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Class ?

Main Category: Prog Rock
Also applicable: Arena Rock, Roots Rock
Starting Period: The Interim Years
Also active in: The Punk/New Wave Years, The Divided Eighties,

From Grunge To The Present Day



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Year Of Release: 1974
Overall rating = 9

Too glossy for the barroom, too barroomy for the opera hall. What's in it for me, really?..

Best song: CAN I TELL YOU

Track listing: 1) Can I Tell You; 2) Bringing It Back; 3) Lonely Wind; 4) Journey From Mariabronn; 5) The Pilgrimage; 6) Apercu; 7) Death Of Mother Nature Suite.

So many fans of good old "country-prog" have crucified me in the past for spewing uninformative nonsense and unmitigated slander about the band that I have no choice but to start this freshly rewritten review with a bit of honestly researched info (Web sources exclusively, of course, because it was enough for me to spend my hard earned cash on pirated MP3s of these guys - boil me alive in crocodile fat if you wish, I'm not that desperate to fork over any more for a copy of Kerry Livgren's biography, not even if he signs it himself).

Anyway, around the start of 1974 Kansas was really two bands. One was properly "Kansas", a Kerry Livgren vehicle for something probably very very horrible (fortunately, no official recordings are available). Another one was called "White Clover" and partially consisted of some of the earliest members of 'Kansas Mark I' and partially of Kansas-unrelated Americana musicians, most notably Steve Walsh and Robby Steinhardt. As the two bands merged, with Kerry dismantling "Kansas Mark II" and donating the name to the former White Clover, so did their styles: Livgren took along the prog influences, and the rest of the band stayed - for a time, at least - rooted in barroom boogie.

This pretty much sums up the self-titled debut, I guess. Think of yer basic barroom boogie band that, with the addition of a complexity-obsessed new member, all of a sudden decided to get pretentious and become a full-grown art-rock outfit along the lines of its somewhat more successful European colleagues. Hence two inevitable facts: a) the best stuff on their debut album is the one which follows the barroom formula more closely than anything else; b) anything else that is supposedly 'Kansas' is a faithful, but purposeless imitation of the Nice, ELP, Genesis, Yes and... you name it, we've got it. This does add a little novelty value - let's face it, it doesn't happen every day that your basic roots-rock outfit decides to engage in troubadour pomp - but once the novelty value wears off, it's Alka Seltzer territory all the way through, and I'm almost not joking here.

Seriously though, I do dig the first two tracks off this album, even if taken on their own, they'd give a completely false interpretation of it. 'Can I Tell You' is a rather straightforward rocker with a nice touch of country fiddle (running a little ahead, I'd like to note that the fiddle was pretty much the only element that Kansas added to the art-rock arsenal - which, when you think of it, was a rather natural thing to do if you call your band Kansas, but I wonder how the heck they forgot the banjo and the washing board). It's catchy, it's danceable - a big minus for all them non-discriminating prog lovers, right? - and it's got loads of true White Clover-ish energy as delivered by people who seem to be really having genuine fun.

Likewise, their cover of J. J. Cale's 'Bringing It Back' fully works as well. If anything, I could never accuse the guys of not knowing how to boogie. Robby Steinhardt is the main hero here; his singing is suitably scruffy and smelly, a little reminiscent of Eric Burdon's style even, and so is his violin playing - in fact, he's the only band member here who isn't afraid to "let his hair down" and indulge in a little bit of intentional sloppiness (everything else is much too "clean" for truly great rock'n'roll). If it weren't for the mad fiddle, these two tracks would only qualify as semi-decent background music; Steinhardt does his best to actually grab the listener's attention, and, well, mine he's certainly grabbing.

But things get way different and way worse with the rest of the material. Short, mushy piano ballads ('Lonely Wind' - kinda like James Taylor on a very uninspired day) alternate with twisted, multi-part pseudo-symphonies, some of them "solemn" ('Journey From Mariabronn'), some aggressive ('Belexes'), some introspective ('Apercu'). And in the process of jamming, singing, introing, outroing, pausing and getting back, Kansas are doing their best to prove what it is that truly separates a "second generation" prog-rock band from a first generation one. A stunning, maddening, unbearable lack of originality. And this is much worse than you might think. Lack of originality per se may not matter, but at the very least, you gotta have spirit; Kansas preserve only the form.

