

paradise

Probably Styx's second most famous album, it (supposedly) tells the story of the Paradise Theater. I personally never understood concept albums, but I'm pretty dense. Nevertheless, it has some of my favorite Styx songs of all time, including "Rockin' the Paradise," "Too Much Time on My Hands," "The Best of Times," and "Lonely People."

Rockin' the Paradise: Technically you need to listen with the lead-in of "A.D. 1928." The song is fast paced and in your face. There's a couple great 6/8 sections that threw everyone for a loop in band when we played this in college. The guitar solo is great with some piano backups. There are great live versions on "Caught in the Act" (they just jump into the song) and "Return to Paradise."

Too Much Time on My Hands: Everything about this song is amazing. I think it's my favorite Styx sing-a-long. It has a relatively simple beat, but there's nothing simple about how great it is. The music video is pretty funny (and cheesy). The live versions, instead of fading out, have one of the best outros I have ever heard. The best one is on "Arch Allies."

Nothing Ever Goes as Planned: This song has a bunch of different bits that all make it great. The drum and bass parts are really noticable, holding down the beat and providing accents. The lyrics are kind of funny, about the futility of planning ahead. One of my favorite parts are the use of a brass section after the chorus. Towards the end, the use of halftime emphasizes each note perfectly.

The Best of Times: I always liked this song, but I like it even more now that we used it as our "camp song" waaaay back in 2006. I love the way the drums bring the song to full force, and the heavy use of vocal harmonies. I think the guitar solo is one of the best to air guitar with.

Lonely People: I like the slow pace with the pounding drum part, and how the chorus hits you hard with the guitar and trumpet harmonies. The guitar solo is a nice changeup. I also like the use of stop time towards the end. The song gets really dragged out on "Return to Paradise" with riffs from "A.D.1958."

Snowblind: This is a dark song about the allure of cocaine. The guitar solo is crazy good, full of cocaine-fueled emotion. Styx trivia time, Styx was accused of having "backwards Satanic messages" which was completely untrue but boosted record sales. They even mention it on "Caught in the Act," which has a little extra hi-hat emphasis but adds a lot to the song overall.

Half-Penny, Two-Penny: The song has a relatively simple drum beat but I think the guitar sound is what makes the song. The chorus is pretty cool, with a broad, grandiose sound. I also like the weird instrumental/sound-clip interlude, which is followed by a great guitar solo. The sound fades out with a serene piano/sax riff, bringing the album almost to a close.


Kilroy Was Here (1983)

kilroy

Another concept album by Styx, partially as a response to the "Satanic messages" accusations from the previous album. This album drove a big rift through the band, as DeYoung like the showy concept album style whereas Shaw like the straight rock songs. This was Shaw's last album until "Brave New World." My favorite songs are "Mr. Roboto" and "Don't Let it End."

Mr. Roboto: My first Styx song, and one of my all-time favorites. After all these years, I still don't totally understand what the lyrics mean, but who cares? I love the lyrics, the instrumental parts, and the crazy vocals. The best part is the interlude, with "domo arigato Mr. Roboto" repeated over and over. There's a great live version on "Caught in the Act," complete with what sounds like DeYoung trying to hit a high note and instead choking on his tongue (not my favorite part, but slightly amusing).

Cold War: The way they sing "Cold War" reminds me of the vocals in Bruce Springsteen's "Murder Incorporated."

Don't Let it End: I always liked the way this was the last song on the "Greatest Hits" album. I like the drum part accents and there's a few good fills. The guitar solo is awesome, and gets introduced with some vocal high notes. The live version on "Caught in the Act" is even more powerful.

Heavy Metal Poisoning: This is J.Y.'s song all the way. Lots of guitar and scary vocals. Not sure where they found children to shout "sex and drugs" but ok.

Haven't We Been Here Before: The vocals harmonies are pretty impressive.

Don't Let it End (reprise): As usual, Styx closes out the album with a great finale. This song adds a twist to "Mr. Roboto" and "Don't Let it End."


Caught in the Act (1984)

act

Styx's first live album, released as Tommy Shaw was leaving the band. It features one new studio song, "Music Time."

Music Time: A studio recording at the beginning of this live album, it's pretty much a song about how DeYoung is a typical American with an overactive appetite and sex drive. The music video is a little strange. Tommy Shaw was leaving the band at this point, so he's not even really featured in the video. The song itself is really catchy so give it a listen.


