Dennis DeYoung

Back to the World

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Back to the World opens up with "This Is the Time," aka the "Theme to Karate Kid II," its very existence suggesting what exactly went right and wrong on Desert Moon. DeYoung's solo debut brought him enough success that he could score the theme song to a sequel, so there wasn't much reason to change his approach -- indeed, most of the same people on Desert Moon return for Back to the World, including guitarist Tom Dziallo -- but the fact that he scored with a ballad, not a rocker, means he ramps up his schmaltzy side on this sophomore set. Even when it rocks, which is primarily on the second side, there's a bit of razzmatazz that seems all the more overblown when it's filtered through stacks of synthesizers. This does result in some bad decisions on DeYoung's part, the worst being the down-home blues harp that begins the robotic rocker "Southbound Ryan" -- an ode to Chicago that contains the lyrics "I shouted rock & roll/I saw a monkey steal the show" and sounds as if it was designed for a dream Beverly Hills Cop II -- but the Broadway-bound "Person to Person" isn't far behind, either. "Unanswered Prayers," a small-scale reworking of "Desert Moon" that is thankfully graced by synthesized electric sitars, winds up being the highlight, but this record distills every bad mainstream production idea of 1986 and sets it to songs so scrupulously sculpted in melody, they're not catchy.

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