I guess all this might work for uninitiated ears, but trust me: I hear bits and snatches of just about everything from the past epochs in every one of these tracks. At times, Walsh is even modelling his voice after Jon Anderson's. 'Belexes' is by far the most satisfying of all these failures, if only because it's got a good, satisfying 'stomp' to it, but it's is still based on a riff traceable back to the Nice's 'Rondo'. 'Apercu' draws on several themes from The Yes Album. Ah, well, you can't win them all... 'Journey From Mariabronn' actually sounds to me like something from a late period in Genesis' career - something from Wind & Wuthering (yes, I know that sounds anachronistic, but I had to mention it nevertheless because it's funny how already the very first Kansas album brings Genesis' worst "prog" effort on my mind), without the tremendously grating Banksynth tone, of course, but with a similar lack of purpose and direction.

It is very, very hard to get to the core of this problem. One thing I'll admit is that Kansas are admirable imitators indeed. They got the chops - there's no doubt about it whatsoever - and they know what it takes to make a seven-minute rock symphony out of a potential three-minute pop single. What they don't have is (a) the divine spark, (b) a sense of good measure, and (c) a sense of humour. In a way, part (c) may be the most important here. Everything, from first to last minute, is so dang serious that it makes it hard for me to be serious about it.

Case in point: the "ominous", "threatening", "denunciative", etc. music and lyrics of 'Death Of Mother Nature Suite'. When they go "...and now she's gonna DIIIIE! YEAH YEAH YEAH!" (see, this even looks funny on paper, wait until you hear it!), the most hideous thing is that you know for sure they're being perfectly serious about it. No, that's not enough. Many people had already written serious things about the state of ecology. They're being anthemic about it - they're being all "I'm here to tell you the awful truth, finally!" about it. A matter so trite and cliched - an approach so bombastic. Who the heck made them spokesmen for Mother Nature in the first place, anyway? How is it possible to take these guys seriously? They call their songs 'Death Of Mother Nature'! At least Yes used to call theirs 'Don't Kill The Whale'. (For the record, I fully subscribe to everything Kerry is singing about - so there's no need to report me to Greenpeace as a potential target - but then again, I also subscribe to the idea that the Earth is round, the one that two multiplied by two is four, and the one that says if you take a piss on the figure of Paul McCartney on the front cover of the original print of Sgt Pepper, the words Paul is dead will come through on his forehead).

Aarrgh, too bad, especially seeing that the suite at least has a few nicely concocted hard rock riffs. Neither 'Apercu' nor 'Journey From Mariabronn' don't have even that. What they do have is a lot of instrumental jamming, and I am never crazy about it. Robby has a brief emotional passage in 'Apercu' which is notable, after which the main idea is 'okay, let's play this, and this, and shift the signature, and again, and again'. There's a little bit of "ominous" fusion, there's a section that emulates "Russian dancing" or something like that, there's a bit of running up and down the scales a la ELP, and all I get in terms of reaction is "Uh?". Is this a soundtrack to Kerry Livgren's "visions" he's singing about? These passages don't rock and neither are they 'beautiful'. They are just there for the sake of complexity. (And I'm not saying that the band's European colleagues couldn't be accused of the same - many times over, yet whatever applies to them applies twice to Kansas).

That said, Kansas definitely is not an atrocious debut by any means. There's still plenty of that barroom stench, much of it pure and not adulterated through unwarranted contact with progressive influences; and Livgren is not in full power yet, and, surprisingly enough, the two contributions which are credited to him exclusively are the more "rocking" ones - 'Belexes' and 'Death Of Mother Nature' - that, I think, do have some redeeming value once you forget about the lyrics. At the very least, when compared with the immediate follow-up, it almost looks like that one "roots-prog" masterpiece that has always seemed like a fun idea in theory, but mostly led to heart attacks in practice.



