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Kansas - Masque CD (album) cover

MASQUE

Kansas

Symphonic Prog


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5 stars Take away the first romantic,pop oriented and a lame attemt at pleasing CBS This is a excellent album.TOO bad the british kicked our ass in the 70s in making prog music.too bad americans and american labels like CBS promoted crotch grabbing,macho and downright stupid music
Report this review (#21749)
Posted Tuesday, December 2, 2003 | Review Permalink
scottadams964
3 stars The first real taste of things to come, mixing as it did the soon to be signature esoteric epics (The Pinnacle) with snappy, soulful Pop Rock (the album's first single, It Takes A Woman's Love). A testament to this album's strength is the fact that Icarus and Mysteries And Mayhem still feature in this revitalised outfit's set today. Great stuff.
Report this review (#21751)
Posted Wednesday, December 31, 2003 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
2 stars 2.5 stars really!!

For some reasons, this album escaped my radar for over two decades, maybe due (most-likely) to the usual band logo was missing (it was not that established back then), so when I finally did in the mid-90's, I was quite excited to unearth some gem lost between SFA and Leftoverture, and I figured it would be a masterpiece. I wouldn't say I was cruelly deceived, but I will admit to thanking myself for going blind over two decades over this semi-dud. Not only is the logo absent, but the artwork is a stinker (rotting food faces induces stench), although still with an unchanged line-up, but with much shorter songs, many of these being blatant radio-friendly would-be-hits (the opening track failed miserably), etc?..

The huge majority of these songs are more or less inspired would-be-radio-friendly AOR tracks with conventional chorus/verse structure despite a bunch of slight complexities (the yes heritage is still sometimes apparent), but none strike me as successful enough to have been a regularly played tracks, if you'll except Icarus and Pinnacle. These two tracks are in the small minority of longer tracks, the third being All Over The World, ranging from 6 to 9 minutes. Icarus holds good interplay, but unfortunately it has that same AOR edge of the rest of the album. The same problem is valid for All Over The World. Only the album-longest The Pinnacle do we recognize the group's ability to be full-blown prog like in SFA, with a typical Yes edge along with some much crunchier guitar parts.

With too few good tracks on it, Masques turned out to be the poorest album of the band during the 70's, just edged out by Monolith by a hair. Anything but essential, although you'll guess that I'm in a minority, as no fan of the group will consider any of these early albums as bad or poor, always finding reasons enough to like it.

Report this review (#21753)
Posted Wednesday, February 18, 2004 | Review Permalink
daveconn
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars A "Masque" is a performance based on a mythological or allegorical theme. "Masque" has both: mythology (courtesy of "Icarus/Borne On Wings of Steel") and allegory that takes shape during the second half, where a child of innocence grows old and sees the material world for the Vanity Fair that it is. I can appreciate the fact that KANSAS wanted to kick their two cents' worth into the progressive fairy tale, fashioning (with bands like Boston) a new England in America that might produce vehicles with the muscle of a Chevy and the grace of an Austin-Healey. And yet it's an uneasy alliance, with songwriters STEVE WALSH and KERRY LIVGREN pursuing different aims. Walsh would have been better suited to BAD COMPANY, where everyone might agree that "love" means the love of a woman. For Livgren, "love" means love of God. It's not a question of who's right or who's wrong, but whose story is it anyway? "It Takes A Woman's Love (To Make A Man)" and "It's You" sound like the work of a different band than the KANSAS of "Icarus" and "Child of Innocence". So this is a progressive rock album most of the time, a rock album some of the time, and a watered-down version of their English counterparts (GENTLE GIANT, GENESIS, JETHRO TULL) regardless. At their best, KANSAS does give the music enough dynamic tension to intrigue the idle ear; instrumental sections on "Icarus", "All The World" and "Two Cents Worth" at least kick up some dust.

But like a lot of Christian rock, the songs hold something back, perhaps afraid to explore that dark place in our minds where we find the most exotic fishes. Brief flashes of fire from PHIL EHART and RICH WILLIAMS are too quickly snuffed out, and solos from ROBBIE STEINHARDT confuse celerity with complexity. The brilliance of GENTLE GIANT is that the band could break apart in mid song and still synchronize their individual acrobatics. KANSAS, by contrast, stays clumped together like the Bowery Boys in a haunted house. I suppose slightly left-of-center rock fans take comfort in KANSAS, and for them "Masque" is a pleasant prequel to "Leftoverture" and "Point of Know Return".

Report this review (#21754)
Posted Saturday, May 1, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Simple, a group of gentleman with more than music to offer. For me in the late 70's life was at best a struggle. With the family unit at battle most times, I was turned on to Kansas and found comfort, hope and a diverse way of thinking by sitting for hours upon hours hearing a message. That message placed me in a different domination entirely with a since of understanding not known prior. I know have a successful yacht service business in Annapolis and think often of the lyrics to "Carry On Wayward Son". Perhaps this song alone changed my entire life, then. As time moved on, I have become unconsciously some of the lyrics, personally. The complexity to the message and music will take some doing to beat. A functional force not found in any music then or today. Just returned from Tower with the fist six albums, my favorites. If any of the band is listening.Thank you so much.
Report this review (#21755)
Posted Wednesday, June 9, 2004 | Review Permalink
Trotsky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I really don't like the opening bar-room boogie tune It Takes A Woman's Love To Make A Man, but aside from that this album is a near flawless example of Kansas' particular brand of art-rock. Full of tight playing, creative lyrics, incisive solos, and impassioned vocals, Masque is brimful of nuggets. While's it true that the group already started off with a bang and then recycled most of its ideas, the songwriting got better and better, and there are a few peaks on this album.

Masque has its moments of sheer prog brilliance in Icarus (Borne On Wings Of Steel) which has a chorus that still gives me chills and the suitably-named epic The Pinnacle, which is a multi-dimensional piece which pulls out all the stops. The shorter hard-rocking songs like the awesome Child Of Innocence, Two Cents Worth and the thrill a minute Mysteries And Mayhem also see the guys in top form. It's You and All The World which moves seamless from a violin/piano intro to a major heavy rock part also contain great moments although I don't rate them as highly as I do the others.

If I do have a complaint, it's that the Moog and ARP synth leads that characterized some of Kansas' earlier work is not present often enough here (a brief section during an excellent instrumental interlude in the middle of The Pinnacle is about all we get.) Ironically despite not containing any of my three favourite Kansas songs (and those are Dust In The Wind, Carry On Wayward Son and Song For America) Masque is the Kansas album I turn to the most. The bonus tracks include a rehearsal version of Child Of Innocence that shows just what a strong live band Kansas was at the time. ... 80% on the MPV scale

Report this review (#21758)
Posted Sunday, May 1, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Oh my God! This album is absolutely wonderful! A great mix of rock and prog! the beginning is more rock but the last two songs are just amazing. But I must confess my fav goes to Chil Of Innocence which just blows everything! I really can't believe that this band had no success until their fourth album, I got the first and this one and they're jewels. I can't wait to see them in Paris in a week :) A must have!
Report this review (#36877)
Posted Saturday, June 18, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars For me this is the best kansas album, I think the absolute powerful "Pinnacle" nine minutes tracks is insuperable from any Rush songs, i don't understand why kansa are not so mentioned like others progressive bands for their influences on prog modern metal bands, I think Kansas are the best!!!
Report this review (#39916)
Posted Thursday, July 21, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars After a great start to their career with the self-intitled "Kansas" and "Song for America" albums, Kansas was looking for their third album to be the lucky one that would land them some radioplay. They wouldn't achieve their goal of a timeless hit on this album, but there is no doubt that "Masque" is a strong collection of songs.

The album starts off with "It Takes a Woman's Love to Make a Man", which is a poppish song that features a nice Tenor Sax solo near the end of the song. The musicianship is not too great and it was definitely their biggest attempt at a hit song for this album, but it isn't too bad of a song overall. Rating 4/5.

The next track, "Two Cents Worth" has a slow blues feel to it, and the bassline is pretty cool. The music in the song is pretty simple for most of the duration, but it has a cool style which makes it enjoyable. While it may not be a long epic, clocking in a just over 3 minutes, it is a solid track that sets the stage for the great classic that follows it. Rating: 4/5

One of the most popular songs of Kansas' early days, "Icarus--Borne on Wings of Steel" embodies the very essence of early Kansas. The violin and keyoard are very prominent throughout the entire piece, Steve Walsh and Robby Steinhardt combine their vocal talents in great harmonies, and there is a fairly lengthy solo section that features fantastic violin and guitar parts. "Icarus" is the entire package for Kansas fans. Rating: 5/5

The fourth track, "All the World", is a very unique sounding song that can easily be overlooked since it falls in between two masterpieces; "Icarus" and "Child of Innocence". "All the World" is the first song on the album to really feature Violinist/Vocalist Robby Steinhardt, because he takes the lead vocally as well as has a great solo in the middle of the piece. Steve Walsh makes his presence known in the later half of the song, having a short keyboard/vocal solo to slow things down and create a good effect. The song returns to a more upbeat style after that until ending with a nice chordial vocal part. Rating: 5/5

"Child of Innocence" is another favorite among most true Kansas fans. The song is very guitar-based, featuring a very cool riff that is complimented with some great keyboard playing by Steve Walsh. Steinhardt and Walsh share the duty of the vocals, switching back and forth and then harmonizing together during the chorus. Rich Williams has a nice guitar solo in the middle of the piece, and the song's lack of violin isn't even really noticable because of the great musicianship and catch melodies. Rating: 5/5

Kansas returns to their rocking style with "Mysteries and Mayhem", which is a very hard and cryptic song that has a very hard prog sound. The song itself is short, only 4:18, but it has a very progressive feel due to the keyboard effects as well as the prominent violin. "Mysteries and Mayhem" seems like it would've fit better on the previous album, "Song for America", because the style is more in line with that album, but the song still is great on "Masque". Rating: 5/5

"The Pinnacle" is really where Kansas unleashes their great progressive talent. The song is the longest on the album at 9:44. The song's style is almost identical to that of Mysteries and Mayhem, but a little less hard rock and a bit more progressive. The song is somewhat slow, but it is very entertaining and features some great melodies as well as some great lyrics. This song would've also fit in well on "Song for America", but it still fits with "Masque" like "Mysteries and Mayhem" does. Anyone who likes Prog at all should enjoy "The Pinnacle". Rating: 5/5

"Masque" is truly one of the greatest Prog Albums of all time, and definitely one of Kansas' best. This album is a great buy for Prog fans everywhere.

