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Kansas - Leftoverture CD (album) cover

LEFTOVERTURE

Kansas

 

Symphonic Prog

4.21 | 684 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Epignosis
Special Collaborator
Eclectic Prog Team
5 stars Leftoverture is considered by many to be Kansas's crowning achievement, and with good reason: All eight songs are fantastic examples of progressive rock, and even the two or three tracks that could be classified as "pop-oriented" (especially the overplayed "Carry On Wayward Son") are great pieces of music in their own rights. Many believe that Leftoverture is Kansas's best album; they may be right- Leftoverture has sold over five million records. Because the album is the band's most consistent, it deserves recognition as a progressive rock masterpiece, despite an occasional small flaw. Because Steve Walsh was not producing much, this was definitely Kerry Livgren's moment of glory.

"Carry On Wayward Son" Opening with an a cappella rendition of the chorus, this song is a classic rock radio staple, and is largely responsible for the misconception that Kansas is a pop-rock band, despite the impressive catalogue of quality progressive rock work. Kerry Livgren introduced this song to the band just as they were finishing things up in the studio. The song is meant to serve as a sequel to "The Pinnacle," and seen in that light, it becomes less of the pop-rock song it is alleged to be, but the second part of a fantastic Kansas epic. One of the final lines in "The Pinnacle" is "Above the din I rose," while the first line of the first verse in "Carry On Wayward Son" is "Once I rose above the noise and confusion." There is incredible guitar work and catchy hooks, as well as a fine organ solo, so it should be our good fortune that radios picked up on at least this. It's a great song, and Leftoverture would not be complete without it.

"The Wall" The sudden guitar introduction is mind-blowing. The introspective lyrics refer to a man's struggle to overcome spiritual barriers in his life, a metaphoric wall keeping him from obtaining salvation, as it were. The words were written years before Kerry Livgren became a Christian, but they proved to be prophetic. It is an excellent, moving song.

"What's On My Mind" Kicking off with a ripping guitar introduction, this song is a heavy pop-rock track with a catchy vocal melody. The guitar soloing in the middle is some of the best Kansas has offered. "What's On My Mind" is a respectable short track with plenty of tight guitar riffs and a bit of fun.

"Miracles Out of Nowhere" Despite the title of the final song, "Miracles Out of Nowhere" is the magnum opus of this album. The whole album is worth owning if only for this widely overlooked masterpiece. From the opening plinks to that first cymbal crash, the listener is drawn into a mysterious and masterful blend of sound. The lyrics are some of the most imaginative and arcane Livgren has ever written, but effect feelings that are difficult to describe. The chorus is inspiring in many ways. The polyphonic middle section includes a smart and intriguing use of acoustic guitar, organ, violin, and other instruments; this alone validates Kansas's place among the symphonic rock masters. Steinhardt's voice in the bridge is haunting as it echoes over a sustained organ. The end of the song features a screaming and well-crafted guitar solo. The energy is high, even during the last several measures before the organ buildup that brings "Miracles Out of Nowhere" to a close. The subtle variations on the different versions (live and otherwise- see Always Never the Same) keep the song even fresher and more exciting. This is not to be missed; it is the song responsible for bringing me to progressive rock music.

"Opus Insert" While the name of this track eludes me, it's a very good short piece, again displaying Livgren's present spiritual state and prophesying (to a degree) where he would be. The introduction is wonderful, and the verse sections are pure-Kansas. Like much of Kansas's catalogue, it's an oft-overlooked splendid song.

"Questions of My Childhood" Although there are no really weak tracks on Leftoverture, "Questions of My Childhood" is the weakest song compared to the other seven. It's certainly a catchy tune, but it's a little too whimsical. However, the two-line turn at the end of each verse and the violin work saves this one from being one that is often skipped.

"Cheyenne Anthem" Here is a mournful acoustic guitar-laden piece that is the spiritual (and more progressive) father of "Dust in the Wind." It describes the plight of Native Americans being driven from their land despite any peaceful motivations. While Robby Steinhardt's vocals here are woeful and somber, Steve Walsh's singing is pleadingly chilling. Speaking of Steve Walsh, he has complained that the instrumental section sounds like the theme song to The Simpsons, and one can see his point; that part initially doesn't seem like a bad observation. The Lydian mode used in the middle part is similar to that used in the opening of the long-running sitcom. After a few listens, however, the majesty of the piece overwhelms any semblance to the theme music of Matt Groening's best work. After a while, it returns again to Steinhardt's sober vocals; strangely, the music ends on a hopeful reprise of the introduction. Regardless, "Cheyenne Anthem" is one of the best songs on this album.

"Magnum Opus" With the exception of the pithy "The Spider," "Magnum Opus" is the closest thing Kansas ever came to an instrumental. Originally, the title of the album and the title of this track were reversed; "Magnum Opus" is literally the leftovers of the recording and songwriting processes, fused together to create a nasty piece of music full of spiraling time signature changes and dark, menacing chords. On the one hand, it's similar to previous lengthy songs because of it's tight structure (even if the composition doesn't always flow as neatly as one would expect). On the other hand, the frantic pace of those minor and diminished chords, the haunting organ passages, the screeching violin, and those heavy electric guitars make this unlike anything Kansas has ever done.

Epignosis | 5/5 |

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