Year Of Release: 1974

Okay, let prog fans crucify me for this blasphemy: I friggin' hate, hate, hate this album. I realize that if you're judging a record from a prog-rock fanatic position, it qualifies all right. What's not to like? Pretentious, universalist lyrics, extended song lengths, complex keyboard/guitar arrangements, lots of tempo changes. As far from "pop schlock" as it gets - indeed, this is not Styx, who were mostly just masking their "pop schlock" with prog-like arrangements. No, Kansas are a true progressive band, no getting around that, even if with a distinct country-western influence.

But for me the words "prog-rock" are not sacred - I'm not afraid of prog-rock, but prog-rock has to be done well. This album is abysmal and one of Kansas' worst offenses of taste. Everything, and I do mean everything, that can be called 'good' on here has been actually stolen directly from their British predecessors. The most noteworthy case of plagiarism, of course, is the title track, which is nothing but a re-working of Genesis' 'Firth Of Fifth' (I also recognize bits of 'Watcher Of The Skies' and other Genesis epics on there). And once again, musical quotations from Yes abound - some of the piano solos look like they've been sampled from Rick Wakeman. This drives me mad.

The worst thing about all this is that the album lacks any true purpose. Everything on here had been done before and done better. If you try to listen in closely, you'll see that Kansas are only borrowing the simplest elements - actually, their musical phrases are painfully simple and lacklustre. Much too often, they seem to think that a bunch of power chords and loud synthesizer boom-booms is enough to achieve a cathartic effect. Check out the generic outro to 'Incomudro: Hymn To The Atman', for instance, and ask yourself one simple question: would a band like Genesis ever end one of its songs with something as obvious, as painfully, deadly straightforward as this outburst of bombast? Never. Blah. What a horrendous song title, too.

Out of the three lengthy epics on here, the only one that catches my attention at least a little bit is 'Lamplight Symphony', where some of Kerry Livgren's synth riffs sound nice and creative (unfortunately, the song itself borrows too much from generic American 'adult contemporary' pop and the newly-arising power ballad genre to be of much value. Sounds not unlike Aerosmith, in fact. Ah well, not too surprising - doesn't the band look quite a bit similar to Aerosmith, too?). 'Song For America', like I said, is an inferior Genesis pastiche, and even Kansas' by now traditional eco-rock lyrical thematics don't help much. But the guys can't even bring it a wee bit close to Genesis' level: there is no emotional power in Livgren's playing whatsoever, it's just a soulless copy that's destined to sound 'professional' and 'complex' rather than really musical and soulful. Musical mannerism at its most disgusting. Where are the brilliant climaxes and mood changes of the "original"? Where's the tension? Ah, whatever. Finally, the already-mentioned 'Incomudro' is just a twelve-minute waste of tape, the only moment bringing me out of my slumber being... Phil Ehart's drum solo in the middle. Not that it's that great, but it at least breaks the awful monotonousness - and that's one more complaint I have to voice: Kansas' songs are usually acknowledged as 'multi-part', but in fact they're just as multi-part as a standard early Beatles pop song: there's not more difference in between most of these parts than there's between a Beatles verse and middle-eight. The three minutes of Genesis' 'Harold The Barrel' pack more interesting musical ideas and moods than all of Song Of America's epics.

Now, after all the bashing (which is completely deserved and, if you axe me, caused by absolutely obvious and objective reasons), I'll mention that I can throw on half a star for the shorter, more hard numbers like 'Down The Road' and 'Lonely Street'. At least these pack some goddamn energy, but they're not even as catchy as the harder numbers on the band's debut. Whoah. And to think that Rolling Stone thinks more positively of these guys than of any other progressive rock band in existence. Must be their redneck essence catching up on them. And a last suggestion to Kansas diehard fanatics: play 'Song For America' (the track) and 'Firth Of Fifth' back to back several times. If after the third time you are not getting the urge to throw the Kansas crap out of the window, your musical taste simply leaves a lot to be desired, and that's that.


