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Steve Walsh

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Steve Walsh Schemer Dreamer  album cover
2.28 | 28 ratings | 5 reviews | 4% 5 stars

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Studio Album, released in 1980

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Schemer-Dream / That's All Right (5:26)
2. Get Too Far (4:32)
3. So Many Nights (4:24)
4. You Think You Got It Made (4:22)
5. Every Step of the Way (8:36)
6. Just How It Feels (3:43)
7. Wait Until Tomorrow (6:02)

Total Time: 37:05

Line-up / Musicians

- Steve Walsh / drums, keyboards, vocals
- David Bryson / guitar
- Steve Morse / guitar
- Kerry Livgren / guitar
- Duane Buckler / bass
- Ehart / drums
- Turner Gaugh / bass
- Tim Gehrt / drums
- Skip Lane / saxophone
- Jeff Lux / flute, guitar, vocals (background)
- Merle McLain / bass
- Allen Sloan / violin
- Cecil Welch / trumpet
- Rich Williams / guitar

Releases information

LP Wounded Bird Records (1980)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
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STEVE WALSH Schemer Dreamer ratings distribution

(28 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(4%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(14%)
Good, but non-essential (32%)
Collectors/fans only (36%)
Poor. Only for completionists (14%)

STEVE WALSH Schemer Dreamer reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by ClemofNazareth
3 stars The first comment to be made about this album is that there really isn't anything about it that can be considered progressive. Its very existence is a direct result of Steve Walsh's desire to pave a mainstream path for himself away from his roots as the prolific keyboardist and highly regarded lead singer of Kansas. It is noteworthy that the only track that even approaches a progressive feel ("You Think You Got It Made") is the one song where Walsh is accompanied by his (soon to be former) Kansas band mate and creative nemesis Kerry Livgren. The other song that is a bit of a departure for Walsh musically, though not lyrically, is "Wait Until Tomorrow", where he is also accompanied by a Kansas band mate, in this case lead guitarist Rich Williams.

The remainder of this short record is nearly an EP, with only seven tracks and clocking in at around 37 minutes. The lyrics are purely working class southern blues-influenced rock, so it's not surprising that Walsh's supporting cast included Dixie Dregs veterans Steve Morse, Allen Sloan, and Jeff Lux. The music is technically proficient, but it lacks the cohesive sense of purpose that most of the earlier Kansas work demonstrated. This was the music Walsh was dying to go make when he settled for penning the underachieving "Got To Rock On", "Anything for You", and "Back Door" tracks for his studio swan-song with the band (Audio-Visions) the same year. He would be back with the band by the time "Power" released in 1986, but by then Livgren and Dave Hope were gone, the band was not the same and would release only three subsequent studio albums of new material over the next twenty years. The growing chasm between Livgren and Walsh was becoming readily apparent to fans even during the tour supporting the Monolith release in 1979, and it's worth noting that all the songs on Schemer-Dreamer were written by Walsh between 1978 and 1979 (with the exception of his rendition of the honky-tonk standard "That's All Right"), which was the same time the band was on the road supporting Point of Know Return and Monolith and putting together the tracks for Audio-Visions. On both of these albums it is quite easy for fans to differentiate between the tracks written by Livgren, and those written by Walsh. Several tracks on Schemer-Dreamer were likely even considered and rejected by the band when Monlith and Audio-Visions were being created (or were held back by Walsh).

The album has its moments, to be sure. "Every Step of the Way" showcases Steve Walsh's unequaled vocal range and power, and has been a personal favorite of mine for well over two decades. It's still a straight-ahead rock song, but I can just picture in my head the brief satisfaction Walsh must have felt as he belted out his own words, with his own backing band, during his own studio sessions, for his own album. Must have been a real rush at the time. But even here the lyrics show him being inexorably drawn back to his Kansas connections. Lyrics like "I had all the questions, I wanted the answers" would undoubtedly have become another Kansas classic if they'd had the advantage of Livgren's arrangements, Ehart's drum thunder, Hope's pulsating bass line, and Rich William's masterful guitar chords to accompany them. As it turned out, this is a decent but not great song that is a gross underutilization of one of prog's great vocal natural talents.

"Schemer-Dreamer", the opening track, is a sort tale of a smug hick who apparently can only come up with a dollar to pay for the hooker he has gone to visit, and Walsh seems to be expressing distain and contempt for the baseless cockiness of the kid. The track transitions (for no apparent reason) into "That's All Right", the 1940's honky-tonk song made famous by Elvis Presley a couple of decades prior.

"Get Too Far", the next track, has a very mixed message about a blue- collar "everyman" who again, Walsh seems to be showing some contempt for. This isn't too puzzling I suppose, since Walsh's public persona has long been one of a person who seems to be easily irritated and impatient, but I'm not sure what he thought the song was supposed to accomplish, other than offend his largely blue-collar fan base. Every time I hear this song I think of Styx' "Blue Collar Man", the difference being in that song the working stiff clearly had the empathy of the band. One interesting note about this song is that the lead guitarist is the young David Bryson, who if memory serves me would surface again a dozen years later as the guitarist for Counting Crows.

