When you see the name Dennis DeYoung you automatically think of Styx as he was one of the founders as well as one of the most important writers in the band. On Styx first eight albums he could do nothing wrong. His song writing skills was exceptional mixing pop, rock and prog in what many called pomp rock. Unfortunately something happened with his song writing around the time of the release of “Cornerstone” as he changed direction to a more commercial style with more ballads and musical style songs which did not appeal to a lot of the older fans of the band, even though they gained a lot of new fans as well. Anyway, I love the kind of progy older Styx style and don’t care that much for the three albums that they released after the change of direction before the they split up after “Kilroy Was Here” in 1983. I actually don’t think that Dennis has written a decent tune on any of his solo albums or Styx albums released after “Pieces of Eight” until he was kind of kicked out of the band following the release of “Brave New World”, his last album with Styx. So now you know where I stand.
Anyway, in 2007 Dennis released an album “One Hundred Years from Now” that was rumored to be a return to the more progressive style again. Even though the album had a couple of pretty good songs it was nowhere near the style of early Styx and it could not compete with “Cyclorama”, Styx first album since his departure. Sometime after this Dennis put together a new band and started to tour as “Dennis DeYoung… And the Music of Styx Live”. A pretty good live album from the tour was released both on CD and DVD/Bluray. Now some of his fans said that he was sounding more like Styx than the current version of the band, I don’t agree. Dennis then wanted a reunion with Styx for a final tour, something that he still hopes for, but so far Styx declines for various reasons.
Well, after the live album Frontiers Records suggested that Dennis should record a new solo album and after some persuasion from his old friend Jim Peterik he agreed to do one final album, but he was so inspired that he wrote songs enough for two albums, “26 EAST: Volume 1 and 2”. Once again the rumors started that Dennis was going to out Styx the current Styx, so my expectations was quit high when I first listened “26 EAST: Volume 1”.
The album starts very promising with “East of Midnight”, a song with most of the classic Styx trademarks. A pomp rock song that is better than anything Dennis has written since “Pieces of Eight”. Unfortunately, this is also by far the best song on the album. The second song “With All Due Respect” starts with an attempt at a humorous speech about fake things. It’s pretty clever, but only the first time you hear it before it gets annoying. The music is pretty boring straight rock that don’t appeal to me. However, the third track “A Kingdom Ablaze” is a very good suggestive piece that is probably the albums second best song. It doesn’t sound much like Styx though, but I still like it a lot.
“You My Love” sound more like an Abba song than anything else, and even though I like a lot of Abbas music this is not my cup of tea.
On “Run For The Roses” you can clearly hear Dennis love for musicals, a love that I don’t share so I really don’t care that much for this song either.
“Damn That Dream” starts better and is actually a pretty good song that has some good Styx moments, but the refrain reminds me more of Journey around “Escape” than Styx. Probably my third favorite track on the album.
“Unbroken” is kind off a power ballad and as I never cared much for ballads, I get very bored with it…
”The Promise Of This Land” starts out like a ballad but soon turns quite heavy for a bit before it settles in a mixed style of Styx and a musicals. It’s actually quite good but for the first time you can hear a strain on Dennis vocals who other ways have been amazingly good on this album.
”To The Good Old Days” is once again a ballad, this time a duet with Julian Lennon.
“A.D. 2020” is a wink back to “Paradise Theatre” which closes the album quite nicely.
So what is my verdict? Well, if you like me where hoping for a progressive pomp rock return, you will be disappointed but if you like musicals, ballads, classic rock and Dennis voice you will probably love it.
I will still buy the album on the strength of the three or four songs that I do like. Also, I have always loved Dennis keyboard style and sounds. Not to talk about his vocals, but I was so much hoping for more.
Styx latest album “The Mission” is in my humble opinion a superior album that actually sounds like classic Styx. I understand why they don’t favor a reunion.
However, now I’m looking forward to “26 EAST: Volume 2” whenever that is released. My hopes are high again…
Band: Dennis DeYoung
Title: 26 EAST: Volume 1
Date of release: May 22, 2020
Stand out tracks: East Of Midnight, A Kingdom Ablaze