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Walsh, Steve: Shadowman

Give Steve Walsh credit for refusing to rest on his laurels. With Shadowman, the vocalist's first album since 2000's haunting and complex Glossolalia, Walsh embraces his inner metal god - Symphony X's virtuoso guitarist Michael Romeo even had a hand in shaping three of Shadowman's most dramatic pieces, for pete's sake - while often ignoring the savvy, accessible rock melodies around which he has built a successful career. At other times, the music here echoes songs from Kansas' Power and In the Spirit of Things era. Very little, however, recalls Glossolalia - a shame, really, because that emotionally draining record somehow felt like a privilege to hear.

"Rise" kicks off Shadowman with a plodding aimlessness, leaving listeners wondering if Walsh has finally lost the plot. Devoid of hooks and even a distinct structure, "Rise" also finds Walsh using his voice to experiment with a borderline death-metal delivery technique. The title track then segues to familiar late-Eighties Kansas territory with a solid backbeat, melancholy lyrics, majestic arrangements and a chorus that even manages to evoke Streets, the straightforward rock band Walsh formed after leaving Kansas in the early-Eighties. "Davey and the Stone That Rolled Away" continues that vibe and along with the surprisingly aggressive "Hell Is Full of Heroes" emerges as one of Shadowman's heaviest tracks. "Keep on Knockin'" basks in a classic-rock groove that in a slightly different format wouldn't have sounded out of place on an early Kansas album, while the stark ballad "Pages of Old" features a beautiful acoustic guitar and brooding, personal lyrics. Former Kansas violinist David Ragsdale joins Walsh on "After," an impressive 10-minute epic that places Walsh smack-dab in the middle of Leftoverture. "The River" closes this album, once again leaving the singer in familiar musical territory.

The man's voice, it should be noted, continues to sound stronger than it did during the Nineties, when his strained and gravelly delivery was often painful to hear -- for both him and us. Upon initial spins, I would have only given Shadowman three stars. Repeat listening sessions, however, have revealed to me in layers an album that demands my attention - and respect - convincing me to give it another star. I hope other open-minded listeners will feel the same way.


Track Listing:
1) Rise
2) Shadowman
3) Davey and the Stone That Rolled Away
4) Keep on Knockin'
5) Pages of Old
6) Hell Is Full of Heroes
7) After
8) The River

Added: August 9th 2005
Reviewer: Michael Popke
Score:
Related Link: Official Steve Walsh Web Site
Hits: 4638
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Walsh, Steve: Shadowman
Posted by Steve Ambrosius, SoT Staff Writer on 2005-08-09 21:33:05
My Score:

I really did not know what to expect from Steve Walsh's new solo CD. Shadowman comes on the heels of a resurgence in popularity for Kansas. After Kerry Livgren rejoined and provided songs for Somewhere To Elsewhere and the DVD Voice Drum was met with rave reviews, I expected Walsh to follow one of two roads. It would have made sense for Shadowman to be a very Kansas-like CD or to be completely separate, something that distanced himself from the band that made him famous.


To my surprise Shadowman is a combination of both aspects. The opener "Rise" rocks with power that we normally don't associate with his meloldic Kansas output. The title track then re-introduces us to the songwriting that Walsh used during the late 80s reformation of Kansas. And that is what makes Shadowman so entertaining, on one level it sounds familiar enough to be easily accessable, but there is nothing stagnant or tired about these songs. Walsh's writing, even after all these years, still has power and emotion.


Steve Walsh still has the vocal prowess that made Kansas so famous. After all these years, his delivery remains crisp and biting. This is a CD for fans of that distinct singing style. Backup musicians Joel Kosche and Joe Franco provide the powerful background, but this CD lives and dies on Walsh's vocals. Machael Romeo and David Ragsdale both provide the strings that help set the atmosphere, while Walsh's keyboards are not very prominent, which is a shame, because songs like "Davey and the Stone That Rolled Away" need a little variation in the music that is taken up by something called a "Giga Symphony", where instead the swirling keyboards of Walsh would have fit better.


Shadowman is a highly recommended CD for anyone who is a Kansas fan. If you are one of those people who think Kansas was more bark than bite, than you might want to give Steve Walsh's solo output a try. This is the harder side of Walsh that has been scratching the surface of Kansas since "Lightning Hand".


Walsh, Steve: Shadowman
Posted by Mike Blackburn, SoT Staff Writer on 2005-07-12 18:10:57
My Score:

Several years ago, a vocalist friend and I were involved in a lively discussion about vocalists and longevity. We were in fact discussing the vocal timbre of Ian Gillan versus Steve Walsh, two of our favorites at the time who both possessed astounding range and raw power. I contended that of the two, Gillan would ultimately last longer because he was a 70/30 man, singing 70% of the time in his comfort range whereas Walsh was a 30/70 man, stretching his voice out most of the time. By the early nineties Walsh's voice was in my opinion totally shot, check out the "Live at the Whiskey" set for confirmation of this fact. Surprisingly, Steve has miraculously recovered most of his vocal prowess thanks in large part I am sure to his clean living ways of the last several years. With all this in mind I eagerly awaited the receipt of this album, Steve's third bonafide solo effort. Enhancing the excitement was the knowledge that Michael Romeo, a big time Kansas fan was involved in the project. Despite all of these positive factors, this release really does not start cooking for me until the third or fourth track and then quickly resumes a pattern of longer and quite bland "opus" tunes. The songs just are not that great, unique or catchy. Steve should definitely leave the "opus" writing to Kerry Livgren. Michael Romeo? Undistinguishable on the disk, credited with something called "giga symphony" on three tracks and certainly not evident in any guitar solos or in the writing. Unless you are a big Walsh fan, I would take a miss on this one….



» Reader Comments:

Walsh, Steve: Shadowman
Posted by Saul Spaskey on 2007-12-20 03:56:15
My Score:

The previous reviewer needs to listen to this album a few more times. At first I thought *exactly* the same thing that he writes. I'm glad, however, that I gave this one several more listens. I now "get" it. This album is Walsh's best one yet. Get it and give it several listens. You'll see!




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