DENNIS DEYOUNG – 26 East, Vol. 2
The renowned Dennis DeYoung (ex-Styx) recently released what is to be his last and final album, and judging by the quality of "26 East, Vol. 2", he is ending his musical career on a high note. This twelve-track offering is a beautiful closing chapter in so many ways; it is crackling with energy and charm while also brimming with ideas.
Whereas last year’s "26 East, Vol. 1" was a bit of a mixed bag to these ears in terms of quality and longevity, "Vol. 2" is simply a better and more memorable collection of songs. A mixture of fiery AOR and instantly appealing pomp-rock, one could easily imagine almost every tune from this LP going down a storm in a live concert setting. Subtle touches of progressive rock also sneak into the theatrical sphere of sound and many of the arrangement are inventive and delightfully clever. On top of the strong melodies, the great vocal hooks, and the richly detailed music, you also get a set of excellent lyrics that speak of love, longing, and nostalgia, but the cool thing is that they are often laced with humor, irony, sarcasm, and wit. Although the opening track is a homage to the Beatles, both musically and lyrically, the remaining compositions more or less recall some of the late 70s and early 80s records by DeYoung’s former band Styx. Jim Peterik (Pride of Lions) appears on the album too and co-wrote a handful of the tunes, and the DeYoung/Peterik combo is obviously a fiercely creative one.
There is something soothing and comfortable about listening to such graceful, mellow tracks as "Made for Each Other" and "Always Time", but the powerful and dynamic "There’s No Turning Back Time", "St. Quarantine", "Little Did We Know", and "The Isle of Misanthrope" are the real highlights here. The latter is utterly superb and easily the most adventurous, elaborate, and prog-influenced song to be found on the disc. The groovy "The Last Guitar Hero" featuring Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine) is a treat too. Only the ballad "Your Saving Grace" comes across as filler material and fails to spark the imagination.
Listening to the varied "26 East, Vol. 2" is an exciting experience that feels quite special and seductive somehow. A finely crafted swansong release and a more rewarding and remarkable output than its predecessor.