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Kansas - Somewhere to Elsewhere CD (album) cover

SOMEWHERE TO ELSEWHERE

Kansas

Symphonic Prog


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scottadams964
3 stars In short, an OK album. But the annoying yearning for a return to the 'glory days' of Kansas means that utter dross such as Grand Fun Alley makes it onto the record alongside bollocks like Disappearing Skintight Blues. But Icarus II and The Myriad are great, so I suppose it's not all bad. But Livgren's continuing reluctance to tour means that as a commercial proposition this album was dead in the water on release, and any hope the band had of escaping the County Fair treadmill, supporting the likes of Styx and REO Speedwagon disappeared at the same time.
Report this review (#21934)
Posted Wednesday, December 31, 2003 | Review Permalink
loserboy
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars After many years of separation KANSAS finally have re-united with a grand symphonic album full of great songs and excellent musicianship. Very much in the style of old KANSAS "Somewhere To Elsewhere" contains all those huge Livgren epic keyboard runs with fantastic vocal harmonization's. Guitar work is also quite tasty with some intricate technical playing which sounds superb mixed along with Robby Steinhardt's violin and viola solos. The opening track is perhaps the best on the album "Icarus II" with some great sound explosions and mood shifts... very symphonic and full of grandeur. Welcome back KANSAS!

Report this review (#21937)
Posted Friday, March 19, 2004 | Review Permalink
lor68
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Well this is an epic pop album, where the vocalist is not perfect as in the past (listen to the clear and powerful voice of the first album by KANSAS for instance...). Nevertheless if you are patient, after the first seven songs (except on the magnificent first track "Icarus II" which is anyway another pop epic number), you find the stunning "Distant Vision", with great echoes from their glorious past, regarding the Era of "Leftoverture", and then also the tasteful Byzantium, which completes this sort of memorial among so many pleasant epic pop songs.

Recommended, even though probably it is not completely essential!!

Report this review (#21938)
Posted Saturday, April 3, 2004 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars 'Somewhere to Elsewhere' sees Kansas taking a big step backwards to their glory 70s days, at least momentarily. Not only Kerry Livgren returned to the fold as the writer of all the material contained in this album and as a performer on guitars and keyboards, but also Robbie Steinhardt consolidated his comeback reassuming a very crucial role in the band's new repertoire, and even Dave Hope took up his bassist role for a couple of tracks here - still it is Billy Greer who takes care of this particular asset in most cases, even debuting as a lead vocalist on "Look at the Time". It would be too optimistic to state that the band equals his 70s best efforts with this album, but anyway it is a great recording that brings us back the old vintage Kansas sound that everybody thought buried forever and ever. It is actually an excellent addition to any prog collection. The album kicks off with "Icarus II", which despite the references to the original "Icarus" track (from 'Masque'), it is not a revisit - beside keeping the epic touch of the former, "Icarus II" is more introspective and melancholy, even in the heavy rocking interlude. The next two tracks are rockier, not simplistic but nothing very special either: just nice, catchy tunes with some clever arrangements. The street rumbling ambience that closes "Grand Fun Alley" gives way to the first piano chords of "The Coming Dawn", a most beautiful symph ballad that really seems to have been rescued from a time capsule of the 'Leftoverture'/'Point of Know Return' times. Further on, we find two amazing tracks that melt the epic splendour of Livgren's most ambitious compositions and the captivating mysticism of Kansas' eeriest old tracks. One of them is "Myriad", actually a song that dates back from the earliest Kansas days, but never got the chance to be included in their first three albums: here, it is revamped and somewhat rearranged, according to Livgren's current strong Christian beliefs. The other one is "Distant Vision", which equals the aforementioned number in beauty, complexity, orchestral finesse, and evocative passion. In both these tracks Walsh reminds us what a great messenger he is and always has been of Livgren's emotional concerns and intellectual insights. There's still some room for other less common ideas in the context of Kansas. Here we have "Look at the Time", a Beatlesque meeting of "I Am the Walrus" and "Hey Jude" with a Harrison hippy feeling; "Byzantium" is the oddest one, with its exotic ambiences inspired in the Arabic and Turkish tradition. "DST Blues" is a catchy bluesy number, a bit too long maybe, but still interesting: Reinhardt's singing shines here, as well as his violin performance (but again, doesn't he always?). "Not Man Big" is the hard rocking closure for this album, a properly energetic ending for an album full of very intense material, both musically and lyrically*. 4 stars for this one... and I wish I could give it 4 ˝!

* Actually, there's a hidden bonus track that ends the album as a kind of joke.

Report this review (#21939)
Posted Wednesday, June 16, 2004 | Review Permalink
Garion81
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars What can we say for Kansas at this point of their storied career? In 2004 they celebrated their 30th anniversary of their first album and toured the States extensively. Are they and will they ever be the international success they were in the mid 70's? Of course not. Can they still write and play dynamic music similar to what they did in the mid 70's updated to today's standard the answer is yes. This CD proves that. When this CD was put together the listener must also get Kerry Livergrn's Collectors Sedition CD because that is the rest of the material that the rest of the band drew from. Steve Walsh did not contribute songs to this work because he had already committed to a solo work called Glossolalia also on Magna Carta records (plug is given because neither Steve Walsh or Kerry Livgren have their own page here at the time of this review). Had he contributed some of his better songs from that CD I think this album would maybe have been one of the best albums Kansas had done. It is still a very good album. It also could have been better by the band selecting two other songs that ended up on Kerry's Collectors Sedition album (Numavox records). The first called the Sentinel one the finest progressive songs I have heard Kerry record and another called the Dragon which has melodies that are reminiscent of some of the Suppers Ready Genesis days. You could have replaced Skin Tight Blues and Grand Fun Alley with those two and it would have been a better progressive album. Still with Icarus II, which plays like a soundtrack, Myriad and Distant Vision (Which were discussed in other reviews) the album is worth it alone. There is an interesting song called Byzantium which is very different for Kansas. I think it is a great historical overview of the legendary city with the music invoking images in the imagination of what they city was like. My only complaint is that it is too short and some instrumental interlude between the verses would have made this song much better in my opinion. One other thing that was of interest is anyone who buys this CD indirectly contributed to the long overdue World War II memorial in Washington DC inspired by the song Icarus II about a WW2 bomber pilot. This is a long standing tradition with this band to help charities and other worth while causes when they can. Nope, not the 70's masters they once were but this CD grows on you the more you listen. It is worth a four to me considering that is a new millennium CD and considering Kerry Livgren's involvement in Proto-Kaw (Before Became After) This just might be the last studio CD to feature all the original members including Dave Hope.
Report this review (#21940)
Posted Saturday, September 25, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars Great comeback album from the 70s supergroup featuring tracks written by Kerry Livgren. All the original six members are featured plus long-time bassist Billy Greer.

Things get of to a superb start with the wonderfully evocative Icarus 2, a song about Second World War bomber pilots. Check out the innovative use of heavy metal guitar symbolising a fighter plane attacking. The chunkier Grand Fun Alley is most welcome but is over all too quickly. The epics are well represented with Myriad and Distant Vision, showcasing some excellent instrumental sections.

Unfortunately the album tails off at the end, Byzentium is fairly weak and Not Man Big promises much but doesn't really deliver. However this is a really good album.

Report this review (#21942)
Posted Sunday, May 8, 2005 | Review Permalink
NJprogfan
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars I'm sure when this album came out in 2000, Wheatheads (A name Kansas fans call themselves) saw the line-up which includes the classic 70's players plus Greer, all cheered! Starting with track one, a sequel to an older track Icarus II, your heart may soar and you may shout, "Yes, they are back!". Well, I'm sorry to dash your hopes, but the album is a mixed bag. Sure, there are some very strong tracks, the afternamed "Icarus II" with some modern prog riffing, and Ronnie's violin playing it is a good start. Then it gets a bit choppy, with "When The World Was Young", Grand Fun Alley" and "Disappearing Skin Tight Blues" you get the obligatory blues tinged rockers, not my cup of tea so to speak, especially when Kansas can prog with the best of them. Some songs, like "The Coming Dawn" a nice ballad, "Look At The Time" a Beatlesque song and "Byzantium" a middle-eastern style song are fine, it's songs like the awesome "Myriad" and "Distant Vision" that harken back to the classic 70's. More please! So, in a sense, "Somewhere to Elsewhere" is a good album but not as essential as the classic's from the 70's.
Report this review (#21943)
Posted Tuesday, May 24, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Long-time art-rock Kansas fans must have been pleased to see their group was coming back with the album that marks new period in group's history. Instead of simple or arena rock approach, Kansas returned to where we had wished.