MASQUE **1/2

Year Of Release: 1975

This is somewhat better, although certainly far from the masterpiece that rabid Kansas fans proclaim it to be. Whatever one might say, though, you'd be really hard pressed to find another band that can begin an album with a near-authentic Southern Rock style boogie and end it with a near-authentic progressive rock epic. To some (including me) this idea may sound ridiculous, but we at least gotta give the band credit for trying to put the two genres together and try to link them - for the most part, unsuccessfully, but sometimes with mildly intriguing results.

Masque sounds like an improvement to me because it doesn't blatantly rip off Genesis any more; besides, the usual proggy pseudo-epics are this time limited to only one song, the nine-minute 'Pinnacle' that closes the album. Predictably, it's a stately bore that has no appeal whatsoever after you've alredy sat through all the prog classics, and the few interesting synth riffs and grumbly metallic solos that crop up from time to time, as well as that weird fiddle of theirs, can't really hope to compensate for the song's length, hyper-pretentious lyrics (so far, the worst Kansas lyrics I've ever encountered, drawing on every possible cliche and overusing banalities - 'I stood where no man goes and conquered demon foes'? Are we supposed to be watching The Adventures Of Hercules And Xena?) and a total lack of identity. Who could mistake this for the real thing?

Fortunately, the rest of the album never falls to the same depths. I was scared shitless when I saw track number three sporting the name 'Icarus - Borne On The Wings Of', for instance, but instead of a faux-medieval (or 'faux-antique', whatever) anthem, I found out just a standard, inoffensive rocker, lacking moments that would make me rise up and scream, 'Oh Lord! Forgive me for mistreating your servants!', but also lacking moments that would make me rise up and scream, 'Oh Lord! Give me more strength to combat your enemies!'. A few interesting guitar breaks, a lively fiddle solo - again, re-assuring me that Robby Steinhardt is by far the most talented member of the whole crew - and nothing else. But rather cute, still.

Likewise, the two introductory barroom boogies are very much listenable. 'It Takes A Woman's Life' has a nice refrain and a good, almost jazzy, drive to it, while 'Two Cents Worth' are distinguished by a cool funky bassline and atmospheric wah-wah work. Can you now understand the secret of Kansas' public success? It wasn't due to their prog workouts, it was all due to the barroom boogies - perfect radio fodder to go along with your Skynyrd and Eagles and Boston and whatever (not that I mean 'radio fodder' in an offensive way here - I don't have anything against all these bands, mind you; it's just that Kansas, at least, the good sides of Kansas, are far more related to American roots rock than to British 'progressive' values).

Oh, I actually forgot to mention the second quasi-progressive workout on here - 'All Over The World' also goes on for an endless amount of time, but this time I am somewhat more forgivable, because the instrumental breaks are at least energetic and rocking. And Livgren gets out some of the most interesting synthesizer tones on the whole record, too. The other three tunes on the second side are rocking as well, apart from 'It's You' which is more like a fast-paced excourse into Britpop. All of them lack interesting hooks, of course, as usual, with not a single truly original idea, so I'm just happily seeking out the groovy fiddle and following it wherever and whenever I can. Unfortunately, it doesn't always work, but then again, life is not exactly a sugar pie in its entirety.

Still, returning to the topic I mentioned in the beginning, it's not that often that you're actually able to meet a... a... a... a Lynyrd Skynyrd with a progressive synth thrown in and a Yes with a countryish fiddle thrown in share the same record? I guess not. I guess we can call Kansas an original band, though. I believe I will now go and record a few Bee Gees ballad covers using Tony Iommi's guitar pitch. I hope that works!



Year Of Release: 1976

Sometimes I wonder... heck, why have I even started getting into this band? So far, I have only experienced more disgust while listening to Kiss. At least other laughable 'roaches' bands had their moments of redeem, like Toys In The Attic for Aerosmith or Look At Yourself by Uriah Heep... These guys are just awful, consistently awful. Leftoverture is usually proclaimed as the ultimate Kansas masterpiece, despite the rather contradictory title, but I'll be damned if somebody can actually tell me what exactly distinguishes it from whatever preceded it (and whatever ensued).

