George Starostin's Reviews



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Philip Maddox <> (26.11.2000)

Ehhh... I'm not a great fan of Kansas. They're one of those bands that, in my opinion, followed the form, but not the true spirit of groups like Genesis. I've only heard 2 of their albums - Leftoverture and Point Of Know Return. They were both certainly listenable and even had a couple of good tunes, but I'd rather go back and listen to a Genesis tune any old day. And as for some of their later material that I've heard... Yipes! Kansas is one of those bands I wouldn't really recommend to anyone outside of hardcore prog fans who already own everything most of the other major prog bands ever put out.

Jay Rector <> (27.04.2001)

Ok, I admit that ALOT of Kansas' lyrics are rather stale & trite. I think even sometimes they tend to be overly dramatic & pompous. However, progressive-rock in general is the MOST pompous, pretentious, over-indulgent, gluttonous form of music on planet earth. Who gives a rat's ass? Some of it is downright incredible & some of it is unashamedly putrid, but that is merely subjective. Prog is basically a musical masturbation session, a "look at how deep & brilliant we are" exercise.

ELP & the Nice...both GROSSLY overinflated & boring crap! YES...oh my god, let's talk about the vocally neutered Jon Anderson, shall we?? Genesis, ok some of their material rocked, but a large chunk of it was meaningless, pseudo-psychedelic drivel. VanDerGraf Generator...POOP. Amon Duul...the worst vocals EVER!!!!! Can..."Can't" should be their name. They stink to high heaven. Gong...halfway decent, but nothing incredible here. The list goes on & on. There are thousands of prog bands to choose from.

My point? You can hardly slag a band for being pompous & pretentious when you are referring to this genre. That's like criticizing Kool & the Gang for being too "dancy". What the hell is that???? Kansas simply made progressive rock more palatable to the general populace. I'm sure the "prog elites" are chomping at the bit to have my head, but get over it, prog is not some sort of "country club" for the intellectually superior. It's all just music, right???

[Special author note: I hear you, but there's a fatal mistake in your argumentation. I don't slag Kansas for being pompous & pretentious; I slag Kansas for lacking original ideas. And frankly speaking, I am a bit surprised as to how somebody can defend Kansas and slag ALL of their betters in the process. Instead of dismissing prog-rock as a genre, which is a very close-minded thing to do, let us try to determine the rules for prog and distinguish between good prog and bad prog.]

CSR <> (04.10.2001)

I know many people slag Kansas for being a rip-off band, borrowing sounds from Yes, Genesis, ELP, etc. But one thing you can't deny is that they put the "rock" in progrock. There are times that they almost sound heavy metal and I attribute that to the fact that they had TWO guitar players in the band - Kerry Livegren and Rich Williams. I admit that a lot of their sound is overbearing, but they could pull off some wicket riffs when they were inspired to. Albums like Masque and Leftoverture are very heavy in guitar which other progbands left as an accompaniment to the overuse of synths for purely atmospheric effects. Kansas on the other hand balanced these rather well. The thing that makes their music redundant is the overuse of the organ which contaminates everything and gives all their albums the same generic sound. Yes, I am a fan of Kansas (let the lashings begin), but the thing I think stands out in their music is that they take an ultimately European style of rock and give it an distinctly American sound with the inclusion of the fiddle and the band's Southern roots. So in a way they were important because they were able to take two seeming incompatable styles (progrock and country/southern boogie) and mesh them together unlike any band on either side of the Atlantic Ocean. Whether it works for you or not depends on your personal tastes, but they were different in this aspect. I can see Kansas for both their virtues and their faults. And one other thing about this band is that Livegren,and to some extent the rest of the boys, were very spiritual (Kerry Livegren and Dave Hope later quit the band and became a born again Christians). The main theme to many of their songs aren't just angst and gloomy views of what is wrong with humanity, but convey an underlying sense of hope and searching for answers that everyone is looking for in some form or another. I myself am not devoutly religious and won't praise the band on this aspect alone, but they do tend to touch something deep down inside which makes me think I am not alone in trying to find answers to life's mysteries, which may indeed be unanswerable in this existence and left for each of us to come to our own conclusions. OK, enough of this existential crap. Let me just conclude that there is more to Kansas than just plagiaristic self-indulgent yahoos more concerned with style and form than originality as most critics take them. They DID have musical talent (do you think any wanker could play something as complex as "The Spider"?), they WERE excellent musicians in there own right (Robbie Steinhardt was a classically trained violinist), and they DID have a powerful sound all their own (just listen to Steve Walsh wail on the closing of "Journey From Mariabronn"). 'Nuff said.

Jim <> (28.03.2002)

If you are a Kansas fan, you understand and 'get' the music on the emotional level that on which it was written. You don't. No big deal, but give me a break on your band bashing, would you?

I am a child of the 70's, not the 60's, so if I reviewed the Beatles, I would say the Beatles were a great band, I just don't like them. As for music of today, yea, mostly it sucks. But there are some great bands rocking out there, if you will listen. Like CREED. (They rock!) Coming a 45 year old, I guess I am still flexible in my musical taste.

Mark Walker <> (09.04.2002)

Just stumbled across the website and want to first offer my sincerest kudos for the great website. It has provided me with much entertaining reading. Although Mr. Starostin and I agree on many points, I feel we differ highly on one band near and dear to my heart. Now in this day and age we live in, music can start more fights than politics or religion ever could. Seems somone is always going to take particular offense to a bad review of a band they grew up with or an album that means a lot to them. But when a review is just downright nasty. I feel a response of the counterpoint to be in order. Although Mr. Starostin has a most enjoyable website, I feel after much reading that his purpose is to trash bands he doesn't like more than to offer praise to bands he does like. Let's take Kansas for example, being a professional dj myself, on air and in person, I will attempt to offer my humble difference of opinion. First off, if Mr. Starostin is going to quote 'Carry On Wayward Son', may I suggest he gets the lyrics right. That was strike one right off the bat. Kansas falls into the "progressive rock" category. A category that was brief in time but consisted of extremely talented players schooled in classical music as well as rock. Kansas could stop on a dime and totally change tempos at least five or six times a song! Easy? Try picking up your little guitar and playing along. There are no 1 4 5 progressions in the key of G are there? Kansas also posessed one of the most extremely talented voices in all of rock Steve Walsh. Just in case you're scoring at home, he was the keyboard player, not Kerry Livgren. Strike Two. Now pay attention this part is important...way back when when we were crazy kids going to concerts, the in thing to do was to sit in the parking lot and sip the Jack Daniels bottle, catch a nice buzz, and pass the you know what around when the lights went out. Not so coincidently, the music reflected the times, the attitude, and the way we were feeling. We sat in our seats and paid attention with great interest at the instrumentation or the lyrics. We went "wow man" when someone played a killer solo and generally went home feeling musically enlightened. Along the sands of time though something happened...the mosh pit was invented, music became angry, kids began throwing each other around, and being mellow was a thing of the past. Knowing this information, I can understand how someone can listen to a slow song and say "booooorrring" after a second and a half. But to say 'Miracles Out Of Nowhere' makes one vomit? That's just a statement of someone who has musical tunnel vision. Either that or he spent too much time getting wacked in the mosh pit. 'Cheyenne Anthem' happens to be a very good song about the plight of the American Indian. Sorry if the subject matter is a little too deep. Mr. Starostin also mentions in his remarks that Kansas never posessed any great songwriters then says Kerry Livgren penned almost all of Leftoverture singlehanded. Hello? Anybody home? Can you say contradiction? Oh by the way, this just in...Kerry Livgren went on to have a great career as a contemporary christian artist, as did Steve Walsh's replacement John Elefante. Attention boys and girls, that would be strike, set, and match. The point is this, Elp, Yes, Genesis, and King Crimson were all great bands and totally definitive of the term "progressive rock." It's just that like it or not, Kansas deserves to be ranked up there with them. They sold just as many records and after thirty years are still going strong to this day. Something most of these other bands can't lay claim to. We have a festival down here every year right on the water and this past year Kansas played. The original lineup. They were absolutely red hot and haven't lost a step after all these years and you know what? They looked like they were having fun, and that's the most important part. Like it or not, Kansas will be in the rock and roll hall of fame someday and when they do, I hope all the naysayers like Mr. Starostin will have the professional courtesy to at least say "well done." I thank you all for reading. Best wishes and God Bless.

Bruno Müller <> (16.08.2002)

Hi George. Ha, ha, ha. As mean as you might have been, I must admit I loved the way you crashed Kansas. I totally agree with you. This guys simply have no creativity. I am actually unaware of the people that call Leftoverture a "masterpiece". I consider it awful, one of the worst albums I've ever heard. And let me admit: I really tried to like it, I heard it several times before considering it a lost case and throwing it away. And yet, I was stupid enough to be convinced to purchase Point of Know Return. Bleargh! Their sound is so obvious it makes me vomit. OK, I don't hate "Dust in the Wind", but it's awfully obvious anyway. And let me talk about Kansas violinist: he's the worst of them, "The" cliche in person. He's a shame for the history of violins in rock. I can recall any violin solo I've heard in rock songs (and I've heard lots of them), and ALL of them are better then any violin solo from Kansas. I LOVE violins, and that's why this guy's lack of talent makes me so angry. Let me borrow your words? "You earned your double platinum, guys, now just leave me alone. Let me die in peace." I'll NEVER buy another Kansas record. Yet, I'll keep Point of Know Return as a symbol of all that's banal and of my own stupidity, so that I won't be stupid anymore.

