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Kerry Livgren

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Kerry Livgren Seeds Of Change album cover
3.51 | 45 ratings | 7 reviews | 18% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1980

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Just One Way (5:45)
2. Mask Of The Great Deceiver (7:34)
3. How Can You Live (4:12)
4. Whiskey Seed (5:33)
5. To Live For The King(4:56)
6. Down To The Core (5:18)
7. Ground Zero (8:33)

Total Time: 41:51

Bonus track on 1996 CD release:
8. Interview With Kerry Livgren (21:23)

Line-up / Musicians

- Kerry Livgren / guitar, piano, organ, synth, Fender Rhodes, clavinet, bass (3,6), mongo drums (4), percussion (7), lead vocals (4), co-producer

- Jeff Pollard / lead vocals (1)
- Ronnie James Dio / lead vocals (2,5)
- Steve Walsh / lead (3) & backing (5) vocals
- Mylon Lefevre / lead (4) & backing (1,3,7) vocals
- Davey Moire / lead (6) & backing (7) vocals
- David Pack / lead vocals (7)
- John Fristoe / backing vocals (1,3)
- Joey Jelf / backing vocals (3,5)
- Donna Williams / backing vocals (5,7)
- Victoria Livgren / backing vocals (6)
- Brad Aaron / backing vocals (7), co-producer
- Steve Venezia / backing vocals (7)
- Darryl Kutz / harmonica (4)
- Robby Steinhardt / violins (7)
- Paul Goddard / bass (1,2,4)
- Gary Gilbert / bass (5)
- Barriemore Barlow / drums (1-3,6)
- Phil Ehart / drums (4,7)
- John Thompson / drums (5), gong (7)
- Bobby Campo / percussion & trumpet (1), tambourine (3), horns (6)

Releases information

Artwork: Randy South

LP Kirshner ‎- PZ 36567 (1980, US)

CD Renaissance Records ‎- RMED00112 (1996, US) With a bonus interview
CD Rock Candy ‎- CANDY226 (2014, UK) Remastered by Jon Astley

Thanks to Garion81 for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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KERRY LIVGREN Seeds Of Change ratings distribution

(45 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(18%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(47%)
Good, but non-essential (27%)
Collectors/fans only (9%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

KERRY LIVGREN Seeds Of Change reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by ClemofNazareth
4 stars So much of why we choose to like, or to pan, an album is dependent on the context in which we encounter it. This was never truer for me than with Seeds of Change. There was so much going on at the time this record was released - with the music industry in general, and with the various members of Kansas in particular, that one cannot help but view these tracks as a progression in the art of Kerry Livgren, and an inevitable beginning of the end of his membership in Kansas.

Livgren had always shown a spiritual side in his lyrics, dating from the early days of Kansas with songs like "The Pilgrimage", "The Pinnacle", and "Dust in the Wind". His search for meaning in life had led him at various times to Zen and other forms of mysticism and Eastern philosophy. Pretty much the entire Monolith album spoke to his interest in Urantia in the latter part of the 1970s. During the 1979 tour to support that album, he converted to Christianity with the guidance of touring mate Jeff Pollard of Louisiana's Le Roux, another American band with a progressive bent, albeit a southern-tinged one. By the next spring, Livgren was in the studio recording Seeds of Change, an up-front musical version of the gospel message, heavily accompanied by fellow converts from throughout the American music scene. This was at the same time band mate Steve Walsh was in another studio cranking out his rock-and-roll coming out, Schemer-Dreamer. Interestingly enough, both artists were assisted in their production and engineering efforts by the same team of Brad Aaron and Davy Moire. But the results, like most of the songs each had penned as part of Kansas, could not have been more different.

Seeds of Change contains seven tracks, all but one of which are straightforward proclamations by Livgren that his search for truth and meaning has ended, that, as he puts it on the opening track, "Just One Way" -

"All my life I looked for something real, place to place I wandered restlessly, I just needed something I could feel, and when I found the truth it set me free".

