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Kansas - Monolith CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.21 | 346 ratings

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4 stars Monolith is by no means a bad album- on the contrary. It does, however, indicate a sharp decline in the importance of Kansas's music, and it reflects the rising turmoil among the band's personnel. There are a few outstanding tracks (mostly thanks to the masterful Kerry Livgren), and almost everything else here is at least decent. More than ever, Steve Walsh wanted a more conventional arena rock sound, and this is apparent when listening to his input on this album (and on the next, for that matter). Of all the Kansas albums employing the classic lineup, this one is the least consistent, largely I suspect, because, of the eight tracks, not a single one was the result of a collaboration between Livgren and Walsh.

"On the Other Side" This is one of two songs on this album that carry the classic Kansas sound. It's outstanding, in the same bracket as underrated gems like "Hopelessly Human" or "The Devil Game." The music ranges from intense to beautiful, and the final verse builds nicely to the chorus.

"People of the South Wind" It's like Kansas doing a good cover of a bad 1970's television theme song, really, if such a thing is imaginable. That said, it's not awful; it's a song that can prove highly pleasurable if one is in the mood to listen to it. I myself have enjoyed this one numerous times. The guitar solo is uncomplicated but respectable.

"Angels Have Fallen" Starting out like a dirge, with quiet acoustic guitar and violin, Robby Steinhardt sings over a lonely piano before the song quickly becomes an explosive plea for help from Steve Walsh. There is a spirited guitar solo over the chorus chords, after which the song comes to abrupt halt to give way to power chords and another guitar solo. Shortly thereafter, there is a graceful piano interlude, over which Walsh soon begins singing. The song has a strong finish that wanes to let the piano and violin give us the final notes. It's an amazing song, one that is sadly overlooked.

"How My Soul Cries Out for You" A high-energy rocker, the guitar interlude between verses (with the lovely violin flourishes) has real potential, but the song fails to realize most of it. The lyrical content is banal at best (about what one would expect from Steve Walsh at the time). The instrumental middle section tries to be progressive rock, but doesn't quite cut it. Then there's something unheard of in a Kansas studio album: The outlandish sound of someone throwing a bottle at someone else. The rest of the song consists of a muddled drum solo from Ehart, the chorus, and a blistering guitar solo.

"A Glimpse of Home" This is the second song with the classic Kansas sound, and boasts a more sophisticated composition. There are several lively moments and excellent guitar work in the middle. The lyrics are definitely from the hand of Livgren, who would write years later that the song was not about Christianity, but about Urantia. Like "The Wall," however, the words would prove prophetic to him as he came to embrace Christianity. The ending is sublime.

"Away from You" This is a fair Steve Walsh composition- the opening is exceptional, but by the time the chorus comes around, we're back to goofy pop-rock. The musical interlude is absolutely brilliant, and I wish Walsh had kept that feel throughout, maybe even leaving off the silly vocal melodies. With "The Spider," he had already shown how terrific he could be when he wasn't trying to be a mainstream rock star.

"Stay Out of Trouble" Not a bad song, this is in the vein of the grittier, bluesy side of Kansas (like "Down the Road" and "Lonely Street"). It is a guitar-dominated song, and the riffs are solid.

"Reason to Be" Strangely for a Kansas album, the last song is not a progressive rock masterpiece, but a lighthearted and simple song. It's an enjoyable short one, with strummed acoustic guitar and whimsical violin. I liked it the first time I heard it.

Epignosis | 4/5 |


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