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Proto-Kaw - Before Became After CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.89 | 150 ratings

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Symphonic Team
4 stars Proto-Kansas (or Kawnsas)

Here is another one of those amazingly unlikely come-backs. Proto-Kaw was a band that existed in the very early 70's and was Kerry Livgren's pre-Kansas band. Kansas released their debut album in 1974 and Proto-Kaw was no more. Until the new millennium, that is! They surprisingly reunited after 30 years of absence! Hence, Before Became After is a very explanatory album title.

Kerry Livgren has long been one of my favourite song writers. His contributions to Kansas over the years are amazing and now he proves his talents once again with this old/new band where he also plays guitars and keyboards. Lynn Meredith is an excellent vocalist and it is unbelievable that he has not made use of his vocal talents for so many years (not that I know of anyway). Proto-Kaw consists here of six people (just like Kansas in their heyday). We have the more traditional progressive type line-up featuring guitars, keyboards, drums, bass and vocals and in place of Kansas-like violin we have instead Jethro Tull-like flutes as well as saxophones. But unlike that of Jethro Tull, the sound of Proto- Kaw is not particularly folky but rather highly symphonic with a jazzy touch. You could perhaps detect a slight World-Music influence too.

The players are all of them obviously very skilled and the sound is dominated by excellent guitar, flute and sax solos as well as by very melodic vocal parts and symphonic keyboards. The music of Proto-Kaw is not really that similar to Kansas but I think it will appeal to the same kind of people as well as to any fan of classic symphonic progressive rock of the 70's. The band has a sound of their own and even if this music is clearly in the tradition of classic Prog, I do not find this music derivative at all. They copy neither Kansas nor any other band that I know of. The uniqueness of the band is present also in the visual aspect of it, with the buffalo being a strong symbol for the band.

The material is highly melodic and strong and the arrangements are mostly interesting. It is hard to pick out favourite tracks - they're all good and several are excellent! But Leaven is the track that best depicts all the different aspects of the album into one song and is therefore a strong candidate. It is a fantastic song! The longer tracks like Theophany, Gloriana and Leaven are more symphonic and contain jazzy parts. Shorter tracks like Occasion Of Your Honest Dreaming are more strongly melodic and a bit poppy. In a good way!

I don't own this album on CD yet, but the legitimately downloaded version I have is different from the one listed above. My version has 10 (+ 3 bonus) tracks instead of just the nine in total as listed here. The running order is different too. My version has a song called Words Of Honour in between Alt. More Worlds Than Known and Leaven, as well as a song called Greenburg, Glickstein, Charles, David, Smith And Jones in between Quantum Leapfrog and Gloriana. This puts It Moves You among the bonus tracks together with a version of the Kansas instrumental Belexes and a single edit of Words Of Honour.

I re-arranged the tracks to be able to listen to both versions. While listening to the shorter version I really miss the excellent Words Of Honour (absent from the short version) much more than I miss It Moves You (featured only as a bonus track on the long version). The addition of Greenburg, Glickstein, Charles, David, Smith And Jones also speak in favour of the longer version even if it is merely good and not really excellent. It is different from the other tracks and perhaps an aquired taste, but I like it. The conclusion is that I prefer the longer version.

I highly recommend this album to any fan of classic progressive rock as it is an excellent addition to any Prog collection. But make sure you get the version with Words Of Honour on it!

SouthSideoftheSky | 4/5 |


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