Doesn't get much more definitive than that. "Just One Way" features the great Barriemore Barlow on drums, Le Roux's Bobby Campo and Jeff Pollard on trumpets and lead vocals, Paul Goddard of Atlanta Rhythm Section on bass, and John Fristoe of Starbuck and child gospel prodigy Mylon Le Fevre with some very somber backing vocals. Livgren himself plays lead guitar, piano, and keyboards throughout the album. Unlike most Kansas songs, this track is heavy on background vocals and piano accompaniment, and lacks the panache of most of the band's music, but has a bit of a bluesy feel to it that is rather appealing.

"Mask of the Great Deceiver", the second track, sparked a fair amount of discussion when fans first heard it. The obvious reference in the title is to the adversary of all Christians, Satan if you like, but in more general terms, really refers to anything that is not the 'truth'. Barlow's drum work is particularly hypnotic here, but the real gem is the lead vocal of Ronnie James Dio, and unlikely front man for a gospel album if there ever was one. The story I've heard is that Livgren, who knew of Dio from his days in Elf, wanted a voice that could project a dark sense of foreboding the song of meant to portray. It was a great choice, as Dio sets an almost demonic tone. This is my favorite track, and one I still find myself playing from time to time some 25 years later.

"How Can You Live" is a much more lively song, an asked-and-answered appeal as why anyone could possibly find any answer to life's meaning aside from the one Livgren settled on. Livgren adds a nice 'Sunday morning go to meeting' touch with a church organ here. Steve Walsh makes a surprising appearance on vocals, and doesn't disappoint. In light of the different directions the two of them took with their respective solo debuts, and subsequent careers in general, I still find it fascinating that Walsh was willing to sing on a song that essentially underscored one of the key points of contention between the two former band mates, and that he put so much energy into pulling off a great vocal interpretation.

The final track on side A of the original vinyl is "Whiskey Seed", a southern bayou dirge heavily influenced by the Le Roux boys in the studio. Kerry bills himself as "Mississippi Willie" in the credits, and performs the lead vocal job for about the only time I can ever recall to that point in his career. For a singer, he certainly plays a mean keyboard. The song tells of a skid-row drunk whose "been down on the road, living' so low that I'd sell you my britches of' a nickel". Longtime Kansas stickman Phil Ehart plays drums here, but the performance isn't noteworthy by any stretch. The backing funeral-like accompaniment by "The Moaning Multitudes" (apparently whoever was in the studio at the time plus Rich William's and Livgren's wives) makes this sound more like something from a Flogging Molly album than anything that would normally be associated with Kerry Livgren. I'm not sure why this one made it onto the album.

Side B kicks off with "To Live For the King", Livgren's affirmation of his newfound faith and accompanying lifestyle. Some old Kansas fans also have pointed to this track as the farewell song for the band in its original form. Dio sings on this one as well, but in a much more subdued fashion than what his fans are accustomed to hearing. Steve Walsh also lends a hand with vocals, but kind of just fades away toward the end.

"Down To the Core" is just filler, affirming the fact that Walsh and Livgren both had a burning desire to make personal statements with solo albums in 1980, but neither had an entire album's worth of things to say. Another dirge-like tune with sound engineer Davy Moire, of all people, tackling the lead vocals, backed by Livgren's wife.

The album closes out with "Ground Zero", a composition much closer to the extended play musical flights of fancy Livgren had been so known for to this point in his career. David Pack of Ambrosia covers the vocals here with a fair amount of energy, and the various musical transitions are supported quite nicely by the violin of Kansas co-front man Robby Steinhardt, Phil Eharts relentless drums, and backing vocals which again called on the 'talents' of studio engineers Davy Moire, Steve Venezia, and Brad Aaron. The sound is quite good, but seems at times to be improvisational which, considering the talent lineup-of-convenience, it probably was.

Livgren would go on to complete three more studio albums with Kansas - Audio-Visions that same spring, followed by Vinyl Confessions and Drastic Measures a few years later, both of which were heavy on spiritual lyrics and guest musicians from the Christian music industry. After that Dave Hope and Livgren would leave to pursue their Christian music careers full time (and Hope would end up behind a pulpit).