Edge of the Century (1990)

edge

Alright, so not their strongest album, but I still like some of these songs. Tommy Shaw had left the band, and they had picked up Glen Burtnik for guitar and vocals. There's still a couple good songs, especially "Edge of the Century." Personally, I've never been a fan of "Show Me the Way," even though it was a huge hit. It used to be the only song I'd skip on the "Greatest Hits" CD. My favorite songs are "Edge of the Century" and "Not Dead Yet."

Edge of the Century: I personally enjoy Burtnik's vocals on this track, especially with the backup vocals. The lyrics are pretty good, although it's funny that they still have a few years before the edge of the century. The guitar solo is pretty cool. I like the ending, where the drums start off with a standard beat but switch to a syncopated rhythm. This really comes out on the "Arch Allies" album.

Love at First Sight: This song doesn't sound super Styx-ish but I do like the chorus sound.

Not Dead Yet: This is a nice blues song with a hard rock Styx sound. I really like the vocal quality, guitar harmony, and the clapping. Definitely the clapping.

World Tonite: This might be on a Styx album but it sounds like a Def Leppard song. Good thing I like Def Leppard.

Back to Chicago: The brass parts are pretty nice (yeah it's a real brass section), and I also like the stoptime parts. There's a bomb (that means cool) clarinet (or maybe soprano sax) solo.


Return to Paradise (1997)

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This is a double CD with Tommy Shaw back in the band and Todd Sucherman replacing John Panozzo after his death. It features two new studio songs, one that's awesome ("On My Way") and one that sucks ("Paradise"). Guess which one I'm gonna write about.

On My Way: I literally just started listening to this album and I can't describe how much I love this song. It's hard rock Styx at it's best, with Tommy Shaw taking lead vocals (listen to those high notes!) and plenty of guitar. The song is very bluesy, switching off between acoustic guitar, electric guitar solo, and awesome drum fills. Sucherman demonstrates why he's considered one of the best drummers currently performing. I could listen to this song on repeat for hours. The song's so good, everyone earns a "fresh hot latte and a scone."


Brave New World (1999)

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This is the last album to feature Dennis DeYoung. Honestly, I like the direction Styx goes in, with more emphasis on hard rock songs and less on rock ballads. I don't even mind the vocal qualities, especially since Shaw and Young already sing main vocals on many of the previous albums. There's a surprising number of great songs on here. My favorite songs are "Brave New World" and "Everything is Cool."

I Will Be Your Witness: This song has an "edgier" sound, similar to Sting's "Brand New Day" or maybe even an attempt to keep up with N'Sync or Backstreet Boys. The guitar part is pretty good.

Brave New World: I like the spooky/creepy vibe, emphasized with the offbeat drums and acoustic guitar sound. During the verse after the first chorus, I like how the drums change to a straighter beat, which I think helps to drive the song into your eardrums. The studio version just fades out, but I like how the live version on "Arch Allies" builds back up, creating suspense before the songs ends.

Number One: I like the distorted vocal and heavy bass line. There's also prominent use of triangle, and how could that be bad?

Everything is Cool: I think this song should actually be titled "Brave New World Pt 2." It's a fast-paced rock song that keeps pushing forward with some good lyrics. The guitar solo is super cool and maintains a good flow to the song. I like how the song ends, not really a fade out, almost evaporating into the air.

Heavy Water: This is such a J.Y. song. Tons of guitar and "heavy" vocals. I really like the use of triplets (especially during drum fills) to give the song a swinging feel. The guitar solo is kind of interesting. The live version on "Arch Allies" is really good, with the intro stolen from "Put Me On."

High Crimes & Misdemeanors: This is what happens when Styx tries rapping...not that it's bad. I'd totally blast this while rolling through my suburban neighborhood in my minivan.

Just Fell In: It sounds like something you'd listen to at the 1960's sock hop. This song has some interesting lyrics, especially the use of "anal retentive."

Brave New World (reprise): Another excellent album finale. It's a medley of all the best parts of this album, and it's even longer than the finale on "Grand Illusion." Plus, the drum solos are awesome and the triangle rhythm is very "Tears for Fears."


