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Proto-Kaw Before Became After album cover
3.89 | 156 ratings | 28 reviews | 20% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2004

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Alt. More Worlds Than Known (7:28)
2. Words Of Honor (4:28)
3. Leaven (8:26)
4. Axolotl (6:04)
5. Quantum Leapfrog (5:42)
6. Greenburg, Glickstein, Charles, David, Smith And Jones (3:05)
7. Gloriana (9:07)
8. Occasion Of Your Honest Dreaming (3:38)
9. Heavenly Man (5:53)
10. Theophany (11:43)

Total time 65:34

Bonus CD from 2004 SE:
1. Belexes (Live) (8:08)
2. It Moves You (4:26)
3. Words Of Honor (Single Edit) (3:18)
4. Video Interview

Line-up / Musicians

- Lynn Meredith / vocals, narration
- Kerry Livgren / guitars, piano, keyboards, percussion, drums (3), backing vocals, producer
- Dan Wright / organ, keyboards, percussion, backing vocals
- John Bolton / tenor saxophone, flute
- Craig Kew / bass, backing vocals
- Brad Schulz / drums

- Jake Livgren / backing vocals (3,6,7)
- Britta Livgren / backing vocals (3)
- Jessica Livgren / backing vocals (3)
- Eva Peterson / backing vocals (bonus-2)
- Rod Mikinski / bass (4)

Releases information

Artwork: Ken Westphal

CD Inside Out Music ‎- IOMCD 159 (2004, Europe)
2xCD Inside Out ‎- IOMSECD 159 (2004, Europe) Bonus CD w/ 3 songs (one new) and an interview

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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Buy PROTO-KAW Before Became After Music

PROTO-KAW Before Became After ratings distribution

(156 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(20%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(57%)
Good, but non-essential (17%)
Collectors/fans only (5%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

PROTO-KAW Before Became After reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Clayreon
4 stars The album of this pre-Kansas band begins immediately with a classic. The song "Alt. More Worlds than Known" has everything it takes to remain memorable. The guitar riff and the structure are striking. The keyboards remind me of Murrey Head's "One Night in Bangkok". And towards the end, there's a bit of "Music" from John Miles. Making a reference to Kansas is not sufficient in order to categorize this CD. Besides the artists just mentioned, this album also reminds me of Kaipa, The Eagles, Robbie Robertson, King Crimson and Van Der Graaf Generator. You become fascinated by the music of Proto-Kaw starting from the first track. The voice of Lynn Meredith sounds pleasant and quickly familiar. The songs are strong and contain good melodies that are expressed in an especially nice way. These songs and the orchestral structure have been well thought out. It gives the songs more than just distinction. The setting gives the songs the necessary depth that allows this CD to be named as one of the better releases. The percussion really comes alive in "Leaven" and Kerry's guitar work in "Quantum Leap Frog" is exceptionally solid. Personally, I find this song to be a bit too jazzy in contrast to the other songs. In general, I find John Bolton's flute performance nicer then the saxophone pieces, but others will probably not agree. In any case, there is enough variation in styles and influences to fulfil everyone's imagination

This CD fascinates me much more than the previous Kansas albums. The record label executives of the 70s would have been deaf not to have heard that this was a hidden super band. Luckily they made it up now by putting out an excellent album!