Comparing to the old albums, songs are slightly slower though they don't lack energy. Kansas can still write beautiful melodies and there is often at least one rock ballad on their albums. This time - The Coming of Dawn. The classic progressive piece is Myriad, all instruments make a great atmosphere! The song is filled with invention.

Vocals are recognizable, sung with eagerness. However, the best part of the album is the good and tasteful keyboards. Soloing or accompanying, its sound is carefully planned.

To sum it up, Somewhere to Elsewhere is not a crucial album to pick if you want to hear Kansas' best albums. For that reason, I thoroughly recommend LPs from 74-77 period. If the group continues making albums in that vein they can certainly draw many new supporters.

Report this review (#36590)
Posted Wednesday, June 15, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Well, when I was buying this cassette about 4 years ago, I didn' t know anything about Kansas, I only found short note it's a classic progressive rock band... So I didn't have any expectations before someone told me it's the band which wrote beautiful "Dust in the wind". I was surprised that such old band can make such good and diverced album with rock'n'roll ("When the World was young", "Grand fun alley", "Not man big"), jazz ("Myriad"), blues ("Disappearing skin tight blues"), oriental music ("Byzantium") and art rock (beautiful ballad "The coming dawn", fantastic "Look at the time" that reminds me proggressive rock of the 70's, epic "Distant Vision")

Good album and still the only one of Kansas I have, and, in my opinion, can be good soundtrack for the holidays trips...

Report this review (#37309)
Posted Thursday, June 23, 2005 | Review Permalink
arcer
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Those of us who had completely given up on Kansas rediscovering any impetus after the travails of their '80s work (other than being an effective covers band of their own classic material) will get a wonderfully pleasant surprise with this 'reunion' album which sees Kerry Livgren rejoin the fold for a single outing. Quite why they chose this moment to saet aside all the difficulties that had led to the original split between he and Steve Walsh in the early 80s is anyone's guess - as is just why it took so long for them to set those differences aside in pursuit of good music. Maybe, as usual, it was simply cash ;-). Whatever the reasons this is the best thing the band had done since Monolith. Livgren handles the writing duties as he did in days on yore and the album benefits from that. Walsh was always the more straightahead rocker of the chief writers in Kansas and for progheads the presence of Livgren as writer in residence is to be welcomed. That said it's not all plain sailing. The bar band blues-based workouts that were the roots of the band still rear their slightly ugly heads in ther shape of the pretty pointless and badly punning Grand Fun Alley (grand finale, geddit?! oh dear) and Disappearing Skin Tight Blues. But apart from those moments of tedium, when the reformed Kansas hit the mark, they do it with all the panache of old. The affecting balladry of The Coming Dawn (Thanatopsis), the extended workouts of Myriad and Distant Vision, the great pop prog of Look at the Time and the solid rock of When the World was Young. And then there's my personal favourite - Byzantium. Kicking off with medieval sounding choir, it gives way to a lovely eastern strings and acoustic guitar riff and Walsh's sweet vocal which really hits the mark on the upswing of 'did you golden domes reveal, the frailty of the consequence' line. A drop into a repeat of the verse motif sets up the chorus perfectly and when the drums kick in, it's the highlight of the album. The only shame is the song clocks in at the short, short, short four minutes. There seems so much more to this song, so much that could have been done with the kind of instrumental interlude Kansas perfected on their early albums. It would have benefited from an extended strings and guitars workout after the second chorus, maybe with the kind of monosynth solo that slotted in so well into tracks like Song for America. Instead we get a few verses a couple of choruses and then a fade out with more choir. A missed opportunity for sure. Still it adheres to the old adage of 'always leave 'em wanting more'. And Somewhere to Elsewhere aschieves that. It is very flawed, there are four or five standouts from a total of 10. Not a massively convincing strike rate. But the good stuff's great and for Kansas fans, like me, who quit after Audio Visions, believing Kansas to be a spent force, this is a very welcome reminder that the good ones never lose the touch, they just out of touch for a while. Well worth a listen.
Report this review (#52735)
Posted Saturday, October 22, 2005 | Review Permalink
ClemofNazareth
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk Researcher
4 stars This was a very important album for Kansas, in that it pretty much indicated the future direction of the band with respect to producing new material versus rehashing old classics and journeyman-like touring until they just ran out of steam. I have to say that after many, many listens and a couple of road trips to see them in concert since this released, that I believe they are leaning towards the latter route. I would be very surprised at this point if Kansas ever releases any new material again.

That's not to say that this isn't a good album - it definitely is. But it is a safe album, a rather predictable one, and one that would not have been made were it not for the generous contributions of former member Kerry Livgren. Since Livgren is plenty busy with the reincarnated Proto-Kaw in addition to running his own studio, it's unlikely he will make such a significant move again. Also, Steve Walsh could have contributed material to this album but didn't, and has said in recent years that he does not feel he can write for Kansas anymore. So unless reinstated member David Ragsdale gets inspired to write some new material, it looks like touring and trying to reinvigorate their 80s catalog with the Works in Progress compilation release is the game plan for now.

Too bad, because these musicians (it's kind of hard to call them a band anymore) are all consummate professionals, as they all demonstrate on this album. Even "Disappearing Skin Tight Blues", which doesn't belong on the album in my opinion, is technically very well done. It just doesn't sound like something Kansas should be doing. My overall feeling from this album is that the band is sending the message that they are perfectly capable of producing high-quality, progressive material, but they aren't going to try very hard to do so.

The things that keep this album from being an important progressive work? Several. First, there is no central theme to the songs, which for a band like Kansas (especially at this stage of their professional careers) is almost unforgivable. Second, the vocals are almost neglectfully underwhelming. Now don't get me wrong - the vocals are not horrible, like Walsh's performance on the abysmal Live at the Whiskey. Even Walsh's permanently strained vocal chords come off as well-rested and not overly taxed. It's just that with three very solid vocalists in Billy Greer, Robbie Steinhardt, and Walsh, I don't understand why the group felt the need to bring in half of Livgren's family to augment the singing, and I think both Greer and Steinhardt were underutilized. Also, the song selection is just a bit suspect considering the variety of voices available in the studio.

All that aside, I'm come to grips with the idea that this album is what it is, and has to be enjoyed on its own merits by fans of the band. We'll take what we can get and make the best of it.

There are ten songs on the album, not counting the goofy little "Piste 11" mystery track at the end. Of these, "Myriad", "Distant Vision", and "The Coming Dawn (Thantopsis)" are all outstanding, demonstrate the kinds of marginally progressive tendencies Livgren has always shown in his better works, and showcase the truly excellent skills of the Kansas players. All three of these are in the vein of what I would have expected of Kansas following Monolith had it not been for the negative impacts of the band's fragmenting at that time, pressures from their label, and in general just the brunt the coming of the 80s had on this and so many other progressive bands. "Myriad" should have been a hit single from this album, and should also be a part of their regular concert track list in my opinion.

"Thantopsis" shows a more mature side to Walsh's voice that I actually found very appealing. The first several times I listened to this I was sure it was actually Greer singing. I would dearly love to see the group perform this one in concert. One other note - this song includes one of the best lines Livgren has put down on paper in years -

"When my world starts to fade, I can only hope that every choice I've made will endure, and carry on. - into the coming dawn".

Beautiful.

"Look at the Time" is a pretty conventional rock song with some slight metal influences that serves as a great showcase of Greer's talents with him in the lead vocal role.

"Grand Fun Alley" and "Disappearing Skin Tight Blues" are heavily blues-influenced rockers in the tradition of "Down the Road", "Bringing it Back", and "Mysteries & Mayhem" from the band's early days. I'm sure these were included as a way to bring Steinhardt's vocals into the mix and to offer some variety. Traditional progressive music fans will dismiss these tracks, but long-time fans should appreciate the acknowledgement of the band's roots and the strong guitar arrangements, although "Disappearing" could have benefited from a bit less of the instrumental wandering that didn't really add much to the song.

