Back to the World
Charted: March 29, 1986
Peak: 108 US
Sales (in millions): --
Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.
All songs written by Dennis DeYoung.
3.288 out of 5.00 (average of 10 ratings)
Awards: (Click on award to learn more).
About the Album:
Dennis DeYoung’s first solo album, Desert Moon, suggested he might do okay as a solo artist in his post-Styx career. The title cut followed the template he’d established with top-10 ballads like “Babe” and “Don’t Let It End” and gave him yet another top-10 hit. However, the follow-up single tanked at a mere #83 and the album failed to replicate the top-10, platinum-status of the five Styx albums that preceded it.
With his second solo outing, Back to the World, DeYoung turns in a stronger overall effort that seemed like it might have more commercial appeal. The lead single, Call Me, seemed like another surefire hit ballad. Alas, it didn’t even reach the top 40 on the Billboard pop charts. It was, however, a top-5 adult contemporary hit.
With an appearance in the movie The Karate Kid, Part II, the more uptempo This Is the Time felt like another potential hit. Unfortunately, it flopped as well, only reaching #93 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Still, the album felt like a stronger effort than its predecessor. Gone was the goofiness of songs like “Boys Will Be Boys,” replaced by more contemplative, serious-issue songs like Black Wall. Reminiscent of Billy Joel’s “Goodnight Saigon” from a few years earlier, DeYoung reflects on the perils of life as a Vietnam vet without having experienced the trauma himself. It felt like the kind of song that should have been a minor hit at album-rock radio, which had embrace so much of DeYoung’s work with Styx. It wasn’t.
Similarly catchy is Southbound Ryan. The song shows DeYoung’s fondness for looking back, but does so in an upbeat, less sentimental fashion. Of course, one man’s treasure is another man’s trash. All Music Guide’s Stephen Thomas Erlewine panned it as a “robotic rocker” AMG which “sounds as if it was designed for a dream Beverly Hills Cop II.” AMG
He similarly disliked “the Broadway-bound Person to Person” AMG and called Unanswered Prayers “a small-scale reworking of ‘Desert Moon.’” AMG Of course, he didn’t consider the latter a bad thing, as he praised the song as the highlight of the album, “graced by synthesized electric sitars.” AMG
He said “this record distills every bad mainstream production idea of 1986” AMG along with DeYoung’s “schmaltzy side” AMG and “razzmatazz that seems all the more overblown when it’s filtered through stacks of synthesizers.” AMG Fans of DeYoung’s music learned long ago that heavy doses of sentimentality comes with the territory. As for sounding of its time, that’s a popular criticism from critics who like to attack music for not aging well, but I don’t see the problem. Music is rarely created with longevity in mind and, as far as 1986 albums go, I think this works just fine.
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First posted 6/5/2021; updated 6/7/2021.