>>> Review by: Jany (8,5/10) Translated by Jennifer Summer<<<

Review by Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Before Became After" serves a proper Proto-Kaw comeback album (sorry for the cacophony!!), while actually being their first official recording. The praise received by the "Early Recordings" album encouraged most survivors from the 71-73 era (former pianist/saxophonist Don Montre passed away years ago) to rejoin forces and make this album. Ever-ready writer Livgren rescued some old songs and wrote some new ones to fulfill this repertoire. Let me say that this is one of the most notable prog recordings of 2004, because in so many ways allows the band to show the world that they pass the test of time as performers: new bassist Craig Kew complements Schulz's drumming efficiently in the context of a well-oiled rhythm section. The sound production is more meticulous than in their previous CD, which means that the band could work further on both the arrangements and instrumentation of all songs; a minus that came from that was the diminishing of the raw quality that made the "Early Recordings" so special, but again, this is a refurbished band that is capable of maintaining their original essence and musical purpose while incorporating the advantages of contemporary production technology in order to shape up their sound. The use of digital synths is not overbearing, indeed, but a strategy to build well-crafted orchestrations that serve to enrich the dramatic potential of the most ambitious compositions (tracks 1, 7 & 10) or the emotional drive of others (2 & 5), always creating perfect interplays for Wright's Hammond licks: in this aspect, Proto-Kaw manages to sound a bit like the popular Kansas that kicked off in 1973, since the psychedelic facet is less prominent and leaves room for the development of the symphonic prog leaning. While it is good to notice a major presence of Livgren's guitar parts, it is certainly a pity that Bolton's sax parts are not as prominent as they perhaps might have been, since the featured synth orchestrations seem to block out somewhat the power of brass. On the other hand, his flute parts are more noticeable, and boy are they beautiful and evolving - the flute parts in 'Axolotl' and the mysteriously exotic 'Leaven' seem literally to fly in the sky, helping these songs to lift off towards eerie musical heights. Speaking of 'Leaven', it's amazing how a song that contains so many section in it can stand so cohesive all along the way: a bonus point for its Eastern Gong-meets-Santana exciting climax. Meredith also manages to prove that his vocal skills are still outstanding. The jazz colours of 'Quantum Leapfrog' and the R'n'B punch of 'Greensburg, Glickstein.' and 'Occasion of Your Honest Dreaming' let some fresh air of happy mood in, relieving the listener momentarily from the overwhelming weight of the overall solemn reflectiveness. My personal favourite numbers are 'Alt. More Worlds than Known', the exotic-driven 'Leaven', 'Axolotl', and last but not least, the breathtaking symphonic suite 'Theophany', which incarnates an amazing emotional pinnacle for the album: yet, the album as a whole unit is incredible in its integral magnificence.
Review by Muzikman
5 stars With the amazing success of "Early Recordings from Kansas - 1971-1973" (Cuneiform 2002) the band PROTO-KAW decided to reform and the end result is a fantastic new album titled "Before Became After".

The link to all of this coming together was musical genius Kerry Livgren. With all due respect to Dan Wright (organ, keyboards, percussion, background vocals), Craig Kew (bass, background vocals) and Brad Schulz (drums), who are incredible musicians, Livgren is the core driving force of this band, just as he was with Kansas. Consequently, their sound is similar to KANSAS. "Alt. More Worlds Than Known" leads off the proceedings very strongly and Lynn Meredith's vocals set the tone for every track thereafter. He has a unique vocal style that is perfectly suited for this kind of music, somewhat similar to KANSAS front man Steve Walsh. You can make all the comparisons you want, and it is inevitable that you will, you must keep one thing in mind, this is a PROTO-KAW album not a KANSAS album. I must admit though, if you like KANSAS, you will most definitely love this album. One major factor is quite different in their sound in comparison to many popular prog-rock bands . the elements of jazz-rock fusion, as you will hear on tracks like "Quantum Leapfrog." The use of the saxophone and flute provide those aspects very well. Then the polar opposite is the commercially accessible and melodic tune "The Occasion Of Your Honest Dreaming" which would be the obvious choice for a single. The across the board approach is the most intelligent way to reach an audience that you normally would not. This music, although it is progressive, and it does not digress to pop or anything that fluffy mind you, will have an appeal to a much larger audience than most prog-rock would.

"Before Became After" will be heralded as one of the prog-rock masterpieces of 2004, and it deserves to be as it lives up to those lofty expectations in every way. The production is outstanding and the compositions are intense complicated musical journeys that challenge and enlighten the senses. Now that is something that everyone wants to experience when listening to a progressive rock album. The cover is interesting as well, it seems as though they are depicting their version of the Phoenix (being the band) reemerging from the flames, only it is with a Native American slant by using an image of a buffalo. Their music is so powerful that images such as this will come to mind quickly and that is what great music always does for you, it forces your imagination to take hold and sweep you away to another time and place that only exists in your minds eye. To me that is a magical and special thing that only the very best bands can make happen. PROTO-KAW is one of those bands. There honestly is not a track on the album that I would not consider a classic. Each one has its own personality and atmosphere that keeps you enthralled throughout.

