"But there's no Brad Delp!"
It's one of the biggest gripes I've heard about this album, and I heard it repeatedly. If it's any consolation Delp did rejoin the band for the subsequent tour to promote the album.
That being said, Delp or no Delp this is a thoroughly enjoyable album. While Fran Cosmo's voice isn't quite as distinct as Delp's he does have the range Delp had in his prime and he is equal to the task of the material on the album.
And in all fairness to Mr. Cosmo he and Delp both took turns singing lead on former Boston guitarist Barry Goudreau's 1980 solo album.
Given the strength of the material on Walk On, that I'd argue is possibly the best material Boston had recorded since Don't Look Back or possibly even their debut (if I were being particularly generous). Tight soaring vocal harmonies-- Check, trademark tight Tom Scholz "guitarmonies"-- Check, superior musicianship-- Check. I'd argue the timing of Walk On and the long delay (8 years) between albums likely contributed far more to its relative lack of success (compared to Boston's other albums. When you couple in that this album was released in the era of grunge, this album was far too polished to compete with the much rawer production that was coming from the likes of Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots, and Pearl Jam around that time.
The album starts with a bang on I Need Your Love and keeps up the pace on Surrender to Me before the 12+ minute Walk On medley begins. Perhaps my lone complaint about this album was that Walk On was broken up into 4 tracks on the CD. None of the 4 tracks can stand on their own given the flow of the medley, I'd rather Scholz had made Walk On a single 12+ minute track. He still could have listed the different parts on the CD sleeve or in the liner notes. On some CD players the transition from track to track is rather seamless, but on others there can be a slight "hiccup" between each track that is somewhat jarring in an otherwise thoroughly enjoyable piece.
Following Walk On is the unoffensive but comparatively weak, What's Your Name. In all fairness, even being the weakest song on the album, What's Your Name remains thoroughly enjoyable.
Magdalene, is a re-working of a song by Hybrid Ice, a band that found regional success in the early eighties in their native Pennsylvania. Having heard both Hybrid Ice's original version and Boston's version I've got to say that Scholz took a good song and made it great. The Hybrid Ice version is enjoyable enough, Scholz kept the choruses but changed the verses substantially and the harmony vocals by David Sikes and Tommy Funderburk are so tight they give me chills. To this day Magdalene remains my favorite song on this album. It just sounds as if everything fell into place. I'd even go so far as to say Magdalene blows their hit Amanda out of the water.
The album closes with the upbeat We Can Make It. It's an upbeat song about working together to change the world, it's the hints of a message that has crept increasingly more into Tom Scholz's lyrics in the years since.
If you've generally ignored this album due to the absence of Brad Delp, you're doing yourself a tremendous disservice. This album is superior, in every way, to 1986's Third Stage and is easily one of Boston's strongest albums-- Delp or no Delp.
Walk On (wikipedia)
Walk On (AllMusicGuide)
Boston (official site)
Tom Scholz (wikipedia)
Fran Cosmo (wikipedia)
Gary Pihl (wikipedia)
Tommy Funderburk (wikipedia)