Report this review (#50777)
Posted Saturday, October 8, 2005 | Review Permalink
NJprogfan
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Less progressive as the previous album, 'Song For America', 'Masque' nevertheless has some killer tracks. 'The Pinnacle' is one of the greatest American prog epics of all time; too bad the song that plays before it, 'Mysteries And Mayhem' was seperated from it as it would have been a massive epic. Still, 'The Pinnacle' has some of Walsh's best keyboard work and singing; flat out beautiful. Starting from the top of the album, "It takes A Woman's Love (To Make A Man)", (although true ;-)) is your standard southern boogie rock song and sticks out like a sore thumb. "Two cents Worth" also boogies, but with more prog tendencies. "Icarus (Borne On Wings Of Steel)" is vintage Kansas prog that ROXS, along with the classic "Child Of Innocence" and "It's You". No one does this kind of prog better then Kansas. Overall, the album is more rock/prog heavy then symphonic. Not until the next two albums do they merge more cohesively. In my book this is the lesser of the first three and garners a 3.5.
Report this review (#70125)
Posted Tuesday, February 21, 2006 | Review Permalink
Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This third studio album by Kansas has been considered as legendary one with music composition much mature than its two predecessor "Kansas" and "Song For America". Generally speaking, if we talk at album level, it's less melodic compared to the previous one. Take an example of previous album's song "Incomudro" which is very powerful in terms of melody and composition. However, this album has a track with a great melody at its probably the most melodic Kansas track ever, called "The Pinnacle".

Talking about musicians which contribute to the album, this might be considered as the best line-up throughout the history of the band. Kerry Livgren contributed a lot of excellent lyrics altogether with Steve Walsh who took care of vocal department as well as keyboard. The violin master Robbie Steinhardt still in the band. So what can you expect? Excellent music! Obviously.

The album icon, according to my personal taste, is "The Pinnacle". Why? It has everything: good lyrics, powerful structure combining dynamic and silent segments with powerful melodic (very tasty) and great songwriting. It's quite difficult for one to deny this track supremacy as it demonstrates great music from start to end in relatively long track duration. No one would ever argue with this proposition, I think. That's why I consider that this album represents a significant milestone for the band's history.

"Child of Innocence" is another great track this album offers. The complete guitar fills and riffs indicate how heavy this track is meeting high standards of great music. Not only that; structurally the track brings us to many styles with good rhythm section. Another shot is of course "Mysteries and Mayhem" and "Icarus - Borne on the wings of steel". Yeah . these two tracks really show how Kansas music sounds like. They characterize the Kansas sound.

It's a recommended album and it's an excellent addition to any prog music collection. If you love prog, it's a sin not having this album in your collection. Keep on proggin' ...!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Report this review (#73523)
Posted Thursday, March 30, 2006 | Review Permalink
ClemofNazareth
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk Researcher
4 stars I still find it amazing thirty years later how much this album just grabs me by the throat and shakes me every time I hear it. This band was so far out of the league of most of the other American groups they were associated with at this point in their career that it’s almost incomprehensible. One has to realize that in 1975, Kansas had released three albums, been through two massively extensive tours, and had appeared on national television. They had already recorded the progressive gems “Death of Mother Nature Suite”, “Journey from Mariabronn”, “Song for America”, “Incomudro – Hymn to the Atman”, “Apercu”, and “Lamplight Symphony”, as well as the blistering “Down the Road”, “Can I Tell You”, and “Bringing it Back”, all within the space of two short years since signing a record deal with the icon Don Kirshner.

And NOBODY knew who they were!! None of these albums or singles had charted to this point, and Masque wouldn’t either (at least not at first). It’s important to understand that Kansas, Song for America, and Masque only became gold-selling records after both Leftoverture and Point of Know Return reached platinum status. These guys were largely unknown outside of the mid- western American concert circuit, and to a certain extent by some of the stoners who stayed up late and listened to Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, on which the band had been featured once (they would appear there again after Masque, but by then the band was a household name). Even at home (around Kansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri), only the most informed progressive and rock music fans had heard of these guys, and almost no one had shelled out their own cash to pick up an album. The band was on a tight allowance of a couple hundred dollars a week from the label, living in shared shacks or in their parent’s homes, and traveling from show to show in a crappy school bus. They had gone through several incarnations and lineups, including the one that would resurface largely intact thirty-five years later as Proto-Kaw. Many former members and musical colleagues had fallen by the wayside, most of them moving on to more conventional careers. The remaining members of Kansas had to be questioning their career choice, judgment, and possibly even sanity at this point.

But the music on this album has the sound and feel of a group of hard-worn, seasoned veteran artists, not a bunch of suburban hicks from Kansas just a few years past high-school. True, the distinctive styles of the two creative leaders (Kerry Livgren and Steve Walsh) were already plainly apparent, and clearly almost diametrically opposed. True, the lead guitarist looked like Booger from ‘Revenge of the Nerds’ on steroids, and their violinist looked like a bouncer from Woodstock. The flaxen-haired Livgren looked (and acted) like a Nordic Jesus, and the drummer looked like… well, it was a bit difficult to tell – he looked a bit like that dude that was all covered with hair in the Munsters.

But look at what they did have: two very capable lead singers; one with a solid, soulful voice that was warm and full and completely capable of belting out some mighty fine bluesy chords in between his torrid fiddling, and the other a brilliant keyboardist who seemed to have sold his soul alongside Robert Johnson, only in his case the talent he gained was a voice the likes of which has never been seen in rock music before or since, pure and unadulterated, and boundless. They had two very accomplished guitarists in Livgren and Rich Williams, and a drummer who could have held his ground alongside the best that British (or any other nation’s) music scenes had to offer. Oh yeah, and a bass player who is still cited as an influence by rock and metal musicians today, some twenty years after he abandoned the musical stage for a pulpit. Sure, the lyrics were over-the-top at times. Sure, the Jekyll and Hyde songwriting styles of Livgren and Walsh made for albums that seemed more like samplers than cohesive works. But their precision, sense of purpose, and unabashed sincerity would win them the hearts of millions of rabidly loyal fans over the next few years, most of whom still speak lovingly of the band and flock obediently to their shows today, even though the stages are less dramatic and the venues are more humble.

Masque is a gem of American progressive music from start to finish. “It Takes a Woman’s Love (To Make a Man)” is an obvious attempt at a hit single, but this is more than understandable considering the position the band was in at the time (see above). The fact they had a commercially-minded lyricist in Steve Walsh is just another example of the level of talent this young group possessed.

“Two Cents Worth” is one of the rather rare truly collaborative efforts between Walsh and Livgren. This is probably one of the most forgotten songs ever recorded by the band, and one of the most unusual styles they ever employed. Again though, it is another example of their range and creative bravado. True, this isn’t a progressive tune at all, but most southern rock bands of that day would have happily had this available for their own use. Dave Hope lends an especially inspired hand on bass on this one.

The next track, “Icarus – Borne on Wings of Steel” is just the opposite, as it is one of the most recognizable Kansas recordings in their repertoire. This one has it all – Walsh and Steinhardt’s complimentary vocals (and Walsh’s angelic range with it’s demonic force); Livgren and Williams’ wicked licks that make me feel like I’ve just had a delicious and filling meal; Steinhardt’s distinctive violin with it’s technical precision and ball-busting tempo; Hope’s seductive bass and Ehart’s thundering and machine gun-like beat keeping it all fueled to an intense climax (man, I need a cigarette!). The only downside of this song is that it fades away at the end instead of lumbering along for another ten minutes or so, which I get the feeling the guys in the band could have easily done. And oh, by the way – two keyboardists playing at least three instruments here between them.

“All the World” is one of my favorite Kansa songs, for the exact same reason many progressive purists pan the band – because it is unabashedly and unapologetically positive, hopeful, and pure. These are, after all, six guys who still remembered the more positive traits of the hippy days of the late 60’s (hell, they lived them!):

“All the world's forgiving, the change is all around, And people everywhere have seen the light in what they've found. It's a happy place in the human race, When all our lives are lived forgiving.”

Sappy? Absolutely, and that’s what I love about this song.

Then in comes the wicked side of the band, Steinhardt and Walsh belting out with conviction

“Sweet child of innocence, Living in the present tense; Father Time will take his toll. Rack your body and steal your soul.

And by the way, it "doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor” either. The guitars and drums on this song are among the finest Kansas ever did, and are remarkably similar to the sound they would resurrect with Power and Freaks of Nature more than a decade later.

Walsh penned “It’s You”, and like much of what he has written since, this is a sad song that speaks of lost love and regrets. Although in person he swears vehemently that he doesn’t rethink his past mistakes and has no regrets in life, methinks he doth protest too loudly. He wrote this one thirty years ago, after all.

“Mysteries and Mayhem” is a song I didn’t like the first thirty or so times I heard it. Even though the guitar work is exemplary and Steinhardt’s violin is as good as anything else he’s done (with the notable exception of “Down the Road”, which I consider to be his finest work), I never liked Walsh’s voice on this one, and the lack of violin and overbearing guitars just didn’t sound like Kansas. It was only years later that I came to appreciate that the band was just (once again) trying out new styles and sounds, and for that you have to give them some credit. And the closing leads perfectly into the grand finale -

The best of the album was definitely saved for last – “the Pinnacle” is one of the finest and most complete works the band has ever recorded. This one has every trademark sound in the band’s arsenal, from the lead-in violin and Walsh’s keyboards to some truly wicked guitar licks and the great range of tempos that made the band so exciting in their early years. It’s almost as if they had so many ideas and so much energy that they simply couldn’t segment it enough to create multiple works where that would probably have been the prudent course. Instead we are treated to a real journey of tempos and emotions, all packed into a ten minute epic of sound. “Life is amusing though we are losing, drowned in tears of awe.” Indeed.

I hope others have as fond of memories of this album as I do, and that those who are just discovering the band will find this recording to be a hidden little gem on the progressive landscape.

peace

Report this review (#75171)
Posted Sunday, April 16, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars A very interesting album for KANSAS. This is a purely transitional album for KANSAS. Under pressure from Don Kirshner for a hit, kansas composed multiple shorter songs aimed at pop sucess for the first time, yet the continued to hold tightly to their progressive roots. Their last album was dominated by the 10 min + title track "Song for America" composed by KERRY LIVGREN on a cross contry flight. However, this album contains one of Kansas's masterpeices "Icarus - borne on wings of steel", which is one of the tracks that truly defines kansas, thoughtful lyrics with religious undertones. The track "It's You" although being an entirely pop track, showcases Walsh's virtuosity on the Keyboard. Another highpoint of the album is The Pinnacle, whick after listening through a few weaker tracks surprises the listener the first time through, everything you expect from kansas is showcased within the track. Overall...considering this is a transitional album, it an abnormally good one. If this were compared to other transition albums it gets a five, but as compared to prog's finest, only a three...maybe a 3.5, but this is a thoroughly enjoyable cd and is reccomended to all kansas fans.
Report this review (#78332)
Posted Tuesday, May 16, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars For my money, this is the best Kansas record ever made, and thus by default, it is the best American prog record ever. Being a pretty major Kansas for half of my life, that isn't an easy call to make. But look at the tracklist on this thing, it is truly mindblowing. I like how it is kind of a concept record, yet not really. I can't quite wrap my head around what the concept is. It seems to be kind of an old man telling stories of a forgotten mythical time, a la Selling England by the Pound maybe? There is a definite theme of loneliness and the passing of time to almost everything on the album, not to mention death. Anyways, it all works its way to a satisfying conclusion with the great epic The Pinnacle, maybe the best track this band ever put together!