Review by Garion81
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The follow up to Early releases only happened 30 years later when BBA came out in April 2004. This CD just grows on you. Alt.More Worlds than Known (Which you can hear if you go to is a great start to this journey which includes 4 songs written in the early 70's, 5 recently written songs and 1 cover tune. It is a cross between a prog and straight ahead blues based rock song but with nice changes and solos with varied instrumentation. (Oh there are two editions to this the one you see listed above and the expanded limited edition which includes 2 more songs. The first is Words of Honor and the second is the Lawyer song Greenburg, Glickstien, Charles ,David ,Smith and Jones)

The two best prog representative songs are Leaven and Theophany followed closely by Quantum Leapfrog, Gloriana and Axolotl. Heavenly Man while not quite prog has an interesting vocal line and a great organ solo and a very dramatic ending. Words of Honor is reminiscent of later Kansas songs but still has a great flute and guitar solo. The other three songs are, the only reason I give this CD a four not a five, are average pop/rocks songs. However when taken into account these musicians have not recorded together and only one has been a professional musician it is quite amazing to hear.

I would recommend this to anyone who likes a little jazz in their prog, someone who likes a little avant-garde in their prog and anyone who is a fan of the underdog. There are influences of King Crimson, Jethro Tull, Procol Harem, Early Pink Floyd and Vander Graffe Generator but not blatantly so. This band is playing Nearfest this year (2005) and I think you may hear more about them in the future. They are refreshing, very refreshing.

Review by Dan Bobrowski
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Wow, for a bunch of old buggers, these guys put together one hell of a good disc. It rocks, it lays in some great horns, swirling keyboards and Kerry Livgren plays like a man with something to prove. Lynn Meredith has a great voice, easy on the ears and solid on the higher notes. It's hard to believe it's taken 30 years for these guys to come together. The Early Recordings were strong enough to prove that the chemistry was right for this combination.

With the exception of, "Greenburg, Glickstien......." (lyrically, too silly for me) there is not a weak tune. Some of the lyrics are slightly hokey, but the delivery more then makes up for that issue. The outstanding track for me is Quantum Leapfrog (notice each reviewer has a different fav) with it's fusionesque sax and guitar tradeoffs. Much too short though. Tunes like Leaven, Alt.More Worlds Than Known and Theophany are satisfying to the classic prog lover in between my ears.

This line-up of musicians really has it down. There are no obvious mismatches in the level of musicianship, each player gives their all. The keyboard work of Dan Wright is outstanding, playing tastefully for the tune and not trying to showboat. Livgren sounds so fresh and vital. John Bolton is adept at flute and sax, adding the right fill at the proper moment, never overplaying. Craig Kew on bass and Brad Schulz lock in tight on rhythm.

I'd recommend this to anyone who enjoys classic rock, not just prog. These grey beards get it done properly.

Review by NJprogfan
4 stars Only their first proper album and already they are one of the best US prog bands around, and it's mainly because of their diversity of sound. They still have the classic Kansas sound, ('Gloriana', 'Theophany') just subtract the violin and add sax and flute. Would you believe there's even a 90's Tull sound to some songs! Wild! Special mention must go to Lynn Meredith. He has a voice that over time and numerous replays grows on you and sounds very, very good, and at times reminds you, of all people, Peter Hamill, ('Leaven', Axolotl'). The melodies are very memorable in the best way. In fact, in a perfect world, 'Occasion Of Your Honest Dreaming' would be a massive hit, it's that catchy. All players are excellent, but Kerry Livgren's composing is some of his best, at least since "Point Of No Return". If you are any kind of fan of American prog and you're looking for some well played, thoughtful songs that stick inside your head for days, this album is your salvation, brother! I'm looking forward to their next album with bated breath. 4.5 stars with no problem!!! Just plain awesome!
Review by Rivertree
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Band Submissions
4 stars Return of the Proto-Kaw

Kerry Livgren has produced another excellent effort with nearly the original crew from the early 70s. This is a flawless RetroProg album with some transitions to Mainstream which needs some turnarounds to get really familiar with. The music is more symphonic and less guitar dominated. Some similiarities with KANSAS cannot be ignored.