"Icarus II" is a bit derivative of the original "Icarus" from the 1975 Masque album, including a few short instrumental passages that hearken back to that era of the band. While the setting for the song is World War II and a pilot's dilemma of being in an airplane being shot down by the enemy, the message is sobering and timely. This is both a mildly political and a moral statement by Livgren, and takes him into a territory rarely traveled to this point in his career. This is an important song for him lyrically, and for the band the instrumental landscape is quite fascinating. Rich Williams and Livgren deliver some impressive heavy guitar work here that has to be heard to be appreciated.

Several reviews I've read have doted on "Byzantium" with its eastern-leaning sound and complex arrangements. It is a very good song and a bit of a musical stretch for this record (in a good way), and I'll echo what most reviewers have said in that this one is far too short and should have been developed into an extended, heavily instrumental epic.

The closing "Not Man Big" is a bit awkward to my tastes, and sounds uncomfortably close to the 80s music the band put out with Drastic Measures and Power. This is pretty straight-forward rock stuff, okay for most bands but extraneous for these guys. This probably should have been left off the album.

Which leaves "When the World Was Young". Other than "Myriad", this gets my vote for the best track on the album. Walsh's voice is clear and strong, the instrumentation is dead-on precise and energetic, and the lyrics tell the story of the lives of all seven of these men in an intimate and personal way. I'm not sure that's what Livgren was getting at when he penned this one, but that's how it comes off regardless. This one is a keeper.

Despite the frustration of unfulfilled possibilities, when all is said and done this album is one I cherish simply because of the men who recorded it. I grew up listening to these guys in their prime, and knew even then that their backgrounds, experiences, and outlook on life were inexorably intertwined with my own, and of millions of other midwestern American kids, simply as a result of shared social and geographic circumstances. Even today I can drive just a few hours down the road and see the farmhouse Kerry Livgren makes his music in, or across the highway to a summer festival and see the band's current lineup live in concert. There is a cultural closeness that is not possible with artists like Yes, King Crimson, ELP, or Genesis. These guys are ours, and we love them. For that reason this is an essential album for men and women who identify with the music of Kansas, and an excellent experience to be shared with the more open-minded of our progressive music brethren.

peace

Report this review (#82296)
Posted Friday, June 30, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars The unexpected gift of Y2K.

It had been exactly 20 (!) years, since Audio-Visions, that I was waiting for another good Kansas album. In fact, I had lost hope and turned my ears away from the band. So Somewhere to Elsewhere is an even better surprise to me.

From the first notes of "Icarus II", you realize that the magic is there again, thanks to Livgren's composer gifts. Of course, everything is not perfect. There are three fillers : a sub-par blues-rock ("Grand Fun Alley"), another dispensable rocker ("Disappearing Skin Tight Blues") and a very average ballad ("The Coming Dawn"). But the other seven songs vary from very good to great.

The first highlight is, of course, "Icarus II", even if Walsh's half-broken voice screaming "Flak" reminds us that we are all, uh, hopelessly human. "Distant Visions" and "Myriad" are the other epics. "When The World Was Young" and "Not Man Big" (I love the chorus of this one) are two nice rockers. "Look At The Time" is quite an uncommon song for Kansas with a catchy melody and nice vocals from Billy Greer. Last but not least, "Byzantium" is a touching ballad with oriental flavors.

So this one-shot reformation of Kansas original line-up (plus Greer) is everything but a failure. Thanks for all, guys. You may now retire in peace ... or go on if you have got such good stuff left in your drawers.

Report this review (#87914)
Posted Tuesday, August 22, 2006 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars It's incredible to think 20 years had gone by since this lineup did a record together. Steve Walsh's vocals seem a little harsher than they used to, but he's still in fine form.

The first song on this album has become one of my all-time favourite KANSAS songs. "Icarus II" has great affects, lyrics and vocals. I like the intense line "Here they come..." and then the music gets really heavy .This is a song about a WWII pilot. All you have to hear are the opening piano and violin melodies to know it's KANSAS. "When The World Was Young" is another good song, opening with a nice guitar riff that continues throughout, nice vocal harmonies, and Steve is singing very passionate on this one.

"Grand Fun Alley" is another winner, with cool guitar melodies throughout and a catchy chorus. "The Coming Dawn" is a ballad. "Myriad" features lots of time changes, a guitar solo and a beautiful violin melody. The next two songs don't do a lot for me but "Distant Vision" is a good one, with a piano intro, and violin and organ leading the way. "Byzantium" features a gregorian chant, and along with the final tune are so-so.

Again "Icarus II" has to be one of the best songs to come out in 2000, and if your a fan of seventies KANSAS you owe it to yourself to check this album out. What a comeback album for the band.

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Posted Friday, November 3, 2006 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars I had been really surprised with their last original studio album (already five years old at the time of this release). It brought me back to the Kansas of my heart. The melodious and rocking one. Forgotten these useless AOR moments. A violin was brought back again in the line-up, and everything changed. The surprise here is that, we have two legendary members on board again : Livgren and Steinhardt. Shall we get a great Kansas album again ?

Like King Crimson in "Three Of A Pair" in which he created a new part to "Lark's Tongues In Aspic", Kansas regenerates "Icarus" from their third album back to ... 1975 and delivers "Icarus II" here. It has little to do with the mother song but it is a nice rock and violin oriented piece of music. It is a nice wink to ancient times and since I am rather nostalgic of that era (my youth, you know) I am quite emotionated. It is in line with what "Freaks of Nature" had provided. The Kansas sound, so typical and identifiable. It is quiter now than when they used to deliver crazy intrumental passages but still it is very nice.

"When the World Was Young" is on the heavy side during the intro. It is a simple rock song. A bit poppish though. The chorus still is really catchy. At the end of the song, there is an excerpts of an old song for a few seconds, but I do not remember which one, Alzheimer I guess ! (thanks to Garion81 who mailed me the answer : it was a part of "Magnus Opus").

"Grand Fun Alley" is a heavy-funky rock song. One of the weakest of this album. During the last two songs, the violin is almost unnoticeable. "The Coming Day" renews with the smooth side of Kansas. A wonderful piano introduction for this brilliant rock ballad. A very pleasant violin break (at last) and a symphonic passage in the middle part rejuvenates me. It makes me thirty-two years younger (at the time of this review). I just love it. Period.

An old number which was never released so far is :"Myriad". One can feel it is an early song : the intro is a clone of "Song For America". But since it is one of my preferred song, I do not complain (it was maybe even written before, but I do not know that). Since it one of the longest number, it was the opportunity for Kansas to deviate a bit from the pop sound of this album. During the traditional intrumental section, one will even get the impression that he listens to ELP. Lots of keys there ! The more conventional guitar break will follow to transport us again in the glory Kansas days. Very nice feeling I must say. Even Walsh's voice is on par here (which will not be always the case on this album, unfortunately). This beautiful track ends up like it started. The best song here (at least to my taste). "Look At The Time" is also a more complex song. Some Oriental influences in the instrumental part makes it rather original. I must say that the vocal parts are not really great. They sound a bit childish and too poppy. Rather strange combination. But definitely another good prog moment.

"Disappearing Skin Tight Blues" opens brilliantly : a cristal clear piano and violin makes you believe you'll enter again into Kansas's paradise but as the title should have warned you, after less than a minute, the mood totally changes and offers a heavy blues track. I can swallow some blues (Led Zep, Purple, Joplin) but I have a hard time with this one. Especially that after another minute, the chorus starts and is really awful. After three minutes or so, the song is repeated from its debut. Very strange. To be honest I only moderately like it. Actually, so far it is my least preferred song.

The next one "Distant Vision" has also all the past grandeur of the band. Almost clocking at nine minutes, we'll get a long and wonderful instrumental intro (you know like during "Song...") : rather sophisticated I must say. Subtle and light as well as powerful at other times. Brilliant intrumentals during the middle part as well of course; but isn't it a Kansas TM ? The finale is just fabulous. Another highlight, for sure.

"Byzantium" starts with a nice choir part. As the title indicates, some Oriental flavour as well are to be noticed. The combination though is a bit akward. The weakest track of the album (IMO). Since the album is very long, they could have dropped it easily. But there were times during which finding only one weak track on a Kansas album was a miracle (of nowhere). So, let's not be too critical.

The closing number is again a long composition (the third one here). It is a heavy number lacking a bit of "texture". Some punch is there, we'll get some nice keys as well but it sounds too monotonous during these 8'39". I liked Kansas while they were hard-rocking but we are far from a song like "Lonely Street" for instance.

