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Steve Walsh Vocal Analysis

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charstar

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Unfortunately not too many people are familiar Steve Walsh, probably because Kansas songs aren't as well known. So I wanted to start a thread to analyze his vocals. 

This was the song that started it all. Had to imagine that I might have never known about Steve Walsh if a classmate hadn't decided to play it. This was the first time I heard the song and that was in the post 2000s era! I didn't know anything about vocal technique back then but actually it was the lead singer's voice that captivated my attention instead of the iconic guitar riff.

Below are the moments that stuck out to me the most the very first time I heard this song:

3:49 - 3:53 "Nothing equals the splendor"  Very strong EE and on a C5 too! Still don't know how he does that.

3:46 - 4:00 "Surely heaven waits for you" This time an excellent OO from "you" on a B4. Pretty remarkable that it's a closed vowel at that high of an intensity!

4:13 - 4:21 "No mooooreee!" Another high intensity moment on a B4; this has got to require good breath management and efficiency

Alright, here's one more:

6:48 - 7:28 OK this is pretty incredible. More than half a minute of beastly endurance! Vowels sound like OH-AH-UH to me, but I might be completely wrong. 

 

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says you ...

When I was a teenager, "Dust in the Wind" was a giant hit playing on all of the stations. They may not be as well known to teenagers today growing up listening to Bieber, however.

At one point, I had everything Kansas ever recorded. They were my favorite band.

Steve had a shouty and hypo-nasal quality up top but it seemed to work for the music. He also has quite a bit of attitude and is very difficult to work with, as difficult as was Kerry Livgren.

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Steve Walsh was one of my favorite singers from that era.  A great belter - high intensity - check out 6:47 on this song - long sustained A4's, B4's - all pure overdrive chest voice.  This was 1974 before pitch correction.  

In live performances Steve was hit or miss - I've seen him many times - some good nights some bad nights - maybe due to heavy touring schedule / too much partying...  In the last 10 years his performances have been more consistent, good health.

More than his technique - it is his style / nuances / licks / phrasing / musicality combined with Livegren's genius compositions and melodies that draws the listener into a kind of a hypnotic trance.  

 

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Count me in as another HUGE fan of his voice and he was one of my biggest influences.  I did a lot of research on him.

I came close to meeting him, but he told all the hopefuls that night he does not speak after a show.  Steve was really the rocker of the bunch and he really wanted to be a big star on his own.  He left Kansas recently and I don't think it was totally on good ending because he's back out singing again.  He tried out for Bad Company and Yes back in the day as well.

One thing to keep in mind also is these tracks were recorded in one take, no cut and paste, no edits.  7-9 minute songs!

Geno is right.  His live performances unfortunately were inconsistent due a lot to drug and alcohol abuse. 

Also see the Streets video below...He can sing anything!

Lesser known songs to check out for the vocals are:

Kansas:

The Pinnacle

Lonely Street (Live versions)

Can't cry anymore

How my soul cries out for you

Steve Walsh - Scemer Dreamer album:

Every step of the way

Khymera: 

Bless a brand new angel

Glossolalia:

That's what loves all about

 

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From what I understood of the band history, which can always suffer revisionism depending on who is telling the story, Steve left the band the first time because Kerry Livgren became a born-again christian and wanted to put more christian lyrics in and Steve wanted more rock type numbers like "Point of Know Return." And so he left halfway through the completion of "Vinyl Confessions." So, they audtion a few hundred singers before settling on John Elefante.

 

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haha ronws, you don't say? Must have been nice listening to 70s music in the 70s. I started out with classical piano so naturally in contemporary music I gravitated toward Dream Theater. Also not all of us grow up listening to Bieber. In fact, I don't remember the last time I turned on the radio actually. Let's not get started on a discussion about the homogenization of pop music xD

Didn't Steve Walsh not like Freddie Mercury for being a diva or whatever? That's a shame, both were great frontmen. I'm sure Steve Walsh had a bit of a diva inside him too.

The inconsistent performances just goes to show that even great vocalists need to take of their voices. How's Steve's singing nowadays? Does it have the same "core" to it?

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Yeah, I saw Kansas in 1982 at the Reunion Arena in Dallas (the arena no longer exists but Reunion Tower with the revolving restuarant on top is still there.) It was not long after Steve left the band, so, I can say that I heard John Elefante live before I heard him on the later finished albums like Vinyl Confessions and Drastic Measures. The show ran kind of long and then I had to get back to Arlington. I was a EE major at the University of Texas at Arlington.

Funny and true story. It was at that show that I Iearned that "Dust in the Wind" is played with two guitars. I didn't know, so when I learned to play the song, I played it on one guitar and it sounded very much like the recording, as far as arrangment goes. I have been playing that song since it first hit the airwaves about (1977 or 1978?)