The opener Alt More words than known is significant for the album - the impressing voice of Lynn Meredith, various use of keyboards even with some orchestral moments, John Bolton with his flute, sparingly but excellent guitar work and at least a rhythm section with the necessary pressure. The following Leaven is my favourite with remarkable guitar riffs, many tempo changes, sloped saxophon parts and sparkling piano - excellently arranged.

Other songs which especially are attracting my attention are the fantastic Quantum leapfrog with a very jazzy touch, Gloriana, Heavenly Man with a surprising reggae groove in the middle and The Occasion Of Your Honest Dreaming which remembers at the 60's - a simple but nice song in a more Country/Folk mood just for a change. All the other songs are also worth to deal with - promised!

An album which is interesting for KANSAS aficinados first of all and also can be recommended to every symphonic oriented Rock fan.

Review by ClemofNazareth
4 stars I picked this CD up while on the road traveling one day. I had stopped into a record store looking for something to occupy my mind while driving down a long stretch of highway on my way to, of all places, Kansas.

I was vaguely aware of the first Proto-Kaw album at the time, a collection of old demo recordings and live tracks from one of the early incarnations of Kansas before the more well-known lineup hit it big with a Kirshner recording contract. I hadn’t bothered to buy it because I figured it was nothing more than a collection of castoff tracks some record executive was trying to make a few bucks on. But since I was headed to Kansas, this new album seemed like a nice diversion to pass the time. I didn’t realize that Before Came After was the work of the reassembled original cast of that pre-Kansas lineup, brought back together in Kerry Livgren’s Berryton Kansas barn/studio to finally lay down some of their earliest compositions on tape, as well as a few new ones Livgren had put together. More than thirty years after this Saratoga cum Kansas II lineup had all gone their separate ways, they were coming back together to see if there was any gas left in the old tanks.

Boy, was I surprised! From the first notes of “Alt. More Worlds than Known”, it is very apparent that these six men have hit on a winning formula. Of course there will be comparisons to Kansas, and some are valid considering the primary architect of that band in its prime was undeniably Kerry Livgren. Sometimes they also sound a bit like Jethro Tull thanks to John Bolton’s flute and Livgren’s Barre-like heavy guitar. And sometimes they even remind me of Salem Hill, who of course is also sometimes compared to Kansas.

But this lineup also has its own style, and one which only rarely evokes the ‘other’ Kansas. Mostly this is just some very good music.

“Alt. More Worlds than Known” is yet another born-again psalm from Livgren, but I have to say that he has finally mastered the art of subtlety. Rather than beating the listener over the head with euphoric giddiness (like he did in Vinyl Confessions and with some of the early AD albums), or trying the ‘Left Behind’ scare tactics like he did with his mid-90s ‘When Things Get Electric’ solo album, Kerry seems to be simply proclaiming the security and contentment he has found in his faith. Kind of hard to take exception with that. Musically this is a very melodic work, with Dan Wright’s Hammond adorning the surprisingly heavy guitar riff laid down by Livgren, and kept in check with a pretty jazzy bass line from Craig Kew (the only non-original band member in the lineup). Lynn Meredith is a very good singer with a decent range, and a timbre that is a quite comfortable listen. These are not young turks by any means, but they still display an impressive amount of energy here, especially during the extended jam passage toward the end of the song. “Worlds” lumbers on for nearly eight minutes, and I hardly realize the time has passed until it finally fades out on the tail of Meredith’s soaring vocals.