During a too brief moment (twenty seconds or so), the song will really take off but to better fall again in this boring tempo. A big disappointment. I guess all fans were expecting another epic to close this very good album. The end of the track is just silent for about forty seconds. It is just to hide a last short song. Like usual this "hidden" track does not bring anything to this album.

IMO, the Kansas come back was "Freaks of Nature". This one is a nice continuation. When I saw that Steinhardt was back again, I was really thrilled but I must admit that, to my taste, the violin parts are too scarce (which was not the case on their previous work). I also had hoped that Livgren would bring more strength in terms of songwriting.

This album requires a careful attention. You might miss a lot of it if you are just distractly listening to it while doing something else (driving for instance). At least it is my feeling and I recommend you to concentrate a bit on this very nice album while having a spin. It really deserves it. I would have rated this album seven out of ten but I will temporarilly upgrade it to four stars.

To date, it is the last Kansas studio album. There will be a lot of compilation and live albums after this one. It is then time to be very thankful to Mr. Livgren, Walsh, Steinhardt and Ehart (who will never leave the band). You were part of my youth, and I rediscovered your nice work some five years ago with a lot of enthusiasm. Some blunders during your long career, but I promise : I'll never listen back to these poor albums and will only remember the so many good ones you have released.

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Posted Friday, April 20, 2007 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars One of the very few reunion albums that are really worth it, as long as you don´t expect another Leftoverture nor another Point Of Known Return. Things have changed a lot after all these years, after all. Having said that, it´s a great return to form, even if the sound takes some time to get used to. The orginal Kansas line up (plus Billy Greer) has indeed that magic touch. Of course Walsh´s voice is not that perfect anymore, but he still delivers the goods with passion and conviction. Instrumenation wise, the band is as tight and skillful as if they never had parted ways.

All the songs are written by Kerry Livgren, which led a lot of people to label this album as simply a Livgren solo album using Kansas as backing band, but again this is not the case. Kansas is bigger than the sum of its parts and no mattter who writes the songs, it will sound inevitably like Kansas. The magic is still there, no matter how times have changed.

To be fair, some songs are way better than the others, but none is crap. Highlights are Icarus II, the magnificent Myriad and Distant Vision. All three would fit perfectly on any of their 70[s classic albums. Those tracks are worth the CD price alone.

I`d give this album easily 4 stars, but the discrepancy between some of the tracks prevented me to do that. 3,5 stars is more fitting. A very good work and a must have for any Kansas fan. But if you`re new to the band, you better start with Leftoverture or Point Of Known Return or Song For America.

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Posted Thursday, August 30, 2007 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Reviewer
4 stars There cannot be many bands from America who were as important in the Seventies as Kansas. Sadly known by many in the UK only for their classic "Carry On Wayward Son", they released a host of magnificent albums. It is their 1975 album 'Masque' that I am now looking at, while listening to the new CD. Why? Firstly, THE line-up is back together for the first time in far too long. Phil Ehart, Steve Walsh, Dave Hope, Rich Williams, Kerry Livgren and Robbie Steinhardt are in full flow, along with Billy Greer who also provides bass guitar (as well as Dave) and some lead vocals.

Secondly, the opening cut is a sequel to one of their classic numbers, "Icarus - Borne On Wings Of Steel", which first appeared on 'Masque'. With Kerry Livgren providing all of the songs, Kansas are a band re-born. When I first listened to this I knew that it was going to be a problem, solely because it was going to be difficult to get anything else on the player.

If anyone has never heard Kansas (musical education sadly lacking), they mixed distinctively different lead vocalists with strong use of piano and violin in a melodic rock setting. They are one of the few American bands that have an instantly recognisable sound and style. They have released so many classic numbers, but in an extensive compilation, some of the songs contained on the new CD would have to be included.

Please, please can Kansas undertake an extensive tour to promote this. Their double live album 'Two For The Show' is often a visitor to my record player, and to see them in concert playing their classics along with songs from here would be a gig made in heaven.

Feedback #59, July 2000

Report this review (#145887)
Posted Friday, October 19, 2007 | Review Permalink
UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars This is the best album from Kansas since Monolith !

It´s much more symphonic and seventies sounding than Kansas have been for many years. With the original band members back and especially Kerry Livgren back in the role as composer this is pretty inspired.

Steve Walsh voice has seen better days. He sounds a bit worn out. He must have done something terrible to his voice to destroy it like this.

Standout tracks include: Icarus II, Myriad and Distant vision. It´s just typical for Kansas that their longer compositions are the most interessting, and it doesn´t fail on this album either. Too bad there are so many filler hard rock/pop songs on the album. This could have been a good album. But I must admit that it´s only a couple of songs I really enjoy.

Report this review (#149671)
Posted Friday, November 9, 2007 | Review Permalink
WaywardSon
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars For this album, I will begin with the standout tracks and work my way down

The opener "Icarus 2" is definitely a Kansas classic, starting softly and building up to some raunchy metal chords (pretty heavy for Kansas!) What makes the song great are the lyrics, viloin, and a great emotional vocal performance by Walsh. The other song is the dreamy "Distant Vision" which is an example of Kerry Livgren at his songwriting best

"Myriad" comes close to being a classic, with some great guitar playing by Livgren, and Byzantium transports one back in time with it´s ancient chants and mysterious spiritual feel.

"The Coming Dawn" is a beautiful slow song with some great soulful singing by Walsh

Robbie Steinhardt sings on two tracks, the first being "Grand Fun Alley" which has quite a funky, bluesy feel to it, it actually works quite well. The second is a slow laid back bluesy number "Disappearing skin tight blues" which makes for easy listening.

Now for the not so good, to downright bad.

The song "When the world was young" isn´t that great, firstly, because it isn´t such a strong composition, and secondly, Wash seems to strain a bit with the vocals.

"Not Man Big" seems quite strange as the closer for the album, the riff sounding something like Deep Purple would have come up with in the seventies.

"Look at the time" is probably the worst song on the album, it just sounds completely uninspired and boring.

This is a good album, but not essential

Report this review (#161406)
Posted Saturday, February 9, 2008 | Review Permalink
SouthSideoftheSky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
4 stars Borne on wings of steel

In 2000 Kansas came back with this album - easily their greatest since Point Of Know Return released in 1977. This version of the band consists of seven people, including Kerry Livgren who was the mastermind behind most of the bands best songs from their classic 70's albums, and original violinist Robby Steinhardt.

Icarus II opens the album and it is a masterpiece song in classic Kansas style! It is definitely up there with the very best songs from the band's classic albums. It has a very strong melody and great lyrics that work together to tell an emotional story of a pilot having to fight a battle in the sky. I love the way the drums resemble machine guns and the guitar make the sound of the planes diving trough the sky. This song also features a short quote from Icarus (Borne On Wings Of Steel) - a track from the band's Masque album from the 70's.

None of the other tracks on Somewhere To Elsewhere are as great as this amazing opener, but there are several very good songs here. The vocals duties are shared by Steve Walsh and Robbie Stenhardt, and their singing voices have matured in my opinion, and Walsh is not trying here to reach notes that he cannot reach.

Overall, this is a confident and mature work. Well crafted and melodious and with some interesting instrumental work sometimes reminiscent of the bands 70's heyday. The connection with the 70's Kansas should not be exaggerated, however. While all the classic trademarks of Kansas are here - the violins, the keyboards, the blistering guitar solos and the emotional vocals and lyrics - this is by no means a retro work; it is perhaps rooted in the classic Kansas sound, but this is also a different type of music that even might appeal to someone who doesn't care much for the band's early albums. The sound is more modern and, I would say, timeless. Calling this music groundbreaking would be an exaggeration, but calling it fresh is appropriate.

Highly recommended!

