Review by David Bowling
Question number one: What do such number one songs as “So Emotional” (Whitney Houston), “Alone” (Heart)”, “Eternal Flame” (Bangles), “True Colors” (Cyndi Lauper), and “Like A Virgin” (Madonna) have in common? The answer is they and dozens of other hits, were co-written by Billy Steinberg.
Question number two: How long does it take to release an album. In the case of Billy Steinberg and his former band Billy Thermal, about 35 years. Five of the tracks were released as an EP in 1979 but now Omnivore Recordings is about to issue the full lost album complete with bonus tracks.
Vocalist/guitarist Steinberg, guitarist Craig Hull, drummer Efren Espinosa, and bassist Bob Carlisle, who had a huge solo hit in 1997 with “Butterfly Kisses,” formed Billy Thermal in 1978. They quickly went into the recording studio and recorded an album, which then sat in the vaults for over three decades.
They were musically a new wave band. Their music had an energy and a smoothness that was typical of some of the best of the era. Steinberg wrote or co-wrote all of the tracks and while he would become one of the better pop composers in the business, the songs contained on the band’s self-titled album are rock and roll and at times have a little edge to them. The lyrics have a personal nature as the travel a journey through a range of human emotions and stories.
“How Do I Make You” and “Precious Time” would later be recorded by Linda Ronstadt and Pat Benatar, are presented here in their original incarnations. Songs such as “The Price I Pay,” “I’m Your Baby,” “Mirror Man,” and “No Connection” are all good examples of the second half of the new wave movement.
The members of Billy Thermal were lucky that when they were released by their label, they were given possession of their unreleased album. It may have taken awhile but sometimes the best things happen to those who wait. Billy Thermal is an album that will take you back to the better musical side of the late 1970’s.