“Words of Honor” remind me of Steve Hackett for some reason – not sure why. I guess this is what Livgren sounds like when he writes a ‘give peace a chance’ song –

“Bind the future, in your vow. Set the measure, here and now.

Bravely walking, toward the end, ‘til every enemy can name you friend”.

This is a slow and reflective tune, but Livgren’s weighty guitar gives the message some real meat. Bolton has a real knack for working in his flute in a complementary way, much more subtle than what is heard in other flute bands (ie., Jethro Tull). It’s hard to believe these guys haven’t played together (and some of them haven’t played at all) in more than thirty years.

One other note here – I don’t know if it’s rough-hewn rafters or lower elevation or just the hot sweaty Kansas weather, but Livgren’s studio has something that seems to drape a fine sheen of polished luster over everything that’s recorded there. Both Proto-Kaw albums, as well as Kansas’ own ‘Somewhere to Elsewhere’ were recorded here, and all three of them have a very refined feel to their production. Maybe that’s just Livgren himself.

“Leaven” is the jewel of this album. Livgren not only wrote, arranged, and produced this, but he plays keyboards, guitars, and drums. But this isn’t a solo work – Bolton’s flute and saxophone exquisite, and the tempo is quite seductive. Meredith’s vocals are dead-on in pitch and emotion, and again – very hard to believe these guys are not seasoned road warriors. Livgren’s guitar and Kew’s bass border on fusion at times, while Wright’s and Livgren’s keyboards evoke a 70s psychedelic feel ala Uriah Heep or even the Doors. This is another ‘Got Religion?’ theme, but again Livgren displays both subtlety and symbolism in describing what might actually be a Christian communion service as a representation of life. The extended instrumental passages alone are worth the price of admission.

The next track “Axolotl” sounds like this might be one of those older works that Livgren resurrected for the reformed lineup. This has a more dated feel with simpler keyboard arrangements, more straightforward and heavy guitar, and some strains from the Hammond that are clearly intended to simulate a violin. The vocals are also closer to Livgren’s old ‘still searching’ themes from his pre-conversion days –

“Far way, I don’t care how far away; I know I’ve got to get there or I’ll die.

I think the jokes on me but I will never see, until you’ve had your laugh and it’s too late”.

“Quantum Leapfrog” is another fusion-leaning number, heavy on saxophone and free- form guitar and bass. Brad Schulz finally shows up and takes charge of the tempo on drums with the most pronounced effort there on the album. Wright’s keyboards are also more jazz than rock here. This is the sound the band would develop even more fully in their sophomore effort ‘The Wait of Glory’ in 2006.

The odd track here is “Greenburg, Glickstein, Charles, David, Smith and Jones”, a cover from the rather obscure 60s pop band The Cryan' Shames. This is probably filler, and may be something the band performed live in their early days.

“Gloriana” is the most Kansas-like tune, with pleasant piano, soaring guitars, and an overall mystic feel. This is just a good, long, proggy meandering tune that’s mostly instrumental and would have fit quite well on just about any early 70s progressive album.

“Occasion of Your Honest Dreaming” is also probably a resurrected early work, with a very light but distinct psychedelic feel and melodic multi-vocal arrangement. This kind of reminds me of Quicksilver Messenger Service. Kind of another filler, but a fun song anyway. Old farts do throwback music pretty well.

On “Heavenly Man” Livgren tries to be subtle and abstract, but he doesn’t quite pull it off this time. No matter, this is another strong arrangement and Meredith’s vocals are actually not just okay, they are actually quite growing on me at this point. More harmonizing vocals and heavy guitar here as well – a solid track though not really noteworthy.

The closer is the mini-epic “Theophany”, the alter call at the end of the album. Again, Livgren wears this so well that it’s almost expected. This is a ten-minute plus instrumental arrangement with some highly improvisational passages, a come-to-Jesus message, grandeous keyboards, and overall a pretty majestic feel to it. A very fitting close to the album that leaves one both satisfied, and looking forward to more.