Oh, I know. There is one difference. The Skynyrdish rockers are almost entirely gone. Nadah. Thus disappears my last hope of having at least a couple decent breathers in between all the sludge. Sigh. Are we supposed to just dive in the sludge? Okay, if we must, we must. I'm also a-guessin' this has something to do with an almost complete domination of the album by Mr Kerry "Eternal Lame-o Genesis Imitator" Livgren. He writes everything on here, bar a couple collaborations with Walsh, and is obviously responsible for the album's general sound and vibe. And that vibe? Just as usual, only without the Skynyrdish rockers. Worse, I really don't understand what's happened to the instrumentation - it's so monotonous and samey that.. ugh... Even the violin is for the most part put somewhere in the background, where it just fiddles away on its own without anybody noticing. Kerry's organs, synths and pianos are at the center of the sound, and the guy hasn't obviously made much progress since last time. Just the same tired minimalistic riffs and bunches of meaningless chords.

That said, I can more or less tolerate some of the songs, especially those that don't seem to drag on forever. The big hit on here was 'Carry On My Wayward Son', an unashamedly commercial "ditty" (sure it's commercial - who in the good old US of A could resist buying a single upon hearing the guys blare off 'Carry on my wayward son, there'll be peace when you are done, lay your weary head on your mine, don't you cry no more'?) with all the simple stuff put in your face and all the complex stuff coming afterwards. Lots of puffed-up energy, idiotic lyrics, blazing guitar, a couple half-memorable riffs, you name it, just the thing you need for a "best-of" Kansas song. Offensive? A bit. But tolerable if you accept the Rules of Kansas.

Then there's 'The Wall', yet another attempt to write something in the grand 'Firth Of Fifth' style. Exactly fifteen listens are needed to make the guitar and keyboard riffs stabilize in your head, and the song suddenly feels not entirely pointless. Pompous, yes, but with a few good melody twists; I still can't make out when Kansas sucks more - when they try to 'rock out' or when they try to go for something beautiful, but probably in the first case, because I really can't say that 'The Wall' totally lacks any kind of beauty. In any case, Kerry's organ solo on the coda is hardly worse than anything Tony Banks would put out since Trick Of The Tail. Take it if you wish to. I also suppose that the hyper-aggressive pop-rocker 'What's On My Mind' and the 'space-boogie' of 'Questions Of My Childhood' are okay to a certain extent. All formulaic and completely devoid of any true feeling or excitement, but decent.

The troubles come, though, with everything else. 'Cheyenne Anthem' is yet another in a row of bullshit 'eco-anthems', 'graced' by a stupid jig section in the middle. And 'Magnum Opus' (modest these guys were apparently not) is just undescribable, a typical Kansas offender. Anyway, I won't really be going through all that crap track by track, because I don't feel the need to. I'd just wish to say that I find it absolutely AMAZING how these songs, even after an innumerable number of listens, don't manage to trigger ANYTHING in my head, heart, or soul. It's just the same old story: monotonous, slick, and at the same time underproduced attempts at a 'symphonic' sound, without any interesting rhythms, key changes, tempo changes, crescendos, or just hooks. Without any interesting instrumentation ideas - they hardly even vary their guitar or synth tones, and by undermining the role of the violin, like I said, they eliminated the last ounce of creativity that remained. And on top of that - pretentious and pompous singing on all kinds of universalist thematics, without the slightest touch of humour or irony. When they go 'I sang this song a hundred, maybe a thousand years ago' on 'Miracles Out Of Nowhere', I really feel the urge to vomit. Really. I ain't kiddin' ya.

And this is the band that Rolling Stone - at least vaguely - attempted to praise while dissing Yes and ELP? What a dumb joke!