Cyclorama (2003)

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The first Styx album without DeYoung. Interesting stuff. This was the first album I listened to after "Greatest Hits" so to me this is still "Styx" but I understand a lot of people have their reservations. There's a good variety of sounds on here but I prefer the harder hitting songs. This isn't Sucherman's first album with the band but I think they let him be a little more free with his playing, and it definitely shows in a wonderful way. My favorite songs are "Do Things My Way," "Kiss Your Ass Goodbye," "Killing the Thing That You Love," and "One with Everything."

Do Things My Way: Another great opening song. I love how it fades in with some weird mumbling, then flies in with the help of keyboards and guitar. The part right before the choruses has a super neat beat. The guitar solo is wild and sounds like it might just fly away. I also like the way the song fades out, with a cool rhythm on the drums.

Fields of the Brave: This song literally explodes during the chorus, thanks to the awesome drum part. The second verse is cool with the marching drum sound. I also like the drum fill that brings the song together towards the end.

Kiss Your Ass Goodbye: I used to love this song when I was younger, but I was always worried someone would find out I was listening to a song that had the word "ass" in it. I know, right? It's a great fast song, and I like the guitar harmonies. The drum part is pretty cool during the interlude. The guitar solo is pretty subdued but gives you a chance to catch your breath compared to the rest of the song. There's some great drum fills right before the last chorus.

These are the Times: Another great drum song. The beat has heavy use of offbeat snare hits which is pretty cool. One of the best parts is during the guitar solo with powerful drumbeat backup. The song then builds up before abruptly stopping and fading out.

Together: I'm not a huge fan of the verses (kind of cheesy) but the song makes up for it during the choruses and guitar solo. The last chorus is the best, coming together after a key change.

Captain America: I used to think this was the Captain America theme song. It is not.

Killing the Thing that You Love: This is one of the most beautiful Styx songs lyrically, I can't even describe how great it is. I love the piano accompaniment. The best is the fill that brings the drums in during the last verse. It's simple yet perfect.

One with Everything: This song is so freakin' awesome. The opening guitar part sounds so dark and intense, I love it. It has one of my favorite drum parts of any Styx song with so many crazy fills. Sucherman really brings the magic on this track. There's pretty cool use of 7/4 time signature during the synth solo. However, none of this can hold a candle to the last section of the song where the band pretty much just goes insane. There's guitar, keyboards, drums, everything. I almost wish it would never end.

Genki Desu Ka: There's a "hidden track" featuring Tenacious D performing a short version of "Kiss Your Ass Goodbye" with the band. Cool, if you like Tenacious D.


Big Bang Theory (2005)

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This album is all covers of classic rock songs, probably my favorite of this kind of album (Rush's "Feedback" is up there too). My favorite songs are "I am the Walrus," "I Don't Need no Doctor," and "Summer in the City."

I Am the Walrus: I've never been a big fan of the Beatles, but I love this Beatles cover. It has a harder sound with crazier instrumental parts than the original, which I like. Plus, I think the lyrics might be slightly more understandable.

I Can See for Miles: An interesting rendition of The Who's song. The drum fills are pretty great.

It Don't Make Sense: A Willie Dixon cover, it takes a couple verses to build up but there's a nice guitar solo.

I Don't Need no Doctor: A super hard cover of Ray Charles's song, it's just all up in your face. I love it. The chorus vocals are great. There's a trippy bridge part before the last verse.

One Way Out: This is my favorite Allman Brothers' song, so I'm a big fan. I think it does a good job of capturing the hectic activity of the original version. There's an awesome drum solo, definitely worth a listen.

Summer in the City: A Lovin' Spoonful cover, I like the song's pace and very hard rock sound. I like the way the song breaks right before the second verse, introducing the sound you'll hear during the solo section. Shaw's vocals are great too, full of emotion about summers and cities. The ending is pretty wild before it just wears itself out.

Manic Depression: Not my favorite Hendrix song but Styx does a good rendition. The guitar does a great job of emulating Hendrix's sound while still maintaining that Styx character. The drums also help capture the energy of the song.

Talkin' About the Good Times: A cover of The Pretty Things. It's a psychedelic song but with Styx's hard rock sound thrown in.

Locomotive Breath: A Jethro Tull cover, I think they did a great job capturing the intensity of the original. The guitar solo is really good.

Wishing Well: A Free cover, I like the guitar parts and vocals during the chorus. There's a cool vocal interlude before the guitar solo cuts in.