Is it possible to review a Dennis DeYoung album without mentioning Styx? Obviously, it is not but, unless you are a resident of Mars, then everyone knows the story of Styx and the events leading up to DeYoung’s departure in 1999 and the ensuing fall-out. So, no history lesson needed here but we must acknowledge the place that both Styx and DeYoung have in the rock world and, to me at least, they are better together than apart – but a re-union is probably most unlikely even if rumours continue to persist. Of course, neither Styx nor DeYoung will see the glory years of the Seventies and Eighties return, which is a real pity, but both remain as viable recording acts which is still a great consolation. I always remember how devastated I was with the Fish/Marillion split, but a friend at the time offered wise words when he said that we now have both Fish AND Marillion to enjoy, so there was still so much to relish. Similarly with Styx, DeYoung was free to pursue his more pop and Broadway themed influences whilst Styx could follow their rockier path, so another win win situation even if tinged with a little sadness.
However, the world moves on and it appears than Styx are in the process of writing a new album and we also now have DeYoung’s sixth solo album to enjoy in volume 1 of 26 East – and you do not have to be Sherlock Holmes to realise that this means that there is a volume 2 in the offing as well. Sadly, DeYoung recently announced that his new album would also be his last (we’ve heard this story too many times to worry just yet) but he had so many new songs written that it was decided to release them in two chapters. Let’s just hope that he still keeps getting songwriting inspiration to keep him occupied. So, 26 East is the address where DeYoung grew up in Roseland in Chicago, and where the foundations that became Styx were laid in his basement in the very early Sixties. This has become the inspiration for the new album as DeYoung has written songs about his journey from his basement to the very top of the rock business. The nine featured tracks are a mixture of soft rock ballads, heavier melodic rock and several with a Broadway construct but each has that stamp of quality and refinement that DeYoung always brings to his songwriting. Jim Peterik (Survivor/Pride Of Lions) was heavily involved in the project and DeYoung has brought in some damned fine musicians to bring the whole thing together, and what a class album they have made between them.
The songs show a master craftsman at work and some of his ideas show genuine genius. I just love the vocal beginning and the acerbic lyrics to the sharp and biting With All Due Respect. The music on display incorporates many of the influences that DeYoung has absorbed over the years and To The Good Old Days is a duet that he sings with Julian Lennon to celebrate just how much the Beatles meant to him; a lovely song it is too. As should be expected, this is a typical Dennis DeYoung album, wonderful songs, great performances and vocal perfection and is fully deserving of your attention. Dennis DeYoung has always had a crystal clear and perfect voice and this is still very much in evidence and it is frightening to remember that he is now 73 years old and still going strong. I’m certain that he has more material in him yet and, based on the quality of this set of songs, then do not discount the probability that he will still be turning out brilliant albums in another 27 years! For that, we have to be very thankful. He closes the album with a nice touch in A.D. 2020, a short homage to Paradise Theater. Of course, after hearing this I had to immediately play the album! Sometimes, you forget just how wonderful Styx are.
East Of Midnight 5:05 / With All Due Respect 4:48 / A Kingdom Ablaze 5:51 / You My Love 3:59 / Run For The Roses 4:32 / Damn That Dream 4:13 / Unbroken 4:50 / The Promise Of This Land 5:11 / To The Good Old Days 4:07 / A.D. 2020 0:56
Jim Peterik: Guitar, Bass, Keyboard, Vocals and Vuvuzela
August Zadra: Electric Guitars, vocals
Jimmy Leahey: Acoustic and electric guitars
Craig Carter: Bass, vocals and invocations
Mighty Mike Morales: Drums
John Blasucci: Keyboards
Mike Aquino: Electric Guitars
Kevin Chalfant: Backing vocals
Matthew DeYoung: Drums on To The Good Old Days
Ed Breckenfeld: Drums on Unbroken
Zoe and Austin Orchard for Ring Around The Rosie
The Chicago Children’s Choir and conductor Josephine Lee
Dennis DeYoung: Keyboards, fake drums, fake bass, fake news and some vocals. Oh and Vuvuzela