Things do get off to a shaky start though, It takes a woman's love to make a man is so unrepresentative of the rest of the album that they had to put it on first. This is obviously a misfire of an attempt to get airplay on rock radio. The band would soon learn how to do this more effectively by crafting the classic songs of the next two LPs which every non Kansas fan knows to this day. It is good that it is up first, because you can just lay down the needle on track 2 and close the lid. Two Cents Worth is a cool little funky track, not overtly commercial, but more radio friendly than the rest of the record, and some great lyrics to boot. Track 3 is where we seriously get down to business, Icarus-Borne on Wings of Steel rivals The Pinnacle for the greatest Kansas song ever. This song remains a concert staple today, and a seriously good reason to go see the band wherever they may play. Need I say more? Side 1 ends with a more forgotten masterpiece, All the World. What a great song, the first time I heard it I remember being so shocked by the contrast of the opening to the body of the song. But today it sounds like the most logical of songs, with great recapitulation at the end. Lyrically, this is very heavy stuff, very mature. This may be the greatest Kansas song that I know of that does not seem to be heralded by fellow wheatheads as a true classic. Had this track been on any other Kansas record, it would be the best track. Here, surrounded by so many other great songs, it doesn't even make the top 3!

Side 2 does not let up. In fact, things really start off with a bang. Child of Innocence is yet another classic Kansas rocker. This might be the ultimate marriage of the British prog style with the quasi Southern boogie that was popular in the states at the time. For a long time this was my favorite song on the album, but I simply wore it out with numerous playings. Again, the lyrics and the precise musical arrangements are just jawdropping, and what a great guitar riff. I especially love the rideout at the end of the track. This one clocks in at only 4:23, but it still feels like a mini epic. IMHO Kansas should have extended this trakc by a few minutes and left out It takes a Woman's... It's You is another shorter poppier song, but nonetheless it lives up to the intensity of Child of Innocence. The lyrics fit in with the rest of the album, and it is really catchy. Miracles and Mayhem is great because it sets up the final track so well. This is really your typical franticly rocking Kansas song complete with a lot of meter shifts. Some great vocal interplay between Walsh and Steinhardt keeps the momentum rolling. The record closes with The Pinnacle, a true masterpiece of prog rock. To my ears, this stands up to the great epics of Yes Genesis King Crimson Floyd Camel etc. The structure of the track with its many interludes and variations is very Sonata like.

In summary, Masque is an amazing, spellbinding piece of music. No other American rock group has done something this ambitious since. Although Kansas went on to make several more absolute masterpieces, they never put so much great music in one place. 5 out of 5 stars.

Report this review (#78848)
Posted Saturday, May 20, 2006 | Review Permalink
b_olariu
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars My second review to this band, after the incredible Leftoverture. Masque is another good and deep album by this american band called Kansas. Every time i listen to them i find everyting i want to a band: inteligent parts combined with ingeniosity. Very skillful musicians, they compose such a good pieces at Masque that is hard for me to choose an album from the '70 to be the best. Some high moments is The Pinnacle and Icarus. After all Masque is a mature album, and even 30 years later is still timeless in every way. Try it, worth, even just for the last track - The pinnacle, superb and catchy. 4 stars without hesitation.
Report this review (#85854)
Posted Saturday, August 5, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album is a mixed bag if there ever was one! It takes a woman's love (to make a man), Two cents worth, All over the world, & It's you are some of Kansas' worst. Icarus - Borne on the wings of steel, Child of innocence, Mysteries and mayhem, & The pinnacle are some of their best! I would have given Masque a 5 for these 4 tracks alone, but for the 50% of filler; I dropped it to a 4.

Even if you've never heard any of the songs on Masque, I'm sure most of you have heard Kansas at some point in your lives. The weak points are simple radio-friendly trash, the rest is some of the most compelling prog ever.

Report this review (#102044)
Posted Thursday, December 7, 2006 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Sonically as strong as its great predecessor "Song for America", yet not as cohesive regarding the repertoire, "Masque" still very much deserves to be labelled as an excellent item in both Kansas' history and prog rock vintage tradition worldwide. Starting with two comercially oriented tracks, the listener can tell that this band can genuinely rock without losing its musical distinction. 'It Takes a Woman's Love...' takes a lesson from the school of GFR, while 'Two Cents Worth' indulges in a rock-blues context with a funny vibe related to the ironic testimony of a decadent drunkard. Both songs are sort of stylish, but let's face it, only entertaining, not really substantial in the grand scheme of Kansas' things. From 'Icarus' onwards things stand up to the usual level of classic Kansas grandeur in a very consistent manner. 'Icarus' is a multicolored rocker that starts softly with those high piano arpeggios accompanied by refined washes on synth and violin: these washes announce the splendid display of well-ordained complexity that is to be developed fluidly by the full band. This song has great energy and a sense of darkness married very cohesively. 'All the World', one overlooked song (undeservedly so) penned by Walsh and Steinhardt, finds the band diggind deeper in the dark side, creating avery interesting contrast between the languid sung passages and the harder-edged motifs that complete the instrumental interlude. The latter includes aggressive violin stuff and weird synth ornaments that keep a creepy aura to the song in avery effective way. Too many good qualities for a song that shouldn't be so overlooked... Anyway, the album goes on with a good rocker, 'Child of Innocence', that combines the hooks of powerful guitar riffing and the sense of cleverness provided by the moderate use of tempo shifts along the way. 'It's You' returns to the easy going spirit of the first two tracks, but elluding their frivolity by the dynamic use of violin solos and solid interplaying between the organ and drum kit. 'It's You' is an adequate moment of rest between the solemnity of 'Child of Innocence' and the uneasy torment of 'Mysteries and Mauyhem', one of the fiercest Kansas pieces ever. This track is both ballsy and complex, virile yet unearthly, a reckless flame with a controlled fire: the two guitars, the organ and the violin fight constantly (and successfully) to keep up with each other's challenges, while the rhythm duo creates a bullet proof pace for the overall sound. Great!!... but not as great as the magnificent closer 'The Pinnacle', a showcase for Livgren's ability to mix emotion and reason in both lyrics and music. This tale of mystical experiences of the mind in its struggle to grasp and accept the fact of death couldn't find a better sonic accomplice than this succession of beautiful motifs, violin leads, the best organ solo ever by Walsh (including intriguing dissonances), etc. In a few words, the utilisation of the band's output as an orchestra. This 9+ minute gem has to be one of the best album closers ever in the history of art rock and prog rock: the last section and the final climax are spine chilling - pure emotion recycled across the incarnation of great musical inventiveness. General balance for "Masque": 4.33 stars.

Addendum: Purchase the special edition with bonus tracks and you'll get some pleasant treats. The demo version of 'It's You' is more muscular than the final version, with more room for guitar leads; the demo version of 'Child of Innocence' is also more muscular but slower. Both bonuses complete the idea of what Kansas struggled to achieve such a good album prior to their absolute peak (the 76-78 era).

Report this review (#104661)
Posted Wednesday, December 27, 2006 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars After two very good albums (the latest being a masterpiece IMO) I was curious to hear this album. I appreciated Kansas a lot in the 74-76 period but bizarrely I skipped this one at the time of the Masque release and bought "Leftoverure" after "Song For America". It is only in 2004 that I discovered "Masque".

Don Kirschner, the owner of their record company, would really have them create a "hit- single". He said : "Guys, I'd like to get something on the radio that's shorter than twelve minutes". So the band tried to please him and recorded the opener "It Takes a Woman's Love". They will say : "Here Don, here's something in the four minutes range that you can tap your feet to, that's in the same time signature from the beginning to the end".

At that time, Kansas was very productive : three albums in less than to years. They were touring like hell (opening for bands as Kinks, Mott The Hoople, Jefferson Airplane, Queen...). "We were never home" said Ehart. And when we did get home, it was to record an album.

"Two Cents Worth" is quite jazzy and boring : not really worth more than those two cents, I'm afraid. End of the song is cut strangely as well.

With "Icarus-Borne on Wings of Steel" the story is different : at last a strong traditional Kansas song. Nice voices and chorus, great instrumental part (guitar & violin). Superb drumming as well. Definitely one of the highlights of "Masque". It belongs to the epic Kansas we all love.

"All The World" is another good Kansas song : very nice and subtle vocal sections. Yet, it lacks a bit in those furious instrumental passages Kansas has been used us to.

But we'll get these in "Child of Innocence" and "Mysteries and Mayhem" : they are the archetype of good hard-rock songs : sustained rythm, some guitar soloing and heavy keys.

And finally, another Kansas masterpiece to close this album : "The Pinnacle". And it is the pinnacle of the album. Great violin in the long intro (almost three minutes), then beautiful vocals make their entry. The traditional instrumental break is more keyboard than guitar oriented and less melodious than they used to be in other Kansas epics. The end is close to hard rock with a solid guitar break. This track is, toghether with "Icarus", by far the best song here.

Most of the songs featured on this album are rather short. More rock-oriented than prog (but they were asked to do so to have a broader commercial impact). The final result is not bad at all.

Kansas will tell that they were in an identity crisis : "There's a little bit of who we were on "Masque" and a little bit who we weren't".

If "Masque" was a fragmented time of experimentation for us, we were getting along great" says Livgren. "We were still very much on the uphill climb and that struggle kept us really unified". He will add : "Ironically, the thing that made us drift apart was success. Once you arrive, you don't have a goal anymore". Walsh recalls : "I have much more found memories of us being hungry than of us being satisfied".

The remastered version contains two demo versions of tracks released on the original album ("Child of Innocence" and "It's You"). The first two albums were better though. Three stars.

Report this review (#117883)
Posted Tuesday, April 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Climbing to the Pinnacle.

Masque is the third Kansas album in less than two years ! Pretty amazing rhythm considering the high quality of the music. This album, IMHO, is the most guitar driven in the band's original line-up history. Great riffs, great solos, it rocks all the way. Of course, the other instruments are also well present, with a special mention to Dave Hope, an unsung hero bassist that doesn't play too many notes but places them perfectly.