All told, this is an interesting album when taken in the context of the time, the state of affairs and personal relationships in the band Kansas, and the transitional progression of Kerry Livgren from a long-haired progressive artist, to straight-laced Christian crusader. Many more albums like this one followed, whether solo or with his part-time pseudo-prog group AD. Only in the past couple of years have we seen some interesting new developments in Livgren's career, with the reformation of the real original (pre-Kirshner) lineup of Kansas in the group Proto-Kaw.

Lyrically and strategically this has to be considered a progressive album, particularly in light of the huge risk Livgren took in making a very public pronouncement of his faith, as well as a large step away from the band that had brought him so much fame and fortune. I'm not sure it rises to the level of "excellent" in terms of composition and originality, but it's definitely more than just "good" (and is certainly not "non-essential"), so I think the only appropriate rating to give is four stars.

Livgren's earlier work with Kansas is well-known, and much of it is essential prog history, of the American strain, if not in general. And the Proto-Kaw tracks from 2002 and 2004 are actually much better produced and well-crafted than this album, but it has a very specific and necessary place in the history of so many musicians and the Kansas band, not to mention the career of Kerry Livgren himself. If you're an older Kansas fan you already have this. If you're just getting started, buy this some time after Monolith and before Vinyl Confessions. It'll make more sense that way.


Review by slipperman
3 stars A low 3.

Released in 1980, this was Kerry Livgren's first excursion outside of the Kansas machine, and it resembles his band's output of the time: one foot in watered-down radio rock and one foot in dramatic American prog. The variety of musicians is impressive: among others, fellow Kansas men Phil Ehart, Steve Walsh and Robbie Steinhardt, and Jethro Tull drummer Barriemore Barlow. But it's Ronnie James Dio who steals the show here. Between gigs in Rainbow and Black Sabbath, both the Dio- led songs, "Mask Of The Great Deceiver" and "To Live For The King" show the man's amazingly nuanced, controlled, powerful delivery. The songs are the only darker spots on the album, and Livgren shows excellent vision hiring a throat of Dio's stature. Well done.

Musically, things remind of Kansas' 'Monolith', and unfortunately their more pop- drenched efforts like 'Audio Visions'. I also hear some Genesis in the grander, more symphonic elements, somewhere between 'And Then There Were Three' and 'Duke'. Indeed, Livgren lays down as much synthesizer as he does guitar, and he masters both. But the album fails in its lack of consistency. The aforementioned Dio-sung tracks are spellbinding, not only due to Dio's top-notch effort but Livgren's guitar/synth work and sensitive songwriting. "Down To The Core" is an interesting crawler, with vocals from one Davy Moire that remind of a more serious Frank Zappa in pitch and delivery. And while "Ground Zero" promises much at 8:30 minutes, it loses its way and remains pretty dull despite gorgeous synth layering and Steve Walsh-esque vocals from David Pack. Speaking of Walsh, not even his gilded throat saves "How Can You Live" from its Foreigner-bright pop disposition. And I guess I should mention that this song, like all the other tracks, carries a heavy Christian message, but they're going to have a try a lot harder than weak show-tunes like "How Can You Live" to make a believer out of this atheist. Equally inane is throwaway blues plodder "Whiskey Seed'. Finally, opening track "Just One Way" rides on a strong verse reminiscent of 'Point Of Know Return'-era Kansas (a good thing) and goes all wrong with its blow-dried AOR chorus (yep, a bad thing).

Sounds are rich and full, with Livgren reeling off great guitar leads and synth lines throughout. But if it weren't for the tracks featuring some of the most emotional Ronnie James Dio singing you'll ever hear, this would be less than interesting. For Kansas/Proto-Kaw fans, it's a great addition to the Livgren reference library, but it's hardly a masterpiece.

Review by Garion81
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars 1980 was a transitional year for Kansas and Kerry Livgren. While band mate and lead vocalist/organist Steve Walsh was off doing his own solo project Kerry Livgren was recording this one. While Steve Walsh was laying the groundwork for his departure from Kansas to his rock and roll band Streets with Schemer Dreamer Kerry was trying to explain his conversion to Christianity and doing something on his own. Unfortunately instead of Kansas taking the year off to refresh the creative juices they went full steam ahead with Audio Visions so now we have three albums in 1980 and not enough material for each. If it wasn't for the fact that No One Together was left off Monolith AV would have been a complete dud. It isn't hard to imagine given the best songs on this CD that AV would have been much stronger without Seeds of Change. Try to imagine AV with Mask of the Great Deceiver, Live for the King and Ground Zero instead of Relentless, Got to Rock On and Loner.

