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DeYoung, Dennis: 26 East Vol. 2

About a year ago, upon reviewing Dennis DeYoung's 26 EAST Vol 1 I described it as, “ the best album produced by any member or indeed former member outside the mothership.” For the hard of thinking the mothership is obviously Styx and let's be honest, as far as solo careers go the bar is actually surprisingly low given the talent that's always been with the band's ranks. I've long loved Tommy Shaw's Ambition, DeYoung's Back to the World and even prize my vinyl copy of James 'JY' Young's Out On A Day Pass but until recently I was just about prepared to stand by the assertion that 26 EAST Vol 1 is the best of the bunch but now I'm changing my mind for the second time in just twelve months.

In fact, and at the risk of being somewhat patronizing, to create two excellent albums well into his seventies is a pretty monumental achievement. On 26 EAST Vol 2 Dennis DeYoung appears to have made a conscious choice to reach out to Styx fans and resolutely press the button marked 'prog.' Nowhere is this more in evidence than in "The Last Guitar Hero" which has Tom Morello spaffing all over the track using his inimitable style or on the super strange "Isle Of Misanthrope". No need to try to describe these or the epic "There's No Turning Back Time" other than saying if you loved Styx prior to Babe you'll be thrilled by these.

DeYoung has always loved a ballad as we all know but the syrup is kept to a minimum on "Your Saving Grace" and "Made For Each Other" whilst "Proof Of Heaven" which was, to my mind, the best track on Jim Peterik's Winds of Change album is a contender for the same accolade here although this version is actually the less bombastic pass at the song given the slightly subtler production values. Uncle Dennis is also a dab hand at pop melodies and this is demonstrated on "St. Quarantine" which is a really nifty MOR pop rocker.

Appropriately the "Grand Finale" is the last word on the album and also of a quite brilliant career which had a real resurgence at the very end.

Track Listing
1  Hello Goodbye

2  Land Of The Living

3  The Last Guitar Hero (feat Tom Morello)

4  Your Saving Grace

5  Proof Of Heaven

6  Made For Each Other

7  There’s No Turning Back Time

8  St. Quarantine

9  Little Did We Know

10  Always Time

11  Isle Of Misanthrope

12  Grand Finale

Added: July 17th 2021
Reviewer: Simon Bray
Related Link: Artist Website
Hits: 1521
Language: english

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DeYoung, Dennis: 26 East Vol. 2
Posted by Steven Reid, SoT Staff Writer on 2021-07-16 23:24:19
My Score:

Although it maybe offered much more in terms of enjoyment and depth than I’d anticipated from him at this stage of his career, I must admit to having really liked, without being just as blown away by 26 East Vol 1 from ex-Styx man Dennis DeYoung as most people seem to have been. In subsequent interviews the man himself has alluded to having back weighted the second helping of 26 East with the stronger material in the hope of not going out on a low after such a celebrated career. And boy was he right and then some!

Don’t get me wrong, Vol 1 of this two part team up with ex-Survivor man Jim Peterik was great fun and contained lots of highlights, but Vol 2 simply blows it out of the water by being the most Styx like offering DDY has served up since his departure from that band many moons ago. Vocally, that a man well into his seventies, even with DeYoung’s pedigree, is able to deliver a performance with the clarity, passion and power shown here is nothing short of astounding. Backed up by a set of songs that both play to his theatrical leanings and the progressive, but hugely accessible past he’s been know for is not just a little unexpected, but it’s heartwarming, and thoroughly rewarding. I think we can forgive that a lot of the lyrics are backward glancing as DeYoung celebrates everything from his influences, career and family in a way that doesn’t just draw you in but which make the listener also yearn for some of those days gone by - and satisfied that DeYoung appears to have so much that he can be thankful for.

However, that this album works so well isn’t simply down to sentiment, in fact, you could (just about) remove those aspects and still be impressed but that the atmospheric build of “There’s No Turning Back Time” is blessed with both a memorable melody and a rare level of honesty makes it a truly special moment. And there are plenty of them in evidence here, the swaying “Made For Each Other”, which is an ode to Dennis’s wife of many years, simply beautiful, while “Little Did We Know” pulsates with energy and vigour. Although it might just be the proud strut of “The Last Guitar Hero”, where Tom Morello (Audioslave, RATM) shows up to give DDY some street smart cool - and a kicking trademark solo - that makes the mightiest impression. Close behind, however, are the closing trio of “Isle Of Misanthrope”, which is both the album’s proggiest and most hard hitting moment - and when closely followed by the short closing piece of “Grand Finale”, which clearly references his previous band in style and lyric, then the journey is complete.

And so it would truly appear to be, Dennis DeYoung standing by the announcement that this will be his final album. His one wish was that it wouldn’t be a stinker. Instead he’s recorded one of the defining moments of an already stellar career in music.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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