The album starts with "It Takes a Woman's Love (to Make a Man)" a straight forward rocker from Walsh : you can easily recognize his style, both in music and lyrics, the latter being much more direct and simple than Livgren's often esoteric ones. It's an uplifting song that I enjoy a lot.

"Two cents worth" is a Livgren unusually short and simple song with, again, Walsh direct lyrics about a man that drinks because he is too depressed by the world he lives in. Great bass intro, great groove with wahwah guitar driving the song, great piano break. Unexpected effect for a song about alcoholism, it puts me in the mood to grab a beer and enjoy the music.

Then comes "Icarus - Borne on Wings of Steel". What a song !!! It was love at first listen for me and it stands still after so many years. A pure Livgren classic for the ages that will make you fly high.

Inevitably, any track that follows "Icarus" is exposed to pale in comparison. Still, "All the World" is a very good song with a lot of mood and rhythm changes. The outro with its high vocal choirs would appear ridiculously cheesy coming from anyone else but it's Kansas, you know, the band that could make you agree that pomp is a quality .

"Child of Innocence" is pure Livgren again. It is also the first prog metal song in Kansas career and it's a great one. The riff and guitar solo in the last minute are really killers. Too bad they end with a fading outro, as it happens too often on this album.

"It's You", on the other way, is pure Walsh : a fast-paced love song with ultra-basic lyrics : "Oh it's you. Oh I'm blue". It works fine with me, though, a little breath before diving into prog metal again.

"Mysteries and Mayhem", as announced, is like the little brother of "Child of Innocence" but with a more prominent role of the violin. Equally good to the aforementioned.

"The Pinnacle", approaching the ten minutes mark, is the epic of the album. It starts with the musical theme of "Mysteries and Mayhem" and develops into softer and more complex variations. There is a theatrical touch to the first part of the song that makes me feel that it's one of the few Kansas pieces that has similarities with the European prog of the same period. But some heavy guitar riffs and, of course, the violin, carry the Kansas trademark. A great song, though, and a smart way to close the album.

I maybe sometimes too easy on the five stars mark so I will restrain myself for once but Masque is a great album with no fillers, worth of 4,5 stars. You can only regret all those unnecessary fading outros. Hard to believe that the best was yet to come .

Report this review (#120778)
Posted Saturday, May 5, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars IMO, this band does not get enough credit on this website. In his prime, vocally, not many could compare to Steve Walsh. Masque, their third album and second release in 1975, was a precursor of things to come for the band. The Pinnacle, All the World and Icarus are prog anthems. The rest of the albums blend well with tunes such as: Child of Innocence and Mystery and Mayhem. What separates this band from others is the ability of two singers, Walsh and Robbie Steinhardt to trade versus and choruses; All the World and Child of Innocence are great examples. Again, very underrated. 5 Stars.......
Report this review (#126584)
Posted Saturday, June 23, 2007 | Review Permalink
Flucktrot
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Mysteries and Mayhem should have been the title track, because there is a good deal of prog mayhem, but the rest is pure mystery (and not in the good sense). This may be one of the most uncohesive, uneven albums I have ever heard. Can this be the Kansas that I have grown to love? Unfortunately, yes...this album begins a slide toward pop intrusions (though in my opinion, Leftoverture was fortunately spared for the most part) to great prog. On visual inspection, it has a cool album cover (sea creatures making up the profile of a face) and an epic-length track (nearly ten minutes), so what is there to worry about? Well, the first song provides an ominous clue...

The pop: It Takes a Woman's Love, Two Cents Worth, It's You. The first is really the worst offender. Maybe it's not a bad song if written by John Mellencamp or Tom Petty, but this just does not fit Kansas. The other two at least have fleeting proggy moments, but by and large they are rock-by-numbers, and certainly not worth buying the album for.

The 'tweeners: All Over the World, Child of Innocence. The former has the Kansas sound, but simply isn't one of their better extended numbers--the chorus is a bit cliche, and there isn't enough energetic playing to compensate. The latter is moving more toward classic Kansas, with plenty of rocking, a powerful chorus, and a nice outtro (though the fade-out is poorly executed).

The prog: Icarus, Mysteries and Mayhem, The Pinnacle. Here is what makes the album worth your money. Icarus has all that is great about Kansas: soaring harmonies, rocking instrumentals (featuring both keyboard and guitar), and a killer finish. In Mysteries and Mayhem, it seems like the band has had enough of restraint in the album and decides to cut things loose--this rocks from start to finish. Finally another good Robbie song! And Kansas continue to show how to finish a album, with the spectacular The Pinnacle. This song takes all of the highlights from previous songs, performs them more poignantly, integrates them wonderfully, and in so doing creates a great extended piece. This represents all that we know Kansas was capable of in this period: great lyrics, unique instrumentation, and memorable melodies.

Too bad this wasn't an all-prog album, because there is plenty of A-prog material. Unfortunately, you can't overlook the generic and cheesy rock. I would recommend this album only to those who have explored every other album from Kansas' first five.

Report this review (#140812)
Posted Friday, September 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Kansas thrid efford is a mixed bag. The band was trying desperately to make it big. The remastered edition has some very interesting liner notes by band members about their situation at the time. Therefore, it might explains the inclusion of such track as It Takes A Woman´s Love Love (To Make A Man) not only in the record but as the opener. A commercial rocking number that sounds forced and out of place in Kansas entire discography. It is well played and sung of course, but clearly this kind of style was not their forte. It caused much damage to the album, which is a pity, since the rest of it is quite good.

Second track, Two Cents Worth is pretty much in the same vein as the first, but is more convincing and sounds natural. Then comes Icareus, which needs no explanation, being one of Kansas best songs ever. A classic! All The World is another prog number that would fit very well in Leftoverture. Very good, and a bit underrated. Child Of Innocense is another heavy track that shows the band´s hard rock side. Good, and quite a fine live number. It´s You goes back to the first two tracks philosophy: commercial rocking number that is not entirely succesful, even if it has some excellent violin passages and Walsh´s passionate vocals. Mysteries and Mayhem on the other hand does work: one of prototype prog metal number! Well, at least it sounds like it. full of energy6 and power, it proves Kansas could be an excellent heavy rock band if they wanted to go that way. And then comes their masterpiece The Pinnacle. together with Icarus is one of Kansas greatest achievements ever, and quite worth the price of the CD alone. A magnificent epic, it combines all the band´s best elements in one tune: soaring vocals, blistering guitar solos, heavenly keyboards and violin passages, and a beautiful, insightful lyric that only the most gifted songwriters are capable of wrinting down. A truly prog gem that never got the exposure it deservevd.

Conclusion: a very good, although uneven, album. If you skip the first track you´ll enjoy this CD much more. The band had yet to find their own balance. But, individually, all the songs (again, bar the first) are good ones and Icarus and The Pinnacle are the ones you can never miss! 3,5 stars.

Report this review (#141301)
Posted Monday, October 1, 2007 | Review Permalink
UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This is a bit of a dissapointment because Song for America was so good, and this is much more hard rock inspired. This shows the "evil" side of Kansas. The side that I have always loathed. The hard rock side.

Songs like It Takes a Woman´s Love ( Allthough this is a very well composed track) and Two Cents Worth are essentially hard rock songs. There are not any prog tendencies to be spotted in these songs. This is true for most of the songs on Masque, but three songs save this album and more so and that is: Icarus - Borne on the wings of steel , All Over the World and The Pinnacle. Especially the first and the latter are really good examples of how good Kansas could be when they wanted to.

These songs deserve the 5 stars, but the problem is the rest of the album draws it down to 3 stars. Too bad. Maybe they should have made fewer albums and cut away the rock´n´roll songs. They would have made more masterpieces this way.

Report this review (#149679)
Posted Friday, November 9, 2007 | Review Permalink
LinusW
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Italian Prog Specialist
3 stars 3.5 stars

Another great effort from Kansas, although not up to par with it's predecessor and the following album, Leftoverture. This album is slightly more guitar-oriented than both the debut and Song For America. A good thing, since the guitar often is overshadowed in the production.

Continuing the trend of songs with a more mainstream approach, the album kicks of with It Takes a Woman's Love (To Make a Man), which just fall flat compared to much of the other material on Masque. Typical radio song, with some saxophone thrown in for good measure. Not my cup of tea. Saxophone played like this always reminds me of tv-shows from the '80s.

Two Cents Worth isn't bad, it's got very dark lyrics, and typical Kansas segments. The strange, silly keys tend to annoy me though, and therefore makes this song hard to fully appreciate.

Having gone through the safe songs, one can now go on with the bulk of the album, which is just as good as Song for America. Icarus remains a classic and All the world is somewhat a hidden gem in the discography, containing both powerful riffs and the interplay of delicate piano and soothing vocals Kansas have mastered in such a good way.

Child of Innocence is another hard-edged song, but this one comes naturally compared to It Takes a Woman's Love, much like The Devil Game. This one also hints on things to come, as a sort of heavy prog number of which several can be found on say...Point of Know Return. The fun, but short, It's You, is also more in the same vein as the one mentioned above. Saved by the nice melody and the always tasteful Steinhardt violin.

Being essentially one, Mysteries and Mayhem and The Pinnacle closes the album. The rocking and powerful Mysteries and Mayhem contains all the ingredients necessary for a Kansas song, and when it fades out into The Pinnacle you can honestly feel that something great is about to happen. The wall of sound, tight interplay, melody, balanced soloing and dual vocals from Walsh and Steinhardt is just what you need if you ever felt any doubt about the albums quality.

The rating Really good, but non-essential would fit perfectly, hence the 3.5 stars.

//Linus

Report this review (#161426)
Posted Sunday, February 10, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars I don't see how people herald Masque as a shinning example of Kansas' progressive credentials. After tiring of too many listens of PoKR and Leftoverture I finally decided it was well time I bit into the real prog side of Kansas and I bought Masque. I've been very disappointed since the first listen. Not only do I find this music more indoctrinated with hard rock/AOR than their later efforts, but the song writing falls short of their later releases.

The prog elements I do find here come off rather gimmicky, such as needless synth solos that travel on far too long and instrumental and an attempt to make everything sound epic with over the top sing-a-long choruses. The album starts off with the worst song I've heard from the band, a desperate attempt at a top 40 hit. Pure hard rock with the most stereotypical piano and saxophone I've heard. The rest of the album isn't much different than this song really, except marginally better and with stereotypical prog-rock moments thrown on top of the hard rock.

The viewers of this website will find worth in the three most well known songs from the album: Icarus, All The World, and The Pinnacle. These constitute by far the most progressive efforts on the album. All three are over the top epics that most prog fans should enjoy. Hard rocking, country influenced, long instrumental sections, lots of keyboard and violin. Although I feel all three run longer than needed, and all three also bear the problem of vocals that are rather empty and something I'd expect out of Boston rather than a band here.