Don Smith <> (20.10.2002)

As a fan of modern prog rock as well as old , I must say that most of you guys are full of it. I have listened many times to Yes albums and found Steve Howe's guitar work good in terms of chops( mostly acoustic) but his sound was horrible. His choice of clean versus distorted was lousy.Yes had the brilliant but very pompous Rick Wakeman whom I dismissed after hearing Emerson and Jobson . I did enjoy Chris Squire's playing even though he is a pick player . As for vocals there is really no competition. Steve Walsh could have blown Jon Anderson , John Wetton , Peter Gabrial or Phil Collins off the stage any given day. Jon Anderson's voice always reminded me of a boys choir. Some Genisis material I find interesting but you must wade through alot of mud to find a good piece such as Musical Box. I have listened to alot of the Gabrial era stuff and while Tony Banks is impressive at times ,the rest of the members do nothing for me. I liked Crimson but Wetton is a mere singer holding a bass. Bruford is very good . I am not into Robert Fripp's style. Elp to me is really not in the catagory of true progressive. While I do admire Keith Emerson and Greg Lake's guitar work. Carl Palmer got great reviews but I think at the time drummers were weaker than they are today. I always found their music rather stupid at times. They could be brilliant as in 'Tarcus' and 'Karnevil #9' but they had some really poor music as well. They had sort of a Frank Zappa aproach to music. It was either technically brilliant or downright silly. The best prog band that Britain had was the short lived UK. Eddy Jobson's keyboards were incredible. They also had Allan Holdsworth who is an absolute genius. He left to become probably the best guitarist on the planet, but his stuff is fusion jazz not prog rock. I also enjoyed the early Jethro Tull material such as the complete Thick as a Brick album.

I doubt that many of you whom write these negative reviews on Kansas have ever looked at some of their scores and the many interesting time signatures. It is tricky stuff to play at times. I have had many guitarist who dismissed Kansas come back with some respect after they tried to learn some of the parts. Just because there are no glaring thirtysecond note solos don't be too sure of yourself . Don't forget the period of time that Steve Morse played with them. Steve Morse would slice and dice all of your players in Yes, Genisis, Crimson with the exception of Holdsworth whom resides on his own planet. The sum of the whole is better than the individual part. 'The Spider' is a piece that few bands could pull off. 'The Magnum Opus' is an example of odd meters at it's best. Opus Insert combines progressive classical elements with a country/celtic backdrop. 'Song For America' captures a grandiose picture of our early American history. The only song which sounds a little like Yes is the beginning of Acerpu and that is mostly due to the type of sound with the guitar. The bass is styled more like Squire as well. Kansas had the talent for being very tight musically without being extremely flashy with any individual. Their sound is American. We like to rock therefor the sound has more of a rock edge. British prog rock seemed more interested in creating moods. Modern bands such as Dream Theater have borrowed heavily from Kansas and Rush. As for all the blabbering of how great the Brit prog bands were, there is a new generation of prog rock that should shut all of your mouths for good. Bands such as Shadow Gallery, Cario, Fates Warning, Spoch's Beard and Symphony X. This generation of music is incredible. Symphony X puts all the above to shame. They have virtuoso's at each instrument as well as a singer who combines Steve Walsh, Ian Gillian and Ronnie James Dio in one incredible voice.

I should note that all music is subjective and that diversity makes for an interesting world. Interesting comments though we diagree. I enjoyed this column.

Dan Miller <> (10.02.2003)

"First Uriah Heep, now Kansas!" George must be cursing as I begin to proffer opinions regarding Band #2 in George's very own "golden triad of bad taste" (though I'll stay away from Kiss - I do have standards. Really!). Kansas doesn't quite hold a candle to Genesis, ELP, King Crimson and Yes, but they rightfully deserves a place in the progressive rock storybook. What made them special is the fact that it's an American band with a new-world flavor the European innovators couldn't duplicate (Genesis had tried circa Abacab and thereafter with its mistaken R&B leanings, but were they really still a "progressive" act by then?). Also, Kansas was better able to effectively combine progressive rock's lush, classical leanings with that unmistakable Southern-fried, Lynyrd Skynyrd barroom boogie in a way its North American, "North & West of the Mason Dixon line" brethren couldn't touch. Granted, the "heartland" flavor began to dissipate toward 1980 when they began inching closer to hard-pop/sub-metal (and with it, the end of their shelf-life). That aside, no progressive act could lay claim to same. Plus Kansas had in its arsenal a potent weapon behind the mic - Steve Walsh, who may lack Peter Gabriel's knack for storytelling and Jon Anderson's cosmic, mystical sense, but for sheer vocal power Steve's got it all - plus he's equally at home with the band's hard-rock, pop, country and gospel leanings (unfortunately, his vocal mastery would seriously fade in the late eighties to a practically unrecognizable shadow of its former self. More so than Ian Gillan or Robert Plant, in fact. A damn shame). I must object to Don Smith, who believes that the new generation of progressive bands will "shut (our) mouths for good." I've heard little of the bands he mentioned, though I know and like Dream Theater, and what I've found with DT and what I've heard of its contemporaries is that they can play their instruments like nobody's business, but where's the heart and soul? I'll take Keith Emerson's opening piano solo in "Trilogy" and Steve Hackett's guitar solo in "Firth of Fifth" for pure emotional impact alone - let alone technical prowess (not to mention "Trilogy" can't be touched by any rock keyboardist anywhere, ever) - over modern-day Mozarts that play "too many notes." Plus, Fates Warning is more metal than prog, so let's not open the floodgates here. Oh well, what's there left to say, except what Robby Steinhardt proclaimed as he and his bandmates came out on stage when I saw them in concert two years ago (a great show by the way, Steve's withering voice notwithstanding), "Welcome to Kansas!" On with the slaughter, George!


<> (06.10.2000)

I just have to point out that Steve Walsh isn't singing "Bringing it Back" or "Death of Mother Nature Suite." It's violinist Robby Steinhardt. Kansas is one of my two favorite bands (Yes is the other). I hear good melodies all over the place and there is enough originality to distinguish them from other prog bands, but I'm in the minority on those opinions.

<> (27.09.2002)

Kansas is a band that is either loved...or hated. No middle of the road. Classic example...George hates them, I love them. We agree on many things but have butted heads on this particular band several times. George would say to me however, "doesn't Kansas represent a wonderful period in your life more than it represents a musical revolution?" Ok yes. A great period in fact with wonderful memories, but the fact still remains, Kansas made some good music. There are one or two things George is right on...first and foremost, Kansas was a barroom boogie band who saw their future in progressive rock. As most progressive rock bands were British, Kansas thought it unique for an American band to take a stab at it. But wait, upon further review, the interplay between the guitar and violin suggests that the band was also listening to John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra. The interplay between John McLaughlin on guitar and Jerry Goodman on violin certainly provided further inspiration. Kansas' demo tape somehow wound up on the desk of music industry mogul Don kirshner. After hearing them, he signed them to his label and sent them to a New York studio. Kansas' debut album was recorded in two weeks and bears the resemblance of a band still uncertain of itself. Steve Walsh could write the strong hook now and then, but for the most part, Kansas had only one songwriter. Kerry Livgren. Steve Walsh however contributes his beautiful ballad 'Lonely Wind' which has a very strong chorus. Walsh and Livgren both collaborate on the Kansas classic 'Journey From Mariabronn' which is a staple of their live set to this day. Some of the other members did make a humble attempt at songwriting with 'Can I Tell You'. Not a bad first try. That would be the only try really though. The album concludes with Livgren's 'Death Of Mother Nature Suite' which is sung by violinist Robby Steinhardt. My favorite tune on the album, and one which doesn't get played nearly enough considering the message in the song hasn't changed in thirty years. This album peaked at #174 in July 1974.

Dan Miller <> (01.03.2003)

Sans hits, Kansas' debut album is often ignored or forgotten when discourse turns toward the best of Kansas albums, which is a shame. This album, more than any other, really has that true Southern-rock, Midwest feel to it, courtesy of the Doobie Brothers-ish "Can I Tell You," the Charlie Daniels-style cover of "Bringin' it Back" and the gospel-like "Lonely Wind." On the progressive side, to me they sound so much more "organic" than they would in later years. I think your observation about The Yes Album influence is spot-on, though I see it more as a compliment than a complaint. There's just less synthesizer, more violins and guitars and other acoustic instruments making for a nice, less-pretentious and deeper, textured sound. "Journey From Mariabronn" is a nice first step for the band into the realm that is prog. Comparing it with Wind & Wuthering Genesis is a tad premature seeing as the latter wouldn't see the light of day for another two years - not that they don't share some similarities, and Steve Walsh does sound like Jon Anderson here - he hasn't found the power in his voice yet. The surprisingly hard-rock ending to the better "Apercu" transitioning into the metallic, blistering power chords of the great "Death of Mother Nature Suite" is the best part of this album. Don't know whether this is where Rich Williams discovered his trademark "meatwall sound," but he never sounded so vicious (at least until he discovered James Hetfield in "Icarus II" a quarter-century later). Then there's that tagged-on ending to close out the album. What a rush! In fact, the whole album covers the emotional spectrum as much if not more than anything the band has ever done. That said, there are a couple of belches. "Belexes" is messy. It sounds unrehearsed, and Robby Steinhardt's frenzied, strained vocal is so uncharacteristic of him (Walsh would handle the vocal in concerts years later). The whole tune tries to be raw, and I'm sorry, but Kansas is not raw. Great bass by Dave Hope though, and I will say that on every Kansas review. Then there's "Pilgrimage." It tries to be a Wishbone Ash-like folk-rocker but comes off more as filler. Overall, a nice, underrated, unsung debut. There's a reason George doesn't mention Kerry Livgren in his review here. It's because, even though he wrote or co-wrote most of the tunes, his influence, which I'll admit can be second-hand, and style isn't quite as obvious yet -- same with his spiritual overtones. Kansas, the album, sounds more like a collaborative effort amongst all the members.

Jeff Hendershott <> (26.11.2003)

Damnit! Put a lid on trying to pigeon-hole Kansas as a "southern rock band." They never were, are not, and never claimed to be! They never tried to be anything than what they are. The problem with you people who don't "get" Kansas is that you don't understand that each musician in that band was and is good enough to carry their own stage and that their influences were many and electic. That's why you have one song like "Belexes" and another like "Lonely Wind" on the same album. Factor into that equation that you have two songwriters capable of writing their own stuff, as Walsh and Livgren DID in their respective bands and solo efforts in later years. Then you have GOT to have an assortment of musical interpretations within an album, even within a song. The appeal to me about Kansas is that you have so much variety. It does not sound the same all the time (see ACDC, Boston, Eagles, Fleetwood Mac). Hell, you can even tell Yes IS Yes from album (and I like them). And again, Kansas never sold out to the industry like Genesis did. Kerry Livgren released a CD this year called PROTO-KAW, which is a disc of recordings with the first Kansas band with other members who never made the line up we know. Give that a listen and see if you have EVER heard this kind of progressive rock before.

kenny <> (19.12.2003)

the first thing that is apparent is that you are as overblown as you claim is the band which you are reviewing. you haven't done you homework and you didn't back up one single claim that you made with evidence.

