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Kansas - The Ultimate Kansas CD (album) cover

THE ULTIMATE KANSAS

Kansas

 

Symphonic Prog

3.83 | 24 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

big_room
4 stars For the second time, artful classic rockers Kansas have issued a 2-CD, 26-song retrospective collecting choice tracks from the early commercial peak of their career. Once again, the retrospective features their greatest hits: the mindblowing, multi-faceted radio smash "Carry On Wayward Son"; the sweetly racing "Point Of Know Return"; the timeless, gorgeous ballad "Dust In The Wind"; etc. And once again, there isn't a vaguely weak track in the mix: even lesser-known cuts like the stampeding "Mysteries And Mayhem," the majestically poignant "Closet Chronicles," and the energetic epic "Journey From Mariabronn" (which are among the many tracks on both retrospectives) crackle with vitality and artistic brilliance. This time around, the retrospective is called "The Ultimate Kansas."

The first such retrospective was the "Kansas Box Set," and it had several virtues that "The Ultimate Kansas" lacks. It was sensibly organized: Disc one covered their first three albums; disc two spanned the following four. It had new tracks for diehard fans: three previously unreleased live recordings plus one new studio recording. Furthermore, its name made sense: It really was a "Kansas Box Set."

The new "The Ultimate Kansas" has virtues of its own, but truth-in-naming is not among them: It is certainly not the ULTIMATE Kansas. It contains no new material. It omits many killer early Kansas tunes ("Lonely Wind," "Got To Rock On," "Icarus," etc.), some of which could have been squeezed onto the discs; it doesn't even provide the now-out-of-print hit rocker "Perfect Lover" from the original issue of Kansas' single-disc best-of album. The flow of the tracklist is questionable and occasionally needlessly incoherent. Overall, the album feels like just a more commercial version of the "Box Set," aimed more toward the mainstream. ("For the masses in Consumerland / Give 'em everything that they demand....") But in that lie its virtues: It includes hits like the bracing "Fight Fire With Fire" and the dramatic "Play The Game Tonight" that aren't in the "Box"; and for listeners who aren't already Kansas converts, it's good to have "Wayward Son" and "Know Return" leading off discs one and two (respectively). This is an enormously engaging collection, and people looking to discover the greatness of Kansas will be unable to resist those two opening hooks.

On the other hand, it's not clear why Kansas neophytes would opt for this twin-disc set over the perfectly adequate single-disc best-of album, making this release of questionable relevance. Neither newcomers nor diehards really need it. Besides, anyone who really appreciates energetic, artistically substantial, enduringly resonant rock music should probably get some of Kansas' individual albums instead of one single retrospective. But "The Ultimate Kansas" does contain 26 superb tracks --every song crackles with vitality and artistic brilliance (it's worth repeating)-- and it's hard to go wrong with this much greatness in one place.

| 4/5 |

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