I’m actually very happy for these guys and their feel-good reconstituted career. They will follow this work up with another just as good in ‘The Wait of Glory’, and have become a regular on the Midwest tour circuit the past few years. They’ve even been embraced by most Kansas fans as if they were long-lost cousins. Everybody wins. If you like Kansas, American progressive music in general, or just like the idea of some old guys who can still produce very appealing and creative music, this will make a solid addition to your collection. Four stars.


Review by WaywardSon
5 stars I honestly believe this album will eventually become what "Leftoverture" was to Kansas in the seventies. Opening with "Alt-More Worlds than known" one quickly becomes accustomed to the voice of Lynn Meredith. It is a pleasure listening to a vocalist with such clean pronunciation and conviction in his singing. It is not until Dan Wright´s majestic (cimema like) keyboards come in (after Meredith sings "Is it the same for you..?") that the composition falls into place.

"Leaven" is simply a classic. When Meredith´s vocals begin with "I will always wonder.." accompanied by Wright´s piano/keyboard it will send a shiver down your spine! Brad Shulz´s drumming is exceptionally good on this track, while John Bolton adds another dimension to the music with his flute playing. Lynn Meredith gives a high pitched scream towards the end of the song which would rival that of any metal vocalist! Great, clean and crisp playing from Livgren (no distortion and excessive overdrive)

"Axolotl" also features Wright´s majestic, cinema sounding keyboards with lyrics that most of us will easily be able to relate to. Another classic song! This album is great to listen to on headphones for maximum effect. The music and lyrics transport the listener on an almost spiritual high!

When "Quantum Leapfrog" comes up next, I was a bit worried in which direction this album was going. But before I knew it, I was pulled into the song and found myself enjoying the jazz/rock instrumental. The musicianship by this band is really of a high standard and it sounds like they are really enjoying himself (Hear the laugh during this instrumental!)

"Gloriana" takes a few listens. Bolton´s flute playing is almost hypnotising on this track. Meredith´s vocals are charged with emotion! "Gloriana" is a long track with a lot of musical twists and turns.

"The Occasion of your honest dreaming" was quite a surprise. It is a sixties type song with wonderful harmonies. I found the songs like "Quantum Leapfrog" and "Occasion..." make the overall track listing more interesting.

"Heavenly Man" has beautiful soul searching lyrics and great vocals. Towards the end of the song Livgren almost makes his guitar cry softly as he he is accompanied by the band. Beautiful!!

"Theophany" is one of the strongest songs on this album. This is Kerry Livgren at his song writing best. The composition is nothing short of a masterpiece, great lyrics, great musicianship, great vocals, lots of time changes and some excellent guitar playing by Livgren.

The Special edition comes with a bonus disc, featuring the old Kansas classic "Belexes" This is an incredible live version with some great drumming by Brad Shulz. The song "Greenburg, Glickstein, Charles, David, Smith and Jones" I found really quite amusing, although it has a serious and sad message at the same time.

One of my favourite albums and a masterpiece of progressive music.

Review by Chicapah
4 stars Every once in a while I find a group that really satisfies the progger in my soul and Proto-Kaw definitely meets all the requirements in spades. Right off the bat I have to give serious kudos to Kerry Livgren for his exemplary engineering and production on this album. It sounds fantastic and features the deep, cavernous resonance that I love to immerse my mind into when I listen to fine progressive rock. And I want to emphasize that this is a prog ROCK band in every sense of the word. Just the way I like it.

"Alt. More Worlds Than Known" with its varying time signatures is a great way to kick things off. It offers a majestic musical tag line that grabs your attention immediately. The middle part features flute, keyboards and guitar revolving around each other tastefully. Sometimes a vocalist in prog can be too affected or limited for my palate but Lynn Meredith's confident voice is strong and straightforward throughout and he briefly shows off a rare whistle register here as the song fades out. "Words of Honor" is an excellent prog rock ballad with smooth, bright acoustic guitars strumming underneath heartfelt singing and Kerry Livgren's biting electric guitar lead. The longer "Leaven" is next and it begins dramatically with big drums and some inspired fretless bass work. Dan Wright's organ and Kerry's guitar join together as they build the tune up to a rockin' strut before the vocal melody takes over. Again, I feel compelled to mention the incredibly spacious tonal character they achieve here. It's huge. And the triple-time segment at the end bristles with high energy.