I'll never consider Kansas to be in the top echelon of progressive artists. Their influence by the greats of the decade are all too apparent and they compositionally never reach with arms length of bands like King Crimson, VdGG, or Genesis. Leftoverture and TPoKR have gained fame as Kansas best albums for a reason and all except the upper tier of the bands fans, or those who tend to like AOR and hard rock influences, should avoid this album.

Report this review (#175572)
Posted Saturday, June 28, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is a nice album. Released before Leftoverture, which IMO is the best Kansas album.(and i am shure many people would agree) This contains some of the most progressive work Kansas has done. Icarus Borne on the wings of Steel and the Pinnacle are two of the most progressive songs Kansas has done and also my favorite on the album. All Over the World is another progressive song, and is a nice listen. Child Of Innocence is a heavier tune, and is one of my favorite tracks on the album. It is not that progish. The other tracks are not that proggy, but they are still very good. The first track, It takes a woman's love is the worst on the album imo.

4 out of 5 stars.

Report this review (#175765)
Posted Sunday, June 29, 2008 | Review Permalink
SouthSideoftheSky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
3 stars Mysteries and mayhem

After the excellent Song For America, Kansas took a step backward with their third album Masque. Even though it contains a few eternal Kansas classics like Icarus (Borne On Wings Of Steel) and The Pinnacle, the album as a whole is in my opinion the least good of all 1970's Kansas albums. Thankfully, Masque was a temporary setback and the pinnacle of Kansas' career was just around the corner.

Tracks like It Takes A Woman's Love (To Make A Man), Two Cents Worth, All The World, and It's You give the impression that the band were still searching for their direction. Judging from these four songs one could never have guessed that Masque is lodged between the much better album Song For America and the masterpiece Leftoverture in the Kansas chronology.

Every Kanas collection surely needs this album, but it is not the best place to start investigating the band.

Report this review (#178754)
Posted Sunday, August 3, 2008 | Review Permalink
Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Eclectic Prog Team
5 stars Kansas's third studio album marks the point when it becomes readily apparent that the record executives (and certain members from within) were pushing for a more commercial sound, as evinced by the opening track. But don't let that fool you- on this album we get the privilege of hearing Kansas at some of their finest and most progressive moments.

"It Takes A Woman's Love (To Make a Man)" Vocalist and keyboardist Steve Walsh wrote the opening song. Oddly for Kansas (but not for earlier incarnations of the band!), it heavily employs a sax player.

"Two Cents Worth" This one is something of a funk-oriented track, a rocker in parts, and a little pop-oriented in others, but it has Livgren's more introspective lyrics. The short middle section, however, shows promise regarding what this album will ultimately be about.

"Icarus- Borne on Wings of Steel" This is where the awesomeness begins. The interplay between the electric guitars, organ, violin, and the harmonious vocal work, provides us with one of Kansas's best compositions ever. The double-time middle section builds even further to give us stunning violin playing, followed by a little trading off between the organ and electric guitars, just before ceasing to make way for the final, quietly performed verse. The song ends well, blending acoustic guitar, a final electric guitar solo, and some "high-flying" vocalizations.

"All the World" Steve Walsh has lamented that he is not "particularly fond of the schmaltzy side of [himself] in those days." Still, this is a very good song, if not a highlight of Masque. The middle section is laden with synthesizer and hard-hitting electric guitar work, and Steve Walsh does a wonderful job singing, even if the lyrics are, in his words, "schmaltzy."

"Child of Innocence" While the title of this song may make one think another sentimental number is in store, the dual lead guitar work that initiates "Child of Innocence," which soon gives way to Robby Steinhardt's gritty singing of some unmerciful lyrics about death, indicates otherwise. Steve Walsh is at his best when it's his turn to sing the softer parts. There is a blistering guitar solo midway through, and a short theme played on the electric guitar to close.

"It's You" There is one more pop-oriented song left on this album, and "It's You" is it. However, the way the violin and organ work together give this one a flavor similar to the song "Point of Know Return." If anything, what we have here is a fun, short song with some great violin work throughout.

"Mysteries and Mayhem" The final two songs on the album are enough to earn this album four stars on their own. "Mysteries and Mayhem," a dark song about a nightmare songwriter Kerry Livgren once had, features apocalyptic and hellish imagery, not indicative at all of Kerry's eventual spiritual transformation except in hindsight. There are frantic guitars, violin, and keyboards, until the electric guitar riff takes over to give way to the sinister lyrics. The guitars seem to squeal out in anguish during the verses. In the middle section, we discover some of the best guitar riffs Kerry Livgren ever wrote, as well as some good soloing. "Mysteries and Mayhem" is packed with energy in so many regards. The last notes as the song fades out are the harbinger of the final- and greatest- song on this release.

"The Pinnacle" Beginning with an epic opening, Kansas presents one of their finest achievements, perhaps even their best ever. Almost three minutes of well-crafted music flow from the instruments of these six men before a single word is sung, similar to the outstanding "Song for America" on the previous album. Steve Walsh sings Livgren's mystifying lyrics over soft piano and atmospheric keyboards. It is short-lived; after two verses, Robby Steinhardt delivers ominous words over distorted guitars churning out minor chords. Suddenly, however, the mood brightens into a victorious melody- the same melody that opened this song and closed the previous one- only this time there are beautiful words that leave us wondering at their meaning. Of particular note is Dave Hope, who plays some very interesting bass grooves throughout, principally midway through the second instrumental section. There is a third verse, equally arcane in its meaning but no less exhilarating and fascinating, that gives way to a third and final instrumental part. Once again, Kerry Livgren demonstrates his prowess in writing not just spectacular music, but original guitar riffs for himself and Richard Williams to solo over. The ending of "The Pinnacle" has to be one of the greatest progressive rock conclusions ever, uplifting (like that of "Close to the Edge") and vigorous (like that of "The Musical Box"). Any progressive rock lover should listen to this song to discover (or re-discover) Kansas at their "pinnacle."

Report this review (#187256)
Posted Tuesday, October 28, 2008 | Review Permalink
Raff
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars It would probably unfair of me to say that the best thing about Kansas' third album is its cover, depicting Italian Renaissance artist's Arcimboldo painting called Water (one in a set of four representing the four elements). This should put paid to the idea of Kansas as the 'pork burgers' of prog - little more than a bunch of flag-waving rustics from America's heartland. Even though they undoubtedly sound 'big' in a very American way, beneath the bluster lurks a lot more sophistication than they are usually given credit for. However, Masque is definitely not the best starting point for someone who wants to hear Kansas at the top of their game. While their vocal and instrumental proficiency cannot be doubted, the songwriting here is not on the same level, and makes the band hard to distinguish from the plethora of AOR/hard rock acts that in those years were zeroing in on the American music market.

On this album, their epic, grandiloquent sweep, already evident in their self-titled debut and its follow up, Song for America, is given a more hard-edged treatment, with results that are not always successful. Generally speaking, the songs are definitely more immediate, as shown by opener It Takes a Woman's Love (To Make a Man), a hard rocker that provides vocalist extraordinaire Steve Walsh with a chance to display his awesome pipes, and also features a saxophonist (a very rare occurrence in the band's output). As a matter of fact, most of the songs on the album veer more towards the radio-friendly end of the spectrum, and as such they are quite pleasant to listen to, but ultimately not particularly memorable if you happen not to be a fan of FM rock. After a while, to be perfectly honest, it all gets somewhat tiresome.

However, in spite of this rather harsh criticism, Masque does have a couple of highlights that lift it up from mere pleasantness. I am not a big fan of album closer The Pinnacle, but will be the first to state that it definitely belongs to the roster of Kansas' best tracks, a 9-minute-plus epic containing all the trademarks of the band's sound - soaring vocals, awesome melodies, big guitar chords, majestic keyboards, and lashings of Robbie Steinhardt's violin. The album's true masterpiece, though, lies in the monumental Icarus (Borne on Wings of Steel), which might very well qualify as my favourite Kansas track ever, together with Miracles Out of Nowhere. Powerful and uplifting, with all the band members on top form, it sees an awe-inspiring vocal performance from Steve Walsh, and strikes a perfect balance between heaviness and epic grandeur.

In the years following Masque's release, Kansas produced what are commonly held as their masterpieces - Leftoverture and Point of Know Return. So, though this album might be seen as the weakest link in their Seventies discography, it is still worth exploring - as the many enthusiastic reviews before mine prove more than adequately. On the other hand, I would recommend Kansas newcomers to get hold of their first two albums before they approaching this one, in order to avoid getting the wrong impression of an excellent, influential band - one of America's greatest gifts to prog.

Report this review (#204808)
Posted Sunday, March 1, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Ah, Masque, definitely a rose if ever there was one (IE: some beautiful parts, but some real thorns). The first and sixth tracks are complete throwaway pop. I contribute this to the fact that they were desperate to achieve some modicum of success, in order to avoid the axe. However, the other work is varying amounts of awesome. Many people harp on Two Cents Worth, but it's a nice low-key jazzy/funky number with some really nice lyrics. Pink Floyd is allowed this leeway(Money), so why not Kansas? Then there's Icarus, almost complete masterpiece. Some fanboys have hailed it as the creation of prog metal! I'm not sure about those claims, but it is probably Kansas most guitar-dominated epic. However, there are also some more traditional proggy aspects to it, including some dynamite Walsh soloing. My main complaint; it feels like it was cut short. The instrumental work in the middle could have been much longer, and unlike most Kansas epics, instead of playing to a big finish, it just fades out. Once again, I think we see the evidence of pressure by the label to adopt a more radio friendly format. However, a dynamite track nonethless and there is something to be said for Livgren being able to cram so much into just 6 minutes. Next, there's All the World. Neal Morse fans will probably love this one; it's starts off sounding like a really hippy sounding ballad (think Beatles), then launches into a great song, then returning to a mutated version of the beginning of the song. I think there's a bit of humor here juxtaposing the over-the-top, almost cheesy hippy elements with really heavy music. This might be the creation of prog metal. Next, there's Child of Innocence. Not Kansas best, but one of their best short tracks up until this point in their career. It sounds like a prototype for Wayward Son, but I like it better. That could just be the fact that I haven't heard it five billion times on classic rock stations and in really cheesy movie scenes. However, I point to less chorus abuse and a more adventurous feel as my reasons. Skipping the next crap track (trying to forget it exists), we have Mysteries and Mayhem. It reminds me of the Devil Game a little, but my chief complaint here is that the song sounds just a little bare and some of the the drumming is repetitive and too snare-heavy. Nevertheless, still a fairly strong number and I love how it segues into one of the best pieces of music ever written, The Pinnacle.