"So Many Nights" and "Just How it Feels" are softer, slower, and introspective. The first is a love song of sorts, while the second recalls with apparent fondness the simple yet strong nature of his grandparents. Nothing really wrong with either song, just nothing about them that's worth pointing out either.

"You Think You Got It Made" is musically a bit closer to the richer, broader sound that suits his voice so well, and has a couple of small segues and time changes that at least make it moderately interesting. Here again though, the message is rather depressing (and perhaps prophetic), about a man who is struggling to 'make hay while the sun shines' so to speak, trying to cash in on his fifteen minutes of fame. Autobiographical, perhaps?

The album closes with "Wait Until Tomorrow", which features some fine and expansive drum work by fellow Kansas member Phil Ehart, but is otherwise somewhat kitschy and predictable, fading tune. I've read the lyrics, and it's either an anti-war song, or is about a guy who has a hangover. Maybe both. Clearly there's a war mentioned, and it appears the singer is somehow engaged in it. Perhaps the war is with what caused the hangover. Who knows.

One final note about the album cover, which has been the subject of much derision over the years. Yes, Walsh is seen wearing 80's-style athletic shorts ad no shirt, as well as kneepads and athletic shoes. Those who saw Kansas in summer concerts back then know that he often dressed this way for concerts, partly because he usually covered every square inch of the stage jumping around during the show, and also because he had this neat trick where he could do a handstand on top of his keyboards with one hand, and continue to play with the other. Hey, at least he believed in putting on a good show. And I can honestly say I never saw him during the 80's in pastel or parachute pants, so things could have been much worse.

All in all, Schemer-Dreamer easily qualifies for "Collectors/fans only" status based solely on its historical value to Kansas, Walsh, Dixie Dregs, and apparently Counting Crows fans. It clearly doesn't rise to the level of "Excellent addition to any prog music collection" since there really isn't anything specifically prog about it beyond the pedigree of Walsh and some of the other performers. So I guess that leaves what's in the middle, so three stars it is.


Review by ZowieZiggy
2 stars I was kind of thrilled to listen to this album when I saw all the good musicians who were playing here. A good chunk of Kansas "friends" (Livgren, Ehart, Williams) and future Kansas member Steve Morse.

Walsh's voice is still great of course, but in terms of compositions, there won't be any outstanding tracks here. Simple, basic US rock music. Here and there some nice guitar breaks, some flute and scarce violin. There isn't much else to expect from this album.

The worse being "Every Step of the Way". Unfortunately, it lasts for about nine minutes. Still, it will be some sort of hit. Several bearable to good songs: "Schemer-Dream" which is a good rocking number a la "Down The Road" but which ends in a poor "That's All right". This rocking mood is also present in the next two songs "Get Too Far" and "You Think You Got It Made".

If you fancy some rock ballads, "So Many Nights" is there to please you. Nice piano and sweet flute but nothing to write home about. Another attempt (but weaker and mellowish) "Just How It Feels".

The most elaborate song of this album is the closing number "Wait Until Tomorrow". Could be compared to a good "Kansas" one. Theme changes, wild rhythm, great instrumental parts. The only highlight IMO.

This is a big disappointment. But I was maybe expecting too much from this. The best of "Kansas" was already behind and the relation Walsh / Livgren to an almost all time low since Walsh will soon leave the band.

This is only a curiosity for "Kansas" fans. Two stars.

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Phew .! How lucky I am. finally I got the CD version of this memorable album by Steve Walsh. I have been in so far got the cassette format of this album and I want the CD format that I could not get until I found in local CD store. I was very happy purchasing this CD not because of the album is really a masterpiece - not even excellent - but I respect the value of old days music where I purchased this cassette during Idul Fitri holiday (Muslim holiday) in Tulungagung, East Java. I knew when I spun the cassette at the first time that this album was good especially with the unique Steve Walsh voice. Of course it's not a masterpiece album but almost all songs are good ones. The melodic and mellow one "So Many Nights" is a memorable song.

Those who have been familiar with the music of Kansas may find some similarities in style as one of key characteristics of Kansas music is the vocal part and Steve Walsh is the lead vocal of Kansas. It's not very similar with Kansas as it has less progressive movements in its songs in this album. "Schemer-Dream / That's All Right" (5:26) is a straight forward rock music with piano serves as main rhythm section as the vocal unfolds. There is a bit of southern music demonstrated here in upbeat mode. "Get Too Far" (4:32) flows in similar vein as the opening track. The interesting part of this second track is the flute solo and guitar solo. It's stunning and would make a new experience as you might taste something like "Kansas with flute, instead of violin".

