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KANSAS

Kansas

 

Symphonic Prog

4.00 | 373 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Proghead
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Here it is, the debut album from one of America's premiere prog rock bands. No big overplayed FM hits like "Carry On Wayward Son" or "Dust in the Wind" here. KANSAS had much more going against them than their European counterparts. The European bands had a lot less problems playing their music in different night clubs, simply because there were no shortages of nightclubs that catered to the music these bands wanted to play. London, for example were full of these clubs (the UFO, the Middle Earth, the Marquee, etc.).

Unfortunately the Midwestern United States was a different story. KANSAS had to perform in redneck bars and clubs where southern rock, country and western, blues, and boogie were the musical mainstays of such places. And better yet, bands were more expected to play the hits (be it rock or country), and if it was an original, then stick to the southern rock or country formula. And while KANSAS often stuck to playing bar band rock that would go over well with the rednecks, it's when they started playing YES and ELP-influenced prog rock that really went over the heads of the rednecks and lets just say the bar band scene wasn't exactly what you call forgiving. That area of the country tended to be conservative (both politically and socially, meaning you could hardly mistake the place for LA, New York or San Francisco), so having a band like KANSAS playing YES and ELP-influenced music in their local bar was a big shock (I understood they got booed). But they continued on and eventually Don Kirschner (who previously made imaginary and made up bands like the MONKEES and the ARCHIES possible, not exactly a guy you could take seriously because of that) signed the band to his label. Finally a real band on the Kirschner label that wasn't going to be sold to a bunch of 12 year olds.

The album boasts how the band had around 50 years of combined musical experience in the most unmusical environment imaginable (which you can bet was the redneck bar scene). And now the band could perform in stadiums and arenas who would have a much more appreciative audience than the rednecks who wanted country and western or southern rock in the old bars KANSAS used to play in. Well, the debut by KANSAS does seem a bit more rough and unpolished than the albums that would come, but the KANSAS trademark of merging bar band rock with prog was already intact. Side one of the LP mainly consist of shorter songs like "Can I Tell You" and a cover of J.J. Cale's "Bringing it all Back". The latter obviously was referring to getting some marijuana from Mexico while being busted. Steve Walsh's ballad "Lonely Wind" was the closest thing to a hit. This was one of the songs I'm pretty sure didn't offend the rednecks when they were performing in bars. The song was released as a single, but didn't chart (don't know why), I guess the time wasn't right. "Belexes" is another short rocker, but Kerry Livgren gave us a bunch of organ solos that were obviously prog. Then the prog epics start in with "Journey to Mariabronn". I remembered being a bit bewildered by this piece, as it is a rather complex piece going through many different movements. "The Pilgramage" is another short piece that more sticks to the bar band roots before "Aperçu" and "Death of Mother Nature Suite" goes back to prog epic mode. I remembered when I first heard this album not liking it all that much. I guess it sounded a bit too "American" for my liking, but then after many listens it really grew on me. I saw where the band was coming at. If you're already familiar with their two best known and best selling albums, "Leftoverture" and "Point of Know Return", do get the albums they released prior, including this one.

My rating: 4 1/2 stars

Proghead | 4/5 |

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