Report this review (#195280)
Posted Saturday, December 27, 2008 | Review Permalink
Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Eclectic Prog Team
5 stars One of the greatest surprises to happen in progressive rock history for me was the reunion of Kansas, even if it was only meant to be a fleeting one. The result of this meeting of such musical genius is Somewhere to Elsewhere, which I consider to be Kansas's finest studio album. With the amazing Kerry Livgren once again at the helm, the music features the compositional integrity and structural intrigue albums without him largely lacked. Steve Walsh's vocals (which were recording hundreds of miles away from the rest of the band) are in much better shape, particularly considering the hell he put them through during part of his career, and Steinhardt's voice is at its most mature and majestic ever. Speaking of excellent vocals, bassist Billy Greer gets an opportunity to bring to the fore what he has loyally provided the Kansas sound with in the background. Rich Williams adds a variety of textures to the music with his mysteriously overlooked guitar work, not the least of which consists of his volatile and meaty electric guitar tone. Even now-Anglican minister Dave Hope makes an appearance, sharing the bass playing duties with Greer. Livgren not only points back to songs of Kansas's great past, but to songs he wrote during the previous incarnation of Kansas, now recognized as Proto-Kaw. Despite it being their last studio album to date, this is my absolute favorite Kansas album, as I am blown away by the incredible compositions, unimpeachable performances, and the contemporary production standards. If anything, this great album demonstrates that for whatever reason, despite their many differences, both Livgren and Walsh are necessary ingredients for Kansas to make masterpieces.

"Icarus II" Majestic piano and violin initiate the first piece of the album. Walsh sings the first verse over a stark piano, and after an acoustic guitar interlude, the whole band explodes into action, producing a wall of sound. The lyrics describe a World War II bomber reflecting on his role in the grand scheme of things. One of my favorite Kansas lyrics is here: "For the evil that can come from the heart of a man must be answered in kind until it disappears." The theme to "Icarus- Borne on Wings of Steel" makes two appearances, once in the middle and once at the very end of the song. Two sections portray a dogfight that eventually claims the life of the narrator, as he is shot down. In spite of that, he feels a pervading sense of peace, and that frantic section in 5/4 leads right back to the beginning of the song, played at a slightly slower tempo. The musical climax of the song follows- a patriotic-sounding electric guitar passage that brings in the whole band.

"When the World Was Young" This rocker blends elements of progressive and mainstream music much in the way Kansas has sometimes been known to do. The guitars are delightfully gritty, as is Walsh's voice, which soars. The vocal melody is memorable, and the production is especially crisp. This is definitely a guitar-dominated track; Livgren employs a fine riff (it would seem he has an arsenal of those) to accommodate the dirty soloing. Steinhardt's violin plays on a short but enjoyable passage that brings the music back to the catchy chorus. There is a brief hearkening of "Magnum Opus" toward the end of the song, which is an absolutely apposite response a song reminiscing about days long gone.

"Grand Fun Alley" The band follows up one gritty song with a grittier one. In the vein of bluesy rockers like "Down the Road," this song provides Steinhardt a chance to handle the lead vocal work for a while. The guitar work is exciting, and Ehart does a good job shaking things up with his drumming (some of his best work on the album, in my opinion). One complaint I do have about this song is that the lyrics are so conveniently rhymed, they sound a bit stupid. The heavy rock music gives way to something more menacing, and a disembodied voice, which sounds like it's coming through an old radio, leaves the listener cold.

"The Coming Dawn (Thanatopsis)" This is the introspective piece of the album. Walsh's singing is at its most beautiful here, and the soft violin behind him is gorgeous. The parenthetical word in the title is from the Greek, and refers to meditations on death. The original "Thanatopsis" was penned by American poet William Cullen Bryant, and is a poem essentially about reflecting on nature and man's ultimate ties to nature; Livgren takes that Romantic theme farther. As the third verse shows, the song reflects Livgren's belief that his own legacy means nothing apart from his relationship with God. Something not well known is that the entire instrumental section to this lovely piece is in fact the exact same instrumental section used in "Reunion in the Mountains of Sarne," a song from the second incarnation of the band, and can be found on Proto-Kaw's release, Early Recordings from Kansas 1971-1973.

"Myriad" The longest piece on the album does not disappoint; no, it stands out as one of the most progressive things here. This is due in no small part to this song having been written in 1969-1970, when Livgren was in a band named Saratoga. With a few minor differences, the structure is similar to "Journey from Mariabronn." It features an instrumental introduction, vocal sections with intriguing lyrics (including a very strong chorus), an ominously powerful vocal bridge with exquisite counterpoint, that wonderfully elaborate instrumental section (loaded with organ and electric guitar and played in 5/4), and the way the music returns to the chorus before bringing the song back to the introduction, albeit in reversed order. Regarding the instrumental section, the listener is treated to a fine organ solo and two electric guitar solos, both of which simultaneously demonstrate the abilities of the musicians and remain firmly within the context of the music. Somewhere in between, there are wordless vocalizations comparable to Yes. Over a wondrous layer of strings is stunning bass segment that is featured not once, but twice. One can only imagine how this song might have appeared (and been received by die-hard Kansas fans) had it been included on an album like Leftoverture.

"Look at the Time" Right here is classic Kansas: Organ and piano playing almost in unison, guitar and bass playing almost in unison, powerful drums, and the amazing vocal talent of- Billy Greer? Greer makes his debut as a lead vocalist for Kansas on this song, and hearing his towering and clean voice, it only makes me wonder why he wasn't given the microphone more often since he joined in 1986. The verses are excellent, but the bridge is pure Kansas. I love the vocal melodies, as well as the way this song so quickly transitions from something uplifting to something more menacing. The musicianship during the instrumental section is top notch and dark, and the ending possess a similar mood.

"Disappearing Skin Tight Blues" Another bluesy rocker starring Steinhardt, it deceives the listener with a symphonic introduction that gets repeated after the first part. What this song is, however, is a heavier, bluesy number (as the title makes no effort to hide). The refrain is at once well-constructed, tightly performed, and an absolute delight to just let go and sing along to.

"Distant Vision" Beautiful piano and violin opens this majestic piece. It is difficult to describe this song without exhausting every superlative of praise I can possibly write. The band is perfect here, and both Steve Walsh and Robby Steinhardt partake of their roles as lead vocalists. In their own way, they both do an exceptional job, the former singing spiritedly and with conviction, the latter with a sense of awe and tranquility. Stunning piano runs and mesmerizing violin work, not to mention the valuable background instruments like the organ and the acoustic guitar, paint a splendid background for some marvelous lyrics. That bridge is moving, but that last chorus blows me away every time. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Kansas.

"Byzantium" The choir and the distant drums lend this piece a gorgeous Ancient Near-Eastern feel. It features lyrics that just take me to an era I have no immediate knowledge of. The words are some of the most hauntingly beautiful Livgren has ever written- it chills me to think of the United States of America in this light, but I suspect that one cannot help but do so.

"Not Man Big" The last listed song is a heavy rocker, opening with a strange noise before vociferous electric guitar and spunky bass jump into action. The vocals are loaded with energy and confidence. After a ripping electric guitar solo, an organ solo that gradually builds in complexity comes in over the riff. Following that, crunchy power chords in the vein of the attack sequence on "Icarus II" slow in tempo until Steinhardt relieves the tension with a commanding violin solo. The vocal work resumes thereafter. Funky bass and the barked vocals of some fans consume the second half of the song. Rather than having a conclusive end, the band allows the music to fall apart with the sound of people clapping and cheering, giving the feel that this was more like an impromptu jam session in someone's living room.

"Geodesic Dome" The album includes a fun, throwaway hidden track, perhaps an indication that while the boys can play, they can also play around.

Report this review (#201916)
Posted Friday, February 6, 2009 | Review Permalink
snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Most fresh Kansas album is their return to form. I think Kansas was most important US prog band in late 70-th, and their best albums are gold classic. But starting from the "Monolith" album they changed direction, than changed line-up. The music from classy prog rock turned to pop-rock, AOR or whatever you want. Plus some freaky religious lyrics...

I still tryed to believe in them buying one Lp after another. But after their "Power"album I put a big cross in band's name.

After years to come one day I found their live album with orchestra ( "Always Never The Same") and my interest to their music was refreshed.

But "Somewhere To Elsewhere " is first their modern time album which is good enough! Ok, the old band's line-up returned back, so there are classic Kansas again. Starting from very first song, you hear usual classic Kansas sound from late 70-th. Voice is as good as 20+ yrs ago, the same arrangements. Music is generally same sympho prog but without keyboards domination, but in many places you can hear some additional styles used ( often blues-rock or some AOR elements). But all in all album is classic sympho-rock played by classics of this style.

To be honest, the album couldn't be placed at the same highest level of their best albums in the past. You can't return time back again: the music in fact is good example of their old school, not much. So, for real masterpieces go to "Leftoverture"or "Point of Know Return", but for many Kansas fans this new album is pleasant confirmation, that their legendary band still can play really good music.