[Special author note: Maybe I am overblown, but at least I know what an Atman is. However, I've always thought that "overblown" meant "making a grand pseudo-spiritual statement". I'm being pretty dry here.]

but i disect:

"Oh so typical for this band. Well, Kansas are Kansas, and their name betrays them - there's no getting away from the fact that they were basically a barroom boogie band that suddenly decided to get pretentious and become a full-grown art-rock outfit."

wrong as could be, the originail KANSAS began as a progressive rock band on the order of Gong, etc. the lineup you are reviewing is the 3rd formation of the original band. composer and songwriter, Kerry Livgren, son of a jazz trumpeter, is the original founder of the band and is well schooled in the art of composition in the styles of Bartok, Copland, etc.

[Special author note: Of course he's well schooled in that. I never put that into doubt. (Not that it's an outstanding achievement by itself - tons of professional musicians are "well schooled"). But the stuff they did best is still the barroom boogie - the only style where they don't sound like fake copycats (more like sincere copycats).]

" Hence two 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 actually an unashamed rip-off of either the Nice, ELP, Genesis, or Yes."

you said it, now you have to prove it.

[Special author note: I don't HAVE to prove it. To me that is obvious. If it isn't obvious to you, then it will never become obvious to you even if I start discussing the actual chord sequences, because, obviously, they use slightly different sequences, not lifting off melodies directly - this happens only occasionally - but working in the exact same paradigm. Relistening to 'Mariabronn', I notice traces of 'Firth Of Fifth' (guitar solo), 'Tarkus' (fourth/fifth minute), 'A Passion Play' (introduction), and at least several other earlier prog tracks whose names escape me now. I have no interest at all in hearing this remixed potpourri].

"You name it, we've got it. Seriously now, I do dig the first two tracks off this album, but 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 (the fiddle, actually, was the only element that Kansas added to the whole art-rock arsenal - well, hell, what else would you expect from a band named Kansas?), undeniably catchy and danceable, too, although the latter might be a minus to some. And their cover of J. J. Cale's 'Bringing It Back' works as well: the guys sure know how to boogie. I don't think, of course, that anybody can truly outbetter the master (well, not even Clapton could, although he did a lot to popularize J. J.'s sound and mood), but better or not, Steve Walsh's vocal interpretation is invigorating, and the piano/fiddle interplay really takes you up and down with itself. All places."

and those two songs are introductory, in that what will follow is a mergin of that barroom boogies style and the progressive rock that Livgren loved. those two songs simply prepared you for the approach KANSAS would take toward the progressive rock they intended to play....keeping the compositions grounded in american bluesrock as opposed to insipid, euro-classical pretention.

[Special author note: There's the apple of contention. Progressive rock IS grounded in euro-classical pretention. Grounding it in American bluesrock is ridiculous because the down-to-earth, keep-it-simple-and-energetic approach of classic bluesrock directly contradicts the elitist, keep-it-complex and pompous approach of "euro-classical". Fortunately, bands like ELP, Yes, and Genesis knew it fine.]

"Things get far different and far worse with the rest of the material. Short, watery piano ballads ('Lonely Wind') alternate with 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 manage to truly prove what it is that separates a second-generation prog-rock band from a first generation one. A stunning, maddening, unbearable lack of originality. 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,"

this is the second time you've made this claim without backing it up. it's beginning to be clear that your accusations are empty words. the fact of the matter is that NO single band in the progressive rock genre sounds like KANSAS. their unique co-mingling of american, mid-western blues rock(following the great influences in great blues towns like Chicago, St. Louis, KANSAS City and Biloxi. there is no question about the fact that when a KANSAS creation plays, everyone knows exactly who it is. their sound is entirely unique and recognizable to even the moderate listener.

[Special author note: See above on the originality topic. The only reason they do know about it is the annoying violin. Yeah, I've always given them that - the violin! Bring in more of that violin! Kansas' extraordinary gift to the world of music!]

"Walsh is even modelling his voice after Jon Anderson's. 'Belexes', though by far the most satisfying of all these failures, is still based on a riff nicked directly from 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, without the tremendously grating Banksynth tone, of course, but with a similar lack of purpose and direction."

again, you blow hard and say nothing,you're comparisons are without substance. be specific, melody, theme and progression.....if you know what you're talking about at all. you're comparison of Walsh to Anderson is ridiculously preposterous. Anderson sings in a thin falsetto, his vocal tones lack spectral timbre, breathy, thin and often out of his range. Walsh sings in full voice always'; in full round tones , each thick with sub-tones and resonance...he has yet to sing in falsetto on any song he's ever sung.

in this instance your ear has clearly betrayed you and calls into question your entire argument, as you have not been specific in any single accusation. the theme for Belexes is an hollywood born arabian symphonic theme to which the Nice have no claim of authorship. your vague remarks of Journey from Mariabronn sound nothing like Genesis that i've ever heard., the purpose and direction are indicated in the introduction and are fleshed out in the composition. Genesis never had the lush symphonic instrumentation, reminiscent of Aaron Copland's grand symphonic works that permeate KANSAS' albums. the idea of the KANSAS sound is to bring forth the same physical sonic reaction to an engulfing sound of music, a wall of sound, rather than the thin, tinny, irritating din that emits from clumsy instrumentation from bands the likes of King Crimson, Genesis, Gong, etc., etc. members of these bands may have more instrumental prowess, even possess superior composition skills, but they have absolutely no clue how to blend the diverse sounds of the various instruments. and as a result their is a tinny, shrill, din that hovers over the sound that grates on the ear. this particular skill is one of Livgren's forte's.

[Special author note: Now, I'm not gonna to respond to that last thing - Kansas make a "wall of sound" and King Crimson make a "thin, tinny, irritating din"? What's that, an "established assertion", "backed up with evidence"? Although, if that is supposed to mean that they "rock" more than any of these bands, I suggest you relisten to 'Heart Of The Sunrise', 'Gates Of Delirium', and 'Red'].

"Heck, I'd pardon them if they at least managed to write good melodies. Nadah. Somehow, the band seems to think that "noodling around" is a good substitute for solid song structures, well-written riffs and untrivial vocal passages. And even the noodling doesn't help - after all, Kansas were never exceptional virtuosos, and their jamming never gets you into a trance like certain Yes passages can

again, you're wrong, there isn't a single YES composition(and i'm a huge fan) that can equal the contagious, blues rock energy of the average KANSAS tune.

the melodies are poignant and apropos to the libretto.....Walsh sings in the spontaneous blues style that is rampant in his american blues heritage.....the melodies are infectious, intriquing and absolutely uniquely recognizable as "the KANSAS sound".

[Special author note: If I want contagious, blues-rock-energetic music, I'll take Led Zeppelin over Kansas any time of day, thank you.]

" So, without interesting melodies or dazzling musicianship, what's a poorboy gonna do? American audiences were certainly gaping at the band - very few outfits from the South played like that. But that's just further proof that no American outfit should ever have tried aping British prog-rock. Sorry buds, that's just the way it goes."

now you've gone off the deep end. euro-progressive rock is based on american blues , not the other way around. the Beatles, Cream, McGlaughlin w/ Ginger Baker in Alexis Korner's Blues Band, Jethro Tull, etc, were all playing BLUES!!! american well as mixing their euro-rock with american jazz fusion like Magma, Gong, King Crimson, etc. Gentle Giant was fueled by the Sherinians, sons of a professional jazz-trumpeting scotsman, who influenced them when forming the band after the Simon Dupree and the Big Sound fiasco. Ian Anderson always corrected fans and critics alike and told them that Jethro Tull were playing blues. so the aping is being done on the other side of the Atlantic....your sense of prog history is seriously misguided.

[Special author note: Depends on what you call "Euro-progressive rock". I don't call the Beatles or Cream "Euro-progressive rock". I call "Euro-progressive rock" those bands that mostly have a direct Euro-classical influence. Some of them may also have a jazz influence (Gentle Giant) or a blues one (Tull), but don't tell me that when Jethro Tull play the 'I've come down from the upper class' part on Thick As A Brick, they're basing it on American blues, because they aren't. And, of course, I never asserted it was "the other way around" - that would be ridiculous.]

your words in the reviews that follow this one, continue with the same form, uninformed, unestablishe assertions and over-all skewed, biased opinions.

what a waste of kilo-bytes.

[Special author note: Then thanks for adding to that waste! NB: The comments are referring to the older version of the review, many of the quotations have been rewritten since then.]

Goran Janicijevic <> (26.11.2005)

> One was properly "Kansas", a Kerry Livgren vehicle for something probably very veryhorrible (fortunately, no official recordings are available)

Unfortunately, from some time this year (2005), they are available. From Livgren's Proto-Kaw site:

*Early Recordings from Kansas 1971-73* "Nine songs recorded from the bands early days. These songs were used as the bands demos as they tried to secure a recording contract. The songs were digitized and re-mastered by Kerry Livgren specifically for this cd......" "Long before "Dust In The Wind" blew across the musical horizon, there was a different Kansas." etc.

Brrrr... I didn't hear those recordings, but I can only picture this in my worst nightmares: Why someone who played prog in 1971-73, when it was a fresh bite for the market, didn't get the contract?


<> (27.10.2000)

I've listened more than several times to the whole album, and I just don't hear any "monotonousness" or "mannerism". But the point is really "musical taste" - and for my taste Kansas leave the so called originals (Yes, Genesis, etc) wide behind. They are one of the few bands who are able to bring out the various sides of music - and to bring the essence of it all on one album or even in one song.

And please don't judge a band by their first (and second) album, cause the best of Kansas is yet to come. the next five albums are really excellent, listen to it and if you give them one or a half * your musical taste leaves a lot to be desired.