I'm not going to describe this song, as I don't want to risk ruining the listener's first time experience. I will only say, that here, Livgren combines most of the elements already evidenced in the album's other strong tracks into a really cohesive and amazing experience. If this is not prog, then I'm a ham sandwich.

Overall, this album is a varied experience, but it has some great tracks, and one of Kansas' best songs on it. That makes its rating 3.75.

Report this review (#213745)
Posted Monday, May 4, 2009 | Review Permalink
Andrea Cortese
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars In the last weeks I listened to Kansas discography deeply. What I found is that Masque is a strong record and the most favorite of mine.

Yes, it is.

Kansas' third record is less proggy than the mythic Song for America but I think people use to misunderstand its strenght and to loose the true point.

Masque is where the band starts to play a more balanced music which is no less exciting. Each of the tracks is an a wonderful gem from the more "serious" Pinancle and Icarus to the more "simple" It's You and Two Cents Worth.

And how about the superb and melodic effort of All Over the World? I can't deny... I've fallen in love with it! It's the most intriguing of all the tunes. Great vocals by Steve Walsh and superb symphonic atmosphere. Just where the previous Song for America fails to touch the key (excellent album but it lacks of good melodies despite of a pair of classic pieces) Masque reaches the peak.

4.5 stars

Report this review (#218093)
Posted Sunday, May 24, 2009 | Review Permalink
Ivan_Melgar_M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Prog Specialist
4 stars When I joined Prog Archives several years ago, used to read the harsh criticism made by some reviewers towards KANSAS and got really angry, time has passed and I simply laugh, it's true they don't sound like GENESIS or YES, because they are from United States of America, and not from a big metropolis, they are from a state where Country music and Hard Rock are the general rule, so it's understandable that they mix elements of their own background with Symphonic Prog to create a different and unique sound.

But is even funnier when people complain about their USA musical roots that make them unique, this is the same people who shout "clones" when a band sounds remotely similar to a Prog icon, in other words people protest if a band is influenced by another one and protest if they are unique, as I always said, the worst enemy of Prog is the Prog fan.

"Masque" is usually criticized because of "It Takes a Woman Love (To Make a Man), people shout POP or AOR. for God's sake, this is pure Blues oriented Rock with hardly any POP connection. But what people don't notice or care about is the subtle organ in the vein of early Proggers and the killer guitar. Surely we are not talking about one of the best KANSAS track, but it's a solid song from a USA band, if you want versatility you need different sounds and the Topeka guys have never been afraid of variety.

"Two Cents Worth"is a forgotten KANSAS track, sounds unusual because is not exclusively a Livegren song, but a collaboration with Steve Walsh, again STEVE adds that bluesy soul but taking care of adding the complex elements with the keys, complementing Steinhardt's violin, reminds me a bit of DOOBIE BROTHERS but much ore elaborate.

Now, those who want pure Prog, will enjoy "Icarus - Borne in the Wings of Steel", one of the timeless masterpieces of the band, full of radical changes linked by the organ, violin and guitar in such a way that sound fluid and coherent, but overall, the excellent drumming of Phil Ehart who makes even the most complex songs sound natural and easy, there's not a flaw, a patch, a wrong note every section leads perfectly to the next one, the work of a real band.

The heartbreaking "All the World" adds the perfect doze of melody and drama, a tortured song in which the leading violin melts with Steve's vocals and the majestic choirs to create a special atmosphere that leads from sensibility to nostalgia. Never understood why this song was forgotten by the band.

"Child of Innocence" is a minor KANSAS classic, even though the band gives priority to the Hard elements, the Symphonic support and structure are always present, the vocals shared by Robbie and Steve are delightful, while Steinhardt is vibrant and aggressive, Walsh is melodic and calmed, another great team work.

As a breath between two solemn Prog tracks "It's You" provides the necessary relief, but don't mistake it for a simple song, the frenetic violin keyboard organ interplay is fantastic, the band exploits the two minutes presenting an elaborate but fun track.

"Mysteries and Mayhem" is a typical KANSAS song, as usual they allow Steinhardt to take the lead but each and every member of the band has something to say, when it's bot the breathtaking organ, the hard guitar of Rick Williams add the rocking elements, and the balance is kept by Hope and Ehart, one of the most solid rhythm sections in Prog.

The album ends with "The Pinnacle", an epic in the purest style of Kansas, where they blend the classical sensibilities of Robbie and Steve with Williams Rock side, the structure is simply delightful and always surprising. It's amazing how nothing can be predicted but after listening everything is coherent and logic.

Even when they jam, every note is in it's place, it takes a great talent to achieve this, specially with an ever changing song a fantastic closer.

The real problem is how to rate the album, I don't believe it's in the level of the two previous releases and much less of "Leftoverture", but still is a transcendental album of one the most notorious icons of Progressive Rock that deserves credit.

Lets face it, when the first peak of Symphonic Prog in Europe was ending, Kansas was still growing and taking good care of offering a fresh and original sound without sacrificing quality, and that deserves at least 4 stars.

Report this review (#241686)
Posted Saturday, September 26, 2009 | Review Permalink
CCVP
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars An incredible and terrible album at the same time

Kansas is one of the few progressive rock bands from the 70's coming from the United States that I listen. Despite not knowing, neither being interested in knowing, their entire discography, I find myself listening to some classic era album of this fantastic band from the US countryside in a somewhat regular basis (once every two months or so) and today was one of those days I have put one of their albums (Masque in this case) to play on my Ipod and I was really impressed how this album is, literally, a roller coaster ride.

That is because, like a roller coaster, Masque have numerous ups and downs, numerous boring, forgettable and discardable parts of songs and songs, wile it still have many exciting, thrilling and impressive parts of songs and songs. This can be explained easily: after the release of the fantastic Song for America, which somehow failed to impress the public and, therefore, had bad sales, something I find rather unexpected for an album like that and released during the 70's (despite the fact that Kansas was a very obscure and unknown band), the band's recording company pressured them to come with more accessible songs, which would be (or should be) the hit singles of Kansas all across the world. As happens in most cases like this in progressive rock, the album not only did not became a hit album, but it sold even less than the album before it, because it failed to please the band's following and was unable to bring enough new fans to the fan base.

Regarding the songs, musicianship and related features

The album don't start very well with the forgettable song It Takes A Woman's Love (To Make A Man), which can be clearly identified as one of the Kansas's recording studio's intended hit singles, which obviously failed in being that for lacking any kind of catchy melody. The next song, Two Cents Worth, is a great improvement, though not being a really remarkable song. One characteristic those two songs share is that none of them sound like Kansas at all. The next two songs, Icarus - Borne on the Wings of Steel and All Over the World, change the album mood drastically for two reasons: 1 - they actually sound like a song Kansas would make; and 2 - they are great songs. Icarus - Borne on the Wings of Steel is a powerful, energetic and epic-feeling song with tight instrumentation and composition wile All Over the World is a very beautiful ballad. Child of Innocence, It's You are average songs with some very interesting parts, wile Mysteries and Mayhem is a very good bluesy rock song with some forgettable parts. The last song of the album, entitled The Pinnacle, is definitely it's best (hence its name) and one of my all-time favorite Kansas songs: a multilayered and complex progressive rock epic with that distinct Kansas instrumentation.

The main problem with Masque, as you possibly could see in the paragraph above, is its unbalancedness. The album alternate amazing songs with not so amazing ones, resulting in a rather sloppy album flow. The highlights obviously go to Icarus - Borne on the Wings of Steel, All Over the World and The Pinnacle. Honorable mention to Mysteries and Mayhem.

Grade and Final Thoughts

Despite having some great songs, Masque have an uneven track list and some bad songs that drag the album's quality down. If the band could deliver an album filled with songs like The Pinnacle, Icarus - Borne on the Wings of Steel and All Over the World (pretty much what they in Song for America), the album would have been much better. Since that is not the case, Masque's grade is 4 stars.

Report this review (#264896)
Posted Sunday, February 7, 2010 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars KANSAS' third album is very much a mixed bag. Half the album is really good while the other half is poor at best. Even the band members were trying to understand what their identity was as a band at this point.

"It Takes A Woman's Love (To Make A Man)" starts off well instrumentally but when the vocals come in things go down hill. The chorus is especially cringe-worthy. "Two Cents Worth" is catchy with vocals but not much better than the first tune. "Icarus (Born On Wings Of Steel)" is a huge improvement over the first two songs in every way.The violin, guitar and vocals impress. Nice bass a minute in. Great sound 2 1/2 minutes in. "All Over The World" is ballad- like to start with piano and vocals. Violin joins in. It turns fuller before 1 1/2 minutes then really kicks in after 3 minute. Nice. Back to the ballad-like soundscape as contrasts continue.

"Child Of Innocence" is a great tune with some steller guitar. Love how it sounds on this one. "It's You" is back to the poopy sound of pop music. Uptempo with piano, organ and vocals leading. "Mysterious And Mayhem" is a good driving tune where the guitar and bass shine. "The Pinnacle" has a very Symphonic intro. Vocals before 3 minutes. Nice instrumental section from 5 1/2 to 6 1/2 minutes. Vocals with chunky bass after 7 minutes then the guitar rips it up.

3 stars.

Report this review (#265135)
Posted Tuesday, February 9, 2010 | Review Permalink
Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars Like their first album, Kansas begins this one with two pretty much straight ahead songs. While the first, It Takes A Woman's Love (To Make A Man) is uninteresting, Two Cents Worth is an okay song (for non-prog).

Then the album takes off. Icarus (Borne On Wings Of Steel), Mysteries And Mayhem and The Pinnacle are all outstanding symphonic prog works, and the rest of the tracks are pretty good as well. The production, even on the 2001 remastered edition, is not the greatest, but turn it up loud enough and it sounds good.

The two bonus tracks on the above mentioned edition, a rough, distorted rehearsal recording of Child Of Innocence and a demo of It's You add no value to the album.

Report this review (#276489)
Posted Monday, April 5, 2010 | Review Permalink
Marty McFly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Errors and Omissions Team
4 stars This time, Kansas surprised with not one, but two (more) Rock (than Prog) songs instead of one as was usual on previous and later album. Then one little epic instead of longer one (Song for America, The Wall), but this is compensated in form of All the World. But as usual, there are two epics on this album. Album is not worse, but more like more difficult to get into (still comparing to "Song for America" and "Leftoverture"). Still symphonic, melodic, pleasant and thrilling, that's what Kansas is, at least in their golden era (not sure about later works).

4(+), good as usual, but I don't like much first two songs (even they still aren't burden on this album that I would rate with 1 star, no no. More like 3 stars. But they're taking "Masque" from masterpiece rating for me).

Oh, I lost my few hundred words long review, so because I wanted to sum as much of my thoughts as possible, I have to post it as it is. Who survived this loss (once or more times) knows what I'm talking about, how I feel and that I cannot wait for better day.

