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Steve Walsh - Glossolalia  CD (album) cover

GLOSSOLALIA

Steve Walsh

 

Crossover Prog

3.44 | 62 ratings

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Epignosis
Special Collaborator
Eclectic Prog Team
4 stars The turn of the century was a good omen for progressive rock music, and especially for fans of Kansas. The band reunited and produced a new studio album. Kerry Livgren released one of his best solo efforts yet. And then here's this: After twenty years, Steve Walsh put out another one. Having endured years of a harrowingly self-destructive lifestyle, Walsh is an aged man, riddled with the consequences of past behavior. Gone are the days when he looked for a hit (in more ways than one), making music with an aim toward a large following and lined pockets. There is genuineness to the content of this album- it has heart and soul, even if they are dismal and grave much of the time. The sound palette is somewhat eclectic, moving through a variety of textures, not the least of which are neo-progressive and progressive metal ones. Magellan co-founder Trent Gardner plays a monumental role on this album, contributing in nearly every capacity. While Walsh's wrecked voice is certainly a disappointment for many Kansas fans, I find it works very well on his solo work, and helps to give his own music a completely different flavor. The few weak tracks on the album in no way rob it of its power or relevance. Hearing it afresh has given me a deeper appreciation for the voice of Kansas.

"Glossolalia" The way the lyrics are half-spoken and half-sung make me think of some of Adrian Belew's work on King Crimson's Discipline. There are some synthetic drums and a Vocoder for parts of this odd track. The percussion and canting at the end add to its eclectic nature, finishing it with a distant tribal feel.

"Serious Wreckage" This soft yet harsh track is one of my favorites here. The lyrics are hauntingly good, describing an ill-fated night about when the narrator accidentally runs over a little boy. The somber lyrics are absolutely some of the best Walsh has ever penned, and it chills me to listen to them: "Serious wreckage, wet, wet, bloody, wet- one drink to remember, one more to forget that serious wreckage. He could have changed the world, but look what he got. He could have been everything, everything that I am not. So I take flowers to the funeral, but I've forgotten how to grieve, and I struggle every night with what to believe." Dark strings and piano make up the majority of the music. After a heavy segment, one of the best musical moments of the album begins, with choir, synthesizer, and additional strings.

"Heart Attack" More spoken lyrics over some funky early 1990s pop music makes up this track. The guitar soloing is rather good, but for the most part, this song annoys me. It almost seems like a dance song, and there's a section of vocalizing that I don't care much for. While certainly not my thing, I wouldn't call it a horrible song. The lyrics also reference "Haunted Man"

"Kansas" Haunting synthesizer and timpani give way to a bright piano on this lengthy piece, before some magnificent vocals come in. The lyrics are similar to a subject Kansas had been interested years before, that of the plight of the Native American. It's a powerful track, and, while the main instrumentation is unique, the vocals carry it to greatness. The sinister vocal effects on the final, repeated line, is a revisiting of one of the lines in "Glossolalia."

"Nothing" A stark, Midwestern country sound with steel guitar lines provide the perfect contrast on this album. What's more, Walsh's voice is mature and soothing. This unassuming song makes me think of Johnny Cash in the twilight of his life, particularly when he covered the Nine Inch Nails song, "Hurt." It is a song of reflection, one that considers a decadent life ill-spent and recognizes the critical import of another existence.

"Haunted Man" I love the instrumentation here (including the well-used bass and synthetic drums). Walsh's singing is appropriately restless during the refrain, a clear contrast to the softer verses. Some frantic guitar consumes the song, bringing things back to the chorus.

"Smackin' the Clowns" A spoken line sets the stage for this tragic narrative song: "Don't forget what circus day means to a small town." The lyrics describe the aftermath of a burned down circus and the effect it has on the narrator. The music begins somewhat delicately as the tension builds, and then it becomes all-out progressive metal for a while. The words are sung over changing time signatures, the likes of which make this one of the most complex songs on the album. Never before has Walsh constructed so sophisticated and heartfelt a song. The lyrics are loaded with brilliant metaphors and poignant observations, some of which one may have to actually read to appreciate.

"That's What Love is All About" A heavy rocker with airier verses, this song sounds like something that would have fit on Kansas's Power album. It revolves around straightforward electric guitar riffs and a somewhat catchy chorus. The music is strong, even if forgettable.

"Mascara Tears" Emotional piano gives way to an uncomplicated jazz lounge-like song. The instrumentation picks up during the chorus. Overall, I find this to be on the bland side, especially compared to so many robust songs that came prior.

"Rebecca" The final track has a grand introduction that gives way to something of another straight-ahead rock song. The screaming guitar solo finishes the album on a high note, or a few of them, rather.

Epignosis | 4/5 |

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