John Sieber <> (20.06.2001)

I have great respect for your musical tastes but I just can't get over how you bash Song for America! Yesterday I bought Genesis' Selling England by the Pound, ya know, with "Firth of Fifth" on it. I'll tell you, i like Genesis (this being my first Genesis purchase) but I just can't see how you draw so much similarity between "Firth of Fifth" and "Song For America". I mean there are some small similarities in arpeggios of the piano intro to "Fifth" and "Song" but that's it; the chords are entirely different and the rhythm is different. And I will admit that the Genesis "wall" sound was probably ripped, at least a little, by Kansas. But to be truly fair, Genesis' orchestral sound probably was helped a little by repeated listens to Days of Future Passed and Time and a Word. And please, man... "And once again, musical quotations from Yes abound - some of the piano solos look like they've been sampled from Rick Wakeman." Rick Wakeman? His style and abilities far surpassed Walsh and Livgren of Kansas fame. Anyway, to sum up: I will admit a bit of derivativeness on Kansas' part. But they really took those ideas and ran with them in their own redneck way. Maybe that's why I like em so much, as I am a redneck from Missouri. But like I said earlier, I'm sure Genesis ain't completely innocent of ripping their sound from bands past. Ideas are picked up from band to band. That's how the side-long epic got so popular, one band does it, it works, another band does it.... How many bands did side-longs? Like a million?At any rate, think about it and let me know what you think. Peace.

<> (17.03.2002)

Okay, I just picked up Song For America a couple days ago, your review was so bad I had to see what the deal was! Yeah, I can hear "Fifth of Firth" in the title track, but they don't rip the whole song off, and the double-tracked Walsh background vocals are pretty awesome. All in all I don't have a problem with this song or any of the rest for that matter. In fact, I actually prefer this over Selling England... call me crazy, but if I have to listen to a record more than a half dozen times to remember what a song sounds like I give up. Song for America is nowhere near as bad as you claim it to be.

Are you people reading this? NOWHERE NEAR AS BAD!

<> (06.10.2002)

After the first album was considered a commercial disapointment, Kirshner records ushered the band back into the studio for this their second album. Ignoring the repeated requests for more radio friendly material, Song For America was also done with the progressive rock fan in mind. There are plenty of metaphysical lyrics, expert musicianship, and plenty of Kansas' trademark stop on a dime jams...but again no hit singles. The album starts with 'Down The Road'. Again sung by violinist Steinhardt, it has a great beat to it and really was a good choice to kick off album number two. 'Song For America' was supposed to be the hit single although it did garner some FM radio airplay. I've always liked the song. I truly don't hear any similarities to Genesis...and I love Genesis. Not on this song anyway. Decent harmonies and a very simple riff, they just pulled this one out of retirement not too long ago. 'Lamplight Symphony' shows the fact that Kansas' members (in particular Robby Steinhardt) were trained in classical music. In the middle of this tune is a short piano/violin duet before things get going again. Lonely Street never did anything for me. Sounds like the band one day just said "were gonna write a blues song damnit!" The results are not going to make the state of Mississippi sit up and take notice. The Devil Game is another rocker with stellar singing by lead vocalist Steve Walsh. In this aspect, he is one of the best in the business in my opinion. The album closes with it's centerpiece, Livgren's exploration of eastern philosophies, 'Incomudro-Hymn To The Atman'. A stellar piece of music with plenty of echo effects on the vocals, a couple of ninety miles an hour synth workouts, and a drum solo, this is the tune that reminds me the most of Genesis. There was an ep done between the ...And Then There Were Three and the Duke albums entitled Spot The Pigeon. On it contained a tune called 'Inside And Out'. This reminds me of that tune a lot. Same keyboard textures. Two great bands. Through relentless touring, this album peaked at number 57 in May of 1975. The record company was probably again not pleased.

Dan Miller <> (08.03.2003)

Cheese, corn and shame, eh? Well, melikes my Cheese melted on my hot pastrami sandwich, my Corn smoothered in butter; and Shame can be fun (e.g., when my wife catches me eyeing a well-endowed female in a tight skirt). AND I likes me Song for America! Let us spar. For starters, in terms of overall tone, style and structure (arpeggios aside - and I recognize a little bit of "Watcher of the Skies" and the Wakeman-influenced middle soft-piano interlude), the title track bears no resemblance to "Firth of Fifth" (it's not as good as "Firth of Fifth," but that's beside the point). Nice, agile bass by Dave Hope - he and Steve Walsh's piano really drive this tune. While it does seem to borrow rhythms and structures more apparent in early progressive rock, the album's two other epics, "Incomudro - Hymn to the Atman" and "Lamplight Symphony," rely more on synthetic washes and atmosphere - something "classic" Yes, Gabriel-era Genesis and first-generation King Crimson rarely did. I can even sense that Genesis, from around Wind & Wuthering and ... And Then There Were Three, borrowed this type of sound themselves (notice there's little guitar in these tunes? And remember - Steve Hackett employed Phil Ehart and Walsh for his second solo album in 1978; surely, Genesis was at least aware of Kansas' existence). In spite of the lofty chords and keyboard sustains, these epics have their fair share of jamming, even in the otherworldly ballad "Lamplight" - sung with emotion and conviction from Steve Walsh; he finally found his voice. Aerosmith? Hmmm, if Kansas looks and sounds like Aerosmith, then Gordon Lightfoot looks and sounds like Marilyn Manson. Sheez! Anyway, meatwall fans never fear - the guitar comes crashing through for the album's other half - three concise, hard-rock ass-blasters, especially the fast and heavy Hope-penned "The Devil Game." Robby Steinhardt sings the guitar-driven "Down The Road," a rip-roaring Molly Hatchet-type tune with some sizzling violin. "Lonely Street" is a low-down, dirty 11/8 bloozer led by an ominous bass line and featuring some violent, not-particularly-politically-correct lyrics. But that's what's so cool about those heartland bands - they eschew the PC whinings of today's left-coast, Gen-X/Y hacks like Eddie Vedder. Ever heard of Nashville Pussy? Anyway, if you're a fan of progressive rock, definitely weigh George's opinion with all the others - then pick it up and hear if for yourself. It's quite different from the first album, which I think is a little better, but there is joy and fun, and some real excitement, to be found right here.

<> (13.01.2004)

how can u hate song for america friom kansas that's their best album. i'm sorry if you're brains too small to coprehend tempo changes and long songs and some lyrics that have some meaning. I would n't make fun oif people that u couldn't even begin to learn their stuff

<> (19.02.2006)

Kerry Livgren is of Swedish descent. His father was a Goodyear executive...a red-neck wouldn't write a song about the plight of the American Indians such as "Cheyenne Anthem".

One musically-interesting fact when you compare Genesis, Yes etc. to Kansas: Genesis and Yes used an instrument called a Mellotron to produce their string sounds...Kansas never had access to one, so they used the ARP String Ensemble to create a similar, but distinctive sound. The ARP is all over SFA, Masque, Leftoverture. Livgren broke a lot of ground with his synth use on those albums too..

David Dickson <> (31.07.2006)

All riiiiiiiiight! Time to enter the wall of FLAME. Geronimo! (Crazy Horse!!)

Everybody, ignore the comment I made below on Leftoverture. I had never heard Genesis at the time.

Man, I finally figured out why this band sucks (overall). When they try to sound "profound" and "philosophical," they just sound ODD. Like, they're incapable of conveying true emotion or something. That's why songs like "Magnum Opus" are such a change of pace--Kansas realizing they suck at bombast, growing itself a sense of humor and just showing off for no reason. They even kind of imply it in the lyrics: "Cause rockin' and rollin'/It's only howlin' at the moon." Exaaaaaactly. That there's a good wank song.

And so's the title track of this album. Unlike most of their other, ahem, "epics," it's quite a cheery, lighthearted nine-minute tune. And yeah, the main Moog riff clearly rips off the main piano riff of "F of F" from Genesis, but for some reason, even after hearing the latter, I never tire of this song. Must be the Midwestern "amber waves of grain" creeping into my BRAIN.

I'm guessing you might have written that "if 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" (ouch) line when you were young and impetuous (like ME!). No wonder there's a lot of angry mating-bulls on this comment board. That said, the rest of the song titles on this album alone freak me out, and I'll probably never listen to this thing. I mean, really. Even Yes usually tried not to title their tracks as if they were GOD THEMSELVES.

And you're going to HATE Dream Theater. Ohhhhh, you're going to hate Dream Theater. Dream Theater, you're going to. Hate, that is. They even PRODUCE their albums like Kansas.


Ted Goodwin <> (06.07.2001)

This is actually a pretty even album in spite of the unlikely (but mostly successful, IMHO) genre-combining. It gets neither as good nor as bad as the various parts of LEFTOVERTURE. I don't have a particular favorite song on MASQUE, but my least favorite is "All The World".

I agree that "Pinnacle" has the album's worst lyrics. The biggest problem to me is not the pretentious "demon foes" stuff but the unbelievably trite and obvious rhymes they settle for (passion/fashion, reason/season).

The same problem occurs on other songs to a lesser extent. One other small problem with the album is the way it uses Robby Steinhardt as second lead vocalist. On LEFTOVERTURE, Robby's parts are Robby's and Steve's are Steve's. Robby gets to use more of his voice on MASQUE, but he keeps being given Steve-type parts to sing. And Robby singing a Steve part sounds like Steve in need of a throat-clearing. Only on "Child Of Innocence" does he get to sing something that sounds like it's meant for him.

And what does the title MASQUE have to do with anything on the album??

