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Kansas - Freaks Of Nature CD (album) cover

FREAKS OF NATURE

Kansas

 

Symphonic Prog

3.22 | 132 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

VanVanVan
Prog Reviewer
4 stars I really, really dislike the term "underrated," but I think as far as Kansas albums go that's a fair description for this one. What we have here is what I would argue constitutes a sort of "return to form" after the decent but comparatively weak "Power" and the mess that was "In the Spirit of Things." True, there are no lengthy epics like the ones on early Kansas albums, but we still have here a lot of tight compositions and passion in place of a lot of the bland cheesiness of their late eighties albums.

The album kicks off with "I Can Fly," which starts off with some introductory noise before David Ragsdale makes his first studio appearance as Kansas' violinist. Walsh's vocals join in soon after, and the listener will immediately notice that his voice is not nearly the same as it was even seven years ago on "In the Spirit of Things." It's qutie raspy, and you can hear him straining to sing notes that would have been in the middle of his range in his prime. That said, it's better to hear him sing passionately with this voice than to blandly intone eighties love ballads with his old one. "I Can Fly" quickly builds in intensity from there and it's quite a good opener for the album. "Desperate Times" is equally good, starting with a simply string and bass repeated pattern but building into a nice song, with some very good violin and a cool little guitar/violin duet that breaks up the otherwise standard structure of the song. "Hope Once Again," is another good song, slower than the first two tracks but powerful nonetheless. "Black Fathom Four" is, in my opinion, the best song on the album. A killer violin "riff" opens the song, and we're treated to some of Steve Walsh's most visceral lyrics ever. One of the darkest and most intense Kansas songs of any era. "Under the Knife" is also great, with dark, primal sounding verses and a catchy chorus. "Need" is one of the weaker songs on the album, in my opinion, but it's still interesting, with some tribal sounding drums and bass that's pretty far off anything Kansas had done before. The title track starts off with a very cool sounding guitar lick, but it goes downhill from there, with dark but cliched lyrics and a "na-na-na" chorus that sounds way too close to the 1967 song "Hush" for comfort. What comes next, is, shockingly, a Kerry Livgren track, "Cold Grey Morning." Amazingly, it fits in with the rest of the album and doesn't seem out of place; I don't know the story of why Livgren wrote a song for the album but it definitely works. The album closes with "Peaceful and Warm," a Steve Walsh-penned acoustic track. Walsh definitely proves that despite his hard-rock tendencies he can pull this kind of song off, something he would do again on his two later solo albums. It's a great closer, even though the lyrics are a bit predictable. Plus, it finishes with a section almost reminiscent of "Cheyenne Anthem," which sounds great and ends the album on a high note.

To be honest, I started this review with the intention of giving the album a 3 or 3.5, but as I re- listened to it in preparation for this writing I decided that it really does deserve a full four stars. Though drastically different in style, this is easily on par with "Monolith" and it's certainly better than "Audio-Visions," two albums from the end of Kansas' classic lineup. This is definitely the best album from the Walsh-led Kansas, and it proves that he can most definitely hold his own as a songwriter even when held up for comparison against the mighty Livgren. I would highly recommend this album to any Kansas fan, it's great.

4/5

VanVanVan | 4/5 |

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