When it comes to being overearnest, this guy wrote the book. De Young, the lead singer for Styx (a group that hasn't made a record since 1983), is so deadly serious, so overweeningly passionate and so relentlessly peppy that you just want to throw a wet blanket over him. He's got one of those fiendishly energized voices that might make him a big winner on Star Search or a star in dinner theater. He specializes in writing upbeat ditties ("The Best Is Yet to Come") that are as crisp as apples but without a trace of tartness. Even songs that are essentially romantic ballads, like "What a Way to Go," become, in De Young's busy, busy hands, overamped screamers. Imagine a hyperactive Peter Cetera, if you can stomach it.
A change of pace is "Harry's Hands," a story-song about an abused factory worker, which owes a debt to the sort of narrative stuff Billy Joel and Harry Chapin were doing (and doing better) more than a decade ago. The same point could be made about "Who Shot Daddy?" in relation to John Prine and the title track's debt to Don McLean. To classify DeYoung's work as pop would be a disservice to simple, sweet carbonation. He's more like one of those designer beverages that are occasionally advertised on TV. They can call it "Cinnamon Sunset over Quito," but it's just instant coffee. (MCA)