So then what about this album? Uneven, experimental and sometimes brilliant in both composition and performance this is album really does represent a "solo' album. The idea of solo works is usually to try music and work with musicians you couldn't do in your band and not worry so much about sales as to make a statement about yourself. As Steve Walsh boldly proclaimed " I am a rock and roll singer" with Schemer Dreamer Kerry pronounces himself as a Christian and as a songwriter who has many layers to him. Kerry explores the blues, pop and symphonic music on this collection.

The best of this from a symphonic view are Mask of the Great Deceiver, Live for the King and Ground Zero. The best of the Pop/Rock songs are Just One Way and How can You Live. So 5 out 7 are really good songs. The other two Whiskey Seed and Down to the core are just filler. Guest appearances here by fellow Kansas members Phil Erhart, Steve Walsh and Robby Steinhardt and other artists such as David Pack, Barrymore Barlow and Ronnie James Dio make this CD a strong multidimensional recording and really Kerry's later solo albums never touched the high of these performances.

All in all Seeds of Change is a good solid album and the best of the three Kansas related albums that came out in 1980 and one of the few in Kerry's solo collections that I would rate higher than 3 stars. This one is 4.

Review by Epignosis
3 stars Kerry Livgren had been saving some songs he'd been working on for a solo project, withholding them from Kansas after his conversation to Christianity in 1979. The music on this album is fairly diverse, and while there are many moments of brilliance, everything is pretty bland overall, especially compared to the amazing compositions he wrote for Kansas. There's an array of guest musicians, not the least of which is Barriemore Barlow of Jethro Tull fame and vocalist Ronnie James Dio.

"Just One Way" The first song from Livgren's debut has a fairly simple chord progression during the singing, but overall this song sounds like it was ripped right from the Audio-Visions sessions, especially the introduction. The soloing is good, but a little bland over the same chord progressions; what is missing are the carefully crafted sophisticated instrumental sections Livgren is known for.

"Mask of the Great Deceiver" The music here sounds rather different from Kansas, and Ronnie James Dio's gravelly voice alongside electric guitars give this song a somewhat heavier edge at times. It also has some subtle elements of R&B during the verses. The synthesizers in the instrumental section are intriguing

"How Can You Live" This, I believe, is the clearest "window" (no pun intended) that exists with regards to the question, "What would Kansas have sounded like if Steve Walsh hadn't left before the turn of the decade?" There's some slightly cheesier music that's riddled with pop-sounding melodies, basic chord progressions, and, of course, Christian lyrics.

"Whiskey Seed" Livgren is known to dabble in other styles of music from time to time ("Dust in the Wind," he admits, did not sound like anything Kansas would be doing). Here is a down home cornbread-and-biscuits blues song, with whiny slide acoustic guitar, harmonica, and this: Livgren actually takes to the microphone for once, and get this- the guy's voice sounds good on this sort of gritty, bluesy music. He actually sounds a bit like Greg Allman. This song is a curiosity more than fantastic music, but I take it for what it is.

"To Live for the King" Now this is something very different; if one were to ask (and I doubt I'll ever get asked this in my life), "What would it sound like if Livgren collaborated with Pink Floyd," I'd put this track on. The music, with that clean, chorus-laced guitar in the background, simple drumming, the choir piping in sometimes, the squealing lead guitar- take away the Christian lyrics, and what's left is something that would have fit right snugly in the middle of Wish You Were Here.

"Down to the Core" My least favorite song on the album is this one. The exaggerated vocals (which sound a little like those of the late Layne Staley from Alice in Chains, but in a bad way) are a little silly, and the music is nothing special. There are some good bits, but mostly it's boring and does nothing for me.

"Ground Zero" The longest piece is overall superior to everything else no the album. Finally, there's the elegant and more complex musical arrangements Livgren is so blessed with inventing. The piano playing throughout is very classy, and Kansas violinist Robby Steinhardt and drummer Phil Ehart join in. The music generally, however, sounds very similar to what Livgren would have on his instrumental album One of Several Possible Musiks.

