(All Album Reviews by daddysangbassdude)
As was the case after purchasing Steve Walsh’s previous solo album Glossolalia, I’ve just spent about two weeks playing his new album Shadowman to the point that I decided a break was needed. That’s how much I’ve enjoyed this CD so far.
There are some similarities between Glossolalia and Shadowman, but also some good differences. The songs seem to blend together better from start to finish on Shadowman, and while there’s still plenty of “in-your-face” sound blasting from the speakers, it’s somehow toned down a touch, perhaps making Shadowman a bit more accessible. The faces have changed as well. Joel Kosche from Collective Soul steps in on guitar and bass (taking the place of longtime solo Walsh and Streets collaborator Mike Slamer on guitar, and Streets and Kansas mate Billy Greer on bass) and Kosche keeps the intensity level that Slamer brought to Glossolalia intact. Former Twisted Sister member and longtime session drummer Joe Franco sits behind the kit instead of the masterful Virgil Donati, and he manages to leave Donati pretty much unmissed as well. Michael Romeo from Symphony X provides some excellent textural flourishes with his “giga symphony,” and former Kansas mate David Ragsdale is a welcome presence on violin on the song “After.”
Of course, Walsh is excellent as always on keys. But it’s always his powerful singing that stands out more than anything, and he’s produced eight songs containing lyrics in typical Walsh style, filled with words that are either very down-to-earth or filled with parables that can force you to search for the meaning behind them.
There are straight-ahead rockers, a couple of softer songs, and there are progressive gems to be found here. For the most part, THIS CD ROCKS!
This CD blasts off right away with “Rise.” Franco’s drums sound crisply complex as they weld everything together in an odd time signature, the song punctuated by the blast of energy Walsh brings to his singing in the chorus and Kosche’s crunchy guitar sound.
The title track opens with a nice blending of acoustic and electric guitars from Kosche before settling into a pretty consistent groove with Walsh crooning and hammering out some of his more dark, mysterious lyrics.
The third and fourth tracks are more straight-ahead rockers, “Davey and the Stone That Rolled Away” and “Keep On Knockin’.” “Davey” is perhaps my least-favorite song on this album, I’m left feeling not quite sure where Walsh was going with this one in a lyrical sense. There’s a nice instrumental break in this one, and Walsh belts this one out very well vocally. “Keep On Knockin’” is much less vague lyrically, and it’s one muthah of a rock-n-roll song with Walsh right on top of his game in the vocal department.
To my mind, the title song to Shadowman and the softer song “Pages of Old” go hand-in-hand lyrically. I’d love to know what was running through Walsh’s mind when he wrote these two. Kosche’s acoustic tone stands out here.
The pace gallops away again on “Hell Is Full of Heroes,” among my favorite tunes of this album. It’s got a techno feel to it, and when he’s not laying down some rap touches Walsh is laying it all out on the line with his singing.
The epic tune of this CD is “After.” Much like the songs “Kansas” and “Smackin’ The Clowns” from the Glossolalia CD, this song takes some wild twists and turns but all comes together very nicely.
The closing tune “The River” helps to calm the soul after a pretty intense ride up to this point. It’s a song that would have fit right in with the boys from Kansas playing it as well.
But, overall, this is far from a Kansas album. It would have been a mistake to try and turn most of these songs into Kansas tunes. What it does represent is a veteran songwriter always wanting to expand his boundaries and grow as an artist. Walsh has accomplished this very well with Shadowman.
(All Album Reviews by Sean)
It's been about five years since Steve Walsh released his last solo cd, Glossolalia, which was well received by many for it's fresh and very heavy approach. Others thought he veered too far from the terrain he covered in Kansas and didn't like it much. I am in the former group and figured this new cd would be a proper follow up.
It isn't though, it isn't Gloss #2. I'd say this cd is closer to the 80s pop he did with the band Streets. There are some echoes of the last albums heavy sound and techno touches, but they don't seem as well integrated into the final picture as they were on the previous cd. The fact that Trent Gardner (producer of the previous album) was not involved this time around gives a good glimpse at how much influence he had on the final sound of Gloss.
Here Steve was left to go it alone and the difference is pretty clear. Things are less ornate, they have a direct, stripped down quality. When some of the quasi-symph flourishes that made the last cd so cool pop up, they almost seem tacked on and pointless. They don't detract from the tunes but they don't really add much either.
If you were put off my the heaviness of the previous cd, about 2/3rds of this new one may be for you. It is in a hard rock vein more than a metal one. More 80s than 90s, save for a few tracks like the Tool-like opener "Rise".
Hilights are the 9 minute track "After", the acoustic "Pages of Old", the opener "Rise" and "Hell Is Full of Heroes" (even if the intro reminds me a whole lot of the opener from Jeff Beck's Who Else? cd). Great vocals there, reminds me of Steve's voice on Kansas albums like Power, which some considered a vocal peak for him.
It seems Steve's voice just keeps getting better after his late 90s vocal rebound. That is the best part of this cd. I don't really care what the style is he is singing over, it all sounds good to me. This is a catchy album and I think any fan of Steve's would enjoy it.