Ex Styx front man Dennis DeYoung exits stage left with a classic album chock full of quite wonderful AOR/melodic rock.
Written by: Explorer
ARTIST: Dennis DeYoung
ALBUM: 26 East Vol 2
SERIAL: FR CD 1123
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
LINEUP: Dennis DeYoung – Lead and Background Vocals, Keyboards, Synth Bass * Mike Morales, Ed Breckenfield, Matthew DeYoung, The Late Khari Parker – Drums * Jim Peterik, Mike Aquino, August Zadra, Jim Leahey, Tom Morello – Guitar * Jim Peterik, Jim Majors – Bass Guitar * Tim Bales, Steve Eisen, Henry Delgado – Horns * Mr. Tacit – Accordian * Jim Peterik, August Zadra, Kevin Chalfant, Suzanne DeYoung, Tito Gobi, Craig Carter, Mike Morales – Background Vocals
TRACK LISTING: 01 Hello Goodbye * 02 Land Of The Living * 03 The Last Guitar Hero * 04 Your Saving Grace * 05 Proof Of Heaven * 06 Made For Each Other * 07 There’s No Turning Back Time * 08 St. Quarantine * 09 Little Did We Know * 10 Always Time * 11 The Isle Of Misanthrope * 12 Grand Finale
This is someone that really doesn’t need any sort of introduction here at GDM. Dennis DeYoung it’s safe to say was one of THE leading players through AOR/ Melodic Rocks ‘Golden Era’ back in the late 70’s/early 80’s. I for one bought into the Styx pomp/prog hybrid big time back then, and have for the majority of the time followed most of that bands projects as well as the myriad of band members solo ventures too.
So let’s fast forward to today, and the Styx long drawn out soap opera is (hopefully) far behind us, and this album is DeYoung’s final farewell to him recording music. ’26 East, Volume 2′ very much like ‘Volume 1’ released last year once again draws on Dennis DeYoung’s melodic rock chops he honed with Styx, and quite a send off it is too. if it really is the case of him ‘retiring’ from the studio the AOR/melodic rock arena will be a sadder, emptier place for it.
Judging by Mr DeYoung’s recent (often lengthy, and also very entertaining) social media posts his ‘Modus Operandi’ around this release was to go back to that period in time that spawned the albums ‘The Grand Illusion/Pieces Of Eight’, and I can very happily report that he’s succeeded, and then some!!
Pretty much every song has It’s foundations from that time period, either lyrically or musically. Those gorgeous Styx like harmonies are all there and the songwriting has that nigh on perfect blend of AOR with hints at the underlying progressive element that was evident on both aforementioned albums.
The album kicks off with ‘Hello Goodbye’ and is an affectionate look back at DeYoung’s 60’s heroes The Beatles, and it’s also not hard to see where the current AOR darlings Cats In Space get their influences from either.
‘Land Of The Living’ and ‘The Last Guitar Hero’ both demonstrate very ably that he can still rock it out with the very best, yet both cuts manage to retain that infectious air of melody that his former band were so adept at. ‘Your Saving Grace’ and ‘Proof Of Heaven’ rather predictably…and this isn’t a criticism though folks, slow things down a tad. The former with its beautiful gospel vibe and the latter being a song that is very much inspirational in nature and hey what about those harmonies?? Beautiful.
‘Made For Each Other’ sees Dennis DeYoung in full on ballad mode, and in his hands It’s perfectly done without being too mawkish, and ‘There’s No Turning Back Time’ which sees him going though, I’m guessing his childhood memories, and a fine piece of songwriting it is too. I might add at this point that DeYoung’s voice still sounds as strong as it did some 40 odd years ago, quite remarkable.
‘St. Quarantine’ is a neat poppy play on the worlds present situation, but in Dennis DeYoung’s hands he makes it sound quite upbeat, and ‘Little Did We Know’ is a mid paced number with the Styx flavoured vocals/harmonies playing a big part in its appeal, and there’s even time for a neat Brian May like guitar solo too.
‘Always Time’ once again slows things down and it’s a stately ballad, that wonderfully emphasises what a master craftsman DeYoung is/was.
The final two cuts ‘Isle Of Misanthrope’ and ‘The Grand Finale’ really do take us back to that 76/77/78 era, with firstly ‘Isle…’ and its ‘Suite Madame Blue/Come Sail Away’ progressive sonics and is a perfect way to end the album…but wait. DeYoung couldn’t leave us without one more farewell and how fitting that he’s chosen to rework ‘The Grand Finale’, and yes it’s still pompous and spectacularly overblown, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!!
I must give a shout out to the musicians he’s assembled around him, as their performances are all excellent, and of course with the likes of Jim Peterik also helping out, this album was never going to disappoint.
The album is right up there with the very best of Styx, ‘The Grand Illusion, Pieces of Eight, Paradise Theatre’.. the list goes on. Dennis DeYoung is a master perfecting his craft and ending it all on a really high note. There isn’t one song on this and also, for the most part last year’s ‘Volume 1’ that wouldn’t fit easily into a classic Styx album.
It probably says something about the state of the current melodic rock music scene (or more likely my present listening tastes) that a 70+ year old, albeit with one hell of a track record has produced what is arguably one of the genre’s best albums in the last few years. If there was ever an album that sums up what GDM was all about, this one would be right up there with the best!!
Isle of Misanthrope
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Gdazegod June 2021 Lots to enjoy here. Covering my favourite era of Styx too (1976-78).
roadrunner158 June 2021
For some reason, Volume 1 didn’t do much for me (obviously neither for @DEMONAOR , judging by his review). However, Volume 2 is really very enjoyable. I totally agree with the review.
DaveT Buenos Aires, Argentina June 2021
I can hear that The Grand Illusion/Pieces Of Eight-era vibe all over here. Dennis’ vocals are touching, a bit more mature yet his vocal range remains intact. Great review, Malcolm!
tompa Sweden June 2021
Agree with the review. Highly enjoyable..
NickC June 2021
All good news – just got back from a few days away and only just picked this up on Amazon on the strength of vol. 1 – good to hear that it equals if not surpasses it’s predecessor.
robotsforronnie USA June 2021
I think the 2nd volume is considerably better than the 1st. I really wish A.D. 2020 had been the closing track on the 2nd volume instead of the 1st. What a perfect bookend to a long and prosperous career.
Incidentally, for kicks I took a handful of tracks from the last two DDY albums and Styx albums and mixed them together to create sort of a mock ‘reunion’ album. I love it even more than any one of those individual efforts. 🙂
roblynott July 2021
This is surprisingly good to great record and – as mentioned before – considerably better than Vol 1.