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On 3/15/2016 at 5:18 PM, charstar said:

haha ronws, you don't say? Must have been nice listening to 70s music in the 70s. I started out with classical piano so naturally in contemporary music I gravitated toward Dream Theater. Also not all of us grow up listening to Bieber. In fact, I don't remember the last time I turned on the radio actually. Let's not get started on a discussion about the homogenization of pop music xD

Didn't Steve Walsh not like Freddie Mercury for being a diva or whatever? That's a shame, both were great frontmen. I'm sure Steve Walsh had a bit of a diva inside him too.

The inconsistent performances just goes to show that even great vocalists need to take of their voices. How's Steve's singing nowadays? Does it have the same "core" to it?

Walsh is a very outspoken guy and had no qualms saying in an interview that he did not care for Mercury.  Queen was very impressed by Kansas. This was mentioned in their documentary.  In the early years, Steven Tyler often tried to sabatage their shows.  Their live musicianship was tight as a drum.

Walsh live in good voice is truly something to behold.

 

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Little tidbit. Walsh, not being very good with people, as one can find out in his interviews, certainly did most of the singing. Violinist Robby Steinhardt was the second singer in the band and also did most of the banter with the audience between songs.Just a big and friendly guy with the sweetest touch on the strings.

It was apparent to people who are familiar with or even have friends who are native-american, have asked Walsh if he is native-american. He truly does not know. He was adopted and evidently, even in this great day and age, he doesn't know his birth parents. I think he does not want to know. And i will explain why. 

In 1973, my wife gave birth and because of family and religious pressure, she gave the baby up for adoption. And yes, the records were "sealed." 

1995, her daughter, all grown and having questions and aided by the help of her mom, contacted the Edna Gladney Home in Fort Worth and they, in turn, sent information to my wife's last known address, her parents' house. To the point, it was possible for my wife's daughter to find her 20 years ago. So, yes, it would be possible for Walsh to find his parents but I don't think he wants to. Adopted children sometimes cannot get over the rejection they can feel from having been "given up for adoption."

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That's a great compliment. I feel that Queen's recording quality sets them apart from other bands, that they are somehow more musically intelligent, if that makes any sense. In a documentary Brian May explained how he used prime numbers for the stomp stomp sound in We Will Rock You. Also they did the whole overdubbing thing (on analog equipment too!) giving the characteristic Queen sound for the vocal harmonies. 

Now back to Steve Walsh, I heard a 1970s recording of a live performance and it blew my mind. It must have been even better if you were actually there. 

Interesting that Walsh wasn't that great with people, though I guess on stage he wasn't always in the front, as he was playing keys. You guys probably know more than me about his participation with the audience.

 

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Brian May is actually Dr May, with a PhD in physics with a specialty in astro-physics. There's lots of ooey gooey math in that. Like the little humdinger by mathematician Paul Dirac.

f(x) = SSSS (Y1)^4) + ((Y2)^4) + ((Y3)^4) + ((Y4)^4) where each y is an aspect of the 4 dimensions and then end result of the summation of these derivatives through an interval is that gravity is an effect that decreases with time in an expanding universe. I don't know that the theory or formula has been proven but it is an elegant and simple statement and I could see Brian and others slaving away over a hot chalkboard calling each other cheeky and daft and other cute british sayings while they unscrew the inscrutable.

So, on the one hand, you have Brian May who would like to find the beginning of it all. The other hand, you have Steve Walsh who does not want to know his history. Kansas was my favorite band and I had every recording they made. But being great musicians and good at what you do does NOT give license to being rude or arrogant, Those are offenses that can result in a person getting his but kicked. Yes, I am the one to do the butt-kicking, yes, it will be embarrassing for the recipient. I will always be a fan of the Kansas with Steve Walsh but just the same, given a chance to talk with him, I would not give him quarter for rude behavior just because of his celebrity.

I worship no man, period, paragraph end of book, forever, and amen.

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59 minutes ago, Sexy Beast said:

Actually there are 11 dimensions

Depends on your perspective. If you read the whole post, this is from the perspective of Dirac, trying to explain or express a thought and possible consequence of what was then a relatively new understanding of an expanding universe theory. If there really was a big bang, then, can physical constants or effects change with time?

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Is this turning into a discussion about string theory and other physics stuff? Because we can certainly go there, though it might best be served in another thread lol. All the metaphysical questions you dreamed of asking! 

Anybody know where Steve Walsh learned to sing? Or was he self-taught like Freddie Mercury and Bruce Dickinson?

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17 hours ago, charstar said:

That's a great compliment. I feel that Queen's recording quality sets them apart from other bands, that they are somehow more musically intelligent, if that makes any sense. In a documentary Brian May explained how he used prime numbers for the stomp stomp sound in We Will Rock You. Also they did the whole overdubbing thing (on analog equipment too!) giving the characteristic Queen sound for the vocal harmonies. 