<> (12.10.2002)

Every review I see of this album mentions the fact that this is a dark and brooding album. Far be it from me to stand alone...this is a dark and brooding album. Seriously, it really is and I think the reason might be the fact that not only was the record company breathing down their necks after two commercial failures for a hit single, but the band itself was feeling a little down having not yet made it big. Just look at the lyrics from Two Cents Worth, "now this old world is a fright, you know my future ain't bright, and I'd crawl in a hole if I could." Well gee thanks for the pick me up guys. It should be worth noting that Kansas has always appeared to be a group of guys very strong in their faith. Way back on the first album, the Lord is mentioned in Steve's song Lonely Wind, but on this album it really shows who is the most devout follower. Kerry Livgren's songs are starting to explore his personal relationship with Christ. I cite in example lyrics such as 'Child Of Innocence': "who do you think you are, try to live forever and you won't get far, I wait behind your door." On later albums, Livgen would almost openly scold the listener with a whose side are you on approach to the lyrics. Something that would bother Steve Walsh immensely as he felt his audience should think for themselves. 'Icarus-Borne On Wings of Steel' is a classic with plenty of instrumental attacks. I've always loved on the chorus when the 'Sail On' lyric is accompanied only by acoustic guitar and then the rest of the band kicks in. There exists a great live version of this song on Kansas' 70's live album Two For The Show. 'Mysteries And Mayhem' is a great rocker that dables in religion again. If you remember your biblical training, Cain slew his brother Able and the Lord bestowed a mark on his forehead as punishment. Pretty heavy stuff for a band who was instructed to write a hit single. 'The Pinnacle' rounds out the album. Containing very medieval lyrics, the tune makes good use of piano, synth, and expecially organ with yet another excellent Steve Walsh vocal. A great effort but again the result was the same. This album did worse than the last one peaking at number 70 in Febuary of 1976.

Dan Miller <> (12.05.2003)

This really is Kansas' best and today is still a great listen. Considering it came out about a year after what many consider the "demise" of progressive rock, it shows Kansas is willing to carry the torch. And they carry it well. This may be Kansas' most progressive album (and it definitely would've been had they kept "Mysteries and Mayhem" and "Pinnacle" as one song, which was their intent, but the record company, fearing epic overkill, encouraged the band to divide it. In fact, the end of the former and the beginning of the latter are the same motif, giving you an idea of how it would sound had they been linked together. But it's nice having them separate. They each have their identities, their own styles and moods). "It Takes a Woman's Love" keeps the band grounded in pop/rock, as does the great bluesy "Two Cents Worth"; and "It's You" keeps things fast and fresh. "Child of Innocence" and "Mysteries and Mayhem" are hard rock along the vein of Song for America's "The Devil Game" - about as close to Southern rock as we get - or will get from now on. Robby Steinhardt's best vocals highlight these tunes. Now, if you must flog Kansas for copying their progressive innovators, here's the place to do it. The whole beginning of "Pinnacle" plays snippets of Yes and Genesis pastiches, and there is a part in the beginning where the ascending keyboards and Dave Hope's deft basslines sound almost exactly like Yes' "Heart of the Sunrise." Plus, there's the hard-rock mid section of "All the World" (angular guitar and frenzied violin solo, then into the mellow violin solo before the Steve Walsh 'Ahhhs') that apes King Crimson circa 'Larks Tongues in Aspic'. Great tune, though - Steinhardt's best writing for the band. On the other hand, give them their due for being an inspiration elsewhere. The multipart "Pinnacle" switches moods and genres much like Dream Theater's epic "Learning to Live" 17 years later. "Icarus (Borne on Wings of Steel)" in style, arrangement and sound, and even in title, may well have inspired Iron Maiden. It's a wonder they never covered it. Plus, it's Walsh's favorite Kansas tune. It's an epic without epic pretensions, and it doesn't sound like anything else they've ever done. It served as such a centerpiece of the Kansas experience that Kerry Livgren gave new life to the tune 25 years later in the form of "Icarus II" borrowing phrases here and there from the original. Overall, Masque is a winner and deserves a place in every progressive rock fan's collection.

Tagbo Munonyedi <> (25.02.2006)

One of the things I like about Kansas is their variety. I can't argue against the fact that they wore their influences on their sleeves, but rather like John Lennon did with the Dylan influence or George Harrison did with the Indian influence or Keith Richards did with the Chuck Berry influence or Ray Charles did with the gospel influence or Bob Marley did with the blues and calypso influence or the Police did with the reggae influence, they took it somewhere else. I guess prog is the most convenient category for them because they threw in a variety of assets [ Classical, pop, rock, country, jazz, folk ] usually found in progressive rock bands. I first came across them in '79 in a heavy metal A - Z ( !! ) although I do recall seeing one of their LPs at my friend's house prior to that. But Kansas went beyond prog.....

It is significant that somewhere earlier George has a pop at the band for lacking a sense of humour in their music and being so serious. This is actually quite accurate. I really dig this band but unlike the Beatles or the Who or the Stones or Dylan or the Kinks or the Police or James Brown or Motorhead or AC/DC or Kiss or a plethora of others, I never find myself laughing at or with Kansas in song........

My, my, they were serious weren't they ? But Kansas were, in a way surpassing any group I can recall, a group of searchers [ or at least, the writers were ] and the search for meaning in life was all consuming and drove the music. Even finding huge sales and a measure of fame didn't dim that flame.... It wasn't all dark and gloomy though, there are indeed moments of lightness, but I think that to understand the songs of this group, one has to recognize their almost manic restlessness and dissatisfaction with life.

MASQUE has a write up on the cover that implies that many things written, sung or performed are done so to cover up or disguise reality and so the album does loosely represent a concept. Because this is an album of questions and observations and hardly a solution in sight.......and while ALL THE WORLD would seem to refute that, a closer inspection reveals { I can see an old man cry...... } that it is not as hopeful as it seems. It has been documented that Livgren and Walsh were pulling in different directions and here I want to make a general point that applies to many bands down through the history of rock / pop; I'm often fascinated that the artistic directors within so many bands wanted to pull in only one direction. Could bands with 2 or more writers of distinctive styles not see that that very difference is what so often accounted for the bands' brilliance ? It ensured that we heard variety. A variety of views and musical styles. I just could not imagine the Beatles without, say, Harrison or McCartney, Mott the Hoople without Mick Ralphs, Queen without Brian May etc, etc. And with Kansas firmly in mind, both Livgren and Walsh had different things going down within them - but they led to the same hopeless, despairing place. And musically that made for an interesting journey { here they pen three of the songs together }. The search for some kind of peace or salvation looms ever so large here with attempts to find the answers in history, mythology, the love of a woman, holding onto dead relationships, sex, booze, the unknown, escapism, resignation, post hippy new ageism, fantasy,'s all there. There are biblical allusions and imagery, but nothing Christian here, just that melting pot of many possibilities that was almost de rigeur back in the day.

Is the album dark ? Well, yes. Almost all their 70s output was, if you look hard enough. I think that musically and instrumentally Kansas were one of the more interesting outfits, they had a series of assets that were neatly utilized [ you know, like 2 guitars, 2 keyboards, violin & viola ] and I've never had a problem with the more commercial stuff sitting alongside the heavier, more symphonic workouts. Makes for variety, see. IT TAKES A WOMAN'S LOVE may be corny, but it's singable corn that stands up to this day, same with IT'S YOU. I think both are lovely songs. CHILD OF INNOCENCE and MYSTERIES AND MAYHEM are both downright scary - try listening to these in a graveyard on a rainy night ! And then come and complain about the rhyming ! The truth is that in the West, we love rhymes, now we almost demand it - but there are only a limited number of actual rhymes that one is likely to use in a song ! Even Dylan used a rhyming dictionary in his most groundbreaking period. TWO CENTS WORTH is such a blanket of despair, the vision of a person who can't connect with their world as it is, yet can't see themself as part of the solution. Some of the singing and playing is among the finest I've heard and ICARUS and ALL THE WORLD really show this to the utmost. The harmonies on the former and the instrumental section on the latter are top notch. And THE easy track to criticise, but I see something else here. It's perhaps the most desperate song on the album, desparing of who, what and where we are, seeking to escape but not being able ( or willing ) to. The first verse seems to encapsulate all of where Masque is tugging and it's all fantastically played. A great album. That it doesn't render one suicidal is a testament to how interesting they keep it, in my opinion ! Neither Yes, Genesis or ELP ever went as far as this lot in the searchstakes { although Gabriel era Genesis came close }, which is not to devalue them or their music....


Ted Goodwin <> (13.06.2001)

Besides this album I haven't checked out much by Kansas, so I can't accurately compare it to their other stuff. I only have it because someone gave it to me. (I listened to POINT OF KNOW RETURN once and liked almost nothing except -- most atypically for me -- the radio hits. I have another Kansas album that someone gave me, so you may be hearing from me about it once I listen to it.) The main problem I have with Kansas is that they make things complicated when they might be better off making them simpler. That's because the complications are rarely actually INTERESTING, just complicated for the sake of being complicated. That said, I like LEFTOVERTURE for the most part. I've probably heard "Carry On" too many times, but I still like it. Not my idea of a "commercial" song, though. "The Wall" is good too but could have been better; I hate those meandering, pointless ending stretches that Livgren seems prone to. "What's On My Mind" is, in my opinion, the best song on the album. "Miracles Out Of Nowhere" may be pretentious but I still like it. (My favorite line on the album: "Hey there mister madman, whatcha know that I don't know?") The next two songs ("Opus Insert" and "Questions Of My Childhood") are just OK; they don't help or hurt the album much. "Cheyenne Anthem" is the album's most problematic piece. I find the lyrics quite effective -- this isn't just an "eco-anthem", but a historical story intelligently told from the "other side's" viewpoint -- but I have two main complaints about the music. First, there's the inappropriate "stupid jig section" you so aptly describe. Secondly, there's a condition that I don't have a name for, but have heard in songs by a variety of artists, wherein the last line of verse 1 sounds like it's the first line of verse 2, so that when the first line of verse 2 actually shows up it sounds wrong. Does that make sense? And then there's "Magnum Opus". Actually, this song was originally going to be called "Leftoverture", because it's made up of unused pieces of song ideas, and the ALBUM was going to be called MAGNUM OPUS. As for the song, I like a lot of the ideas and would have liked to hear them in more organized contexts. The names of the "sections" are cute (especially "Father Padilla Meets The Perfect Gnat"), but I've never been able to tell where the various sections are supposed to begin and end.