Report this review (#241130)
Posted Thursday, September 24, 2009 | Review Permalink
Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars What? for the first time in two decades the original Kansas is back together? And they made a prog album? Fantastic! Steve Walsh's voice is getting raspier? Okay, but I bet he gives it a good try. At least the classic lineup is back. Dave Hope doesn't play on the whole album? I suppose Billy Greer is okay. Hope and Kerry Livgren aren't staying with the band? Awwwww, nuts!

At least for one album we got a classic Kansas album. While it's not up to the level of Leftoverture and Point Of Know Return, it is still a formidable prog album. And it's what we Kansas fans have been waiting for for far too long. There is still a bit of the maudlin stuff that's appeared on the last bunch of albums, but not very much.

Report this review (#276763)
Posted Wednesday, April 7, 2010 | Review Permalink
b_olariu
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Kansas are back in full form and in original line up after 20 years, a great comback for the fans and in prog world in general. After another gap of 5 years after previous one Freaks of nature, Kansas released in 2000 Somewhere to elsewhere, agood album where the old sound of the band is present more then ever before. Some pieces has that special atmosphere of the golden era like on Masque, Leftoverture or Point of know return, tracks like Icarus II, has a majestic intro and developed further on in a spectacular arrangements, recaptuering the essence of the classic Kansas sound, even the voice of Walsh in places is little more edged and harsh then before he hasn't lost any of his fire and emotion through the album. Another worthy piece from the album and my fav from here is Myriad a truly great progressive rock tune where all musicians shine, a great come back to form of the veterans. here the pieces are long enought to show us that they are still in bussines and pretty good I must tell, overall a good album but I can't give more then a 3 stars , maybe 3.5. While is pleasent and fairly enjoyble , I think some moments are uninspired like on Look at the time. Anyway Kansas remain on of the most well known band in history with great contribution to progressive rock, we all hope, or at least I hope for another studio album in the future.
Report this review (#292825)
Posted Saturday, July 31, 2010 | Review Permalink
Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
2 stars It's always a two sided tale when listening to a comeback album by practically any artist. First we have the anticipation of hearing what the band/artist is capable of after all these years. It's also interesting to see which direction the band/artist decides to undertake. Unfortunately this second point is usually somewhat of a disappointment when it comes to prog bands since it's usually a comeback to the '70s sound that made them famous, which is not all that progressive! The only exception to that rule has been achieved by King Crimson's reunion in the '90s which spawned some of the best comeback recordings that have ever been produced.

With all this in mind, let's proceed with the exploration of Somewhere Elsewhere. In Kansas' case, these guys are still capable of creating great music. Case and point - Icarus II or Myriad. Unfortunately it's the direction that is laking. The band clearly tries to satisfy everyone by doing so many different types of songs and manages only to satisfy the hardcore fan base. One might argue that this is what an excellent comeback is suppose to do since, at the end of the day, happy fans is all that really counts. But to me that sounds like setting a very low bar and I would have done without this release, but now I'm only highlighting my previous point.

If you're a big fan of this band's '70s material and can handle their '80s sound then this is an album well worth checking out. New to Kansas? Stay away from this release.

**** star songs: Icarus II (7:17) Myriad (8:55) Look At The Time (5:37) Distant Vision (8:48)

*** star songs: When The World Was Young (5:50) Grand Fun Alley (4:38) The Coming Dawn (Thanatopsis) (5:44) Disappearing Skin Tight Blues (7:02) Byzantium (4:15) Not Man Big (8:39) Geodesic Dome (1:24)

Report this review (#301735)
Posted Sunday, October 3, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Since Point of Know Return, Kansas' output had been quite patchy, so when this album was muted, expectations were quite low. But as it turned out, this was a welcome return to form. Once again the master songsmith Kerry Livgren counjoured up some gems. Of course, like most Kansas albums, even the best ones, there are some contrasting poor songs, or to be charitable, songs that do not fit the prog-rock genre.

Icarus II is more than a worthy successor to its well known younger brother, reprising the violin refrain, but otherwise an original song. This is followed by a couple of forgettable AOR tracks. Things get back on track with The Coming Dawn (shades of The Wall), Myriad (apparently a very old song) and Look At The Time, each a winner. Skip track 7 then on to Distant Vision and Byzantium, two more top songs.

All in all 40 minutes of top class prog, only slightly let down by 27 minutes of, well...filler. Can any other Kanas album boast 40 minutes of this quality? Not in my opinion, so maybe this is the best Kanas album.

**** 01. Icarus II (7:17) ** 02. When The World Was Young (5:50) * 03. Grand Fun Alley (4:38) **** 04. The Coming Dawn (Thanatopsis) (5:44) ***** 05. Myriad (8:55) **** 06. Look At The Time (5:37) * 07. Disappearing Skin Tight Blues (7:02) ***** 08. Distant Vision (8:48) ***** 09. Byzantium (4:15) * 10. Not Man Big (8:39) * 11. Mystery Track (1:24)

Report this review (#301907)
Posted Sunday, October 3, 2010 | Review Permalink
colorofmoney91
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Somewhere To Elsewhere is a return to form for Kansas, after a long period of decent radio rock material. The songs here show a return of the progressive songwriting that initially made Kansas a stand out progressive rock act. One thing that is immediately noticeable on this album is Steve Walsh's vocals seem to have aged a little rough. The vocals just don't soar and aren't as powerful as they once were, but it is totally forgivable given how long this band has been around and touring. I will admit that the music does sound a tad dry at times, but still more progressive than recent releases. The country rock element is still strong, and the opening track "Icarus" has a strong patriotic feel and also gets quite heavy. This album is definitely recommended for any fans of Kansas' earlier and more progressive material, but don't expect to be blown away by anything new.
Report this review (#431184)
Posted Monday, April 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars A return to form? Almost. When I first heard this I was really surprised to hear how much this sounded like the CLASSIC Kansas of bygone days. After years of poor and mediocre pop/rock albums like POWER, and the awful DRASTIC MEASURES, this is a breath of fresh air. Too bad it is 11 years since this without new music. "Icarus II", "When the World Was Young", "The Coming Dawn", "Myriad", "llok at the TIme", and "Byzantium" are solid, fine tracks worthy of most classic comparisons. It is obvious that Kansas is a different band with and without the songwriting abilities of Kerry Livgren. The weaker tracks here do, however, bring the album down. I rate this a 4. Somewhere between MONOLITH and MASQUE.
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Posted Thursday, April 14, 2011 | Review Permalink
Chicapah
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars In American pro football a "Hail Mary" pass is a ploy that involves a frustrated quarterback heaving the game's oblong pigskin orb about half the length of the field as time is about to expire. The hope is that somehow victory can be snatched from the gruesome jaws of defeat if one of the desperate team's outnumbered receivers can miraculously grab and secure the ball in the end zone while surrounded by tall athletes that would rather die than allow such a tragic thing to occur on their watch. Obviously the success rate for such a maneuver is similar to the odds of winning the tri-state lottery but, as Bob Dylan sang, "When you ain't got nothin' you got nothin' to lose."

"Somewhere to Elsewhere" was Kansas' Hail Mary. In the glorious 70s the band had risen from humble beginnings to being acknowledged as the USA's premier progressive rock group. In the 80s, however, key members became distracted by grass that looked a lot greener over yonder and the ensemble lost their credibility after sub-par replacements failed to measure up. The three albums of fresh but questionable material released during the 90s did little to change their sagging fortunes and their stock hit an all-time low as the millennium came to a close. Apparently at some point a peace pipe was brought out to be shared by the original members and, during said smoke-a-thon, it was agreed that the only way to save the franchise from oblivion was to put aside all ill will and return en masse to the euphoric good ol' days when they'd make an LP and it would sell like cheap beer at an outdoor rodeo. But, as they say, the trail to disappointment is paved with admirable intentions and, unfortunately, "Somewhere to Elsewhere" is mediocre more often than not.

