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Kansas - Freaks Of Nature CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.23 | 208 ratings

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2 stars Return of the violin, not of the inspiration.

This introduction sentence may seem a little harsh considering that Kansas made several important moves in order to make Freaks of Nature better than their three terrible previous albums. And better it is, but not enough.

First, in the person of David Ragsdale, they reintroduced the violin and not in a shy way since the instrument is all over the entire album. On the other hand, Steve Morse has departed, leaving all the guitar duties to Rich Williams . who proves here -but was there any doubt ?- that he can handle the job alone brilliantly.

Second, they called back Jeff Glixman, their 70's standout albums' producer. Was the guy living in Trinidad by the time ? This could explain the surprising choice of this country as the recording location . but if someone has a more serious assumption about it, I would be glad to know.

Third, they reassumed all of the writing task and brought back the instrumental parts that had nearly disappeared in the spirit of the terrible things/songs of their previous release.

All of those moves are smart, IMHO, but at the end of the line they still need good songs to be successful. And there are too few of them on Freaks of Nature.

"I Can Fly" is a weird choice for an opener. Musically it's . strange and you can't help but thinking, listening to Steve Walsh singing the eponym chorus, that maybe he can fly but he can't sing anymore. Steve is indeed terribly struggling here and putting that song in first place is not the best way to make people eager to hear more. Too bad because things improve significantly afterwards when Steve gets back to more reasonable voice ranges.

"Desperate Times" starts as an average AOR power ballad but takes another dimension in its instrumental part, first with the violin, then with a great interplay between Greer's grooving bass and Ehart splendid drum solo. It marks the beginning of the album's good series.

"Hope Once Again" is an unspectacular but nice AOR ballad where Williams delivers a short but killer solo.

Then comes "Black Fathom 4" and it's like a miracle has occurred : for the first time since Audio-Visions, you can hear the typical Kansas sound again, the one that made that band so original and enjoyable. The song leans towards the heavy side (you will headbang for sure) and the instrumental part seems a bit contrived, not flowing very well, but, hey, it's been so long awaited that it would be petty to complain.

The good series ends with "Under the Knife", another AOR power ballad with a poor chorus. Just average but still OK with nice guitar licks.

"Need" is . unneeded ! A soulless funky (?) mid-tempo number that clearly deserves the filler status.

According to the credits, "Freaks of Nature" is a team effort. It is a fast-paced heavy rocker that emphasizes on the instrumental passages but in a rather uninspired way.

The first notes of the next song instantly remind you of sweet memories. Could it be . ? A quick look at the credits confirms : Kerry Livgren is the author of "Cold Grey Morning". Alas, the promising intro turns into a heavy and unmelodic chorus. Disappointing.

"Peaceful and Warm" is indeed peaceful and has nothing to get excited about. The longer song on the album, it begins as a sub-par acoustic ballad to finish with a bombastic but totally out of place part.

I had hard times deciding on a rating. I think Freaks of Nature is better than the three previous albums and I gave those two stars. But if I try to be objective, I have to admit that, being new to Kansas, this album would fail to impress me and I would never consider giving it three stars. So let's go with 2,5 rounded up to 2.

Old Kansas fans should lend a ear. Newcomers are politely invited to start somewhere (to) else(where).

Bupie | 2/5 |


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