Year Of Release: 1977

Ever so often, Kansas make an effort to break out of the dreaded two-star range... and fail once again. This one was their high commercial point, yielding a bunch of 'classic rock singles' for constant airplay, earning double platinum, blah blah blah, you know the score, don't you? Well, let me give you this advice: start from this album if you wanna know what Kansas is all about, as it presents you with a well-balanced picture of both the lengthier, pretentious epics and the shorter, more rocking (or more soft) and up-to-the-point tracks well-fit for radioplay. If you find yourself violently disagreeing with my two and a half stars, feel free to dive in for more; if you think the stinkers on here overwhelm the whoppers, stay away from the band for the rest of your life. Better Kansas records you will find not.

I actually kinda like the way the album starts. The title track doesn't lack catchiness, for once! It has a typical American 'dumb-rock' mid-Seventies sound, of course, but hey, the violin is back, which makes for some nice atmospheric additions, and the main melody does a good job in adding a pseudo-baroque twist to a standard pop melody. All probably due to the fact that Kerry Livgren isn't credited for the song - it's a collaboration between Walsh and the blessed Robby Steinhardt. Definitely my favourite member of the band.

Steinhardt also makes the next track, 'Paradox', stand out with some brilliant guitar/violin interplay. Again, the band bases the melody on the stuttering rhythms you'd already heard five hundred times ago, but at least the song bops along nicely, and it has a couple 'killer violin riffs' I'd be delighted to hear in the context of an overall better record. What a shame that such interesting ideas have to be lost amidst a sea of dreck...

...initiated by the third track, 'The Spider'. A few days ago I read an interesting Kansas opinion from an reviewer - he was stating that the critics always condemn Kansas for not being the FIRST, but he himself never cared who was the first, because it's not "who did it first" but "who did it best" that matters. I agree wholeheartedly, of course, but seeing this kind of ideology displayed in a Kansas review of all things made me tick. See here: 'The Spider' is an obvious attempt at dubbing the sound of Emerson, Lake & Palmer this time, with Livgren's organ following Emerson's playing style and Phil Ehart copping Palmer's chops. But who would want to argue that Livgren or Ehart can beat Emerson or Palmer in any respect? Including emotional resonance. It's just a lame two-minute pastiche that shows Kansas can do something in that style, like half-worthy disciples, but I'd take Emerson's solos on 'Tarkus' over this 'sequel' any day.

Elsewhere, as usual, you get your Yes and Genesis rip-offs, and I can swear I can hear serious Procol Harum influences in the epic 'Hopelessly Human'. The worst offender of the lot, of course, is the AOR standard 'Dust In The Wind', a song you're sure to know from radio overplay. That song alone would be able to sink any otherwise worthy album, and for the life of me I can't understand why so many people call it, like, the epitomy of beauty or something. It's HORRIBLE. No great musical ideas whatsoever - just a very standard, albeit pretty, acoustic rhythm track, obligatory and completely predictable 'atmospheric strings' in the background, and on top of it all, a pathetic and exaggerated vocal delivery with arguably the most cliched and trite lyrics ever written by Kansas. In fact, they are so dreadfully banal and, at the same time, so attention-drawing and overblown, that I can't even suspect Kerry Livgren of seriously believing in the song's artistic validity. He probably just wanted to have a megahit and impress rednecks all over the world. Of course, it's a different thing if he actually believes in the song. In this case, he receives my honourable title of 'Redneckiest Guy Accidentally Caught In Serious Music'.

Oh, and the other songs? Hmm... A couple stupid, but salvageable rockers like 'Portrait' and 'Lightning's Hand' somewhat redeem the record, and the pomp ballad 'Nobody's Home' is at least ten times more precious than 'Dust In The Wind' and one of the rare cases when I could actually recommend a Kansas ballad to somebody, but the rest I just couldn't remember if I tried. And frankly speaking, I don't even want to try. You earned your double platinum, guys, now just leave me alone. Let me die in peace.



