Hold on, Toto. We're not in Kansas anymore.
This is the latest solo record by Steve Walsh, he of the magnificent vocals from the band Kansas. The record is far more mainstream than anything his meal ticket has ever approached. By mainstream, I don't mean J-Lo, but rather less regal and layered.
Walsh's voice has changed over the years, which is to be expected but instead of getting worse as it does with some rockers, it has just modulated from the central pitch. The guy can still belt it out as well as croon. Clearly, he still has the goods.
He is joined on "Shadowman" by Joe Franco (Twisted Sister) and Joel Kosche (Collective Soul). Kansas violinist David Ragsdale guests as well as Michael Romeo from Symphony X.
The 8-track set kicks off with "Rise", a snarly intro and some aggressive drums before slowing up with Frippertonic guitars and Walsh's soaring vocals. It changes gears several times in the song alternating between aggro and laid back. It's followed by the best cut on the record, the title track, "Shadowman"
A sinister guitar riff undulates like a snake (actually come to think of it --- Whitesnake --- think "Still of the Night") while Walsh purrs off the top. The verses belie the fury that cranks out with the awesome chorus. Extremely melodious and hooky, this is just an excellent song.
The curiously-titled "Davey and the Stone that Rolled Away" is next and brings a bit of roll to the rock. At times it sounds like it would almost fit on a Molly Hatchet record. "Keep on Knockin'" is almost in the same vein, with its heart-beat bass and bar-room ambience.
"Pages of Old" is the most like Kansas. Great song and nice restrained singing. "Hell is Full of Heroes" is an uptempo rocker that gets the foot stomping nicely. "After" is another in the Kansas mode with alternating passages that go from prog to flat out rocker.
The majestic closing cut, "The River", ends off the set on a high note with the big chorus and Walsh in full flight.
This is a great record that doesn't have any filler on it. They might not be all perfect 10s but are all way above average. The title track is almost a reason to pick up the record alone. And if you're a Walsh/Kansas fan, get out there and get it. You'll be very pleased.