“DeYoung has another album in the can, 26 East Volume 2, and even if it’s only half as good as this offering then our protagonist will end his storied, fifty-year plus career on a high”.
So wrote Sentinel Daily editor Scott Adams in his review of Styx legend Dennis DeYoung‘s 2020 release, 26 East Volume 1. Was he right?
Undoubtedly so. And whilst it’s true to say that this follow up doesn’t quite have the impact of it’s predecessor – which was long awaited after a long break for DeYoung from recording, whilst this time around he’s hawking an album that’s just ‘eagerly anticipated’, there’s is barely a moment on 26EV2 that’s wasted, and I think you’ll find it difficult to listen to this album without the odd tear of nostalgic joy in the eye and a dopey smile on the dial.
Because feelgood is what Dennis does best; even as he comments on society and it’s foibles, on life, love and the pursuit of happiness, he does so by employing only the finest, most uplifting music possible. His collaboration with Survivor man Jim Peterik on Proof of Heaven, which first appeared on Peterik’s 2019 album, is a case in point; The lyrics strike at the heart of our existence in the universe, but the music, a glorious mix of Come Sail Away and something off of Kilroy Was Here that I can’t quite place, hits at the vitals of any self-respecting classic rock fan on a much more personal scale. A pomp rock microcosm/macrocosm dichotomy!
Of course, you can just enjoy the music on a much simpler level. Little Did We Know is superb heavy, radio rock and home to some fiery lead guitar playing, whilst the gospel tinges of Your Saving Grace, with it’s hints of not only Babe but also The Best of Times, is the best song of it’s kind to have graced my ears in many, many years. And I haven’t even mentioned The Last Guitar Hero yet, another Kilroy-styled track that features Rage Against The Machine man Tom Morello on lead guitar. Morello isn’t a guitarist I have a lot of time for usually, but here he tailors his familiar arsenal of effects-laden tricks to the song perfectly, sacrificing his own style to the benefit of his song. Working with a legend will do that to a person…
If this truly is DeYoung’s last recorded will and testament then ultimately it will be viewed as an album tinged with sadness; that’s a shame, for so much of the music will give hope to listeners with nerves shredded by the events of the last year and a half; Music as superbly crafted as tracks like the pomp rock tour de force Isle of Misanthrope or the witty St Quarantine just doesn’t get released any more, and it’s a worry that if Dennis goes then so does his peculiar skill. But enough of the doom and gloom. Sometimes you just have to wallow in the beauty and the majesty, and this is the perfect album for such behaviour…
26 East Volume 2 is out now.