When proggers caught wind that Kerry Livgren, Steve Walsh, Robby Steinhardt, Richard Williams, Phil Ehart and Dave Hope (along with latecomer bassist Billy Greer) were together again and able to coexist in the same studio room without fisticuffs erupting optimism ran high. Toss in rumors that principal songwriter Livgren had penned every tune and their fans were ready for a slam dunk. How could it fail? When the CD was released in the middle of 2000 many bought/downloaded it without hearing a note. Walsh's strong piano opening for the 7-minute "Icarus II" was a good omen yet a new reality settled in within minutes. Steve's once-formidable voice was still accurate and confident but his register was noticeably lower as he delivered the verses and choruses (His high, stirring timbre had always provided Kansas with an indelible stamp of uniqueness). The song ain't half bad, though. The punchy metallic turn halfway through gives the track a sharp edge and the ending is suitably and satisfyingly large-scale prog. Had they gotten bolder at this juncture the disc would be a whole 'nother animal to evaluate but the next tune, "When the World Was Young," is a pedestrian rocker that's surprisingly tame. As a specimen of pop rock it's okay but it owns all the earmarks of a product assembled by a codependent band trying too hard to please everyone (an impossible task). A heavy funk feel rumbles along underneath "Grand Fun Alley" and they wisely mix in some potent prog rock intervals to keep things interesting so all is far from lost at this juncture. "The Coming Dawn (Thanatopsis)" is a dramatic ballad presented well but it's a bit too calculated to truly wow. I can't put my finger directly on what it is but there's some essential ingredient missing that keeps the tune from reaching its potential.

"Myriad" possesses a powerful intro that sets the stage for something exciting to happen. Alas, as much as I wanted to be blown away, the meat of the song doesn't exactly thrill me to the marrow. I'll grant them kudos for the ELP-like instrumental section that quickened my pulse briefly yet overall I must relate that it sails wide of the mark. "Look At the Time" is a clear change of pace. It's a Beatle-ish ditty that manages to evolve into a much bigger beast along the way, offering moments of grandeur that are very much appreciated. Even in their heyday Kansas would sometimes succumb to their bluesy rock & roll tendencies and "Disappearing Skin Tight Blues" serves as a prime example. The number doesn't do much for me despite a few proggy excursions that lift the mood slightly. "Distant Vision" is the standout track. Its involved, moving initial sequence effectively captures what made Kansas such a symphonic prog treasure chest in the 1970s. This time the verses and subsequent choruses are exhilarating and the emotional middle instrumental movement does what exceptional prog can do in that it takes you on a journey. No doubt, the guys still had it in them. "Byzantium" is another highlight. The boys-choir-warbling-in-the-cavernous-monastery beginning is greatness and the cellos add an exotic hue to the proceedings. I applaud their willingness to take a risk with this cut because it pays off large. "Not Man Big" signals a return to the safer heavy arena rock format. The tune's palpable Led Zeppelin vibe is commendable and they lock into a comfortable groove during the extended ending but I was really wishing for something remarkable to occur on an epic scale. "Geodesic Dome" is a frivolous tag that probably seemed clever at the time but isn't. It's a very short (thank you so much) outtake that sounds like it was recorded on a Radio Shack Dictaphone in a Motel 6 after a night of hardy partying. Really, fellas? Ensemble-performed fart harmonies would've been funnier and much more entertaining.

One overriding aspect of the sound that bugged me consistently is the odd ambience bouncing around in the record's atmosphere and it's especially noticeable emanating from the drum booth. I don't really understand how that was tolerated since I rank Ehart as one of our nation's better stickmen but stranger things have happened in the studio environ, that's for sure. I can tell that most of the reviewers who chimed in on this album liked it more than me so that's definitely worth taking into account. Since I'm woefully unfamiliar with their output from 79's "Monolith" to 98's "Always Never the Same" the favorable nods the band garnered for this disc may be more reflective of how much better it is than those 8 records were than for its own individual merits. I don't know and I'm not sure I'll ever find out. All I can report is what I deem "Somewhere to Elsewhere" to be and I find it average prog fare. The fact that twelve years later there has yet to be a follow-up speaks volumes. Kansas' Hail Mary fell inconsequentially to the turf out of bounds and the victory parade had to be cancelled. 2.5 stars.

Report this review (#759358)
Posted Sunday, May 27, 2012 | Review Permalink
Guillermo
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars I think that the main Progressive Rock influences in Kansas were always contributed by Kerry Livgren, as this album shows. This is the first studio album from the band with him since "Drastic Measures" in 1983, a very Pop Rock album which maybe disappointed him very much and he (as Dave Hope also did the same) left the band in 1984. After that, Kansas split too, until it was reformed by Phil Ehart and Rich Williams in 1985, again with Steve Walsh as lead singer and keyboard player, with two new members, Billy Greer and Steve Morse, and without a violin player.They recorded two other albums with less and less Prog Rock arrangements and more oriented to Pop Rock and Hard Rock music. And after several line-up changes and tours in the nineties (sometimes with Livgren and Hope) and some live albums and a studio album in 1995 ("Freaks of Nature"), they finally released this studio album in 2000 titled "Somewhere to Elsewhere", with all songs composed by Livgren, and with the presence of the six original members of the band (more or less, as Hope only appears on two tracks and Walsh sings in most but not on all the songs, and he recorded his vocals apart while he was away recording a solo album), and with Greer playing bass on most songs and also singing lead vocals on one song ("Look at the Time"). Robbie Steinhardt´s violin playing is very present in most songs, with some classical music arrangements, and the band, as in the seventies, has a mixture of very Progressive Rock and classical music arrangements and also some Heavy Rock arrangements, very typical from them at the time, but most of the time without the Pop Rock influences which were very present in their albums from the eighties. Steinhardt also sings lead vocals in some songs. So, as a whole this album is very good, bringing back the sound of the original Kansas line-up from the seventies most of the time. This is a very good album.
Report this review (#1007175)
Posted Saturday, July 27, 2013 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
2 stars The year 2000 saw more than the notorious Y2K scare worldwide, it turns out it was also the year that one of the USA's most revered symphonic prog bands decided to reunite with a their classic 70s lineup. The result was enough to get the prog world whipped into a frenzy and drooling for more classic tracks a la 'Carry On My Wayward Son,' 'Point Of Know Return' and 'Dust In The Wind.' While the classic lineup of Steve Walsh (vocals), Rich Williams (guitar), Phil Ehart (drums), Dave Hope (bass), Kerry Livgen (keyboards), Rich Williams (guitar) and Robby Steinhardt (violin, viola) is back for their 13th studio album SOMEWHERE TO ELSEWHERE, strictly speaking this is a reunion plus one since Billy Greer who joined the band for the 'Power' album is along for the ride.

This is one of those albums that sounds exciting on paper but i actually found it a chore to get through it. The first thing that's noticeable upon first listen is how wretched sounding Steve Walsh's vocal abilities have become. In fact it doesn't even sound like him and there are moments that make me think i'm hearing Don Henley instead. If that wasn't bad enough i don't find any of the songs memorable either. This is symphonic prog by the numbers and there isn't even spark of the passion that made the early years so exciting. The band sounds totally out of practice and not into it at all. The songwriting has certain moments that seem like they're ready to go somewhere interesting but i always feel disappointed and there are no outbursts of virtuosity or surprises of any kind.

I have never found any of KANSAS' output after 'Point Of Know Return' to really excite me save a track here and there. The musical magic that they had on their run from the debut and following three albums seemed to have dissipated when many prog bands were steering towards top 40 AOR sounds. This album sounds more like one of those worst of the 80s AOR disasters. I actually love AOR when the songwriting is good and supports the slow and emotional performances but every time Steve Walsh utters a note on this one just makes me cringe! I can't believe they bothered to record this stuff at such substandard quality. I don't want to say this is totally a waste of time for anyone who enjoyed KANSAS after their heyday might dig some of this but for me i have no desire to hear this again. A highly disappointing reunion album that makes the Yes 'Union' sound classic in comparison. For hardcore fans only.

Report this review (#1520064)
Posted Monday, January 25, 2016 | Review Permalink
TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
3 stars The year 2000 saw the return of the original line-up of Kansas, the first time they had recorded a studio album together since 'Audio-Visions' in 1980. Even though several incarnations of the band continued to record albums, the original line-up of Steve Walsh, Kerry Livgren, Rich Williams, Dave Hope, Phil Ehart and Robby Steinhardt didn't reunite until the release of Kansas' 14 studio album 'Somewhere to Elsewhere'. For this album, Billy Greer was also along, even though he was not in that classic line-up, he had been in the band since 1985.