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
3 stars Kerry on wayward son!

Seeds Of Change was the debut solo album by Kansas-mastermind, Kerry Livgren. I finally own this album now as part of a 2CD collection called Decade. The decade in question being the 80's and the collection brings together tracks from all the non-Kansas albums Kerry did in that dreaded (by Prog fans) decade. As always, I prefer to rate the individual albums as they were originally released and to avoid "double-rating" I will not rate the compilation also. But Decade is still the recommended way (and perhaps the only way on CD?) to get hold of Seeds Of Change.

The title of the album presumably refers to Kerry's conversion to the Christian religion, a message which is also heavily expressed in the lyrics. The Decade collection comes with a 30 page booklet in which Kerry claims that god wanted this album to be made! He also tells the story of his religious conversion, the recording of Seeds Of Change, the formation of A.D. (a band led by Kerry in the 80's and whose first album Time Line is also featured in its entirety in the compilation) and him eventually leaving Kansas. But when Seeds Of Change was released Kerry was still a member of the band and this was released the same year as Kansas' Audio-Visions. Some of the music here is not very far away from late 70's/early 80's Kansas.

Seeds Of Change features several different singers including one of my favourite vocalists of all time in Ronnie James Dio on two songs. Some Kansas members are also present with Steve Walsh doing lead vocals on one song and Phil Ehart and Robbie Steinhardt both appearing on Ground Zero (this was many years before 9/11). Another famous musician present is Barriemore Barlow from Jethro Tull contributing drums on several tracks. Having so many people involved does almost always create a problem with inconsistency. The songs may be tied together by the lyrics in some sense, but musically the album is all over the place. If I didn't know that the first seven songs on disc one of the Decade compilation constituted this album, I could just as well have thought that these songs were taken from different sources.

The quality of the songs also fluctuates a bit with some excellent moments and some rather forgettable moments. The best of the bunch is without doubt the seven and a half minute The Mask Of The Great Deceiver. This is one of the two songs with Dio on lead vocals and he does a fantastic job here! Kerry tells us in the booklet that he had known Dio's voice already from Elf which was Dio's pre-Rainbow band, but that he didn't know Ronnie James personally before. Kerry handpicked Dio for these songs and he was pleased that he agreed to sing on the album. With this music being, at least partly, aimed at a Christian audience, Kerry felt the need to stress in the booklet that "even though [Ronnie James Dio] had begun to sing for Black Sabbath, Ronnie is no Satanist." I just had to laugh!

The other song with Dio on vocals is To Live For The King, a slower and less progressive song, slightly similar to Rainbow's Catch The Rainbow. The vocals are simply mesmerizing! How Could You Live has Walsh on vocals and this song is a bit similar in style to the Audio-Visions material; hardly a great song, but not terrible. Whiskey Seed stands out as being a Country/Blues song with some of the vocals being by Kerry himself!

In terms of Prog, there are only really two songs worthy of special mention and these are The Mask Of The Great Deceiver and the closer Ground Zero. If you are a major fan of Kansas and Kerry's solo career and/or Ronnie James Dio, you should not miss out on this rare album as it has some very good moments on it. It is, however, uneven and lacks a general direction.

The Decade compilation is a good place to get hold of this album. But that compilation is unfortunately itself very rare.

Latest members reviews

3 stars The best Kerry Livgren's solo album as far as I am concerned. Kerry is able to pull off enough magic from the previous glory years, update it to the contemporary simplified prog and pop-rock sound and make it almost as accessible as the Kansas album by then. The choice of multiple singers is ef ... (read more)

Report this review (#2080001) | Posted by sgtpepper | Saturday, December 1, 2018 | Review Permanlink

4 stars My parents listen to a great deal of christian music. And of all the christian artists and groups I have heard, Kerry Livgren is undoubtably the best. If your a fan of Kansas, then this album is worth getting. Instrumentally, the album is only decent at best. Vocals are nothing short of amazi ... (read more)

Report this review (#61539) | Posted by | Saturday, December 24, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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