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Kansas - Drastic Measures CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

2.20 | 196 ratings

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3 stars Drastic Measures was the first Kansas album that failed to chart, and the first that would fail to achieve either gold or platinum status. It was also the first that was almost completely devoid of any progressive elements. If considered solely as a moderately hard rocking pop album, it was a pretty decent one.

Steve Walsh was two years gone by the time this album released, and Robbie Steinhardt had left the year before, so for the first time the band was not only a quintet, but also lacked two of their three most distinctive features - Walsh's voice and Steinhardt's violin. Livgren was the final key ingredient that distinguished Kansas from other midwestern bands of the day, but even here the magic was conspicuously absent. Six of the nine tracks were written by John Elephante and his brother Dino, and each of them had a significantly different feel than the three Livgren tunes. It seemed that the band had decided to embrace the 80's cheesy-rock sound with a vengeance. They also attempted to mask the absence of the depth Steinhardt's violin and voice left by employing a number of guest musicians, which may have improved the music, but also took them even further away from the familiar Kansas sound.

"Fight Fire With Fire" actually served its intended purpose and gave the band a hit single, but not one that sounded in any way like the Kansas we all knew and loved. This was a very straightforward 80's power pop tune with a simple rhythm, danceable beat, and catchy lyrics. Okay for a pop song, but not for progressive rock or for this band.

With "Everybody's My Friend" things just got worse, as this was clearly not meant to be a single, so that killed the only excuse for why the band would do two pop rock numbers in a row. The credibility gap grew here with the addition of Neil Kernon on keyboards, the guy who a year before was credited with the production success of Hall & Oates's "Private Eyes", so the fix was in as far as consciously trying to produce a mass-appeal pop record.

"Mainstream" was the first of three Livgren tunes, and it is much closer to his former style with some interesting percussion, powerful rhythm, some interesting tempo changes, and decent backing vocals from "Boxcar Pee Wee and the Megapeople" (probably Livgren himself and whatever riff-raff were in the studio). Unfortunately it's followed by "Andi", one of the more annoying and bizarre ballads of that decade. This one was written solely by John Elephante, a song about a girl (?) named Andi who is a "lady" that's "trapped in a little boy's body". Frankly, this song didn't do anything do dispel the rumors floating around the midwest about Elephante's - let's just say his amorous tendencies. 'Nuff said.

"Going Through the Motions" is so 80's it could have been mistaken for something from the Vapors or if it weren't for Elephante's vocals. This is mostly due to the uncredited synthesizer that floats through the background, as well as the heavy use of echoing on Elephante's vocals. I wish this one had been left off the album.

Phil Ehart's drums on "Get Rich" are very original and really make this song work. By the time you get to this song it is pretty apparent that while Elephante can certainly hit many of the notes that Walsh could, he doesn't have one-tenth the personality, and this comes through loud and clear in his singing. I guess this is kind of a condemnation of capitalism, or maybe in praise of - it's actually kind of hard to tell, even when you read the lyrics.

The Elephante bro's finish their writing contribution with "Don't Take Your Love Away", which was probably intended to be another single, and is kind of catchy in an 80's shtick kind of way. Livgren (or Williams, not sure) actually cuts loose with some pretty rocking guitar work towards the end of this one, but otherwise it's another one of those poppy (or maybe poopy) tunes where the refrain is repeated ad nausea until it finally fades to black.

The album actually closes on an up-note, with two tracks in a row written and arranged by Livgren. "End of the Age" actually reminds me a bit of the tempo of some of the stuff Jethro Tull did on Crest of a Knave and Broadsword and the Beast. These are also the only tracks on the album that are performed solely by the band members, and with all the pomp and fluff of backup singing glee clubs and disco keyboardists, these songs actually come close to sounding like something that a band named Kansas would not be embarrassed to put their name on. The guitar work here is quite nice, kind of flat chords and a wicked delivery - I'm quite sure this one is Williams. This one kind of feels like "Curtain of Iron" off Audio-Visions.

"Incident on a Bridge" is by far the best song on the album. It's a typical Livgren 'here comes the rapture' theme, but there is some very intricate keyboard and guitar work, and for really the only time on the album Hope's bass can actually be heard rising to the surface. This is a very nice close to the album, and this is also the sound Livgren would resurrect years later in some of his later solo work, the first Proto-Kaw studio album, and even Somewhere to Elsewhere.

I have to say that I hate this album, largely in the context of 1983 when I first had the misfortune of listening to it and having to come to grips with the realization that the juke-box rock god heroes of my youth were no more. Over the years I have come to accept this, and in some ways it has forced me to expand my musical interests where I might not have otherwise, so I guess all is for the best. If I had to rate this album solely as a progressive work, or if I were rating it in 1983, it would be a two-star effort by definition, since Kansas does have a huge and loyal following and pretty much all of us have this one just so we can say our collections are complete.

But, since I have the advantage of time, age, wisdom, and grace, I think we'll go with three stars and hope that some new generation of kids listen to this one and it peaks their interest in the other, much better works of Kansas.


ClemofNazareth | 3/5 |


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