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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Review: Dennis DeYoung - One Hundred Years From Now

Dennis DeYoung - One Hundred Years From Now
2009, Grand Illusion Music/Rounder Records

Dennis DeYoung is familiar to music fans as the iconic voice behind some of Styx' biggest hits. Songs like Lady, Come Sail Away, Babe, The Best Of Times and Mr. Roboto owned the airwaves in the 1970's and 1980's. DeYoung and Styx even spread their penchant for rock gold into the 1990's with Show Me The Way, a song that became thematic during the first Gulf War in 1990. DeYoung went on to write a full scale musical, The Hunchback Of Notre Dame, which won a Jefferson Award as Best Musical for it's Chicago run in 2008 and should be hitting Broadway in the next few years. He also continued to tour and record with Styx from the mid-1990's until a mysterious illness befell him en route to a very public divorce from the band he helped found. Sticking with the motto he enshrined in song, "Winner are losers who got up and gave it one more try", Dennis began touring with a new band playing the music of Styx as well as some original rock tunes and the occasional song from Hunchback. In 2007, DeYoung released One Hundred Years From Now in Canada, where the album achieved gold record status. In May of 2009, DeYoung released a reworked version of One Hundred Years From Now in the US on Rounder Records.

One Hundred Years From Now opens with the title track, originally recorded as a French/English duet with singer Eric LaPointe. For the US release, DeYoung takes solo possession of the vocals while making some lyrical alterations from the original. The song is artistic and theatrical rock; not so much an anti-war song about an anti-hared/vengeance/violence song. The musical canvas DeYoung creates here reminds one why Styx was such a commercial powerhouse from 1977 to 1983. DeYoung has always written with a mix of cynicism and optimism that comes from his working class background. DeYoung grew up in the Roseland section of Chicago in the 1960's amidst blue collar family and friends while the radical social changes of the 1960's swirled around him. This Time Next Year reflects that gilded sense of optimism of a generation that grew up knowing that no matter how difficult things might be they always get better.

Rain is a tremendous bit of Prog Rock writing, featuring heavy pop hooks, a big guitar sound and a driven keyboard root. The vocal triads in the chorus complete a sound that few bands dare to attempt nowadays. The song itself is a powerful paean to hopelessness and is a real knockout. The next song, Crossing The Rubicon, is musical nirvana for fans of classic Styx; a meandering lyrical ballad in Progressive Rock form that is the musical equivalent of a Chaucer tale. The point of no return (classically based in Caesar's crossing of the Rubicon river to invade Italy) signifies moving on, and is such a universal concept it is likely to have broad appeal. Save Me has a strong theatrical feel to it, a cry for help in the form of a mid-tempo pop song with a killer melody and wonderfully layered instrumentation.

DeYoung shows his most cynical aspect on I Don't Believe In Anything, a brilliant musical diatribe against modern technology and times which could be mistaken for the ultimate conspiracy theorists' theme song. Long time Styx fans will love this, and the injection of a little Chicago Blues is a nice bonus. My favorite song on the disc didn't appear on the Canadian version. If this had been a Styx album rather than a solo album, Pvt. Jones likely would have been sung by James Young, given the 1970's heavy metal style of the song, but it's nice to hear DeYoung really air it out on a heavy rocker for the first time in a long time. Pvt. Jones is a tribute to the soldiers who have paid a price for freedom, both those who have died and those who have come home irrevocably changed. Unlike many pro- or anti- war songs of the past few years, Pvt. Jones checks the politics at the door and just acknowledges those on the front lines.

I Believe In You is a fairly typical DeYoung pop ballad. It's a sweet, well-written love song that's certain mix-tape fodder. There Was A Time is more typical of the ballad DeYoung wrote early in his career but written from a more adult perspective. It's a ballad about regaining what was lost. There Was A Time has the theatric element that pervades DeYoung's writing and sounds like it could as easily appear on a Broadway stage as a rock album. Breathe Again is a song of love and thanks written for DeYoung's wife Suzanne; a testament to the idea that love can conquer all in highly personal terms. Styx fans will listen closely to the song Forgiveness for overtones that may apply to DeYoung's departure from the band. Irrespective of any connection, this may be the most interesting composition on One Hundred Years From Now. It's a highly insightful and honest look at the difficult negotiation between intellectual forgiveness and human emotion. The song itself is painted in dark and textured musical tones that underscore the struggle between heart and mind when forgiveness is entertained. DeYoung closes out the album with a big rocker, Turn Off CNN, imploring listeners to turn off the television and start thinking for themselves. DeYoung returns to his Rock N Roll/R&B roots on this one, particularly in the bridge.

DeYoung developed a reputation in later years with Styx as well as in his solo career as more of a balladeer than a rocker; he shatters that notion with One Hundred Years From Now. DeYoung turns in some of the best Rock material of his career on an unexpected and remarkable solo venture. Fans of Styx will eat this up, and fans of great music won't be able to keep away from an album that is destined to be a classic. One Hundred Years From Now is a Wildy's World Certified Desert Island Disc. Don't be surprised if this one gets a lot of mention on year-end lists and perhaps even an award nomination along the way.

Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Dennis DeYoung at You can purchase a copy of One Hundred Years From Now at, or download it from Amazon MP3 or iTunes. I would also suggest, if you have the opportunity, you check out the Canadian release, which includes the song Respect Me. This song was dropped from the US release but is definitely worth hearing.


Christopher said...

What an excellent album this is! I'm listening to it now, I didn't honestly think he had it in him. The treatment he got from Styx must have really motivated him. This is actually as good as classic Styx in a lot of places!

scotterb said...

This is truly an amazing album. I have both the Canadian and the US versions, and it's great to hear that Dennis DeYoung still has his voice and his songwriting skills at top notch. I'm not sure how this CD is selling, but I agree that it is a classic - up there with Styx albums like Grand Illusion.

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