So, this is it, the (supposed) final ever studio release by the golden voiced Dennis DeYoung, a truly awful fact to have to take in especially when the voice of DeYoung and the music of Styx has been an integral part of your life. It didn’t seem quite real when it was announced that he would be concluding his career with 26 East which was being split into two releases with Volume One coming out last year and Volume Two in 2021 but here we are and we have to accept it but, as we have seen so many times before, many artists have backtracked on end of career announcements so there is always hope. Maybe even one last Hurrah with Styx???
This is not the time to review the career of Dennis DeYoung as everyone reading this will already know of his activities with Styx, the acrimonious split and his subsequent solo life since finally leaving the band in 1999. Suffice it to say that he is a global superstar, singing sensation, musician and song writer and it is also no secret that DeYoung was moving into a more commercial environment with his song writing and his love of the Broadway has always been evident. If in doubt simply check out 10 On Broadway which shows he has the vocal talents to star on the West End and Broadway very easily. This, of course, doesn’t mean that he abandoned his rock roots and he can still rock with the best of them today; it’s just that he seems to prefer the more melodic and mellower side of music.
When DeYoung announced his retirement from the recording industry he planned just the one final album but he hit a prolific stream of writing and thus the decision was made to make this a two CD affair split over a year and it is quite true that the best things in life are always worth waiting for. As was quite heavily publicised on Volume One, 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 1962 and that is truly a frightening thought. Both albums are something of rites of passage for DeYoung as they, more or less, chart his career path and so we get any number of Styx type pomp rock masterpieces mixed in with typical, trademark DeYoung ballads and the odd show tune themed song and all still retain the capacity to thrill to the core. You will hear many musical similarities to past glories and this is quite deliberate as we travel the road with him and it is fun to pick out which songs he references with whole passages here and simple, more fleeting glimpses there.
Throughout there is an over-arching Beatles theme with the opening track Hello Goodbye being a wonderful homage to the Fab Four, great stuff and the Beatles influences are no surprise given that they were very instrumental in shaping his career and he has absorbed so many other influences over the years too which have helped to make him the master songwriter that he is. As with Volume One, Jim Peterik (Survivor/Pride Of Lions) was again heavily involved in the project in writing some of the songs with DeYoung and on guitar. The talent list of musicians involved is equally impressive many of whom appeared on Volume One too and can be found at the end of the review and was obviously written by DeYoung based on some of the amusing comments that have been made. It’s a pleasure listening to the lyrics as DeYoung tells his stories and, of course, there just has to be a song which refers to the crazy year that we have all had to endure as well as references to the music industry, the planet, basically you name it and he has covered it. There is the odd moment of melancholy for times that have melted into history but this really is a life affirming album from man who is still at the top of his game and his voice remains as beautiful and perfect as ever. Each of the 12 songs shows a different side of De Young and it is evident that Styx blood still runs very deep in his veins as he manages to blend the sounds of the theatre, pomp rock and lush ballad seamlessly and perfectly. Both volumes are essential and will stand as great testimony to a true star of our generation, any doubt about that then listen to The Isle Of The Misanthrope and tell me that this man has not been touched by genius!
If this is the end then Dennis DeYoung has bowed out in triumph and we will truly not see his like again. However, the clamour for more starts now. By the way, I just love the 60’s retro album cover.
26 East Vol 2 track list
- Hello Goodbye (4:26)
- Land Of The Living (3:44)
- The Last Guitar Hero (Featuring Tom Morello) (4:47)
- Your Saving Grace (3:36)
- Proof Of Heaven (5:28)
- Made For Each Other 4:03)
- There’s No Turning Back Time (4:47)
- St. Quarantine (5:00)
- Little Did We Know (4:17)
- Always Time (4:07)
- The Isle Of Misanthrope (6:07)
- Grand Finale (1:59)
Vocals: Dennis DeYoung
Drums: Mike Morales, Ed Breckenfeld, Matthew DeYoung & The Late Khari Parker
Guitar: Jim Peterik, Mike Aquino, August Zadra, Jim Leahey
Solo on Last Guitar Hero: Tom Morello “The Great Houdini”
Bass: Jim Peterik, Jim Majors, Me on Synth Bass.
Keyboards: Me & Why Not?
Horns on Hello Goodbye, The Ides Of March: Tim Bales, Steve Eisen & Henry Delgado
Background Vocals: Jim Peterik, August Zadra, Kevin Chalfant, Suzanne Deyoung, Tito Gobi, Craig Carter, Mike Morales & Me. Mostly Me, I Work Cheap And Was Always Available. Besides My Voice Always Reminds People Of A Very Popular ’70s And ’80s Group. No, Not The Pointer Sisters.
Michael Manson Gospel Group on Your Saving Grace
Matthew DeYoung would like to dedicate his performance on the Grand Finale to his mentor John Panozzo. The ride cymbal Matthew used was given to him by John.