<> (18.10.2002)

Get a hit single, or you're off the label. That is precisely what Kansas heard upon entering the studio to begin work on their fourth album. About this time Steve Walsh entered the studio and announced he was going through writer's block and had nothing to contribute. Kerry Livgren would rise to the occasion with an album's worth of his strongest set of songs. I was twelve years old in 1976 and used to carry a portable radio with me to school. The first time I ever heard 'Carry On Wayward Son' was in a class I was supposed to be paying attention to and the song with it's simple but memorable riff, tight harmonies, and chugging along like a freight train melody nearly knocked me out of my seat. So began my love affair with Kansas. The Leftoverture album broke nationwide and transformed them from opening act to headliners nearly overnight. Again, if you look hard enough, nearly all of Kerry Livgren's songs explore his relationship with Christ. 'The Wall' deals with the crossroads he was facing in life and the only possible road to take was to the Lord. 'What's On My Mind' is a moderately paced rocker with emphasis on harmonies. 'Miracles Out Of Nowhere' yes falls headfirst into 70's progressive rock, but I truly think Kansas makes the song their own with very introspective lyrics, top notch musicianship, and a great Robby Steinhardt/Steve Walsh duet. Moving along, my favorite tune on this album was always 'Cheyenne Anthem'. Robby Steinhardt contributes what I consider to be his finest vocal with a little help from Steve Walsh on the bridge. The song deals with the American Indians perspective of "we were here first." I love on the opening how the acoustic guitar and the moog synthesizer are the only instrumentation and set the tone for the rest of the song. Everyone knows by now that 'Magnum Opus' was supposed to be the title of the album until someone noticed that would be a better name for the last piece on the album. A collection of throwaways, someone got the bright idea of putting them all together and see what would fit. This is a marvelous album and a great introduction into Kansas. Maybe it won't fit into most people's progressive top ten, but it peaked at number 5 in April 1977.

David Dickson <> (03.11.2002)

This album, quite frankly, impresses me. I've never been a hard-core Kansas fan, although my dad plays their greatest hits CD endlessly. Judging from that, I noticed two things: they have some shockingly good instrumental chops (although they hardly ever improvise, damn them), and they are definitely more pop than prog. Whoever condemns these guys for not being worthy enough to stand in the company of such greats as Yes, King Crimson, and Genesis is missing the point--they are simply a pop-rock band with some arty tendencies, ones that they employed not for the sake of "being complicated" as so many angry critics have complained, but for the sake of simply thrilling the audience. You might not realize that while listening to them, but just go and watch them live--actually seeing them launch into one of those "stupid jigs" on stage is truly an amazing sight to behold. Leftoverture proves that they have what it takes to stand in the company of the pop-rock greats of the seventies, Aerosmith, Bad Company, and yes, The Eagles included. All eight songs on the record are catchy ("Cheyenne Anthem" a little less than the others, but it's still well done) and delivered with conviction. "Carry On", "What's On My Mind" and "Questions of my Childhood" are all great hard rockers, with gnarly guitar lines in the first two--and yes, great melodies in all three. (Really, George, how can you say that these guys have no sense of melody? Sheesh. . .) And "Miracles Out of Nowhere" is a great epic--at first I didn't like it 'cause of that pseudo-prog synth opener, but once the folky acoustic guitar starts up, paired with the great folky melody--again, great MELODY--the tune gets its s*** together. The mid-section, with four different instrumental melodies woven together, is pretty interesting, from a classical point of view, but the double-time rockin' coda is what really makes this tune a classic--it's no wonder they still have it in their stage set. "Opus Insert" and "The Wall" are enjoyable, memorable pieces of filler (yes, I KNOW "The Wall" was a single, but despite its guitar heroics, it still feels kinda like filler to me. Great violin coda though.) "Cheyenne Anthem" would have been great--if they'd stuck to the opening verse! Those simple acoustic guitar chords, Mellotron, and simple, folky melody are just what they needed for a tune about the American Indian--but no, they had to interrupt it with that meaningless show-off part in the middle. Still, it's a GOOD meaningless show-off part, and the song is one of their better epics. "Magnum Opus", though, is absolutely hysterical: they were just musically wanking off for the heck of it, and they knew it. Yes, I've also seen this done live, and yes, it is quite amazing. Really, George, how can you praise Crimson's "21st Century Schizoid Man" and put down "Magnum Opus" as "a typical Kansas offender?" It's basically the same thing, just less free jazz and more classical. But again--these guys aren't trying to be a pure art-rock band here (though I guess they WERE on their first few albums--big mistake, guys. Americans can't do pure art-rock. It's against the laws of nature.). They're trying to be a slick, mainstream rock band with a few pretensions. And they succeed on Leftoverture. If you don't dig that kind of style, and would prefer something with a little more "depth," "diversity" and/or "emotion," heck, boy, stay away from '70's pop-rock altogether. Stick with Yes. Or Captain Beefheart. Or Joni Mitchell. I hear they're more deep.

<> (30.07.2005)

i'm confused, are we talking about the same album here? i was surprised when i read your opinion regarding masque, which is a great album (how can you hate 'icarus'?) but the fact that you hate leftoverture really puzzeled me, this is one of the few true great rock albums ever, the playlist is unbelievable: 'the wall', 'magnum opus', 'chyenne antmem', and obviuosly miracles out of nowhere are all well crafted songs, the peak of american prog-rock, IMHO, try kansas again, you missed them at the first time, a true masterpiece.

Neil Eddy <> (03.08.2005)

Nice Review George...

I used to like Kansas when I was much younger - they were suitably pyrotheatrical for a prog inclined teenager of the time (tho' the ELP records filched from my elder brother's collection were the real go). However, I had the misfortune to get a listen in to Leftoverture again last week (a friend bought a ye olde cassette copy at a car boot sale for 50 cents) and I was in no way impressed.

One thing that these guys didn't have (maybe it was a trans-atlantic thing) was an ability to get dirrrrrty like ELP, Gabriel Genesis, or Tull. Everything was squeaky clean - lyrics, music, stage presence (have you seen the liner photos on the live album? erk for stage costumes - one of 'ems in shorts, tee, and joggers ( and this was in the late 70's!).

To my mind there is little worse than sanitised Prog as it becomes mono-dimensional without "bite" - just look at latter period Yes for an example....

And those lyrics... no edge - lotso cringe!

Where's their "Get 'Em Out by Friday"? "Bitches Crystal"? "Carry On Wayward Son"? (where's Kenneth Williams when you need him!), "Dust in the Wind?'

I think not!


Mike DeFabio <> (11.01.2001)

I really really REALLY !@$#ING HATE THAT !@#$ing "Dust In The Wind" song!!! That has to be one of the worst songs I've ever heard. "Everything is dust in the wind." Wow. How deep and philisophical. Everything about that song is just plain hideous. The lyrics, the singing, the melody, the STUPID VIOLIN, and especially the fact that it even exists. Why does this band even exist? And why did they tour with YES??? To make Yes look even BETTER???

Glenn Wiener <> (11.06.2001)

Gee its been a long while since I played this record on my turntable. I do remember it being quite creative in spots with the organ and violin embellishments. Truthfully I don't mind 'Dust In The Wind'. Its a pretty song. However, 'Nobody's Home' does have the creative embellishments in which I mentioned earlier. And 'Closet Chronicles' is down right symphonic with its changing moods. 'Portrait' is my favorite track with the nice blend of riffs, organ effects, and strong vocals.

<> (25.10.2003)

After Leftoverture's success, Kansas were found with new found superstardom as well as a little leverage in the studio. Point of Know Return was released in September 1977. It was certified gold on October 11, 1977 and platinum on November 20, 1977. It peaked at number 4 in January 1978 and spent 49 weeks on the chart. Their goals and hard work had finally paid off in a big way. Point Of Know Return had ten songs on it, more than any previous Kansas album, showing they were compressing their ideas into more song structured radio friendly songs. Steve Walsh came into the studio this time with some songs of his own after last years writers block. The title track is his for the most part and is an excellent way to lead off the album. Featuring a catchy organ riff after the "how long" lyric, it was the album's first single. Robby Steinhardt, never a songwriter but an excellent violin player is well represented throughout, most notably on Lightning's Hand which features some tasty guitar and violin interplay. I always thought Closet Chronicles was about Elvis. "I heard the king was dying, I heard the king was dead," and "gazing out the windows of the 42nd floor." Since Elvis died at 42 I thought this was undoubtedly about Elvis, but Kerry Livgren says the song is actually about exclussive billionaire Howard Hughes. The other character study on the album is Portait (He Knew) which is about Albert Einstein. I always liked 'The Spider'. It should be pointed out again that Steve Walsh for the most part is the keyboard player. Kerry Livgren does play keyboards, but he also plays guitar, and the keyboard duties are for the most part done by Steve Walsh. Don't believe me? Check out Kansas' new cd and dvd Device Voice Drum and see who's playing keyboards. Which brings us to the monster hit 'Dust In The Wind'. People either love it or hate it. The fact that it was Kansas' highest charting single ever leaves me scatching my head a little bit. You see, at some funerals the priest or minister will sprinkle dirt on the casket and say "ashes to ashes, dust to dust" to symbolize what we become after we die. With this in mind, I find this to be the most God awful depressing song ever written. Thanks for the positive outlook on life Kerry. So why did this song become so popular? Well it has a nice acoustic guitar finger picking rhythm, and an excellent vocal by Steve Walsh who has one of the best pure voices in all of rock and easily out of all the other progressive rock bands. I'ved been to Kansas shows and heard fans chanting for this song which mildly ammuses me considering the subject matter. This album became the biggest seller of their career as well as one of the biggest sellers of that year, in addition to one of the biggest sellers ever in the history of progressive rock. Not bad at all for a bunch of kids from Topeka. While I actually prefer Leftoverture to this, I will agree that this is the place to start with for Kansas. And the cover is damn cool.

