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4 stars For the second time, artful classic rockers Kansas have issued a 2-CD, 26-song retrospective collecting choice tracks from the early commercial peak of their career. Once again, the retrospective features their greatest hits: the mindblowing, multi-faceted radio smash "Carry On Wayward Son"; the sweetly racing "Point Of Know Return"; the timeless, gorgeous ballad "Dust In The Wind"; etc. And once again, there isn't a vaguely weak track in the mix: even lesser-known cuts like the stampeding "Mysteries And Mayhem," the majestically poignant "Closet Chronicles," and the energetic epic "Journey From Mariabronn" (which are among the many tracks on both retrospectives) crackle with vitality and artistic brilliance. This time around, the retrospective is called "The Ultimate Kansas."

The first such retrospective was the "Kansas Box Set," and it had several virtues that "The Ultimate Kansas" lacks. It was sensibly organized: Disc one covered their first three albums; disc two spanned the following four. It had new tracks for diehard fans: three previously unreleased live recordings plus one new studio recording. Furthermore, its name made sense: It really was a "Kansas Box Set."

The new "The Ultimate Kansas" has virtues of its own, but truth-in-naming is not among them: It is certainly not the ULTIMATE Kansas. It contains no new material. It omits many killer early Kansas tunes ("Lonely Wind," "Got To Rock On," "Icarus," etc.), some of which could have been squeezed onto the discs; it doesn't even provide the now-out-of-print hit rocker "Perfect Lover" from the original issue of Kansas' single-disc best-of album. The flow of the tracklist is questionable and occasionally needlessly incoherent. Overall, the album feels like just a more commercial version of the "Box Set," aimed more toward the mainstream. ("For the masses in Consumerland / Give 'em everything that they demand....") But in that lie its virtues: It includes hits like the bracing "Fight Fire With Fire" and the dramatic "Play The Game Tonight" that aren't in the "Box"; and for listeners who aren't already Kansas converts, it's good to have "Wayward Son" and "Know Return" leading off discs one and two (respectively). This is an enormously engaging collection, and people looking to discover the greatness of Kansas will be unable to resist those two opening hooks.

On the other hand, it's not clear why Kansas neophytes would opt for this twin-disc set over the perfectly adequate single-disc best-of album, making this release of questionable relevance. Neither newcomers nor diehards really need it. Besides, anyone who really appreciates energetic, artistically substantial, enduringly resonant rock music should probably get some of Kansas' individual albums instead of one single retrospective. But "The Ultimate Kansas" does contain 26 superb tracks --every song crackles with vitality and artistic brilliance (it's worth repeating)-- and it's hard to go wrong with this much greatness in one place.

Report this review (#21949)
Posted Thursday, July 8, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is exactly what it says it is, ''The Ultimate Kansas''. All the songs have been remastered for the highest possible quality and they feature the very best of the KANSAS catalog in a refreshingly potent and aurally intoxicating way.

KANSAS blazed a trail for all the prog rockers that came after them with their free spirited lyrics and adventurous musically complex arrangements. They hailed from Topeka, KANSAS, and their chances to succeed were against all odds. Their tremendous success is what makes their legacy that much more interesting and incredible. So it's not only the music that tells the story, it's the band and the individuals that made the music that completes this fantastic circle of emotions and sound.

I don't think you will find a better collection of KANSAS at their peak, and that includes the previously released boxed set. There are 26 tracks, no fluff or filler, just primo prog-rock found in each and every track. How many groups can put out a two CD Best Of set without one dud on it? Not many, trust me. Appropriately, their most recognizable song besides "Dust In The Wind," "Carry On Wayward Son," leads off this marvelous two CD set. And everything else that follows is equally gripping and exhilarating. One of the best one-two-punch rock vocal duos ever known paired Steve Walsh, who also played keyboards, and Robbie Steinhardt, who gave the group a definitely progressive flavor with his vigorous electric violin, gave their music unrivaled emotion and body. And the prolific writing talents of Kerry Livgren, who also played a mighty guitar, were major cogs in the KANSAS music machine.

"What's On My Mind" is my favorite track, I find it irresistible, and it's very hard not to sing to, it's a real rocker with deep and meaningful lyrics. In fact, all of the KANSAS songs have a lot of meaning; there is a two fold reason why so many people enjoy their music. It's not only the sounds, it's the subject matter of the songs that people can relate to their own lives that makes it so appealing. "Portrait (He Knew)" has to be one of the most thought provoking rock songs ever recorded; it's about Albert Einstein, which I never knew. If you listen closely it really hits the mark. "Sparks Of The Tempest" is another rocker that I always loved with mythology and an ancient civilization as the stage.

Reflecting upon my own history listening to the group, I found ''Monolith'', ''Leftoverture'' and ''Point Of Know Return'' to be the strongest material of their career. Although all their music was great, these are the three albums I remember most.

The last track is a live version of "Magnum Opus," and what a rocking and powerful version it is. I have had the pleasure to see the group live in 1983 and then most recently on July 7th of this year. If you listen to this and get excited about catching them live, that's a good thing. Please remember that they are not the same group they once were. They were good, but nothing like they were when all the original members were together in their prime.

If you need a good introduction to this group this is a great place to start, then work your way back through their catalog. If you happen to have every release, this would be nice to have all of the best packed into two discs rather than skipping around looking for your favorite songs. That's something that I never do actually, I listen to the entire album straight through, especially when it's a great prog-rock group like KANSAS. You really have to pay attention to each and every song so you don't miss anything, there is always so much going on.

Your search can now come to and end for the ultimate package, this is it. Unless of course they release a more comprehensive boxed set with a lot of rarities and live tracks. You never know...