The entire band recorded at Kerry's studio, all except for Walsh, who tracked his vocals in his home studio. The line up featured Walsh on lead vocals on 7 out of 11 of the tracks and the vocals were his only contribution to the album. Livgren composed all of the tracks and played guitars and keyboards, produced and mixed the album and sings on the hidden track at the end. Steinhardt played violin and viola and sang lead vocals on 3 tracks. Rich Williams played guitar and helped produce the album. Dave Hope plays bass on only 2 of the tracks while Bill Greer provides bass on the remainder of them and sings lead vocals on 1 of them. Phil Ehart provides the drums and acts as producer.

So, hopes were high for this album because it was to be a return to the classic prog sound of the original band. Many fans had given up on hearing that classic sound again, but the band was out to give them one more surprise. 'Icarus II' hints to the return to form with a 'continuation' of their masterpiece from the 'Song for America' album. From the opening strains, you can hear the familiar sounds of the band that once was. The sound is a bit cleaner than before, and Walsh's vocals are a bit strained, but not so much as you might expect since he still has a lot of power behind them, maybe a touch more gruffness. Little snippets of melodies are borrowed from the original Icarus song, but as it moves into the instrumental break, the guitar gives us a heavier sound than what we had before, but the lovely violin parts are there to remind us that who the band used to be. There is also more of a progressive edge to the music than what we have heard for a while, and that is great, but it's not quite as complex as it once was. But it is by far better than what we have heard from the since 'Point of No Return'.

We're on our way, and the harder edge continues in 'When the World was Young'. Walsh's vocals seem a bit shakier on this one, especially in the lower registers. His strength is in his mid-range now, as his higher register tends to be a bit blown out. He has to almost scream to get the higher notes out, but granted, its not that bad. This track is a bit more on the accessible, hard-rock side with less progressive sound, but still better than what we have heard lately. The violin, guitar and keys are all restrained and straightforward, not as progressive as the first track. Again, there is a snippet of classic Kansas riffage towards the end that the fans will recognize. 'Grand Fun Alley' features Steinhardt on lead vocals. His voice sounds very much like it used to, just not as sure of itself, but the music seems lightweight for his voice. Again, this track is also straitforward compared to the band's glory days, but the guitar solo is pretty good, but the synths are unconvincing, and it all comes across as sounding like Styx's attempts at a comeback. 'The Coming Dawn (Thanatopsis)' brings Walsh back to the mic for a slower, ballad-like track with piano and violin accompanying him at first, and then bringing the band in later. The track is decent enough, but, again, it is a bit straightforward. There is that uplifting feel to it, similar to 'The Wall' from Leftoverture, lovely and passionate, with nice build in the instrumental section. However, it starts to droop a bit just before the vocals come back in. It's a good one for lovers of the heartrending side of the band.

With the longer run time (+ 8 minutes), there is hope that this track is more on the progressive side like the opening track. It starts off slow and rhapsodic at first, but then the band comes in and builds the music and sounding like something from 'Point of No Return', there are hints of progressiveness there, the song structure a little more complex, but still leaning towards the hard-rock sound. The best part comes along halfway through when it goes into the instrumental break, and things get more complex, and the nod to the jazz sound is a nice surprise. However, the band's attempt to scat (?) is a bit cringe-worthy. It's not bad, but it's not at the level of their best work. 'Look at the Time' features Greer on the vocals as he gets to tie the two sides of the band together, the old and the new. This one is a bit weak though, the background singers sounding like they don't really want to be there. The middle instrumental section is not too bad as it sounds a bit symphonic and the violin and guitar try to save the track.

'Disappearing Skin Tight Blues' brings back Robby on the vocals. A violin introduction starts things off, but soon gets replaced by the blues riffage that seem to accompany his vocals most of the time. This time, his vocals prove he is more sure of himself again. It's a bit bright on the chorus, however, for a blues song, but it's kind of fun anyway, bringing a more carefree side to the album. It turns out to not be as corny as you might think, and Steinhardt is more convincing on the more blues- driven tracks anyway. It's a good track, just not progressive as much as it is nostalgic, and it fits well on the album. 'Distant Vision' is a better return to form like the first track on this album, and one with a decent runtime to prove it. It has a long introduction before Walsh's vocals come in and a good amount of complexity in the tricky meters. Once again, the time is used well here, the composition is great and you get an excellent reminder of the great band that used to be. For the first time in a long time, Robby shares the lead vocal work as he sings in the middle section, and this is the best he sounds on this album. This is a definite highlight of the album.

'Byzantium' begins with a choir singing and the low strains of a viola. This sparse intro brings in Walsh's vocals for something that is completely different for Kansas, and its good to hear them try out a different sound, not always trying to copy themselves. It's a nice change of pace and a pleasant surprise. 'Not Man Big' finishes it all off with a pretty good rocker that moves through various tempo shifts, gives the organ a chance to shine, and utilizes the viola and guitar together well, and even has time for a short, blistering violin solo that you wish was longer. The ending is a lot weaker than it should be though, as it just kind of takes up space. There is a short, hidden track called 'Geodesic Dome' which features Livgren doing some rare vocalization. It's a low-fi track that is supposed to be humorous, I suppose.

Overall, it's a pretty good attempt at bringing back the classic line-up one more time, but, other than 3 great tracks (Icarus II, Disappearing Skin Tight Blues, Distant Vision), and a few surprises here and there, it still doesn't quite match up to their best work. It's worth a listen, and many fans tend to give it rave reviews, but doesn't quite hit the mark for me. The best tracks on here do a decent job of recovering their original sound, but it would have been nice to hear the band's take on some updated progressive styles and not revert so much to the more popular hard-rock style that it does too often on the album. And the real complexity of the music isn't there anymore either, though it does come close in a few places. It's worth picking up, anyway, at least from a fan's perspective, but don't pay a lot of money for it. At least it's better than what they have done for a while. 3 stars.

Report this review (#2278326)
Posted Tuesday, November 5, 2019 | Review Permalink
4 stars Featuring the classic lineup of Kansas ("Kansas is still..."), the sextet of Ehart, Livgren, Walsh, Hope, Williams and Steinhardt is joined by recent bass player Billy Greer to produce a very nice comeback cd that mostly follows in the footsteps of their classic 70's style.

Steve Walsh's voice sounds a bit rougher and older (surprise!) these days, but he can still put most modern prog singers to shame with his vocal range and emotive style. Steinhardt's vocals sound superb.

For me, this album got stronger as it went along. The opener "Icarus II" is a pretty good song with great lyrics, but I wish they hadn't resorted to the 90's-sounding heavy-chugging metal guitar sounds in the middle of the song (as well as on a couple of other spots on the cd). The next two songs are more in the "bar band" style that they go to a couple of times on most albums (think "Down the Road" or "Stay Out Of Trouble").

Then the more progressive/jazzy stuff for which Kansas gained the favor of progheads starts to emerge in tracks like "Myriad", "Distant Vision" and "Byzantium". Another good bluesy number ("Disappearing...") and the radio-friendly "Look at the Time" keep the album interesting. However, the finale "Not Man Big" is not in my favorite Kansas style, and while some may enjoy the little ditty tacked onto this track ("...Geodesic Dome?"), I find it out-of-place, unnecessary, and kind of an album spoiler.

I've always loved the way Kansas combined the spirit and feel of the American Heartland into their unique brand of prog, as well as the way they were able to rock out like a typical Midwest bar band. So this album gets fairly high marks from me, just because it's good Kansas music; but it would still probably have to stand behind all of their classic 70's stuff in terms of overall quality.

Indulge me for a moment...my personal favorite Kansas albums, ranked best to worst: 1.) Leftoverture (1976) - prog classic! 2.) Point of Know Return (1977) - more odd meters than ever!, very "clean" sound. 3.) Song For America (1975) - the title track is their best ever. Period. 4.) Masque (1975) - not as proggy, but lots to like. 5.) Monolith (1979) - plenty to enjoy, but a step back from "Left" and "Point". 6.) Kansas (1974) - finding their sound, and some hidden gems. 7.) Audio Visions (1980) - showing signs of decline; more AOR sounding. Their live "Two For The Show" (1978) is probably their best "best of" out there. And finally "Somewhere to Elsewhere"...pretty good, a real nice comeback album (22 years later!), and worth your attention and money.

3-1/2 stars

Report this review (#2442141)
Posted Friday, August 28, 2020 | Review Permalink

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