Thursday, November 6, 2014

RECORD REVIEW: Dennis DeYoung "And the Music of Styx - Live in Los Angeles"

Dennis DeYoung 
And the Music of Styx -
Live in Los Angeles
 (Frontiers Records)

The voice is iconic.
The songs are timeless.
The band is impeccable.
The performance is stellar.
And the record — 
simply fabulous!

The latest release from legendary singer / songwriter, Dennis DeYoung is a bona fide treat for fans everywhere. Recorded live last spring in front of an enthusiastic crowd at the El Rey Theater in Los Angeles, the subsequent 90-plus-minute, 17-song collection arrived on October 21st via Frontiers Records. The audio version is available as a 2-CD package and digital download — the home video version is out on both DVD and Blu-ray Disc.

Oozing non-stop rock classics, the record serves as a tremendous testimony to the power and timelessness of great songs. And along with his world-class, six-member band, DeYoung dishes up (as the title suggests) the crème de la crème from his tenure as frontman, keyboardist and chief songwriter for the chart-busting band Styx

The set kicks off with a bang  the DeYoung-penned powerhouse title track from the 1977 Styx blockbuster, The Grand Illusion — and the crowd goes wildEarlier classics ensue quickly, including the 1975 hits, "Lady" and "Lorelei," as well as the title track from what's arguably the band's finest effort — the 1976 album, Crystal Ball.

Of the record's many highlights, "Suite Madame Blue" shines the brightest. Guitarist Jimmy Leahey's recreation of the late John Curulewsk's acoustic "Prelude 12" intro is spot-on, while DeYoung's death-defying, 22-second-long vocal note, at the 3:45 mark, is absolutely stupendous.  

Guitarists August Zadra (L) and Jimmy Leahey (R) 
onstage with Dennis DeYoung.
But the record is titled "And the Music of Styx," hence it also boasts a buttload of Tommy Shaw-penned biggies, including "Blue Collar Man," "Renegade(featuring a masterful vocal performance from guitarist August Zadra), "Foolin’ Yourself" and "Too Much Time on My Hands" — as well as the aforementioned "Crystal Ball."

DeYoung proves engaging and charismatic throughout — offering personal insights to such fan faves as the 1979 #1 smash, "Babe," and 1990 Top Five hit, "Show Me The Way."

Other aural gemstones include the stripped-down acoustic version of the 1983 Styx treasure, "Don't Let It End" and the guitar-driven, nine-minute version of DeYoung's 1984 Top Ten solo hit, "Desert Moon." Another impressive power point is the participation of Tom Sharpe. The award-winning Mannheim Steamroller drummer adds a particular punch to the performance. 

The set ends up right where it started out  with "Come Sail Away— another iconic DeYoung track from The Grand Illusion. With its anthemic message and passion-filled crowd sing-along, this classic makes for a fabulous finale to a fabulous production.

-Christopher Long

(November 2014)

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