It wasn’t that long ago that Styx re-emerged with their best new album in decades. Now their original singer Dennis DeYoung has done the same on his own. They say 26 East (to be released in two separate volumes) is to be his retirement album. If so, Dennis has gone out on an exceptionally high note.
It’s clear from this release that DeYoung is reclaiming his throne. The final track “2020 A.D.” is a essentially another part of Styx’s “A.D. 1928”, a cornerstone of their progressive monuments. The three trains on the front cover, with the words “Trade Winds” and the year 1962 refers to the origins of Styx. The trio is Dennis, Chuck & John Panozza — the founding members.
With 26 East, Dennis has turned up the rock side significantly more, to a vintage Styx-like balance of guitar thrills and concrete keyboards. His voice has lost very little over the years. His depth and expressiveness cannot be touched, nor can his sense of melody. Hooks! Styx albums were always loaded with hooks. Dennis has not forgotten how to write them. Not at all.
The epic tracks contain sentiment, humour, anger and the whole gamut of human emotions. There are rare political slants to songs like “With All Due Respect”: “Fake fun, fake facts, hey look new tax!” DeYoung’s patriotic pride comes out on “The Promise of This Land”, and he incorporates influences from coast to coast. From church choirs to stage productions, all elements are included.
All the tracks are special, but one of the most chill-inducing is “To the Good Old Days”, a collaboration with Julian Lennon. And to say the least, it has clear shades of John. Picking other favourites is more difficult, but it’s hard to ignore the bombast of the opener “East of Midnight”. For something a little different, “A Kingdom Ablaze” has Floydian guitar twangs that really feed the soul. “Run For the Roses” is a pure epic Styx high-water mark, which when chased by rocker “Damn the Dream” is only that much sweeter. “Unbroken” offers upbeat feelings that would have fit in on Styx’s 1990 album Edge of the Century. There are no weak tracks and nothing to skip. Dennis and co-writer Jim Peterik have really put together an incredible album worthy of its place in the catalogue.
One of the best albums of 2020 in any genre.