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Dennis DeYoung: 26 EAST: Volume 1

I consider myself to be a bit of a fan of Dennis DeYoung. Given that Styx had already had their biggest moments and gone their differing ways before I could vote, I probably hoovered up their various solo recordings before I got all the early Styx stuff �" I'm a bit of a collector. As an aside, I recently revisited my vinyl copy of Boomchild, and it doesn't hold up well. I like DDY when he's at his most progressive, I mean who doesn't love "Come Sail Away"? I was thrilled that he went back to the rocky/proggy style on 2007's One Hundred Years From Now and on 26 EAST: Volume 1 he mostly sticks within the genre marked rock and not smack bang in the middle of the road. He's also got the God-like genius of Jim Peterik on board as well alongside other Pride of Lions alumni which plays into both of their theatrical bents.

It's also pertinent to point out that Dennis DeYoung is 73 years old but on 26 EAST: Volume 1 one would be hard pressed to tell. The album opens with one of the singles, "East Of Midnight" which has a suggestion of "The Grand Illusion" at the beginning and has some delicious keyboards in the mid-section. Despite it being the lead single and opening song, I initially thought it to be one of the weaker tracks on view. I was wrong; more than once I have found myself walking down the streets in a socially isolated manner humming the song. "With All Due Respect" follows along next and is a fun dissection of the world of fake news and news personalities. DeYoung has always commented on the world around and here he calls the commentariat 'assholes,' living in their ivory towers. It's a fun track whereas "A Kingdom Ablaze" is more rockier and doesn't have any Stygian vibe to it at all but does end all too soon as if it wasn't complete which is disappointing.

You're probably expecting a ballad right about now and "You My Love" is up next but it's not ultra-syrupy a la "Babe". DDY has always had a way with a ballad and "You My Love" is no exception to the rule. There was a time when a song like this would have been a massive hit. "Run For the Roses" and "Damn That Dream" are the two of most Broadway like tunes on the album mainly because of their OTT nature. The latter really does have a Pride of Lions whiff about it although there's no information as to which five songs are co-written by Jim Peterik. It could be osmosis?

"Unbroken" starts softly using weather metaphors before building into an effective mid-tempo pop rocker with an uplifting chorus and underlying message whilst "The Promise Of This Land" is a classic De Young ballad full of pomp and bombast. That said it would probably fit very well on his Hunchback album although the instrumental breakdown is pretty proggy if not long enough. The final real song is the lovely single "To The Good Old Days" which features the recently exhumed Julian Lennon. Given that there is to be a second volume I'm surprised that this song isn't the last one on that album. It's a truly beautiful, reflective treatise on the past and if you haven't seen the video, do so immediately.

I've oscillated between 3.5 and 4 stars as a mark but plumped for 4 stars as DDY fans will totally dig the album for what it is. On balance I probably prefer The Mission album by Styx but this might just be the best album produced by any member or indeed former outside the mothership.


Track Listing:

  1. East Of Midnight 
  2. With All Due Respect
  3. A Kingdom Ablaze
  4. You My Love
  5. Run For The Roses
  6. Damn That Dream
  7. Unbroken
  8. The Promise Of This Land
  9. To The Good Old Days
  10. A.D. 2020

Added: June 21st 2020
Reviewer: Simon Bray
Score:
Related Link: Artist Website
Hits: 1015
Language: english

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Dennis DeYoung: 26 EAST: Volume 1
Posted by Steven Reid, SoT Staff Writer on 2020-06-21 16:26:21
My Score:

I’ve long been a fan of one-time Styx frontman Dennis DeYoung, even if the consummate showman hasn’t been the most busy studio musician since his final departure over twenty years ago from the band within which he made his name. Reaching further back in time and the singer released the stage-show themed album 10 On Broadway, which while clear in its intentions from its very name, I always thought was an underrated outing. Already announced as his farewells to the business, 26 East: Volume 1 and its follow up due later this or earlier next year, in many ways gathers together all of the previous aspects from DeYoung’s career - a surge of US progressive/commercial rock here, a deep soul searching ballad there, along with a sprinkling of classy stage-musical outbursts, just for good measure.

Followers of the man and his music will immediately feel at home with an album where DeYoung often nods to his past, both in Styx and out of it, “East Of Midnight” almost being as blatantly Styx in style as DDY has been since he left the Paradise Theater. From the keyboards to the pacing the intention is clear, expertly executed and cleverly positioned to welcome you onboard. “With All Due Respect” changes tack sightly, but with the same sense of mischief that Styx always held onto, the lyric that jokes at fake news and the fakes claiming fake news is faking their actions, biting deep as it also proves hugely memorable. Personally I can’t shift this song’s main refrain from my mind, but crucially, when I suddenly sing it out loud I’m still pleasantly surprised by how much joy it brings.