Tagbo Munonyedi <> (18.08.2006)

I've long found the term 'Adult Oriented Rock' to be an odd one. I personally would pitch it's beginning to the mid 60s, right around the time Dylan was weaving lyrical magic and mayhem and the Beatles and some of the more socially conscious writers like Curtis Mayfield were realizing that with popular music came an audience that was becoming increasingly interested in what artists actually had to say, just like the days when poets on the margins of societies had their fingers on the pulses of their classes or groupings within the varying societies and reflected this in their keen observations in their poems. AOR, as we accept it as a musical genre, in my opinion was as inevitable as the growing up process itself and just as inevitable was it's emergence from bands composed of third generation rockers for whom the idea of a career in rock {be it as artist, producer, engineer, roadie, lighting person, instrument maker, whatever} was not unusual, even if some still thought it was insecure. When rock'n'roll first got going, it didn't seem aimed at anyone in particular whereas in the 60s the emphasis was definitely on "the kids" and part of the fight between the counterculture and the establishment stemmed from the establishment reacting to the notion that kids minds {and by extension, the American way of life} were being subverted. But those kids grew up and the artists and people that spent the late 60s saying things like "never trust someone over 30", or declaring that they didn't want to be singing their famous songs at 45 or hoping they died before they got old never seemed to consider that they would get old and one of rock's biggest challenges was going to be how to develop some kind of ethos that consciously considered adults. It wasn't Boston's success that created AOR, if you look closely, Kansas had added a slightly, um, accessible, radio friendly edge as far back as MASQUE in tunes like IT TAKES A WOMAN'S LOVE and IT'S YOU. As has so often been the case in music, AOR was a parallel development, what they call morphic resonance, and a few bands were in the pot. I think Kansas were one of the few {at least til '79} that maintained a healthy balance between a commercial sound, a serious sound and an inventive one. That balance is pushed to perfection here as heavy metal, progressive rock, intelligent pop and symphonic invention are coalesced into one sound. I'm not saying that the album is flawless, far from it, just that the elements that the band had been juggling with were perfectly fused here. They never would be again IMHO. I also find this one to have a medieval, nautical, feel to it that's quite unique. Everything from the artwork to the sound seem to come together and if rock had been around 3-400 years ago in the days of sailing ships and piracy, this is how I imagine it would have sounded ! Well, one branch of it. I like the fact that some good music has the ability in the hands of sensitive artists to transport one's imagination to far off lands, times and worlds while at the same time being firmly rooted in now. I'm struck by how almost manic the search for meaning has become in the songs presented; also worth noting is that even at this point, Steve Walsh was dealing with his search and frustration in a very agitated way. Apparently he left the group before the commencement of the recording sessions coz he didn't like the direction the band was going in. He did return and it's as well he did; both vocally and instrumentally he was integral to Kansas. Reports were that Walsh had writer's block during LEFTOVERTURE but it didn't stop him being involved in the writing of exactly half of the songs. Though he had a serious inferiority complex about it, believing Kerry Livgren to be the better tunesmith, he was extremely important as a songwriter, providing an interesting counterweight to Livgren and he weighs in with eight of the ten songs here~six of them with Livgren. Mind you, Hendrix, Clapton and Lennon all hated the sound of their voices.....

The title track has nothing to do with Kerry Livgren in it's writing but it kicks things off in great style and though it appeared late in the day, from the LP point of view, sets the benchmark. It's simple yet complex, commercial yet serious, searching yet accessible. Though it's short, it feels deceptively long. there's something about the mood that reminds me of Gryphon on RED QUEEN TO GRYPHON 3 even though it's not like them at all. When I first became a Christian, in thinking about Kansas, I recognized a deep search had been taking place through their songs and the one that really stood out for me in that regard was PARADOX. I don't think I really knew what the word meant when I first heard the song. But it is paradoxical in that the writer has seen it all and knows so much, yet is full of questions. But these are life and death questions nagging at his very being. Like so many of the lyrics, there's a sense of leaping into the unknown that keeps the song tense. It's like they've found that the point of no return was simply a door to more looking for answers. The organ playing throughout the album is top notch, as is the way Steinhardt's violin interacts with it and the guitars. It's easy to overlook the great harmony vocals that exist between Walsh and Steinhardt coz there's so much going on and this song lurches from section to section so strangely and smoothly. Robbie Steinhardt was actually the guy that got me passionate about violins. My sister learned to play but in her early days, really put me off. Man, that screeching !! Steinhardt kindled a love for the instrument in me and I've since come across many good players across different genres. Phil Ehart is also an underated sticksman, kind of an odd hybrid of Neil Peart and Stewart Copeland; he certainly charted territory that they would go on to explore. I wonder if he'd heard Curved Air and Rush among the other bands he'd listened to ? He really drives THE SPIDER through it's paces. I think it's a wonderful track and without being rude or condescending, a revelation for an American heavy band. There may be precedents for it from ELP and early Deep Purple {some of the instrumental passages from the first album} but I think there's also a nod towards Grand Funk's FLIGHT OF THE PHEONIX. But where Kansas score heavilly is in the way they piece all the funky rhythmic changes and groovy sounds at their disposal together. It is as much a tense representation musically of the doubts and questions as any of the lyrics you'll encounter on the LP. At the same time, it conjours up mind pictures of some poisonous tropical spider loping it's way around an old ship, looking for some old sea dog to gnash ! When I first heard it, I thought the glorious PORTRAIT was about some Jesus or Gandhi type figure, though some of the words militate against it being Jesus. That said, it could be. It could be some influential wise man or guru. But it ain't, it turns out to be about Einstein. I must confess to being slightly disappointed about that though it makes abundant sense. But you know, right from the first time I heard it, I always identified it with me. It's frightening the number of times the song has summed up me in the situations I've been going through. The two guitarists really compliment each other, as do once again the two vocalists and in the last verse and chorus those wonderful little organ washes. The final section doesn't seem out of place at all and the live version from TWO FOR THE SHOW is even better in it's runout than this one. CLOSET CHRONICLES is the flip side of the same coin, once again a really personal song to me. A heavy situation I faced in my career with kids is uncannilly summed up; honestly, it's like these two were written about that particular scenario. CLOSET is written with Howard Hughes in mind and it's interesting how the two songs sit side by side. In one, a man with insight and depth comes to the end of his life no more fulfilled despite all his great visions and works and ideas; in the other, the man's wealth, courage and leadership in the end count for nothing because his life is found to have no meaning. Such a big question is posed and the tearing of one's hair with frustration is so tangible. It's also superbly played. Dave Hope plays his bass very high up the neck, playing a role that is as always foundational and supportive without being flashy. He's the one person in the sextet that never really gets a chance to shine. With such an array of options to hand, someone had to give, and it was him. Yet the bass provides a wonderful foundation and in truth, if you took it away, you'd kill the songs. LIGHTNING'S HAND flies in as a good heavy rocker and is the one song that reminds me of the time I first heard the album. I think it's a cracking number and gives a hint that there may be a plan to life that's beyond our ability to control, which was quite a daring thing to suggest in a scene so fiercely self deterministic. Brilliantly sung by violinist extrordinaire Steinhardt, Livgren and Williams manage to give the impression just through guitars of being in the midst of a raging storm at sea and being forced to confront their own mortality. In quieter vein, DUST IN THE WIND does a similar thing, except that it's not only our mortality, but all our actions that are seriously being put through the microscope. This is analogous to the biblical book of Ecclesiastes in which life without God is seriously analyzed. What's remarkable about this song is that it was just a part of a search, not a conclusion. That would come later. It fits in with the depressing and depressive tone of all the songs. There is not one joyful song on here, not one declaration of love, sexual or otherwise {in fact the word occurs only twice, the mum saying she loves her son who is going away to sea in the title track~it's kind of desperate and manipulative as she wants him to stay and the people who loved the courage of the guy in CLOSET}, or any happiness at being alive. Not even any drug induced folly. It reminds me of the cynical views that were coming from the Beatles and the Stones in the mid 60s. It's also interesting that around the same time, Styx, who too were regarded as AOR radio fodder released the cynical THE GRAND ILLUSION and Rush did the similarly bleak A FAREWELL TO KINGS. It's also ironic that punk rock in Britain broke big in '77 and there was similarly a kind of despair and hopelessness coming out loud and clear. SPARKS OF THE TEMPEST is one of my favourite Kansas tracks, and with PORTRAIT, my favourite on the album and just an all round good egg. The words are suicidally bleak and without hope, the gee~taws bite when they have to, it's funky and the percussion is prominent, memorable and enhancing without being brilliant. The organ is uplifting to the sound but littlle else, the singing is filled with bile; this is one bitter song. The lead guitar solo howls in pain and the ending is magnificent, superb. It so conveys that feeling of hopeless resignation with sterling performances on the synth and from Ehart on drums. Not a song to listen to when one is wondering what the point of carrying on is ! Coz you won't find it here. In fact you won't find it anywhere on this album. One of the things that's quite impressive about the songs on the album is that few of them are over wordy. Most of them are surprizingly brief, NOBODY'S HOME being a case in point. In some ways it's the most depressing of the lot, the poor geezer having come so damn far and through so much, only to find it was for nothing coz there's no one to even benefit from the wisdom picked up in travail. It's sadness and despair is almost funny but it would be hard to laugh through that melancholy violin. HOPELESSLY HUMAN has possibly the best start to any Kansas song, I like the riff of SPARKS and others but the riff on this song is a knockout, sensational. I've long noticed that American heavy bands, while quite capable of riffing {I mean, check out Blue Oyster cult's GODZILLA or CITIES ON FLAME} also wrote different kinds of riffs, often elongated and more complex and intertwined than their British counterparts, yet still able to knock one flat. This is a great song, the main message being that we're just gonna carry on the same way, almost regardless of the consequenses unless something drastic comes our way. Almost as though we're caught in the grip of habits and mindsets we can't break. Like a number of songs on here, it's surprizingly perceptive. It also offers lovely music. It's as close as they get to being cheerful but it's still on a downer, concluding that we are hopelessly human and almost celebrating going nowhere, or 'dancing aimlessly'.......This was my first Kansas album {I'd previously heard the tail end of JOURNEY FROM MARIABRON} and it was a fantastic place to start. Not one bad song, no need to rearrange the order, it's always an uplifting experience for me to listen to {long before I was a Christian, even} which shows the power great music has to massage a message....


Daniel Powel <> (16.03.2004)

I'm listening to this (via RealOne Rhapsody) as I write this email.

This record sucks.

George: I appreciate your efforts to quantify why it sucks. Personally, I can't find the words.

Tagbo Munonyedi <> (19.09.2006)

It was Bob Dylan who made the point that art could lead a person to God.......

