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Kansas - Leftoverture CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.22 | 1015 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
2 stars New Zealand in the 1970s had a rather limited range of music available. Certainly I don't remember KANSAS in the record shops, nor do I recall ever hearing their hits on the radio. Perhaps they were. Whatever the reason, I never heard KANSAS until this year.

What I've heard has left me scratching my head. I know it's not my kind of music, but why? After all, many people whose opinions I respect adore this group.

'Carry On Wayward Son' is purportedly the band's most famous offering. Certainly my son (not wayward), a Guitar Hero II fanatic, recognised it instantly when it began playing. He loves it. So why don't I? I ought to: it has a killer riff, a wonderful hook in the chorus and excellent guitar. Trouble is, with all these ingredients KERRY LIVGREN hasn't actually put together a song. The verses are black holes which absorb any tension and excitement created by the splendid opening. And the sound itself is an uncomfortable juxtaposition of heart-of-America country rock and progressive rock. There's funk, country, rock and even a guitar/keyboard battle of sorts, all jammed cheek-by-jowl into five minutes. Perhaps if I'd been brought up with this music I'd be much more comfortable with it.

Sadly, this is the album's highlight. The best offering comes first, 'front-loading' the album: good for sales, but it makes it hard to keep the album on the turntable. Oddly, the opening track isn't really in the style of the rest of the album, which features as much keyboard and violin as guitar. What strikes me as I work my way patiently through this second-grade recording is how out of place it is. It's sort of a combination of TODD RUNDGREN and JETHRO TULL, odd as that sounds: dozens of naive little melodies tacked together in a whimsical fashion. Unfortunately, despite there being some nice bits, the result is not as satisfying as either RUNDGREN or TULL.

Worse, there are some real stinkers here. 'Cheyenne Anthem' has not stood the test of time lyrically: such sentiments, expressed by good ol' white boys, really sound insincere. Such 'noble savage' themes have been done far better by others (songs by BRUCE COCKBURN, and PETER GABRIEL's 'San Jacinto', come to mind). Nor does the European TULL-lite classical sound suit the theme of the song. The girlie chorus at the two minute mark is so inappropriate I burst out laughing the first time I heard it, as I did at the classical piano at the five minute mark. What relevance do either of these musical vignettes have to the Cheyenne? The song doesn't work for me on any level. And the humbly titled 'Magnum Opus', with a title that takes a full two minutes to scroll across my car stereo, goes nowhere. It's interesting, but simply doesn't connect with me.

I understand that this album is widely regarded as a classic, which is why I have given it a number of careful and patient listens. I've found enough promise here to be tempted to try a few more of their tunes - if only I hadn't been told that this is their best work. Forgive me, but I do not find this album sufficiently compelling to recommend to others.

russellk | 2/5 |


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