RATINGS: A = must own B = buy it C= average D = yawn F = puke

Steve Walsh – Black Butterfly (Import)
Escape Music

Rating: B-       

Steve Walsh stepped away from the band Kansas for many reasons. First and foremost he didn’t want to be there anymore. He also had vocal issues that were hard to ignore. Now, in a surprise move, Steve has released the album Black Butterfly on Escape Music.

Steve is an interesting character. He has, in the past, suffered from a huge ego, a bad attitude and he has admitted sometimes he wrote songs in Kansas for the wrong reasons. Still…he is Steve Walsh. The guy was one of the best voices of his generation. Time has taken a toll there.

This album shows him much improved over his last days with Kansas--though he cheats a little bit. A member of his band, Jerome Mazza, sounds like Steve sounded in 1978 and does add a lot of vocals to the album. That said…if it is not computerized then Walsh really has worked on his voice. It is noticeable and appreciated.  

Black Butterfly does not sound like Kansas—which is a good thing. If any comparison can be made it would be to Walsh’s band after he left Kansas in the 1980s, Streets. Streets was more of a pop rock affair that celebrated great melodies, top notch vocals and tasty guitar solos. This is that kind of band.

“Born in Fire” and “The Piper” are the best two rock songs on the album…but there is nothing that is horrible here either. These songs rock while some of the others remind me of something that could be found on an album by the band Toto.

“Born in Fire” is a good song. Steve shares vocals with Jerome…between them they make one old school Steve Walsh! “The Piper” is Steve on his own and he sounds good. The song is a melodic rocker…and a remake. The song originally appeared on his guitarist Tommy Denander’s band Radioactive‘ s fourth album. It is a good tune with a bit of Kansas flair.

Other notable tunes are the melodic “Now Until Forever” and the rockin’ “Nothing But Nothing.”  The hottest guitar solo on the album belongs to the song “Hell or High Water.” Stuck near the end of the album “Mercy On Me” may be the overall best musical song on that album. The lyrics are strong and nice to hear come out of Walsh’s mouth. The music is solid as well. 

At the end of the day…it is nice to hear Walsh back in the game. He has created a solid album. This is a sneaky album as it demands repeated listens to catch all of the musical ambiance going on here. For instance, the last song is very Streets-like.  Titled “Billy Carbone is Dead” the song actually rocks and has a lot of sublime stuff going on in the background. It is hard to say if people will listen that intently this day and age. Walsh’s hardcore fans will…and that could be all that matters.

At the end of the day it is cool to review a new release by Steve Walsh. He was one of my heroes growing up.

Maybe Walsh wants to be back in the world of music.

Maybe he’s had a true change of heart.

Maybe he cares once again.

Maybe not.

Only time will tell. 

I hope he cares. 

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Born in Fire (3:32)
2. The Piper (6:02)
3. Grace and Nature (4:11)
4. Dear Kolinda (4:59)
5. Winds of War (4:45)
6. Tanglewood Tree (5:07)
7. Now Until Forever (4:38)
8. Warsaw (4:49)
9. Nothing But Nothing (4:45)
10. Hell or High Water (5:14)
11. Mercy on Me (4:58)
12. Billy Carborne Is Dead (4:52)

Line-up / Musicians

- Steve Walsh / lead and backing vocals, piano
- Tommy Denander / all guitars and keyboards
- Jerome Mazza / lead vocals on tracks 1,5,7 and 11
- Steve Overland / backing vocals
- Brian Anthony / bass and string arrangements
- Peter Yttergren / drums and percussion

By Jeb “Got to Rock On” Wright