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KANSAS

Kansas

 

Symphonic Prog

4.00 | 374 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

LiquidEternity
Prog Reviewer
5 stars People tend to focus on Leftoverture as the masterpiece from this band, but in truth, their greatest album was the one which came first.

Kansas's self-titled debut is quite often overlooked by a lot of prog fans. That's a shame, because perhaps their most creative and progressive moments appear on this record. While certainly there is a stronger element of southern rock here than elsewhere of theirs, this nevertheless is a wonderful blend of hard rock and symphonic prog music. The violin, which is something of a trademark of the band throughout their years, flies full force in this release. The sound production is a bit more lacking than on later 70s Kansas releases, especially with the vocals, but in the end the music stands as more or less the best example of what this band is capable of. If you don't mind some southern rock mixed in with your symphonic prog, then this album is a certain hit. If you demand orchestras and songs longer than ten minutes, perhaps you had better look towards something like Leftoverture or Song for America, as those pander more specifically to the straight-up prog crowd.

The album begins with Can I Tell You, which is mostly a straightforward southern rock song. The band steps it up here with some exciting and upbeat moments, including a wild violin solo, a patriotic chorus, and at points some very complex intermeshing of their instruments. The energy level does not drop when Bringing It Back plays, either. In some ways similar to the first, this one is a piano driven rock tune with lots of percussion and jazzy rhythms. The blazing violin lead appears at appropriate moments, and most anyone who appreciates the instrument can marvel at the skill with which it is being used here--especially during the long violin solo. It powers to a finale and then the music is Lonely Wind. Again, a piano-based song, this one is more of a pop tune or a ballad. It's marked by gentle melody and melancholic violin, as well as beautiful vocals. The middle section is the clear highlight here, with ascending melody and powerful instrumental interplay, though certainly not in a noodly sense. Belexes is a neat little prog tune with a foreign sounding main theme. The energy level is once more quite high here as the keyboards drive the tune underneath some wild vocals. Here is the first real hard guitar solo on the album, as well. The drums also deserve a mention here, as there are moments of fast bass drums and the finale of the song is a massive (but short) drum solo. The last song on the album is Journey from Mariabronn. It opens with an impressive keyboard-led intro, but soon the violin and keyboards fill this song out to sound quite epic. Some strong piano a little ways into the song joins with some vocal harmonies and a strong lead to soften up part of the song. About four minutes in does the song truly turn to prog, as bass and violin and keyboards all pile on each other to form an exotic vibe and make room for several unique solos. The drums are flying away beneath. A reprise of the intro leads to Walsh's impressive vocal conclusion.

Side two begins with the spacious intro of The Pilgrimage, an intro which turns suddenly into a very southern rock sort of tune. Some nice vocal harmonies and some intense piano push this song forward. The vocal lead is especially noteworthy here, as is the bluesy guitar and the nice fiddle-esque violin pieces. Apercu draws the most attention on this site, being the longest song on the album. It kicks off with some nice guitar, violin, and keyboard interplay. Well-performed vocals head the first few minutes, turning to an upbeat instrumental section again powered by the wild violin. Things quiet down for Walsh to deliver an impassioned vocal performance. It powers back up to a particularly hard rock/prog instrumental break, showcasing the dramatic ability of the performers to interlock their instruments and to form complex music with their individual parts. The bass, as always in Kansas, is impressive and creative, not simply following the guitar. The vocals return for a brief stay, but the song finishes instrumentally and suddenly explodes into The Death of Mother Nature Suite (if you listen, you'll see what I mean by explodes). This final track is probably the strongest song Kansas ever wrote, being perhaps their iconic song of their prog years. A very heavy piece (if more Kansas songs were like this, they'd be in the same category as Rush). The distorted guitars crunch out a wicked riff for the intro and chorus, while the verses are fairly quiet. Walsh's vocals have never been stronger or more impassioned. A long instrumental passage in the middle allows for a successive keyboard and guitar solo, with solo rhythms underneath shifting and changing in a way that shows just how strong of an influence this band was on modern progressive metal acts like Dream Theater. The final verse/chorus hits (and Walsh screams quite impressively), and then the band launches into another guitar solo, this one with a slowly increasing tempo. The music gains in intensity until it suddenly turns into an acoustically-driven epic finale, dropping into silence without warning.

In the end, this is the strongest album Kansas ever wrote, and it is an absolute classic of 70s prog. While they will experiment more with the prog elements on Song for America, and while they will gain much more attention with their '76 release Leftoverture, this is truly the place where Kansas began. As such, it is not an album prog fans can ignore, and certainly not Kansas fans.

LiquidEternity | 5/5 |

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