Report this review (#21951)
Posted Wednesday, January 26, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is a good solid encapsulation of the band, Kansas. No, not every song is here, but it does serve as a good overall picture of the group thru their first several albums. Most everyone know of "Dust in the Wind", "Point of Know Return" and "carry on".........but listen to "The Pinnacle" or "Mariabronn" and tell me this isn't one of the better prog bands from the 70's. Quality tunes from a quality prog rock band.

Solid 4 stars.

Report this review (#69635)
Posted Thursday, February 16, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars If you want an overview of Kansas in their prime (OK we'll forget about the Elefante era pop that unfortunately makes its appearance on this collection) this is the one.

Capturing material right from their first album it contains pretty much every favourite Kansas track I ever owned.

Don't be tempted by the "Best of Kansas". Buy this instead it's a far more complete and representative sampler of a once great band

Report this review (#102052)
Posted Thursday, December 7, 2006 | Review Permalink
Prog Folk Researcher
3 stars Whether this is actually the 'ultimate' Kansas collection depends mostly on what you consider to be essential to an ultimate collection of a band's music I suppose. If you're looking for some of their most memorable songs and fan favorites, then this is a pretty decent assortment. If you are a casual fan or someone who is just looking to get all the band's hits in one place you may be in for a bit of a disappointment, especially if you discovered Kansas sometime after their heyday of the mid- to late-seventies.

All the early obvious hits are here, including "Carry On Wayward Son", "Dust in the Wind", "Point of Know Return", "Hold On", "Portrait (He Knew)" and even "People of the South Wind", a dear favorite of older Kansas fans like me who grew up in that state and were touched by the fan tribute inherent in its lyrics.

But for later fans of the more mainstream side of the band you'll quickly notice a few omissions, including two of their Top-40 eighties hits "All I Wanted" and "Stand Beside Me". Good riddance as far as I'm concerned, but in the interest of full disclosure the absence of these hits needs to be called out. "Lonely Wind" which was the only single from the multi-platinum live 'Two for the Show' is also missing which surprises me just a bit. And "Reason to Be" which was the other single along with "People of the South Wind" from 'Monolith' (and probably the best song on that album) is also absent. This is an Epic release and was restricted contractually to the Kirshner segment of the band's catalog which explains why the MCA recordings from the eighties are missing, but doesn't account for the 'Two for the Show' and 'Monolith' slights. I suppose the reason these were left out was to make room for some of the earlier and longer non-single tracks like "The Pinnacle", "Song for America" and "Journey From Mariabronn" which I wholeheartedly agree had to be included in anything with a label of 'Ultimate Kansas' on it. Still, neither disc is longer than seventy-two minutes so those songs could still have been added; I guess I've no explanation why they weren't.

Everything is from the original studio recordings, but they're all remastered so the sound quality and clarity of the music is quite excellent. That said, all of these songs are available on their remastered reissues as well, but if you want them without having to purchase nine different records this is a pretty good way to go.

This collection was reissued under the title "Essential Kansas 3.0" by Sony a couple years ago and for about the same price you can get a third disc that includes six more very solid songs from the Walsh / Livgren days before everything went sour, plus "Got To Rock On" which is another single that was left out of the first release. If you're going to add this to your collection I strongly suggest the Sony version over the Epic one.

Nothing new here, but not a bad collection if you want to pick up most of their key songs and hit singles in one fail swoop. Personally I'd encourage you to check out the 1994 Sony boxed-set instead, or even better 'Sail On: The 30th Anniversary Collection' which includes an awesome DVD in addition to many of these songs and at least one from each of their albums released between 1974-2000. But if you insist on this one you probably won't be disappointed, and on the whole it rates at least three out of five stars for being pretty (but not completely) comprehensive as well as quite well engineered.


Report this review (#294678)
Posted Sunday, August 15, 2010 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
3 stars Another "Ultimate" Kansas collection?? Well, it looks like it. the main difference here from the other Ultimate Kansas Collection from 1994 is that the tracks here are all remastered which makes the tracks from Monolith specially atractive for exemple since this is one of their albums yet waiting for its remastered edition. Other than that this is a pretty good collection of trheir best stuff indeed, although for some reason they skipped one of Kansas greatest songs ever: Icarus (Born On Wings Of Steel). How they missed this classic track (and live favorite) is beyond my comprehension. The fact that there was enough space available on both CDs only enhances my puzzlement. Belexes is another great one missing here. However, for a newbie The Ultimate Kansas serves well its purpose: it has most of the hits, several prog epics of high caliber and a real fantastic overall sound. It gives a very good overview of the group´s legacy without having to buy all of their CDs.

Like the 1994 release, this compilation concentrades mostly on their progressive stuff of the 70´s, but it also has some of their 80´s hits too, like Fight Fire With Fire and Play The Game Tonight. It´s strange to hear those two AOR tracks thrown together with the more progressive material of early. It would be much more interesting to have the tunes in chronological order, so one could notice their development through the years. I´m not sure but it seems that the live version of Magnum Opus was edited for this release. I particularly liked the inclusion of People Of South Wind (a very underated song), the brilliant kind of forgotten masterpiece of The Pinnacle and A Glimpse Of Home, from their excellent ´come back´ album of 2000, Somewhere To Elesewhere.

Conclusion: seldom a compilation of sorts can satisfy most of fans and this one is clearly the case. Some omitions may sound criminal to some and the inclusion of others might be questionable to others. Still, The Ultimate Kansas has most of the essential stuff for anyone who wants to get started with this legendary band from the USA. and the sound quality is the best available from any other best of collection.

Rating: 3.5 stars.

Report this review (#446342)
Posted Thursday, May 12, 2011 | Review Permalink

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