Although he retired from Kansas three year ago, Steve Walsh still apparently wants to create new music. Quite frankly, I wondered if the singer had it in him, seeing as the last time I saw him fronting Kansas, his wonderful voice was considerably weaker. When I interviewed Kansas drummer Phil Ehart and guitarist Rich Williams, they mentioned Walsh wasn’t even interested in making a new Kansas record. Nevertheless, he’s gone ahead and released a solo album called Black Butterfly.
“Born In Fire,” and “The Piper” start off the dozen here, making use of heavy power chords and thick riffs, with the latter benefiting from Steve Overland’s backing vocals and Jerome Mazza dueting with Walsh. From the outset, Walsh sounds quite strong vocally. Even so, three tunes feature Mazza on lead vocals, which are almost indistinguishable from Walsh.
There is a balance between pop prog and AOR noodling on this record. Songs like “Hell or High Water” feature Walsh is in his best voice, singing over a kinetic pacing of arpeggio keyboards. His first real use of piano (he is not credited with playing any other instrument) is on the rocking “Billy Carbone Is Dead.” With its horns and almost Meatloaf-like “Ah Ah” refrain, it is another highlight. Guitarist and producer Tommy Denader co-wrote the majority of the songs with Walsh. His wailing guitar work is also heard throughout giving Black Butterfly a distinctive heavy edge — as good a reason as any why perhaps Walsh didn’t want to make another Kansas record.
~ Ralph Greco, Jr.