"So Many Nights" (4:24) is a nice melodic song with great ambient that comprises soft piano touches overlaid by flute accompanying Steve Walsh mellow vocal line. It moves beautifully with good structure and smooth transition pieces. "You Think You Got It Made" (4:22) brings the music back to upbeat style with nice guitar solo, dynamic transition pieces with piano maneuvers. "Every Step of the Way" (8:36) is the longest in terms of duration and it starts nicely with stunning guitar work followed with piano based vocal line. Again, the guitar solo is stunning. The ending part demonstrates sax work. "Just How It Feels" (3:43) reminds me to mellow side of Kansas music like "Lamplight Symphony" etc. It's nice and cool. "Wait Until Tomorrow" (6:02) is to me the best track for this album as it has solid structure, great melody and distinctive accentuation in terms of music as well as singing style. Piano helps enrich the textures of the music. Steve Morse' guitar work is really inspiring and stunning especially when he maneuvers with great fills in fast tempo during breaks. The beauty of this song lies on its abilities to create music accentuation throughout the song. The guitar solo by Steve Morse is really stunning and it's hard to duplicate.

Overall, this is a very good album by Kansas Lead Vocalist that you should not miss. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Review by Epignosis
2 stars This album is a blessing for those who enjoy the more mainstream tracks from Kansas, particularly those on Monolith and Audio-Visions like "Loner," "Got to Rock On," and "Away From You." Given the immense support from The Dixie-Dregs, it's no wonder the music largely retains a southern rock flavor. The album cover, despite the ridicule it has received, is actually typical of how Walsh would appear in concerts (well, I suppose he didn't pack heat on stage); for him, being in front of a crowd was more than a performance- it was a workout. From running around all over the stage, to jumping up and down while playing, to doing handstands on his keyboard, he was certainly a dynamic performer (even though by his own admission, he regrets doing any of that "nonsense," to use a gentler word).

"Schemer-Dreamer" This is a bouncy number, with upbeat blues-rock sensibilities. The piano rolls through the whole track, and there's some crunchy bits of guitar that really work. The narrative lyrics make me think of "Lonely Street," but the story to this one is about a boy trying to get laid with only a dollar. It's a good jaunty, rockabilly track, that almost humorously goes into "That's All Right" by Elvis Presley.

"Get Too Far" Straightforward guitar and lyrics about the plight of the blue collar man, who is not painted in a positive light, make up this one. It puzzles me, given that the very type his music would appeal to would be the working class, and wasn't Walsh aiming toward mainstream acceptance? The brief flute interlude is out of place, but the guitar solo is right on the money.

"So Many Nights" Piano and flute introduce this much softer song. For the most part, Walsh hangs around the lower end of his wide vocal range, and relegates most of his higher end to the layers of background vocals (which take on a life of their own).

"You Think You Got It Made" Here are more contempt-ridden lyrics that I find to be something of a self-fulfilled prophecy, about someone who is riding the gravy train even if the line isn't a long one. The rhymes are a lazy, and the music is fairly uninteresting.

"Every Step of the Way" A gospel-like piano plays under Walsh's voice as he describes his own conflict with religion and the questions of life. Given that, and despite it's ordinary arrangement, this song would not have been out of place on a Kansas album from the late 1970s. A biting saxophone solo concludes the song.

"Just How It Feels" This is a different feel and flavor from what else is here, particularly lyrically. The words portray nostalgia and a regard for the aged. It makes me think of Walsh's better compositions, like "Taking in the View" from Power or "Peaceful and Warm" from Freaks of Nature. The song is gorgeous, with lovely strings and piano. For me, it is easily the best track here.

"Wait Until Tomorrow" Another strong track begins with piano and Walsh's voice through a phasing effect. The melancholic lyrics make me think of the saddening Kansas album In the Spirit of Things. After two minutes, the soft music ends completely, and the only part that could be reasonably considered progressive rock begins. This instrumental sections are of a much more complex arrangement. The guitar playing throughout this song is simply phenomenal. I believe this one would have made an album like "Audio-Visions" far stronger, especially alongside "No One Together."

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
1 stars The worst cover art in history?

I am a big fan of Kansas and I love Steve Walsh's vocals in Kansas music. Indeed, he is one of my favourite singers. But not even his biggest fans should be able to swallow this stinker of an album! Released around the same time as Kansas' Audio-Visions which was the last album Walsh did with Kansas before he left the band (but he thankfully returned later in the decade). The 80's were hardly Kansas best years but even the two albums Kansas did with John Elefante (Vinyl Confessions and Drastic Measures) are almost masterpieces compared to Schemer Dreamer!

What we have here is a mix of Rock 'N' Roll, Rockabilly and Southern Rock with totally generic lyrics and hardly any progressive tendencies whatsoever. The compositions are wholly middle of the road and utterly forgettable. Walsh is a really great singer but, like with any singer, he has to have good material to sing and this is clearly lacking here.

One thing that makes this album noteworthy is that Steve Morse plays on it! Morse would later join Kansas when Walsh returned to the fold to record Power and In The Spirit Of Things. But do not expect any of the brilliance Morse displayed on these future albums here. This is not Kansas and neither is it The Dixie Dregs. It is almost unbelievable that such greats as Steve Morse and also Kerry Livgren, Rich Williams and Phil Ehart agreed to play on this album, instead they should have told Walsh that this is unacceptable and sent him back to the drawing board. Schemer Dreamer is the worst album Steve Walsh ever made and the awful cover art fits the music quite nicely!

Recommended only for completionists!

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