Whew, at least it's not first review.

Report this review (#283880)
Posted Friday, May 28, 2010 | Review Permalink
Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
3 stars Masque is generally recognized as the weakest link of the band's first five releases and my opinion on the matter won't diverge too much from this statement.

The two opening tracks are very poor even by commercial music standards so don't even bother. Luckily things get a whole lot better with Icarus - Borne On Wings Of Steel. Even though this tune will get even better with the performance off the live album Two For The Show, this original studio version can definitely hold a candle to the best material off the band's other four early releases. All The World is a lengthy ballad that might not be one of their better but still passes it's hefty 7 minute length quite flawlessly.

The next section of the album is comprised of another weaker section that begins with the dull Child Of Innocence while It's You sounds like a not too distant relative of the debut album's Belexes but with a slightly less interesting arrangement and weaker harmonic punch to it. Mysteries And Mayhem and the concluding 9 minute suite titled The Pinnacle get the album back on track but the question is whether it's not already too late to turn this record around? Since both of these tunes lack the power that Kansas depicted on Icarus - Borne On Wings Of Steel, the answer is pretty obvious for me.

Unlike its two predecessors, Masque is really not the album one would expect from a band that was so clearly trying to give their progressive tendencies a harder edge. What is even more surprising is how the development of their style would progress within the next few year, but more on that in my next review.

***** star songs: Icarus - Borne On Wings Of Steel (6:03)

**** star songs: All The World (7:10) It's You (2:32) Mysteries And Mayhem (4:19) The Pinnacle (9:35)

*** star songs: It Takes A Woman's Love (To Make A Man) (3:07) Two Cents Worth (3:08) Child Of Innocence (4:35)

Report this review (#300787)
Posted Tuesday, September 28, 2010 | Review Permalink
colorofmoney91
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars I've always found Masque to be one of the early Kansas albums that doesn't really stick out at all. This album starts out with "It Takes a Woman's Love" sounding like blues influenced jam rock not unlike the Allman Brothers Band, which I honestly don't consider a good thing. "Two Cents Worth" pretty much has the same feel as the first track, continuing this album on what already seems like a downward spiral into bland country rock. "Icarus" finally displays the bands progressive writing, starting with keys and fiddle violin that evolves into a solid rock riff with heavy bass. The song doesn't really get too progressive, but it is definitely more so than the first couple songs and includes some great solo passages. "All the World" follows the same format as the previous song, but is just written in a softer style and I always considered it to be a better song overall with more emotion. The staccato violin chopping nearing the end of the track is a stand out moment that suits the song well. "The Pinnacle" is the most progressive track on the album and features a more whimsical take on everything that has already been present on this album, but packed into one track and with plenty of mood changes and terrific musicianship.

Like all Kansas' albums, this is countrified symphonic prog. I'm not really a fan, but a lot of American folks who like country sounding music really enjoy the power of this album.

Report this review (#431179)
Posted Monday, April 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars A very overlooked and underrated Kansas release from 1975. Only "It Takes a Woman's Love to Make a Man" and "It's You" fall short of being wonderful. They are more pop-single oriented tracks. Everything else here is pure American Prog/Rock from the masters. "Icarus", "Mysteries and Mayhem", "The Pinnacle", "All the World" are great tracks, and are worthy of praise. I think this was the third Kansas album I bought back in the day, after POINT OF KNOW RETURN and LEFTOVERTURE. I remember thinking it was rougher than the other 2 albums, but enjoyable all the same. It is not a masterpiece, but it is excellent nonetheless. 4 solid stars.
Report this review (#445182)
Posted Tuesday, May 10, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars 'Masque' came out at the same year of 'Song For America'. Honestly, to qualify a masterpiece such as their second album is quite a difficult task, but Kansas managed to do it just fine! This is probably one of their most varied albums. The songs here divided into two types: You got the short catchy tunes and the long progressive epics.

Song like 'Child Of Innocence' and 'Two Cents Worth' are just catchy and so lively that you will hit the repeat button again and again. 'Icarus-Borne On Wings Of Steel' is one of the most exciting tracks in progressive rock. Heavy metal riffs with melodic synths and the high soaring vocals of Steve Walsh, makes this song a blazing masterpiece. Truly a genius masterpiece, get this album immediately.

Report this review (#507543)
Posted Tuesday, August 23, 2011 | Review Permalink
stefro
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Alongside Starcastle, symphonic rockers Kansas were one of the few genuinely progressive American bands of the early 1970s, starting out with a Genesis-and-Yes- inspired self-tiled debut in 1974 and following it up with the acclaimed 'Song For America' a year later and this ambitious effort in 1975. All three albums featured intricate prog elements attached to big, rousing harmonies, the kind that would make the likes of Journey, Foreigner and Boston millions of dollars throughout the following decade, though, at heart, Kansas were always a thoroughly experimental beast. Unlike Illinois' Starcastle, Kansas would find lasting success beyond their initial years thanks mainly to their canny ability to insert pop hooks into the most adventurous-sounding material, a strength that would lead the band on a thirty-year plus career that is still going strong to this day. 'Masque', with it's frankly rather weird cover art - a strange profile portrait of a rather bizarre face - is a prime example of Kansas' ability to operate between the realms of pop and prog without ever compromising their ambitious style. The album is crisply-produced, featuring complex keyboard patterns and chiming guitars, yet their sound is also eminently accesible; lead vocalists Steve Walsh and Danny Steinhardt - who operates the much-welcome electric violin that graces many of 'Masque's more grandiose moments - own the kind of voices that Lou Gramm and Steve Perry would ape and then popularise during the early-to- mid-1980's with their respective groups Foreigner and Journey. Its all rather far-removed from the likes of Peter Gabriel and Jon Anderson, with Walsh's more muscular approach to singing lending Kansas' sound a powerful dynamic sorely lacking from many of Britain's 1970s progressive groups, yet the combination works well. A fine example is on the album's third, and strongest, track 'Icarus(Born On Wings Of Steel)', in which Walsh really lets rip with some spine-tingling singing before Robbie Steinhardt dazzles the listener even further with some impressive violin work. As an album, 'Masque' isn't Kansas' finest moment, yet is also far from their weakest. Epic finale 'The Pinnacle' adds some genuine prog-rockery to the mix, with Steve Walsh's blazing guitars complimenting batteries of moog drums and synthesizers, whilst the carefully- wrought 'Child Of Innocence' shows the groups softer - and albeit more commercial - aspirations. The lacklustre 'It Takes A Woman's Love(To Make A Man)', which opens the album, also shares the commercial bent of 'Child Of Innocence', but even at their least- refined Kansas operate on a level of startling grace and power, straddling the line between power-pop and proper prog with refreshing confidence. The USA, despite it's top-notch psychedelic-rock past, certainly wasn't prolific in it's unearthing of progressive rock talent - the nation has had more luck recently with the likes of early-nineties pioneers Spock's Beard and the prog-metal behemonths Dream Theatre - and for some Kansas' big choruses, chunky guitar riffs and heart-bleeding vocals tend to have a bit too much in common with mid-eighties commercial rock than some fans would like. Their music is also far removed from the pioneering likes of Jefferson Airplane, The Doors, Iron Butterfly and Vanilla Fudge, groups whose expressive, experimental and hard- rockin' style would open the door to the prog rock era. However, listen carefully to their excellent first five albums and behind the Foreigner-sized chords one can hear the glorious influence of Tony Banks, Rick Wakeman and Keith Emerson burning through with careful, calculated musical precision. Like with most groups who you haven't yet investigated, it is almost always best to start at the beginning, and with Kansas the rule still applies. 'Kansas', 'Song For America' and 'Masque' are three highly-recommended progressive rock albums that, like the quintessentially English, boarding-school influenced sounds of Genesis, are very much a product of their surroundings. The USA didn't really do prog - they loved the British groups and lapped up the prog big beasts with relish - but couldn't quite create their own, for whatever reasons. Kansas, and to a lesser-extent, Starcastle, were the exceptions to that strange rule and those listeners out there who don't mind a bit of uplifting power-rock stirred into their prog music should find a treasure-trove of highly-polished, slickly-produced and surprisingly experimental sounds within the early parts of Kansas' impressive discography. 'Masque' may not contain the pure-bread intricacy of 'Close To The Edge', the surreal hyperbole of 'The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway' or the complex brilliance of 'Larks Tongues In Aspic' but it does do something that those great albums sometimes struggle to do - to truly and fabulously rock out in a way that only Americans can. STEFAN TURNER, LONDON, 2011
Report this review (#534718)
Posted Tuesday, September 27, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars When a band is pressured by their record co. (a real problem with the 70s), some things have gotta go. Masque is that transition that began to nudge Kansas away from their prog roots to something more friendly. There is some more piano, blues, and synthesizer input to this record. Some of Kansas' best tracks can be found on this decent album, but we see a major shift in genre sound and general progness. All the members show the best of there ability here, especially David Hope, Rich Williams, and Ehart. Steinhardt's violin shredding abilities are becoming less apparent on this album, except for tracks like Icarus, All The World, and The Pinnacle. Walsh and Livgren really haven't changed much here, but the synths are cranking some volume except for traditional piano in some songs. It's a must for Kansas fans.

It Takes A Woman's Love (To Make A Man) can SERIOUSLY throw someone off after listening to the first two albums (which opened with rather jazz influenced songs). There's more use of jazz/what-ever-that-is organ and its really more of a rock song. A really good piece though is the sped up ending where Ehart starts playing those drums in double-time.

Two Cents Worth is a rather lost song on this album. Its lyrics are fairly progressive, with the narrator lamenting the time period they were born in, wanting to get away from it all but in a long time "used" all the tears in their eyes. It continues some of Kansas' more depressing songs but the beat is something to groove to. I enjoy the extensive use of Bass, Drums, and real piano. A song that needs to be heard by all Kansas fans.

Icarus (Borne On Wings of Steel) is probably the most well-known song from this album, aside from The Pinnacle. This a rock groove with the verses and the "sail on" pieces. The mid section of the song is full of back- and-forth soloing and some heavy riffage. With a return to verse accompanied only by keyboard, the song comes back to the main theme, while then speeding up in a new riff and fading out. I believe this album should be bought because of this one and the next few songs.

All The World is a real gem on this album, for its melodic verses, loudest synthesizer possible, and a drum/ violin solo. The song flows with some piano and violin to start off then goes into a crazy synth-led section. The drum solo comes up with a fast violin solo that seems to get cut off. The rest comes back into a slow section and ending a cappella. Best part of this song is the vocals/harmonies performed. Just amazing.

