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Kansas - Leftoverture CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.22 | 1019 ratings

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4 stars It's a dazzling venture that Kansas embarked on in 1974 with their self-titled debut, in throwing out an album so influenced by the European prog acts in such a conservative cultural environment that is the American heartland. But not only that, but also in having the guts to make use of that cultural heritage and incorporate its warm, earthy qualities in the sound of the band.

This leaves the band in a state of limbo, caught between two groups with extremely polarised tastes. It's no surprise then that many find Kansas to be a disappointment, and to be honest, that's an opinion I perfectly understand. But judging them on radio hits like Dust In The Wind and Carry On Wayward Son makes you no better than anyone complaining on ELP because of songs like Benny The Bouncer. Aforementioned hits are a part of the bands sound, yes, but they're not all there is to it, neither are they reasons to be concerned for those who love well-crafted, prog-tinged rock songs with stunning melodies and immediate catchiness.

No one have a problem with Roundabout, as far as I know.

Leftoverture differs from earlier releases in one important aspect. Where they were composed of distinct prog songs and poppier dittos side-by-side, Leftoverture is where Kansas masters their fusion and makes the different influences interwoven and intimate. They create a flow that's somewhat missing on say Masque or Song For America. It's a perfect blend of rocking, swirling symphonic, atmospheric and slightly quirky music that grabs the listener at heart from the start. As such, this is probably Kansas' most 'accessible' release alongside Point Of Know Return. Balanced in style, Leftoverture is also balanced in instruments. Keys of a multitude of colours, from atmospheric synths via crystal-clear piano to the familiar sounds of the Hammond organ never takes too much place, and their cerebral appeal is neatly counter-balanced by strong, often heavy (in a symphonic prog context) guitar, right along with rocking solos and quirky passages, all in the right places. But for me, Kansas greatest appeal has always been found in the bass playing of Dave Hope and Robbie Steinhardt's rich, romantic violin. Fans of vocal harmonies won't be disappointed either, as some of the best in the game can be found here.

There is a little of everything to be found on Leftoverture. Magnum Opus is the song that should open even the most doubtful listener's eyes to the capacity of the band. It starts with a mystical theme, with a slightly eastern feel. Silent synthesiser carry the first theme behind summoning drums, until the song unfolds in a symphonic outburst from all the members. Back to what almost sounds like a menacing, effect-carried bass and delicate bells and a lighter mini-solo from the guitar, this is where it really begins. Classic Kansas, with the band backing a soft-singing Walsh, it's suddenly surprisingly ballad-like. The rest is just instrumental madness, covering as many mood-swings, tempos and different parts as Yes would need an extra fifteen minutes to put together. It is dense, in other words. Fast, dense and relentless, this is a song that sums up what symphonic rock is all about in just eight and a half minutes.

The album would benefit from more compositions of this calibre, I can't deny it. Its greatness lies more in the talented fusion and sense of completion than on individual songs, some of the bombast, wall-of-sound approach and imagery found on epics such as The Pinnace, Song For America and Lamplight Symphony is therefore undoubtedly lost on Leftoverture. That's what makes me prefer Song For America.

Still 4 stars. Without doubt.


LinusW | 4/5 |


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