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Kansas - Masque CD (album) cover

MASQUE

Kansas

 

Symphonic Prog

3.66 | 544 ratings

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Epignosis
Special Collaborator
Eclectic Prog Team
5 stars Kansas's third studio album marks the point when it becomes readily apparent that the record executives (and certain members from within) were pushing for a more commercial sound, as evinced by the opening track. But don't let that fool you- on this album we get the privilege of hearing Kansas at some of their finest and most progressive moments.

"It Takes A Woman's Love (To Make a Man)" Vocalist and keyboardist Steve Walsh wrote the opening song. Oddly for Kansas (but not for earlier incarnations of the band!), it heavily employs a sax player.

"Two Cents Worth" This one is something of a funk-oriented track, a rocker in parts, and a little pop-oriented in others, but it has Livgren's more introspective lyrics. The short middle section, however, shows promise regarding what this album will ultimately be about.

"Icarus- Borne on Wings of Steel" This is where the awesomeness begins. The interplay between the electric guitars, organ, violin, and the harmonious vocal work, provides us with one of Kansas's best compositions ever. The double-time middle section builds even further to give us stunning violin playing, followed by a little trading off between the organ and electric guitars, just before ceasing to make way for the final, quietly performed verse. The song ends well, blending acoustic guitar, a final electric guitar solo, and some "high-flying" vocalizations.

"All the World" Steve Walsh has lamented that he is not "particularly fond of the schmaltzy side of [himself] in those days." Still, this is a very good song, if not a highlight of Masque. The middle section is laden with synthesizer and hard-hitting electric guitar work, and Steve Walsh does a wonderful job singing, even if the lyrics are, in his words, "schmaltzy."

"Child of Innocence" While the title of this song may make one think another sentimental number is in store, the dual lead guitar work that initiates "Child of Innocence," which soon gives way to Robby Steinhardt's gritty singing of some unmerciful lyrics about death, indicates otherwise. Steve Walsh is at his best when it's his turn to sing the softer parts. There is a blistering guitar solo midway through, and a short theme played on the electric guitar to close.

"It's You" There is one more pop-oriented song left on this album, and "It's You" is it. However, the way the violin and organ work together give this one a flavor similar to the song "Point of Know Return." If anything, what we have here is a fun, short song with some great violin work throughout.

"Mysteries and Mayhem" The final two songs on the album are enough to earn this album four stars on their own. "Mysteries and Mayhem," a dark song about a nightmare songwriter Kerry Livgren once had, features apocalyptic and hellish imagery, not indicative at all of Kerry's eventual spiritual transformation except in hindsight. There are frantic guitars, violin, and keyboards, until the electric guitar riff takes over to give way to the sinister lyrics. The guitars seem to squeal out in anguish during the verses. In the middle section, we discover some of the best guitar riffs Kerry Livgren ever wrote, as well as some good soloing. "Mysteries and Mayhem" is packed with energy in so many regards. The last notes as the song fades out are the harbinger of the final- and greatest- song on this release.

"The Pinnacle" Beginning with an epic opening, Kansas presents one of their finest achievements, perhaps even their best ever. Almost three minutes of well-crafted music flow from the instruments of these six men before a single word is sung, similar to the outstanding "Song for America" on the previous album. Steve Walsh sings Livgren's mystifying lyrics over soft piano and atmospheric keyboards. It is short-lived; after two verses, Robby Steinhardt delivers ominous words over distorted guitars churning out minor chords. Suddenly, however, the mood brightens into a victorious melody- the same melody that opened this song and closed the previous one- only this time there are beautiful words that leave us wondering at their meaning. Of particular note is Dave Hope, who plays some very interesting bass grooves throughout, principally midway through the second instrumental section. There is a third verse, equally arcane in its meaning but no less exhilarating and fascinating, that gives way to a third and final instrumental part. Once again, Kerry Livgren demonstrates his prowess in writing not just spectacular music, but original guitar riffs for himself and Richard Williams to solo over. The ending of "The Pinnacle" has to be one of the greatest progressive rock conclusions ever, uplifting (like that of "Close to the Edge") and vigorous (like that of "The Musical Box"). Any progressive rock lover should listen to this song to discover (or re-discover) Kansas at their "pinnacle."

Epignosis | 5/5 |

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