I wrote to Kerry Livgren in 1987 coz I'd listened to his album TIMELINE {great stuff} and AD's ART OF THE STATE {not great stuff} and I'd developed this theory about the trajectory of Kansas' music and where Livgren's conversion to Christ fitted in all of that. He wrote back saying that it was during the recording of MONOLITH that he'd aligned himself to Christ and this confirmed my then theory. I've long felt that Kansas were almost the ultimate searching band, searching for real meaning in life and not just the resolution of chilhood traumas and this is reflected in all their stuff up to and including LEFTOVERTURE though there is something of a hit and miss aspect to it all and a hippyesque 'all inclusiveness' that reflects their coming of age during the 60s. But {and this is superbly reflected in the songs} the focus got so much sharper on POINT OF KNOW RETURN. There was a definite shift occurring there; it kind of reminds me of a point Jesus made, about how, as something is getting closer, the intensity grows and it's like a pregnant woman in labour. POINT OF KNOW RETURN was a woman about to give birth but not knowing the sex of the child.....MONOLITH is the trauma of the birth, the baby securely relaxed at the breast and post natal depression all rolled into one ! There was already some friction within the band in terms of musical direction but Livgren's new found faith in God was to be the rumble that caused the volcano to finally erupt. But just in the fact that there are no joint compositions between Walsh and Livgren {Walsh has 3 and one joint, Livgren has 4 solo} tells you something. Indeed, the more I think about it, this album comes across as, and could easilly be called 'The Big Argument' because it seems like Walsh {who by his own admission could be a 'difficult' customer in the years '77~'79} was resolutely determined to answer Livgren's spiritually assured songs with songs just as 'spiritual' but more in the style of where they'd always been, open ended, not definite or espousing any particular way. It makes for a fascinating battle on record, the likes of which I've not come across before or since. There have been loads of groups that have had internal battles with the main creative forces, whether that was expressed in coming to blows or the disavowing of certain songs that the other has written, but on the actual record ? Let the battle commence ! I really was not impressed with MONOLITH when I first heard it. I remember writing to my Uncle's ex~girlfriend in London {I was in Enugu, Nigeria, at the time} remarking that Kansas were yet another band that "went disco in '79". At the time, the city I lived in was in the midst of a discomania that I don't think any city in the US or the UK could equal, partly coz Enugu did not have the diversity of musical genres you'd find in the West, partly coz anything American was regarded by the young as ultra hip and happening. I was regarded as a bit of an idiot and cynical nonconformist {of which I was none !} coz I dug heavy rock. I'd been into it for about 21 months at the time and had just acquired a new batch of heavy albums that included 'Master of reality', 'Vol 4', 'Sabbath bloody sabbath' {Black Sabbath},'Machine Head' {Deep Purple}, 'Live album' {Grand Funk Railroad}, 'Masque' {Kansas}, 'Live and dangerous' {Thin Lizzy}, 'Gonzo' {Ted Nugent} and 'Bring it back alive' {The Outlaws}, all of which are heavy, mainly guitar fronted LPs. MONOLITH sounded so syrupy and poppy but it grew on me and within a month or so I dug it and have done ever since. Coz on my tape it was back to back with the brilliant MASQUE, I kept giving it a chance. Kerry Livgren comes over as a writer that, for the meantime, has the pressure off and that possibly accounts for the contentedness in both his lyrics and the sound of his songs and the blunting of his edginess. It was to return on his solo album SEEDS OF CHANGE the following year, and through much of his subsequent output coz as he put it, progressive rock should be constantly evolving..... It was as I thought about A GLIMPSE OF HOME and it's words during a year when I listened to no music after my own conversion, that I was first alerted to the fact that something had happened to Livgren. And when I did start listening again, I was convinced of it. Coz while the lyrics are general enough to have an ambiguous application, there are sufficient 'insider references' to suggest a relationship with God, not some vague thingy, but someone with intelligence. Lines like "all is well, the searching is over" spoke volumes and to some extent, signalled the end of Kansas' musical evolution. Musically it's packed with enough twists and movement between all the players to keep it interesting. Then in wades Walsh with the lovely yet edgy and reflective AWAY FROM YOU. More neat organ and violin interplay over an energetic rhythm and wrapped up in a commercial sound as Walsh posits a relationship as his answer to his lostness. Yet he sounds regretful and not at all sure; in fact he sounds downright confused. I even wonder whether some of the lines aren't directed at Livgren, at least the nostalgic ones. Once again there are lovely complex little twists as the musicians keep out of each others' way. But the one he co wrote with Rich Williams and Robbie Steinhardt, while having a nice stop~start movement, is alot more straightforward. It's pretty gritty basic tough guy macho rock with hard guitars and dirty organ and no violin that I can detect. A couple of weeks before I first heard anything by Kansas, I recall picking up a 1979 American rock magazine {it was a year out of date but in Nigeria, you read what was there, whether recent or ancient} that had these interviews in it and one of them with Steve Walsh and he was remarking that he thought Williams was a real good rock'n'roll guitarist who never really got a chance to let rip in Kansas. I never really comment on the individual playing of Livgren and Williams coz I can never tell who is actually doing what as Livgren also played various keyboards and Williams played both rhythm and lead. But on this track there's nice dual and harmony playing. It's another tale of a lost soul and the only advice or solution offered is to 'stay out of trouble'. Given Walsh's state at the time, I wouldn't be surprized if it was in some way autobiographical. Livgren, however is on another plane altogether, the hopeful REASON TO BE showcasing the lovely yet simple vocal harmonies of Walsh and his vocal partner Steinhardt, a somewhat underrated pair in my view. This is probably the most unequivocal statement on the album of the changes that Livgren had encountered. It's slightly reminiscent of another song that came out that year by a rock convertee to Christ, that of Bob Dylan {the song being I BELIEVE IN YOU}, probably coz of the relaxed acoustic feel. I would imagine that ON THE OTHER SIDE, or at least part of it, and PEOPLE OF THE SOUTH WIND were written prior to the conversion of Livgren, if what he told me is true as to the timing. The former starts off as a song describing not so much writer's block, but the art of trying to put in the perspiration to get a song written when the inspiration isn't quickly forthcoming. But as the song progresses it's full of lines here and phrases there that attest to where Livgren's spirit is at. As easy as it is to write off this kind of lyric, the main line about needing something to believe in is true. Steinhardt's violin playing throughout the song is delicate and quizzical and the riff at the start of each verse and in the outro is one of the most distinctive in rock. PEOPLE OF the song that pissed me off initially and got me writing them off as a disco sellout. It's actually a really beautiful tale of growing as a band and the people that grew with them and what they all learned, it's saturated with affection, the people of the south wind being from around their home state. Coz of the Indian on the front cover, I thought at first that it was in praise of some tribe. But again it works on more than one level coz I can see a number of references that are very ambiguous and take on a completely different meaning when the guitarist's new situation is taken into account. Speaking of guitars, there's some powerful but understated guitar playing, especially in the run out. For me, ANGELS HAVE FALLEN is one of the best songs Steve Walsh wrote, both musically and lyrically. In fact, It's my favourite Kansas lyric, for a long time I assumed Kerry Livgren had written it. It's another of the seeming "you're not the only one that can write something spiritually engaging" brigade and it has no conclusion like alot of his songs. No conclusion in the sense that you the listener are left to generate your own. It's a powerful song that veers between quiet and bombastic, fast and slow, rocking and balladic, but right from the opening strains of the violin to it's closing note, through the rollercoaster emotional ride, it retains it's disquieting and edgy feel. When he sings "Save me for now, save me forever/hold me so close~I can't bear to go/there's darkness around me~or is it within me ?/You're living forever~but I'm dying so slow........", you know you are meeting the psyche of someone that is spiralling out of control. In that chorus is anger, jealousy, anguish, pain, horror, fear and confusion, oddly enough, out of step with the rest of the lyrics. Whatever arguments there may be about which band influenced who or who ripped off whom, for better or worse, few progressive bands ever hit this level of emotional intensity. This and the hard rocking but almost as intense HOW MY SOUL CRIES OUT FOR YOU not only demonstrate what an inventive group they were at this time, they also demonstrate the gulf that had irreversibly opened up between the two main writers, both musically and lyrically. SOUL is a fantastic bit of rock and roll, hard and unrelenting, yet also with pop sensibility. As good as the guitars and drums are, it's Hope's bass and Steinhardt's interstellar violin that are among the highlights here. That odd little bit in the middle is absolutely appropriate~but I don't know why ! Again, I think there's something autobiographical in that avant garde piece, a bit more rebellion in amongst all the contented Godliness. And in the same way that Paul McCartney says that TWO OF US is about him and Linda, yet at least subconsciously it seems to be about him and John Lennon, I also wonder again if subconsciously this song is really about or concerning Kerry Livgren. Throughout Walsh's 4 songs, I pick up a very competitive edge, but also a paradoxical one, an "I remember how things used to be and I want it still/I don't need you, mate !" kind of thing. But that is why this album has become so fascinating for me, there seems to be a battle royale going on in the grooves. Walsh left after this album, partly coz of Livgren's Christ centred input, partly coz he wanted to strike out on his own. Livgren says that the rest of the band after MONOLITH got stuck in a successful formula they didn't want to depart from and kept rejecting his 'risky' songs and it was the last straw for him once Steinhardt had left so he in turn quit and the band floundered on the rocks before all the reforming lark that 60s and 70s bands now engage in. So in my opinion, it's fair to say that after MONOLITH, it was downhill, slowly, but inevitably. Having been together for ten years at that point, that was about right as in many ways, they'd reached the conclusion of the road they'd embarked upon so entertainingly. Dave Hope also went on to become a Christian and he and Livgren played together in AD {he's now a minister like Richie Furay from Poco and Buffalo Springfield} and I guess the moral of the tale is that searching, wanting and getting is one thing, having is something else altogether......

PS. Well, so much for my theories ! So much for Kerry's memory ! When he wrote to me, he said it was during the recording of MONOLITH that he became a Christian, but having read his enthralling autobiography, it seems this must have been later that year, not long after the record was completed. It seems he was on a high about Urantia {some bizarre religious philosophy} and this came through in the songs. I still stand by most of what I said though, especially the stuff about Steve Walsh. The supreme irony of the book though is that it's an updated version of the original and in it Livgren devotes a chapter to his views on what was then the current state of rock music {1991}. Why it's ironic is that his views are so close to those of George in his "Rock is dead" tome. Given all that George has said about Kansas as a band and Livgren in particular, the irony appealed to my sense of humour.

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