Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Worst Steve Walsh Lyrics Ever!

What made the band Kansas great in the 70s was a combination of Steve Walsh's incredible voice (in his prime, arguably the best prog-rock vocalist ever), Kerry Livgren's great compositions (both words & music) and really cool orchestration among 6 very good but non-virtuostic (in the Rick Wakeman, Keith Emerson sense) players. Their first 5 studio albums, beginning with "Kansas" and ending with "Point of Know Return" are must have for any serious prog-rock fan, as is "Two for the Show," their live album from the "Point of Know Return" tour.

Long story short: Walsh, a phenomenal singer and good keyboardist, was never the writer that Livgren was, but nonetheless began demanding more "writing" time as they became a "bigger" band. And Livgren in 1979 became a born-again Christian (as did bassist Dave Hope) which led to tension with their non-born again members (Steve Walsh eventually quit for a variety of reasons, one important of which was, as a singer, he didn't "feel" the born-again lyrics that Livgren started writing, after 1979). The last two studio albums following POKR they did with Walsh -- "Monolith" and "Audio Visions" -- have a few gems (notably "A Glimpse of Home" from Monolith and "No One Together" from Audio Visions), but, they started going downhill writing wise (and sales wise!) with those two albums. The reason in my opinion? They let Steve Walsh write more of the material, exactly as he wanted. Plus, Livgren's writing peaked around Leftoverture and Point of Know Return; I think he was ready to let Walsh take more writing responsibility.

Once Walsh left in 1981, they replaced him with born-again Christian John Elephante who gladly sang Livgren's lyrics about becoming a born-again Christian. However, with Walsh gone, so was the original Kansas magic. And although they produced some great tunes, Livgren was in his prime, writing wise, before he became a born-again Christian. Much of the material he wrote before 1979, before he was a Christian, reflected his "spiritual search." After 1979, he found what he was looking for. Though he produced good and great music from both eras, his music, in my opinion, was much better when he was searching, than after he found his truth.

Anyway the following is Steve Walsh's "Anything For You," with lyrics reproduced below. Because his voice was in his prime (as any serious Kansas fan will let you know, Walsh, like many rock vocalists, has lost some tone and range since then), I can listen to and enjoy anything he sang in that era. Though, lyric wise, this is about as bad as it gets.

I still believe in what you say
I still believe that it could work ok
But love is just another game you play
You'll never change your mind
You exist so free and clear
Let no one touch you let no one near
I think you're just someone afraid of fear
Or what you just might find
I can see them all lining up outside your front door
Filthy minds and terrible habits are interesting sure


O but look at me now if I've changed tell me how
O I'd do anything for you

I'm sick of fighting but I need you so
You tell me lies but I can't let go
I want to take you out but you say no
Think you're ashamed of me
You give me headaches o you got your gall
If it weren't for me you wouldn't have nuttin' at all
I fell for you 'caus you were nice and tall
I liked what I could see
I could be the keeper of fortunes if I was inclined
Let me know that you're standing beside me I'll give them a sign


O but look at me now if I've changed tell me how
O I'd do anything for you

I could lead an army to victory or win in a race
I could do it if only I knew that you'd save me a place


O but look at me now if I've changed tell me how
O I'd do anything for you

To redeem them, the following is "No One Together" from Audio-Visions, written by (of course) Livgren. This live recording has some rough spots. But this is *the* gem of Audio-Visions, progressive rock at its best.


Malachi said...

Monolith is a good album,
has more between the line meanings, but it was recorded in a hurry, or so it seems. audio visions was never meant to be- it must've been a contract obligation- CURTAIN OF IRON is prophetic - 9 years after it was released the berlin wall fell, and then the iron curtain. even Kerry said they should have taken more time with it, but with 2 solo albums caused audio visions to suffer. if you listen to Seeds of Change and Schemer Dreamer and audio visions, take the best parts and make one yes just 1 album from those 3 you have a great album, so they spread themselves thin and it showed, but with mp3 make an album from those 3 and you have a masterpiece!

David said...

I'm a huge Kansas fan who is very familiar with the music of the band as well as the history of the band. Just about everything you have said is "spot on" and I concur with your observations. About the only thing I challenge is the statement that you made about Steve demanding more writing time. Except for the album Leftoverture, which was written at a time when Walsh had a bad case of song writer's blcok, he has always written about half of the material and that is what he did on "Monolith" and "Audiovisions". However, it is true that Livgren reached his creative peak during "Leftoverture" and "Point of Know Return" and both of these guys wrote an entire (solo) album worth of song in-between these two albums which were only about a year and a half apart. Thus, they had to concentrate more on quantity rather than quality.
Livgren's pre-Christian songs had a much wider appeal because much of his lyrics dealt with someone searching for the meaning to life which is something everyone can relate to whereas several of his songs on Monolith were Gospel Rock which only appealed to born-again Christians. I can't blame Walsh for not wanting to sing "songs" about Jesus if his heart wasn't into it. All the great vocalists want to sing songs that they can relate to and obviously Steve did not share Kerry's "born again" Christian philosophy. It was common for Geddy Lee to ask Neil Peart to change certain lyrics that made him uncomfortable and I've heard Ann Wilson, Ronnie James Dio, and many others say the same thing.