Year Of Release: 1979

Geez, these guys are frustrating. I mean, just about each and every one of these songs are nice in at least some respect - there's a cool guitar line popping out here and there, an untrivial catchy rhythm, maybe an occasional well-placed lyrical line, a tidbit of not uninteresting genre experimentation, but for every ounce of true creativity, there's, like, fifty pounds of the usual boring dreck. Monolith is usually considered to be the last of the 'classic' Kansas runthrough, and to my ears, at least, it doesn't seriously sound any worse than the band's previous efforts, maybe just a bit lazier and a bit more disspirited. Of course, considering that Kansas never released one single good record in their life, that's not a compliment.

See, let me just take the songs on here one by one to see what I meant by that first sentence. We begin in typically Kansas-ish arena-rock pompous style with 'On The Other Side'. Live past the generic "look at me, I play guitar so heavenly although I use only a few chords everybody else uses" intro, and you'll discover a not half-bad verse structure; I actually think that the moment when they sing 'and though I said it all before, I'll say it once again, everybody needs something to believe in' is one of the most heartfelt and moving in the entire catalog, kind of. Kind of Eaglish, right? Well... still, they ruin it all with the arena-rock chorus.

Then there's the poppy 'People Of The South Wind' which has a classy violin intro. No, I really mean it - really classy violin intro, with energetic and memorable violin riffs which I honestly like. Nothing else about the song is treasurable: generic verses that lose the tight groove halfway through and a 'plaintive' chorus that can only get on one's nerves. 'Angels Have Fallen' is one of the worst offenders on here, with Mr Walsh acting as a self-appointed spiritual guru for us once again (hear your Shaman, oh ye people of Kansas, and mark his words forever - lo, angels have fallen, fallen from heaven!), but even that song has a mighty guitar riff entering somewhere near the mid-section to distract you.

'How My Soul Cries Out For You', meanwhile, is a really weird tune... it starts out as a powerful rocker, with Zeppelinish riffage (albeit not an ounce of Zeppelinish power), but then all of a sudden it goes into an almost avantgarde section, when the melody disappears and they insert a strange collage of opening doors, breaking bottles, yelps, wows, electric piano tidbits, and finally a short drum solo to top it off. Apparently, that was supposed to signify 'the boys in experimental mood'. Now do you see why it's simply impossible not to think of Kansas as a dumb band? It's almost as if they listened to Pere Ubu's debut or something and said, 'hey man, these guys, like, break bottles and stuff. It's, uh, eh, like, artistry, man. I dunno why, but, uh, like, shouldn't we break a bottle too? Just for fun.'

'A Glimpse Of Home' I frankly consider to be offensive. I don't know why. I probably could waste three hours of my life trying to explain why the fact that they chant the line 'All my life I knew you were waiting, revelation anticipating' in that annoying, almost nursery rhyme style, is objectively bad or something, but I just won't do it. Maybe sometime in the future. Maybe not. Take it from me - if you're not well-disposed towards Kansas anyway, you'll hate this song as much as I do, not to mention that nothing ever happens out there. So let's skip right away to the big mega-hit, 'Away From You'. Another brilliant experimental idea on here - let's take a thoroughly traditional Irish jig and replace the fiddle with synthesizer and see what happens. What happens is a megahit, because like you know, fiddles in jigs are old and gray, man, but 'jiggy synths'? Wow, man, that's ARTSY! Now yer speakin' my language! Oh, for the record, apart from that dubious achievement, there's not a single original idea in the song. Even the 'meet me where the feeling is high' chorus to me sounds like a rip-off, although I can't exactly remember where from at the moment. Sparks? Monkees? Help me! It's not as vomit-inducing as 'Dust In The Wind', though.

'Stay Out Of Trouble' is probably the best rocker on the record, which is not saying much, but at least there are some tolerable funky grooves on there. And we close off with 'Reasons To Be', another sappy ploppy ballad that doesn't go anywhere but at least sounds relatively atmospheric. Relatively. That's the way I perceive the songs on here, anyway, take your choice, raise your voice, but please understand that there's not really a single reason for me to say good things about this record in general. Not a single one. Boy, I wish they had at least saved one dumb Southern rock pastiche for this plastic disaster.


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