Artist: Kansas Title: Kansas-Kansas / Song For America Genre: Progressive Rock Label: Sony/Legacy- http://www.legacyrecordings.com Website: http://www.kansasband.com I remember watching Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert in the early 70’s and seeing a band called Kansas playing a song I loved; it was “Can I Tell You.” I recall that night as if it was yesterday. They were different, unlike anything I had ever heard before, although I did not truly discover the power of Kansas until their fourth album Leftoverture. What a mistake it was for me to wait and pass on Kansas and Song For America. Thanks to the incredibly successful remasters market I get second chances all the time, and this is one of those sweet returns to the past. Kansas was playing bars in their home state looking for a break before Don Kirschner gave them a shot at stardom. The famous music man that made the Monkees a household name, could see the potential in their marketability beyond the borders of one state, particularly with lead off track on their soon to be debut album “Can I Tell You.” He was right. Although their entrance into the music buying public’s consciousness happened over a few years, the ultimate commercial success came with the smash “Carry On My Wayward Son” from Leftoverture, yet these two albums served as the cornerstones of a long and successful career. While “Can I Tell You” was full of violin and driving keyboards unfound on the top 40 charts, it was a viable radio ready tune set for cross over success; however, that was the only song on the album with that potential. Two songs that clocked in over seven minutes, “Journey from Mariabronn” and “Death of Mother Nature Suite,” which are now considered prog-rock classics and a part of the Kansas signature sound, would clearly define them as progressive rockers. Kansas sounds as vital and fresh today with these newly remastered discs as they did 30 years ago, and not just because of the great sound, because they were original and there was no other band recording music like them. There is a luster and clarity that is hard to ignore with these time tested recordings. Notably, the voice of Steve Walsh is absolutely soaring. Kansas was an excellent debut, although I think Song For America served as their calling card, whether it was recognized as such or not at the time-it is indeed a landmark release for the band that would set the table for further triumphs. They were a step ahead of the rest with the artwork presented on their album covers as well. How could you not notice the eye-catching artwork on these two albums? Their music would follow suit and keep listeners’ attention. What was being explored on the first album would reach its fruition on the second release with marathon runs like “Song for America” (10:01) and “Incomudro-Hymn to the Atman” (12:13). For some listeners with more mainstream tastes, the intricate song structures and odd time signatures were too complicated and excessive, thus the move towards a more commercial sound for the imminent across the board breakthrough success they would soon enjoy was unavoidable. They managed to keep their values and musical foundation intact regardless of the changes that they would go through, and I really admire them for that. I find these albums to be the archetypal progressive rock music with brilliantly executed musicianship. The tremendous vitality and the risqué attitude of this band made them what they were, and that is the very reason they continue to gain more attention with the passing of time. There are the bonus tracks, one on Kansas and two on Song For America. They are nothing unusual; in fact, the edited version of “Song For America” is noticeably out of sync in a few spots. That one song is the only flaw I could hear, all the rest is pure prog-rock magic. With this remastered and repackaging treatment of their catalog, new fans will discover them and the old guard will be delighted. I am certainly excited and pleased with the results that Sony/Legacy and the band have produced on these titles and I look forward to more (there will be). © Keith "MuzikMan" Hannaleck-http://www.muzikreviews.com June 26, 2004 Kansas-Kansas (1974/2004) Rating-9/10 1. Can I Tell You - 3:32 2. Bringing It Back - 3:33 3. Lonely Wind - 4:17 4. Belexes - 4:24 5. Journey from Mariabronn - 7:56 6. The Pilgrimage - 3:43 7. Apercu - 9:36 8. Death of Mother Nature Suite - 7:53 9. Bringing It Back Live - 9:41 * * Previously Unreleased Song For America (1975/2004) Rating-9.5/10 1. Down the Road - 3:44 2. Song for America -10:01 3. Lamplight Symphony - 8:14 4. Lonely Street - 5:43 5. The Devil Game - 5:04 6. Incomudro-Hymn to the Atman -12:13 7. Song for America -3:01 * 8. Down the Road -3:49 * * Previously Unreleased Kansas Then: Phil Ehart-Drums Dave Hope-Bass, Vocals Kerry Livgren-Lead and Rhythm Guitar, Piano, Organ, Moog Synthesizer, Vocals Robby Steinhardt-Violin, Lead Vocals and Harmony Steve Walsh-Organ, Piano, Congas, Lead Vocals and Harmony Rich Williams-Guitar Listen to samples & Buy CDs/DVDs here
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Grab this one! Artist: Kansas (www.kansasband.com)
Title: PROTO-KAW Early Recordings from Kansas 1971-1973
Label: Cuneiform Records (www.cuneiformrecords.com)
Genre: Progressive Rock
You may think that these recordings are a crude representation of the legacy of Kansas. If you were thinking that, you are wrong. This collection of early works from the second incarnation of the band titled PROTO-KAW, is a real revelation for longtime fans of the band. Kerry Livgren said in the liner notes that he found it amazing how they were playing such progressive music long before they ever heard bands that they were falsely accused of emulating. Livgren also mentions how they had used cheap recording equipment at the time and this is not a CD for audiophiles by any means. They were working with what they could afford at the time and overall did a fine job creating some incredibly good progressive rock. The tracks are cleaned up nicely to make this quite listenable for the advanced audience of today and they sound exceptional. Genuinely taken aback by the complex tracks they put together so many years ago, this CD came as a pleasant surprise and a real gem to add to my collection.