Now back to Steve Walsh, I heard a 1970s recording of a live performance and it blew my mind. It must have been even better if you were actually there. 

Interesting that Walsh wasn't that great with people, though I guess on stage he wasn't always in the front, as he was playing keys. You guys probably know more than me about his participation with the audience.

 

Steve moved from behind the keys to dancing, doing hand stands off the keyboards, falling into the audience, etc. In later interviews he said he regretted doing it.

Here he is with his handstands (around 4:40).  As far as voice, I believe he did the choir thing, and just sang in a lot of bar bands, often performing in more than 2 at a time.

He also formed the band Streets, and was clearly trying to get that project going. (2nd one down). 

 

 

 

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lol Steve Walsh acrobatics! I watched another live performance of Carry On Wayward Son and he was going crazy on the bongos and keyboard. He must have been really fit/strong to be able to do that. Maybe that wasn't who he really was, so to say? 

Wouldn't it be cool if we could somehow interview Steve Walsh on his technique?

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I read in an interview that when Steve turned 50 and wasn't nearly as flexible as he used to be, that part of his regret for doing the acrobatics is that he later considered it a sign of a weak show. If your musicianship and performance is top-notch, then you don't need stunts.

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On 3/20/2016 at 0:19 AM, charstar said:

lol Steve Walsh acrobatics! I watched another live performance of Carry On Wayward Son and he was going crazy on the bongos and keyboard. He must have been really fit/strong to be able to do that. Maybe that wasn't who he really was, so to say? 

Wouldn't it be cool if we could somehow interview Steve Walsh on his technique?

I came close to meeting him backstage once (one of my customers worked for Yamaha) but Phil Ehart said he doesn't like to speak after a show.  I don't think Walsh could really speak about his technique nor would he want to.

In an interview when asked about what he does he just said  "I don't know, it's what I don't do. I used to do warmups, but the band made fun of me."

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I don't know he did it then. So much raw power and no warmup? That is next level...

ronws, that's pretty insightful. You're absolutely right. Nowadays all the stunts and gimmicks are stealing the show but that's for another discussion probably

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Still, late 70's, early 80's, doing flips off the speaker cabs. Long hair whipping around and smacking him in his own face. It was a "miracle out of nowhere."

Little trivia. The line-up of Kansas being Phil Ehart, Dave Hope, Rich Williams, Steve Walsh, Kerry Livegren (founder,) and Robby Steinhardt was actually the third incarnation of the band. Steve was the most recent change as the band had mostly settled into place by then. Even though Steve is more of a rocker kind of guy and Kerry always flavored classical, and the Beatles, and Elvis, from his upbringing, Steve had the voice that brought alive what Kerry was trying to express.

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Another bit of trivia. How did Kansas get discovered? At the time, Don Kirschner was an a&r guy. Kansas was shopping to a few labels and somehow managed to convince him to stop by a club they were playing Topeka, (Kansas.) He was on his way across the country and it was not that much out of the way. To ensure a good turn-out, the band made fliers to paste all over town and in big letters at the bottom, "FREE BEER!!!" Oddly enough, the place was packed.

Anyway, so that got them noticed.

Another bit of trivia. Kansas is a native-american word and it means, believe it or not, "people of the south wind."

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More trivia. Rich Willams and Robby Steinhardt are classically trained on their instruments. Kerry Livgren had piano lessons as a kid and could have easily gone the classical route but then, he heard the Beatles.

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14 hours ago, VideoHere said:

In an interview when asked about what he does he just said  "I don't know, it's what I don't do. I used to do warmups, but the band made fun of me."

That could explain some of his "off nights".  For me, if I don't do warm ups my voice gets tight in a hurry.  (I know Sadolin says we don't need warmups but I don't buy that)

Interesting timing - Yesterday I received the DVD "Miracles Out Of Nowhere" a documentary of the band - signed by Kerry Livgren - from a friend of mine from Topeka who personally knows Kerry.  I have not watched this DVD yet.  Ron - have you watched this?

One time when Kansas was doing a concert nearby where I live, my wife spotted Steve Walsh jogging on the main road near our house.  He was pretty far from any hotel so he must jog for miles.  The guy keeps himself in good shape.

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2 hours ago, gno said:

That could explain some of his "off nights".  For me, if I don't do warm ups my voice gets tight in a hurry.  (I know Sadolin says we don't need warmups but I don't buy that)

Interesting timing - Yesterday I received the DVD "Miracles Out Of Nowhere" a documentary of the band - signed by Kerry Livgren - from a friend of mine from Topeka who personally knows Kerry.  I have not watched this DVD yet.  Ron - have you watched this?

One time when Kansas was doing a concert nearby where I live, my wife spotted Steve Walsh jogging on the main road near our house.  He was pretty far from any hotel so he must jog for miles.  The guy keeps himself in good shape.

I have not seen that one, yet. And yes, Steve is in amazing shape for his age. Acutally, for any age.

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