Monday, July 26, 2010

Maestro Soloing

Dennis, Dennis.. You should make studio albums more often. Albums as wonderful as your 2007/2009 release One Hundred Years from Now. I know, there have been other solo albums as well: Desert Moon (1984, the only Dennis DeYoung 80s solo album affordable for a reasonable price), Back to the World (1986), Boomchild (1988), 10 on Broadway (1994), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1998), The Music of Styx – Live with Symphony Orchestra (2004). Still, not that many traditional solo albums in the past 20 years...

Now.. No more talking to Dennis. About this album: One Hundred Years from Now.. Well, it is excellent, just excellent. Dennis has found a fresh way to bring his new songs to the 21st century and I couldn't be happier. He still uses his 70s keyboards and the familiar Styx sounds in many songs but they actually make a good addition to this album that is packed with pop melodies and rock instrumentation.

This album was originally released in Canada in 2007. I didn't pay much attention to these different versions when I purchased this album from Amazon but now I know I got the exact right version. Believe me, you will want to get the 2007 version. On that album Dennis sings a duet with Canadian singer Éric Lapointe who sings in French, and so does Dennis – partially. This duet is called One Hundred Years from Now. It is one powerful song... Oh my, it really is powerful. If you choose to check out this album get the Canadian version. On the US version Lapointe's vocals have been replaced with Dennis singing every line alone in English. Yeah.. Dennis is an amazing singer but throwing Lapointe's impressive rock vocals out is just not right.

This album, however, is about a lot more than just that one song. Every single song on it is really good. Dennis sounds as lovely as ever and his songwriting pen is as sharp as it was back in the 70s. To be honest, something has changed. Based on this album I would say that Dennis has mostly given up writing grandiose, epic rock songs. This album is more down-to-earth but it is still Dennis – a new kind of Dennis, you might say. It is a humbler Dennis... But he still has great hard rocking guitars and he lets his voice blend with the background singers. The result is very much like what he did with Styx: tight harmonies from which you really couldn't hear anyone's voice louder than the others. That is very democratic, I think, and also what made Styx harmonies so special. Breathe Again starts with a prelude that sounds very much like 70s Styx, and the keyboard solo sounds just as familiar... To cut a long story short, on this album DeYoung has preserved many key elements that were a part of his musical toolbox while being a member of Styx. Whether it was a conscious choice or not.. I don't care. I love the end result just the same. And I bet others enjoy the nostalgic references too.

But.. I don't mean to say that this is some kind of a nostalgia album. Well, some aspects about it are but as I already stated, it is a brand new album with fresh songs. Everytime I hear This Time Next Year, I just think to myself: “Gee, Dennis sounds like Jellyfish..” Meaning, what a bouncy, happy feel. Rain is lovely and so is Save Me (He just keeps coming up with these fabulous classical piano songs!). Crossing the Rubicon contains an interesting reference to rivers.. Sort of. That song is not even the only song in which I hear these hidden messages. I admit that it is probably just my mind playing tricks but it seems that Dennis wanted to be sure his interest towards his old style (and band!) is still very much alive.

Now, I could just go on and praise every other song on this album. I can't really pick any specific favorites. The difficulty of picking a favorite song definitely originates from every song on this album being so good. This is my honest personal opinion. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go shopping for some more DDY stuff... Sometimes that man just controls my life. I enjoy every moment of it.

Dennis DeYoung website

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