Up next for Dennis DeYoung: A new concert film of acoustic Styx favorites

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Look for an new live concert film from Dennis DeYoung focusing on acoustic versions of his classic Styx material.

The band’s former frontman, who led Styx from its inception until 2000, says: “We are working on the logistics for a concert DVD of the acoustic show which would contain all your favorites — and I mean all your favorites, unless one of them is ‘Jonas Psalter,'” in a posting on his official Web site.

DeYoung’s most recent concert release found him fronting a symphony orchestra, a project that aired on PBS as part of its nationwide pledge drive. Since then, DeYoung has added August Zadra to his band lineup, allowing for an expansion of the “Music of Styx” program to include many of the songs more closely associated with Styx veteran Tommy Shaw — including “Blue Collar Man,” “Too Much Time on My Hands” and “Renegade.” DeYoung discovered Zadra after his son saw the singer/guitarist performing on YouTube with a Styx tribute band.

“In addition,” DeYoung continued, tongue still firmly in cheek, “we will not follow in the footsteps of the Oscar winning ‘The Artist’ but rather film it in color and in stereo — although I will be having a Jack Russell Terrier miming my entire performance. We are hoping for a guest shot on Animal Planet. (No, we’re not.) We are in discussion with two different broadcasters for airings.”

Here’s a look at our recent thoughts on Dennis DeYoung and Styx. Click through the links for complete reviews …

STYX – THE GRAND ILLUSION/ PIECES OF EIGHT LIVE DVD/Blu-ray (2012): At the moment of Styx’s earliest breakout successes, as it achieved these first- and second-ever triple platinum-selling albums, the band was already starting to go its separate ways. 1977’s Grand Illusion was the first to fully spotlight the trademark elements of both Dennis DeYoung and relative newcomer Tommy Shaw, and already you could see where Styx would eventually come to a fork in the proverbial road musically. Tracks like “Miss America” were brawny, six-string rockers, yet you also had the title track and the opening stanzas of “Come Sail Away,” Styx’s second Top 10 hit, which became showcases for DeYoung’s preening Broadway affectations. At the time, this seemed like the kind of creative tension that might keep the band working at a high level. In truth, the center could not hold.

ONE TRACK MIND: STYX, “DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD” (2011): There’s a world-weary melancholy, a hard-won realism, to Styx’s new song that didn’t exist in Tommy Shaw’s fun-rocking “Renegade” days, and that points the way out of the band’s more recent habit of backtracking. It’s not just the rest of Regeneration, Vols. I and II, which finds Styx rerecording some of its best-known tracks with next-generation singer Lawrence Gowan. In fact, since the departure in 1999 of Dennis DeYoung, Shaw and Co. have issued five concert recordings and — in the last four years alone — at least seven best-of packages. Styx’s most recent original long-player was Big Bang Theory from all the way back in 2005, leaving many to wonder if the group was spent creatively. Fast forward to “Difference in the World,” as Shaw, over a plaintive guitar shape, admits: “It’s hard to keep from giving up. It’s hard to make a difference in the world today.” But, through the course of a complex and involving musical soundtrack, Shaw rouses himself to try again — in a nice metaphor for the band itself.

SOMETHING ELSE! FEATURED ARTIST – STYX: A band suspended forever between the formalism of Dennis DeYoung’s Broadway pretensions and the harder edges of James Young and Tommy Shaw, Styx sounded different every time it came on the radio. Yet, critics insisted, somehow the same: Mediocre. They were, by turns, soft-prog keyboard-tweaking intellectuals, CroMagnon guitar shredders and dorky show-tune pompsters … though with very little circumstance. Every gesture, as Lester Bangs once wrote, is writ huge — to the point of flatulence. (DeYoung knows he’s not English, right?) That makes them easy to hate, or love, or whatever. They were, at once, everything … and thus, to many, nothing. Yet … how many times have we turned this stuff up? Here, we sort through it all (the adult-contemporary crap, the hair-sprayed arena rock, the robot thing) to uncover a few clues to Styx’s enduring fame — from ‘Equinox,’ ‘Crystal Ball,’ ‘Grand Illusion,’ ‘Paradise Theater’ and, yes, even ‘Kilroy Was Here.’

DEEP CUTS: STYX, “MISS AMERICA” (1977): There’s a real simple reason why I like “Miss America”: it’s that dope guitar riff. A good, straight, down the line, butt-kicking head thrashing American riff. That aggressive galloping riff, performed by Shaw, goes hand-in-hand with JY’s snarling vocals, who sneers at the facade of the USA’s most famous pageant, and after one of DeYoung’s surging synth surges, Young takes a solo. He’s not a terribly original guitarist, but it’s as nasty as his vocals. “Miss America” was one of those moments when Styx was actually great, putting that dual lead-guitar attack to some good use. They didn’t do that enough for my tastes, but when I go back and play the high school soundtrack of my memories, this is the Styx song that gets the airplay on my mental radio.

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