(All Album Reviews by ffroyd)
In all the commotion surrounding the reissue of the first two Kansas albums, this one kinda slipped under the radar. Only available in limited release and very hard to find for years on CD, the Wounded Bird label recently picked Schemer Dreamer up and dusted it off a bit. I'm sure this disc gets mixed reviews from the folks who've heard it and probably rightfully so. It's a bit on the pop side but I still love it, I guess I have a real soft spot for a lot of stuff from this time period. Steve's vocals are in peak form and although the material is on the commercial side it's still got some great moments. I hadn't heard the album in almost 20 years and I actually got goosebumps when I first listened to it again.
The opener is the title track 'slash' cover tune "Schemer Dream/That's All Right", a really bouncy, honky-tonk piano driven rocker with some fun lyrics and a great segue into the "That's All Right" part. Although this is a pretty straight rock'n'roll tune it's very interesting how he combined his own writing with the Elvis song. Very nice way to open the album. Also, this was the single and I actually remember hearing it on the radio a couple times back then. Don't think it burned up the charts though.
"Get Too Far" is a pseudo political AOR anthem type song. The lyrics are a bit strange in that you don't really know where he stands, he's just complaining: "Can you hear them moan, hear them bitch and groan, No matter who they are they'll never get too far." It's a nice heavy song with some really decent guitar from David Bryson. Next up, the ballad "So Many Nights" - pretty sappy for the most part but does have some really haunting multi-tracked vocal harmonies and great flute from Jeff Lux. Steve's keyboard playing throughout the album is phenomenal. He doesn't use lots of different flashy synth sounds, just keeps it tasteful with piano and a little bit of organ here and there. For the song "You Think You Got It Made", there's a co-writing credit to M. Walsh. I think this is Marie Walsh, Steve's first wife but don't quote me on that. Anyway, this is another one in a similar vein as "Get too far".
I had forgotten how short this album was, I remember liking the second side of the vinyl much better but forgot there were only 3 songs on it. Oh well.. The first two feature some of Walsh's trademark nostalgic themed lyrics. "Every step of the Way" is very moving revival type piece. It's easy to step right into his story when he sings "I remember back in Kansas when we sang this song at night." At over 8 minutes, there's a bit of jamming on the tune and a nice sax solo and some female backing vocals. "Just How It Feels" is a nice touching ballad with a string arrangement. I'd say this one probably stood the test of time better than any other on the album. Just a great song!
The grand finale is the only semi-prog tune on the album and that's probably because fellow Kansas member Phil Ehart shows up behind the drum kit. "Wait Until Tomorrow" starts out simple with piano and vocals run through some phasing effect. After a couple of minutes it stops abruptly and the band kicks into a heavy Dixie Dregs type fusion jam. I guess it goes without saying that this is the track Steve Morse played on. He provides some great guitar work in a nice challenging tune. Lots of timing changes and starts and stops. It's kind of a shame Walsh didn't do more stuff like this for the album.
The one major drawback of the Wounded Bird reissue of Schemer Dreamer is the CD booklet if you wanna call it that. It's just shrunken reproduction of the original album sleeve and the print is really small. It's very hard to read, I guess I'm just getting too old. Oh yea, my review sucks. I just saw the one on All Music Guide and Stephen Thomas Erlewine gets right down to the nitty gritty. Check it out: http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=Akm91z8oajyvn
(All Album Reviews by Hunnibee)
I didn’t think I was familiar with Steve Walsh’s solo work in the 80s, but when I received Schemer Dreamer in the mail in 2003, I was very surprised...I had heard these songs before! Apparently, I am suffering from premature Alzheimer’s because don't remember ever owning this album, but apparently I did! My brain finally acknowledged this fact as each song progressed to the next.
I may not be able to recall my original analysis, but I can certainly give my opinion on it now. Schemer Dreamer is basically a mainstream rock album with limited prog elements and only one song that would remind the listener of Kansas. However, I feel it is unfair to compare this endeavor to Kansas; after all, it is a solo album! As it stands alone, it’s not a bad effort on Steve’s part, especially if you remove any thoughts of Kansas from the mix.
He starts off by purging some angst on the title track...life as a rock star isn’t so glamorous when you have to deal with difficult people! The song has a good rocking beat, however, and a nice cover of Elvis’s “That’s All Right” at the end. Steve’s frustration continues with Get Too Far. It seems he was angry at EVERYTHING back in those days! The flute is a nice touch, however. (Or is that a keyboard trick?)
I don’t cringe at the next song. In fact, I remember liking “So Many Nights” a lot back then. (I haven’t totally lost my memory!) The sweet melody makes up for the overly sentimental lyrics, but I believe Steve was being sincere with these words...whoever the lucky lady was! This is one of his better love songs. In sharp contrast, “You Think You Got It Made” seems to be a leftover from the bitter songs her wrote for Audio-Visions. Oddly enough, I can’t tell if he’s singing to another person or singing to himself!
The next track is my favorite on the album! “Every Step of the Way” is an intense, introspective autobiography of his life on the road. It’s a sweet rocker, musically, and he shows great maturity in the lyrics. Awesome guitars here, plus a touch of Kansas-like organ, to boot! This is a much better glimpse of our ‘young Steve’...it’s a great song!
The introspection continues on “Just How It Feels”. In fact, I believe it to be one of the finest songs he’s ever written! At first, I didn’t think it fit on this album, but then I realized that Schemer Dreamer is all about reflection of his life. How strange that way back then, he was experienced enough to be so contemplative and sentimental. The violin is very pretty.
Albums were way too short back in those days, especially non-prog productions. The last song “Wait Until Tomorrow” is the only prog song on Schemer Dreamer, but it’s a very nice tribute to the genre that made Steve a star. This one could easily fit on a Kansas album, in spite of its gloomy lyrics. Killer guitars and great vocalization here, but it all ends too soon!
The kid done good on his first solo effort, even if half of the songs are too "whiney". He was too young for that "woe is me" mentality...that came much later in his wild life!
So, I suppose I can laugh at the fact that I once owned Schemer Dreamer when it first came out, and then totally forgot all about it over the years. I’m not likely to forget it ever again!