The Unknown Zone

American AOR/Prog Rock Band

By: Frank Hill
Published: Friday, December 21, 2018
If you grew up in the 70s and 80s, there was a fair level of AOR hard rock that ruled the music scene. Styx in their glory years, mixed rock guitar from the James Young/Tommy Shaw side with musical theater from Dennis DeYoung. That tension between different styles made for songs a bit different than average, but also created pressures between the musicians. They had at least three concept albums and touched in prog rock during the band early years, later moving towards commercialism.

Blue Collar Man
Come Sail Away
Don't Let It End
Grand Illusion
Mr. Roboto
The Best Of Times The Grand Illusion
Too Much Time on My Hands


A.D. 1928/Rockin' The Paradise (Paradise Theater)
Opening track on the PT concept album. Good example of the rock/theater hybrid.

Boat on the River (Cornerstone)
Interesting ethnic Euro-sounding song with mandolin and accordion.

Castle Walls (The Grand Illusion)
Deep cut on TGI. Dream-fantasy lyrics about wanting to journey but not knowing what is beyond. A person's "castle" is prob a metaphor for protections we make for ourselves which also serve as a prison. Amazing harmonies that could have been lifted off a Blind Guardian release.

Plexiglass Toilet (The Serpent Is Rising)
Heard this on Dr. Demento show looooong ago. Hidden track on The Serpent is Rising. Calypso-style silliness.

The Grove Of Eglantine (The Serpent Is Rising)
Prog rock about vagina on this sexual innuendo concept album.

Haven't We Been Here Before (Kilroy Was Here)
Part of the Mr. Roboto storyline that really showcases Tommy's softer singing style.

Just Get Through This Night (Kilroy Was Here)
Another moment from the Mr. Roboto storyline. Moment of optimistic reflection.

Miss America (The Grand Illusion)
Guitar-driven track about the fleeting nature of fame and superficial nature of beauty using the yearly, replaceable Miss America as subject metaphor.

Music Time (Caught in the Act)
Poppy, extra tune from post-Roboto breakup period thrown on the live Styx album, Caught in the Act. DeYoung in full entertainer mode here.

Nothing Ever Goes As Planned (Paradise Theater)
Different urban sound with great horn section.

Pieces of Eight (Pieces of Eight)
Commentary on soullessness of monetary pursuit.

Sweet Madame Blue (Equinox)
Written about the Bicentennial of the US. Lots of movements in this one per the play on the musical term of "suite".

Witch Wolf (The Serpent Is Rising)
Standard rock guitar song about a supernatural thing. Worth a listen to hear the early sound.

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