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  • A great album cover should give an indication of the sound of an album, or at least its sensibility. Happily, that much is indeed true with Steve Walsh's solo debut, Schemer-Dreamer, which sports what very well could be the greatest album cover in rock history. There are no less than four illustrations of Walsh, all shirtless and in running shorts, with the point of focus being an image of Walsh in sunglasses towering over a stadium and pointing two guns at the viewer (thankfully, he's being safe and wearing ear protection); above it is a glamorous head shot silhouetted by a mountain range, with his hair looking appropriately wind-swept; to the right is a shot of him singing and to the left, he's engaged in an indiscernible athletic activity. It's a portrait of an id raging out of control -- it's the Dirk Diggler album brought to life! -- and that's the sound of the record. Stepping outside of Kansas for the first time, Walsh leaves behind all of the art rock pretensions of his band and indulges himself in all his rock star fantasies. He winds with a big, loud, dumb arena rock record, one that sounds completely tied to its year, if not month, of release. It's ridiculous, to be sure -- not as ridiculous as the cover, of course -- but it's more fun than nearly any Kansas record, which admittedly isn't saying too much. Kansas fans will likely miss the ambition that marked that band's albums, since this is nothing but generic hard rock, designed to rock arenas across America. They'll probably also miss the hooks that marked "Carry On Wayward Son," since every one of these seven songs follows the template of late-'70s/early-'80s arena rock so closely that there's no space for such niceties as hooks or melodies; it's all formula, all the time. Nevertheless, it's a fascinating artifact of rock star vanity from the pre-MTV days, and it's kind of fun because of that, especially when that glorious cover is factored into the equation. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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