BOSTON: WALK ON (1994)
1) I Need Your Love; 2) Surrender To Me; 3) Livin' For You; 4) Walkin' At Night; 5) Walk On; 6) Get Organ-ized; 7) Walk On (Some More); 8) What's Your Name; 9) Magdalene; 10) We Can Make It.
The temporary replacement of Brad Delp with Fran Cosmo (who, ironically enough, started out as a vocalist on Barry Goudreau's debut solo album in 1980) should not be much of a worry. Brad Delp is a deep-lung screamer, Fran Cosmo is a deep-lung screamer, the two are pretty much interchangeable, and Boston have never been much about vocals anyway — powerful, but personality-deprived arena-rock singers have never been a rarity ever since arena-rock came into existence, no matter where and when you locate this moment in time.
What is worrying is the lack of good songs. As usual, Walk On is a collection of brawny arena-rockers and equally brawny power ballads; not as usual, I believe that this time around, not a single song has managed to stick in my mind, a fairly amazing feat for a record that's been eight years in the making. I mean, it's as if the fine art of songwriting never existed in the first place. Look at the title track — it is just a common, generic piece of ʽLa Grangeʼ-ian fast boogie. If ZZ Top played this, though, at least they'd do it with humor and snappiness: Scholz, however, with his «bigger than everybody else» attitude, just drowns it in his Gargantuan ambitions.
For the single, they chose a song with a truly brilliant title — ʽI Need Your Loveʼ — and an operatic riff that sounds surprisingly muddy when it cuts through your speakers around 0:38, certainly a far cry from the immediately captivating riffage of ʽMore Than A Feelingʼ and very surprising in light of Scholz's usual perfectionism. The song in general is just a very basic power ballad, not as «intimate» as ʽAmandaʼ but even less memorable, apart from the rather annoyingly dumb chorus ("I NEED YOUR LOVE! I WANT YOU EVERY WAY!" — I don't even want to know what that last exhortation is supposed to mean). Most importantly, it was simply not the kind of sound to make any headlines in 1994, so the single stuck at No. 51, and for once, I guess, the public was right: 51 is a good number in this context.
Not that there is anything on the album that could have made a better choice. The riff of ʽSurrender To Meʼ sounds like mediocre Judas Priest with Scholz production. ʽLivin' For Youʼ is a sentimental ballad that is actually driven by electronic keyboards — so much for the old resistance against synthesizers — and sounds like any other generic adult contemporary ballad ever written. The lengthy ʽWalk Onʼ suite has a few moments, such as Scholz's «guitar Godzilla» experiment on ʽWalkin' At Nightʼ and bits of Emerson-ian organ hooliganry on ʽGet Organ-izedʼ, but overall, it is just too lumbering and ponderous for its own good. And there is nothing I could say about the last three songs that I have not already said about the first four.
The only thing to admire about Walk On is Scholz's stubborn decision to follow his own personal muse, completely oblivious to everything that goes on around, which is why this «1990s» album sounds not at all different from the band's «1980s» album, despite a completely changed musical atmosphere. And I am saying this without a hint of irony — ignoring trends and fads is always a noble quality; however, it works so much better when you actually have something interesting to say in your fossilized style — and I am quite surprised to see this man completely concentrating on the style and forgetting that, if you're dabbling in hard rock and all, you're kinda supposed to bring along at least a handful of good riffs. Thumbs down.