26 East: Volume 1
By: Thom Jennings
When I interviewed Dennis DeYoung a few years ago he said he was working on a new concept album. The concept was “don’t suck.” That album has arrived, and it doesn’t suck.
DeYoung has done a masterful job promoting 26 East, Vol. 1. When I first heard that the album had an official release date I contemplated reaching out to Dennis’ manager-who has always been extremely accommodating over the years-but I decided I wanted to experience this album just like I did with all of those Styx albums in the good old days. On vinyl, and on the date it was released to the public.
The packaging is beautiful and includes a gatefold with all the lyrics and extended liner notes. My purchase included a digital download, which reminded me of how I used to tape my Styx records so I could listen to them in my portable cassette player.
If you are familiar with Dennis’ last album, “100 Years From Now,” you understood why it took so long for him to make another solo album. “100 Years” is a brilliant and flawless album that did not get the attention it deserved. It looks like 26 East, Vol. 1 will not suffer that same fate.
Dennis has never shied away from social commentary, and there is plenty of that on this album. “With All Due Respect” takes a stab at fake news, it’s a fun song dealing with a serious subject. “A Kingdom Ablaze” sounds more like a song J.Y would have sung in Styx. It’s an epic, haunting song with a lot going on. “Run for the Roses” is another take on the materialism that Dennis took on in “The Grand Illusion.” His vocal work on “Roses” is incredible.
There are a couple of slower songs, “You My Love” could have been a huge radio hit in the 1980’s. It has big choruses and is filled with heartache. It’s the kind of song that makes you want to whip out your old Bic lighter and wave it in the air.
Side two, for you album collectors, is just as great as side one, and opens strong with “Damn that Dream,” another powerful rocker. The side ends with “To the Good Old Days,” which reminds us not only of the “Good Old Days,” it makes you wonder why Julian Lennon doesn’t make more music. The final cut is “A.D 2020” a new take on the Styx songs “A.D 1928” and “A.D 1958” on “Paradise Theatre.”
Anything Dennis does will be compared to his tenure in Styx, and while there are strong elements of the classic Styx sound, the album never sounds like a rehash of old material. You can hear Jim Peterik’s influence, and he adds the perfect touch to songs. DeYoung and Peterik’s styles are very complimentary.
If you look at the credits you will notice DeYoung produced and mixed the album. Oftentimes a solo artist will crank up their vocals at the expense of the other instruments, but DeYoung’s mix is perfect, and really gives each song the perfect dynamics. I am definitely looking forward to Volume 2. ~ Thom Jennings
01. East of Midnight
02. With All Due Respect
03. A Kingdom Ablaze
04. You My Love
05. Run For The Roses
06. Damn That Dream
08. The Promise of This Land
09. To The Good Ol’ Days
10. A.D. 2020