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Kansas - The Best of Kansas CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

2.55 | 82 ratings

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3 stars There’s really no good reason for the title of this album to be “Best of”. While it does include some of the band’s most well-known music, it also features some that could never be considered among their best.

This seems to have been an attempt to capitalize on Kansas’ fading popularity and nostalgia at a time when the band was in their death throes. They would of course resurface and soldier on for another twenty years (and counting), and would even dress up this album and release it again fifteen years later. But by the time ‘Best of’ was released in late 1984, band co-founder Kerry Livgren and bassist Dave Hope were on their way out, singer/violinist Robby Steinhardt and singer/keyboardist Steve Walsh were gone, and even Walsh’s replacement singer/guitar-faker John Elephante had one foot out the door. Only drummer Phil Ehart and guitarist Rich Williams remained from the original lineup, and even Phil would take a hiatus for a few months after the band reformed for the 1986 Power release.

But these problems aside, this was a fairly decent representation at the time of the Kansas signature sound, just not the best possible selection of songs.

There are ten tracks on this original release. Included are the obligatory and classic singles “Carry on Wayward Son”, “Dust in the Wind”, and “Point of Know Return”, as well as the commercially successful “Play the Game Tonight”, “Hold On”, and “Portrait (He Knew)”. “Song for America” made it onto the album and rightfully so, as this was a concert favorite for years and arguably the best representation of the band’s progressive side. From there on things get a bit more convoluted.

“Fight Fire With Fire” was the last hit single for the band before their 1984 breakup, but this was basically an AOR arena-rock offering and wasn’t even particularly successful as a single as it only managed to reach #76 on the American charts. The John and Dino Elephante-penned “Perfect Lover” never appeared anywhere except on the original 1984 release of this album, and it was removed on the 1999 remastered re-release.

The other two tracks were never even released as singles – “No One Together” and “The Wall”. The former is from Leftoverture and has long been a fan favorite, so it certainly has a place on a ‘Best of’ album. “No One Together” was recorded for Monolith but not released until Audio-Visions, and was a personal favorite of Kerry Livgren. With its torrid guitar work by both Livgren and Williams, relentless tempo, and soaring vocals by Walsh, this is a solid addition to the album.

What’s missing? Well, a number of hit singles for one thing. “Lonely Wind”, “People of the South Wind”, “Reason to Be”, “Got to Rock On”, and “Right Away” all charted as singles, but none of them are included here.

More importantly, other than “The Wall”, there are no non-single tracks from any of the band’s first five studio albums, which are generally regarded to be both their best work, and most progressive. Considering this collection was clearly aimed at the mass- popularity market that isn’t a surprise, but it is a bit of a disappointment.

It’s worth noting that the idea of multiple-disc anthologies and retrospective collections wasn’t really all that prevalent in the early 80s when this record was released, so most bands were forced to make sacrifices and compromises when putting together one-disc ‘Best of’ or ‘Greatest’ collections. Kansas would acquit themselves much better with some of their later collections, and particularly with the 1994 boxed-set and 2004’s two- disc Sail On, which includes an outstanding DVD as well.

But this first attempt at a compilation was a decent effort, and the release managed to sell more than two million copies over the years before being remastered and re- released with a modified track listing in 1999. That second version of the ‘Best of’ managed to sell platinum in its own right, so the band clearly has a market for this type of abbreviated collection.

Overall I think this album is a bit better than simply a collector’s-only piece, especially considering the quality of most of the tracks that were included. But it’s not quite essential considering there are other collections by the band that are much better, including the re-release of this same album. Three stars would seem to be the right place to put this one, so three it is.


ClemofNazareth | 3/5 |


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