“A Kingdom Ablaze” then takes us by the hand into a grander illusion altogether, the bombastic choral voices and chiming rhythms that intersperse an almost Gilmour era Floyd like structure being part prog/part show tune as DeYoung defies his septuagenarian status to give his third superb vocal in succession. In all honesty, from there, things dip a little, “You My Love” being a standard lighter waver where a squirmy synth surge just about battles the schmaltz to good effect, before “Run For The Roses” gives the impression of the lone singer, spotlight turned on his heartache and memories, as he sings one on one for the crowd. In that setting I’d suggest that this would be a belter, but here, well, its kind of forgettable.

It’s worth noting at this point that a key player not just in the song writing on this album, but also in getting DDY back in the saddle at all is Survivor man Jim Peterik and when he blasts out a riff that’s bolstered by piano and hand claps, as it is on “Damn The Dream”, the uptempo AOR that results is of the highest order, while “Unbroken” plays a similar game but in more enigmatic style. “The Promise Of This Land” on the other hand sits atop a swirl of keys and sting of guitar that can only once again remind of Styx in all the right ways and as DeYoung proclaims his lyrics in imperious fashion, you really are whisked back to the pomp and grandiosity of the 70s, before the reminiscing of “The Good Old Days” pulls at the heart strings in a very Paul McCartney like manner. There may be an album to come, but the air of farewells in this lyrical trip back to the singer’s youth is almost palpable. Something which continues on into the short closing piece of “AD 2020” as our hero takes us once more to ‘paradise’ as the curtain falls for the intermission on his farewell performance.

26 East: Volume 1 is maybe a little curtailed by its willingness to embrace all of the different aspects of the man it centres round but then that also ensures that there’s something here for everyone. It may not rival modern day Styx in its attack, but then I don’t think it intended to. Instead we’re spending time with a supreme singer still at the top of his game and still doing it his way. That, in all honesty, means that this album exceeds my expectations without ever quite knocking it out of the park. If Volume 2 can at least retain this standard then Dennis DeYoung will go out with his head held very high indeed.

Dennis DeYoung: 26 EAST: Volume 1
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2020-06-14 18:16:08
My Score:

26 East: Volume 1 is the brand new Frontiers Records solo album from former Styx vocalist/keyboard player Dennis DeYoung, which comes thirteen years after his previous studio record One Hundred Years From Now. Also interesting is that it comes not long after his former bands return to the studio, The Mission, from 2017. Here on 26 East, the 73 year old singer/musician has his trusted live band in tow, which includes guitarists Jimmy Leahey & August Zadra, drummer Mike Morales, bassist Craig Carter, keyboard player John Blasucci, and wife Suzanne DeYoung on backing vocals, along with the always busy Jim Peterik helping out with the songwriting, some guitar, bass, keyboards, and vocals. Supposedly, Part 2 of 26 East will come later in 2020 or early 2021.

If you've seen this band live in recent years, you already know they are a powerhouse line-up, and the performances here are quite good, especially on the more arena-rock/prog numbers such as "East of Midnight", "A Kingdom Ablaze", "Damn That Dream", and the blazing "The Promise of This Land", all stocked with bright keyboards, tasty guitar riffs, and DeYoung's still very capable vocals. As always, you can expect a fair share of pop ballads, and while there might be few too many here, there's no denying that "You My Love", "Run for the Roses", and "To the Good Old Days" are damn memorable with no shortage of typical DDY hooks. For the fans of Styx's Paradise Theater album, there's a fun nod to that classic record with the short closing number "A.D. 2020", with accordion substituted for vocoder.

I'm on the fence with giving 26 East: Volume 1 a higher score; when it's good, it's really good, but I'm finding a few songs just sort of lacking for some reason. In the long run, I think I'll definitely play Styx's The Mission way more, and I think one of the things I've always had issues with on DeYoung's solo albums, and the reason why I love classic Styx so much, is that you had three very capable vocalists & songwriters in DDY, Tommy Shaw, and James Young, giving each album a lot of variety and flavors. I'm finding a full album of Dennis generally leads me at some point to miss the other two guys and that 'formula' that always worked. Interesting how in a live setting Zadra sings all the Shaw material, yet he's not given any vocal slots of his own here. Nonetheless, this is a very solid and fun release, and I'm eagerly awaiting part two.



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