Child Of Innocence sound like the bridge between early Kansas and future Kansas. Very heavy guitar playing, along with a chorus that is easy to sing to. Some strong vocals come out of this song, especially out of the verses. This is one of the more enjoyable short songs from this album and, as I believe, albums afterwards.

It's You is mostly a strict piano quip created by Walsh that involves few lyrics and a fast-paced scheme. It's somewhat swing paced, but reminds me a bit of Belexes; not much to say about this song due to its short length and simple composition. It's You.

Mysteries and Mayhem comes in with quick, sharp guitar and violin melodies. The lyrics in this one contain words present in the next song The Pinnacle, as it seems both the songs are supposed to be attached to one another. Mysteries and Mayhem is mostly fast-paced throughout the song with a guitar solo hidden in there somewhere. The song picks up at the end with the riff that begins The Pinnacle.

The Pinnacle and Mysteries an Mayhem probably were supposed to be together as a single track, which would clock at 14 minutes and would be awesome to listen to. The songs connect musically and lyrically, as the Pinnacle stands as a clear, moving piece. It begins with the lyrics, that search for the top; then it descends into an extended instrumental section with jazz organ solos. Steinhardt is really able to stand out in this song with lines that accompany few instruments. The guys make a particular good use of different synth/keyboard noises on the Moog and ARP synthesizers. After long sections, the song from a guitar solo and ends with a typical Kansas ending, but fading out and coming in with only the organ ending the last note. Clearly one of Kansas' last great prog-style tracks.

Masque is really good for those that enjoy the mix of prog with crossover stuff, as Kansas makes its way to the more commercial friendly album, Leftoverture. I cite it as an improvement of incorporating more sounds and probably stands as one of Kansas' most diverse sounding albums where all the members contribute to different moods and grooves. Definitely get if a Kansas fan, a good listen for a progger.

Report this review (#768888)
Posted Sunday, June 10, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars Some topics absolutely inconsistent, and others worthy of the classic era of Kansas.

The former include: It's Take a Woman's Love, Two Cents Worth, Mysteries and Mayhem and It's You. Only standard rock songs and nothing else.

The worthy are: The Pinnacle, Icarus and All Over The World. Child Of Innocence is acceptable.

Compared to the albums of that time of the group, Masque runs halfway. Obviously the record company pressure influenced in disparity of this album.

I do not enjoy too much of discs where I have to press skip sometimes, and that's what happens with Masque, in my case. Not with Leftoverture, and little with Song For America or Point Of Know Return.

My rating is 3.5.

Report this review (#940619)
Posted Sunday, April 7, 2013 | Review Permalink
TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
4 stars Here is another excellent album released by Kansas before they became a huge sensation. Even though their previous album "Song for America" was amazing, I believe I like this one better. The reason for this is because I feel Kansas was not trying to please so many different people by mixing different genres into what was becoming their signature sound. Yes, they did try throwing together a few tracks to try to attract some radio air play like they did on the last album, but this time they didn't try so much to be another type of band, they just tried making more accessible songs using their own genre. You can't blame them for that. They wanted to give the public a taste of what they had to offer. The attempt at radio friendliness was apparent in the shorter songs like "It Takes a Woman's Love", "Two Cents Worth" and "It's You". But this time around, they were trying to break into popularity by adjusting their genre to fit on the radio and not trying to be someone who they were not. The non-radio friendly songs were amazing though, just like the last album. It's for these tracks that you want to search this album out. Tracks 3, 4, 5 and 8 are progressive rock masterpieces and should be considered that. This music is well written, the album is well produced pretty much throughout and the vocals are excellent. If it were possible to give this another 1/2 star, then I rate it at 4 1/2 stars. The entire album is not quite the masterpiece that the next album "Leftoverture" would become. In that album, they proved they didn't have to adjust their sound to hit the air waves and become legendary (except for having to cater to demands from radio stations to shorten "Carry On Wayward Son"). But, it's good for proggers to know (in case you didn't already) that Kansas was not a one-shot deal, that there are a lot of other great prog masterpieces in the form of scattered tracks throughout their older albums.
Report this review (#1001734)
Posted Saturday, July 20, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars I like Kansas a lot, at least what I have heard. While I wouldn't say I'm fanatical about the band, I do know the albums from their most popular period (Masque to Monolith). I don't know the first couple of albums or more recent releases. Therefore, this is a review of Masque compared to the surrounding albums. Masque is not the "pinnacle" (pun very much intended) of Kansas' output, but it is an excellent album. It gets 3 1/2 to 4 stars in my book.

The musicianship of Kansas is without a doubt one of the primary reasons for the band's success. This album is, of course, extremely well-played. One of my criticisms of Masque, however, is that it's so keyboard- heavy. This may be why I love prog, but symphonic prog is not my favorite subgenre. On the plus side is Steve Walsh's singing. Of course, he's always good. Not only does he have a stupendous voice, he knows how to use it effectively. He's one of the best singers in rock music IMO.

Masque contains some of the band's best, most memorable songs. I'm talking about "Icarus", "Child of Innocence", and "The Pinnacle". One the other hand, we're stuck with "It Takes a Woman's Love" and 1 or 2 others. I imagine there were commercial reasons for including "It Takes a Woman's Love" and others. They don't stand up to repeated listening, and I just skip over them. Masque does contain some of the band's best material, and that's what earns it 3 1/2 to 4 stars.

Report this review (#1127539)
Posted Wednesday, February 5, 2014 | Review Permalink
apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars ''Song for America'' brought Kansas in notice with its 250,000 sold copies and the album climbed up to No.57 of the US charts, eventually becoming gold in 1980.Even so Don Kirshner somewhat pushed the band to write more commercial material for their next album.''Masque'' was recorded at the Country in Bogalusa, Los Angeles, but lyrically it ended up to be Kansas' more sinister effort, dealing with issues such as nightmares, death and the dilemma of life.Most of the material was written by Livgren and Walsh and the album was released in September 1975.

The same formula used in the previous Kansas works is present in yet another effort by the Americans with tracks like ''It takes a woman's love (to make a man), ''Two cents worth'' and ''It's you'' clearly written to reach a wider audience with their friendly style and their heartfelt lyrics.Straight rockers, which still retained the talents of the Kansas' crew due to the bombastic sound of Hammond organ and the smoky violin solos of Robby Steinhardt.On the other hand ''All the world'' is great US Prog/Art Rock with great use of synths, piano and organ and Classical-flavored violins, evolving from lyrical ballad-like movements to symphonic grandieur with a powerful sound.''Icarus - borne on wings of steel'' is nice attempt on groovier, proggy material with emphatic vocals and organ, played with complexity and virtuosity, supported by yet another nice performance by Steinhardt on violin.''Child of innocence'' is definitely more pompous Hard Prog with a questionable lyrical content but great switches between angry and sensitive vocal lines and fiery instrumental room at the middle with punchy guitars and keyboards.''Mysteries and mayhem'' is pretty similar, standard rhythmic Hard Rock with passionate vocals, melodic violins and a few impressive, proggy breaks and interplays.I do not know if ''The pinnacle'' was named so to indicate the album's most intricate piece, but this definitely Kansas at their best, familiar Classical-drenched Progressive Rock with striking, instrumental lines, great melodies and adventurous twists and turns.Great piano lines, confident organ and synth runs, beautiful symphonic orchestrations and some more Hard Rockin' instrumental textures.Monster track.

While ''Masque'' finds Kansas at their most accesible phase during their progressive period, the consistently tight songwriting, the solid arrangements and the bombastic, proggy themes in here stabilized them as a top Prog/Art Rock band of the 70's.Strongly recommended...3.5 stars.

Report this review (#1181008)
Posted Friday, May 30, 2014 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars A mixed bag of an album - one wonders whether the title was Kansas' sneaky way of letting the world know that this didn't represent their real identity, but merely offered a veneer of commerciality for the sake of appeasing their record company. It Takes a Woman's Love (To Make a Man) is just as vapid a piece of mid-1970s hard rock as the title implies, with occasional organ breaks from Steve Walsh which feel like a pastiche of Tony Kaye's playing on the Yes Album, only less prominent because we can't turn off those MOR radio listeners, can we?

From there the album veers between chasing a broader audience and catering to those fond of their more progressive style; Two Cents Worth feels like a failed attempt to mimic Steely Dan, for instance, whilst on tracks like Icarus (Bourne on Wings of Steel) or concluding micro-epic The Pinnacle the band offer polished, quality progressive pieces which demonstrate where their affections truly lie. It's only on such pieces that Kansas feel like they're actually expressing a distinct personality, rather than masquerading as one chart-topping AOR outfit or another.

Because of the presence of the superior pieces, this album isn't a complete waste of time, but at the same time it's rather badly sabotaged by the presence of some real clunkers, with the result that even if you are sold on Kansas' particular style of progressive rock, you may well find that you're better served if you can find a decent compilation or live album covering the better numbers from here and leaving the album itself on the shelf.

Report this review (#1683720)
Posted Monday, January 23, 2017 | Review Permalink
3 stars Originally, I praised this one higher because which progressive band could produce a bad in album in 1975 especially between two masterpieces like Song for America and Left Overture? I can assure you that even after repeated listens, the cover is the only terrible thing about this album. The downside for most of us is that this LP is less progressive than Song for America and Kansas and the performance seems less inspired. The AOR mood of most of the songs is not necessarily bad for those who enjoy any well designed and executed music.

The first song kicks off with energy in the AOR vein and good riffing. "Two cents worth" is a nice exploration into more a more soulful mid 70's territory of Steely Dan/Stevie Wonder, it has a unique feel unheard from any other song by Kansas, well done. "Icarus Born on the Wings of Steel" is the first progressive albeit a bit restrained composition where main shredders - Walsh and Steinhardt have some space to show off. As each song, the vocals by Walsh are excellent. "All of the world"'s length looks promising but it barely scratches the progressive territory and keeps itself more in AOR area, a wasted chance really. Even "Child of innocence" with its infectious energy and performance beats the previous song. "It's you" is a not too remarkable and thankfully short boogie song to keep energy going. Before the pinnacle called "The pinnacle", the band serve an aperitif "Mysteries and mayhem" featuring a clear melody motive but accompanied with very good and inventive instrumentation, this one could have been longer. "The pinnacle" is yet another gem in Kansas progressive catalogue and Steve Walsh shines here with the vast array of instruments ranging from Hammond, ARP, moog and clavinet. Inventive though technically not too difficult keyboard lines impress me each time I hear this masterpiece. The minor chords add to the emotional Walsh vocal.

I tried to find enough quality to award four stars but to be fair to other band's albums, only three can be guaranteed. The album is a bit uneven and lacks more inspiration seen before and later ;).

Report this review (#2046530)
Posted Sunday, October 21, 2018 | Review Permalink

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