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Kansas - Leftoverture CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.21 | 1185 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars |C+| Like a delicious smoothie that didn't finish mixing its ingredients.

Kansas is a very good example of the sort of rock bands that my parents loved to play in the car when I was a little boy; heavier 70s rock, done with creativity. Obviously though, Kansas is much less generic than that description; here we have symphonic prog meets AOR meets some southern-rock influences (Miracles Out of Nowhere makes this clear enough), with variations of the three in varying degrees, particularly in this album. In fact, as much as I like most of the music to be found here, it's the inconsistency of the composition that bothers me with this particular album, as well as some blatantly dated-sounding stuff, mostly as a result of the AOR style, which despite my personal fondness for it, really hasn't aged well in the slightest, and perhaps for good reason. What's more, it's often the case that each section within a piece is too characteristic of a specific rock style mentioned above, with little real cohesiveness the the whole song. Now, it's not as if I'm over- thinking/over-analyzing the music, I'm just describing what bothers me about the material as I listen to it and why.

Track Commentary: Carry On My Wayward Son obviously remains one of the classic hard- rock hits of all time, with some nice touches of proggy creativity, with some of the most memorable riffs, melodies, and solos of rock history. One of the most creative tracks from an American band to receive radio play in their own country, however little that might actually be saying (speaking as an American myself). The Wall is one of my favorite tracks in all of symphonic prog, its absolutely rich in textural and harmonic diversity in the composition, which is heavily classically influenced. This was probably the first full-blown prog track with which I ever became fully familiar. As a spiritual person I have a lot of personal connection with the lyrics in the piece, "all I am and all that I was ever meant to be in harmony," just absolutely beautiful. The next track, What's On My Mind, is sort of the opposite end of the musical spectrum, very dated AOR sound like Boston and Foreigner, super lame track in my opinion, though the solo section is pretty cool sounding. Unfortunately, the vocal melody line for the whole song falls flat on its face, and the ending is pretty cheesy I think. Miracles Out Of Nowhere is sort of a strange combination of (I think) southern-rock music with symphonic prog. Not a bad song, some really creative composition and beautiful work on the violin. I love the break into the fugue between the instruments, and the interesting experimentation with harmony, and especially the recitative that the singer does with the organ, though the piece itself is a little cut-and-paste sounding, not a super cohesive track, however fun it might be. Side two of the album, beginning with Opus Insert, starts off quite Genesis sounding synthesizer material, moving into the quasi-southern rock sound. I especially the love heavy synth theme, what a great melody. The piece moves into a march- feel given by the snare and bass, with the keyboard playing solo material, which is pretty cool. Questions Of My Childhood is a very upbeat track, very symphonic prog and well-done, albeit generally a bit cheesy, and the vocals and vocal harmonies bother me a bit. Cheyenne Anthem is a pretty mixed bag, with some garbage and some brilliance. Completely uninspiring vocal melodies, though the use of the childrens choir is really cool. The instrumental parts are quite good, with the section with the use of the vibraphone under the violin solo. and some characteristically Kansas prog craziness, with the instruments taking turns playing off each other, which is cool. Magnus Opus starts off like a modern classical symphony might, with timpani playing under a melody of parallel fourths from the synths (who ever saw that coming?). Plenty of interesting material on this track, some of it pretty good, a lot of it serving as a great example of rock instrumentation composed in the way on might compose a symphony, which isn't true for a lot of "symphonic prog", though I can't say there's too much depth to be found among all of the complexity of the work. I'm sure that for its time it certainly was an innovative and adventurous endeavor.

When all is said and done, as much as I like listening to a lot of this album, I generally find it to be among most overrated of all in prog rock, mostly due to the totally inconsistent nature of their work here, with the exception of the first two tracks. Perhaps I'm being a bit elitist here, but to me the tracks themselves seem to have very little real natural flow, the transitions between musical sections within each one being either unconvincing or awkward, and the sections themselves sounding characteristic of one type of influence. What's On My Mind is probably the prime example of this. Even the material that is in good order, like Magnus Opus, never even comes close to the depth that you have with the cream-of-the-crop prog out there, which is my theory for why this album never made it to the ranking positions of the classic gems of prog.

Just my two cents on the album, and this review may not even be worth that much. Nonetheless, it's a very good album worth the price (hopefully) to purchase and has some spectacular moments, with some boldly creative composition, which is always praiseworthy in my book.

Isa | 3/5 |


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