You will hear some advanced music with instruments like the saxophone and flute, creating a jazz-rock fusion that would be expected from bands like King Crimson or early Jethro Tull. There are unquestionably essentials apparent in the tracks that were no longer part of their makeup before they recorded their first major label release. The jazz fusion elements were a big part of their sound back then and I am sure many of you will be surprised with what you hear on this CD. What I expected to hear I did not, instead of stripped down demos of songs that never reached fruition; I heard a band that was making incredibly great music while stretching themselves out musically, just like a true improvisational unit would.
Here is the proof that Kansas was a great band before the American audience discovered them. It is too bad that the people in the area they were from did not realize what they had at the time, in the end it did not matter; they became legends in spite of that. You will enjoy this immensely if you are a fan of their music or if you just enjoy prog-rock in general, any way you look at it…this will work for you.
©"Keith "MuzikMan" Hannaleck
Feb. 20, 20031. Hegemonium
Lyn Meredith: Vocals
John Bolton: Electric Saxophone, Flute
Don Montre: RMI Piano, Flute, Alto Sax
Kerry Livgren: Guitar (Piano on Nactolos intro)
Dan Wright: Hammond Organ, Ring Modulator
Rod Mikinski: Bass
Zeke Low: Drums on tracks 1/2/2/8/9
Brad Schulz: Drums on tracks 4/5/6/7
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Kansas: Somewhere to Elsewhere (CD, 68:09) Magna Carta MA-9050-2, 2000
208 E. 51st St.
New York, NY 1002-6500
After having gone through more roster changes during the 90's than the
Pittsburgh Pirates, those old champions of American progressive music -
Kansas - have returned with a new CD titled Somewhere to Elsewhere.
This version of Kansas contains seven members (Earth, Wind and Fire call
your offices), most notably the distinctive violins of Robby Steinnhardt,
Steve Walsh on vox, and hard rockin' Richard Williams on guitar. But the
major player in this incarnation of the band is most definitely keyboardist
Kerry Livgren, who is back from a 17-year absence, and single handedly
writes all of the tracks on the album. If anyone can recapture the classic
Kansas sound, Kerry can - and he proves this in many places on the album.
Unfortunately, his lyrics sometimes sound like they belong more in a church
revival, (Livgren is a born-again Christian)*, than on a rock album.
Within the first few seconds of the opening cut, there's no doubt what band
it is you're listening to, as the interplay between Livgren's piano and
Steinhardt's violins immediately reveal Kansas' classic sound. The track,
entitled "Icarus II," is Kansas at its progressive finest encompassing
everything from the aforementioned piano and violin interaction to some
sudden and totally unexpected "death metal-ish" riffs from Williams.
"Icaurus II" is the type of track that will surely make every Kansas fan's
Top 10 list - it truly represents everything that is good about the band.
Unfortunately, the first track is the best track - the rest of the CD is
filled with slightly above average numbers and mediocre song structure. At
times, the band comes off as more of an amateur bar band ("When the World
Was Young," "Disappearing Skin Tight Blues," and "Grand Fun Alley" [get
it?]) than a world-class progressive rock band. There's nothing wrong with a
good ol'-fashioned bar boogie every now and again, but those types of tunes
really betray the amount of talent this band possesses. The other
embarassing moment on the disc is "The Coming Dawn (Thanatopsis)," which is
basically Livgren's attempt at making Kansas a gospel vehicle. If I wanted
spiritual music, I'd get a Bebe and Cece Winans album. Finally, Walsh's
voice seems to have weakened a bit, and his voice sounds forced on many
Those negatives aside, there are some other bright spots on Somewhere to
Elsewhere. In addition to the aforementioned epic "Icarcus II," Livgren
has also penned the hauntingly beatiful "Byzantium" - a track that combines
Eastern-style music with lovely acoustic guitar passages to create one of
the most memorable songs on the CD. Another stand-out is the first half of
the 8 minute finale "Not Man Big," which really showcases some great guitar
work from Williams. Unfortunately the song winds up spiraling into another
"bar band" jam during most of the last 4 minutes, ruining what otherwise
would've been a fine ending to the CD.
Despite some of the negatives mentioned above, I'd say that Kansas has done
a decent job of coming up with a few gems in Somewhere to Elsewhere
(again, "Icarus II" is almost worth the price of the CD alone). However, the
CD doesn't wear particularly well after a few listens, and the song
structures are just too simplistic to hold the attention of most progressive
As a side note, Kansas fans who are planning on seeing Kansas on their
current tour supporting Yes may want to pick the CD up, as Kansas (unlike
Yes) will actually be playing music of their latest release. More
information can be found on Kansas at their official website
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*EER Editor's note: On the flip side of things, if you are a Kansas/Kelly Livgren fan and a Jesus/"things of the Spirit" type fan as well, then some songs on this CD will be especially inspiring and emotive. What goes in the artist's soul comes out in the music -- no big deal. Listen to samples & Buy CDs/DVDs here
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