An interesting trait this album has is how they mix things up by tossing in a more standard rock song between the expansive cuts. "Axolotl" is one of those and it starts with some decent harmony flute but to my ears the tune is a little too formulaic in contrast to most of the other more inventive songs. "Quantum Leapfrog" has an upbeat, jazzy feel to it with lush harmony vocal lines that bring to mind Toto's approach. Brad Schulz absolutely shines on the drums and Livgren turns in another hot guitar solo. Another change of pace is "Greenburg, Glickstein, Charles, David, Smith and Jones," a cover of an obscure oldie by The Cryan' Shames. It's for anyone who's ever had a beef with a pack of greedy lawyers. They turn this catchy tune into a bonafide rocker and the tightly knit vocal chorus will stick in your head longer than you might want it to. Craig Kew's slick bass guitar performance is killer stuff. "Gloriana" is over nine minutes of quality progness and it really lets the underrated John Bolton loose on flute and saxophone. It's a large piece of music and he, along with Lynn's outstanding vocal, boosts it up and over the top. The band also delivers a beautiful, classic closing.

"Occasion of Your Honest Dreaming" has a southern flavor akin to something you'd expect from a group like the Marshall Tucker Band. The three-part harmony singing is warm and smooth all the way through. "Heavenly Man" features yet another competent melody and they wrap a distinctive Native American atmosphere around it. It flows into a funky groove after a few minutes and then Livgren tears it up on guitar before booming tribal drums set the stage for some haunting, mystical music. I have to say these guys certainly know how to end a song and this one's a doozy. The epic "Theophany" begins with a marching beat then evolves into a grand symphonic theme before Meredith's commanding vocal seals the deal. What follows is a smooth saxophone ride before they lead you back through the song's multi themes once again. And then they treat you to one hell of a finale.

If you look at their pictures you might form an impression that they're just some old geezers trying to relive their rock and roll youth but don't fool yourself. It's obvious that the combined experience and maturity of these musicians adds a unique quality rather than being a detriment. Their music sounds anything but dated or old- fashioned. It just goes to show that great composing, arranging and ability knows no age limit. If you enjoy symphonic progressive rock that knows how to drive then you owe it to yourself to check these guys out soon. I give "Before Became After" 4.3 stars.

Review by Atkingani
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
5 stars PROTO-KAW's saga continues and what a fantastic voyage is displayed! Now the band mixes old songs with a bunch of new ones and the result is still appreciable. PROTO- KAW have their own signature, a definite style and personality - they won't change, for our delight.

Anyway, the album is so well balanced that a neophyte (my case when I heard it a couple of years ago) will never differentiate between the 70s stuff and the more recent compositions. The general atmosphere at "Before Became After" seems more optimistic and consequently some dark musical passages seen more profusely at their first output vanish here. well, not totally. Lyrics are another strong point: they exist! Also, I felt BBA more progressive than "Early Recordings" which isn't surprising at all.

'Alt more worlds than known' is a remarkable introduction card for the rest of the album; brilliant, to say the least. Thanks to the improved production now we can catch clearly all instruments, the voice, the feeling and the amalgam is exciting. Song closure brings one of the most formidable moments that one may hear I assure.

'Leaven' is a tasteful song beginning with an agreeable choir which leaves room for a whispering and haunting voice that creates a kind of magical ambience - all filled with tremendous instrumentation where guitar's lament, flute's interlude and piano's break take us to another lands. Singing part is correct, well suited.

If provoked to show a good example of what is a prog-rock song, show them the magnificent 'Axolotl'. The small and quaint Mexican salamander (Ambystoma mexicanum) should be definitely aware that it lends its name for one of the most spectacular progressive tracks ever recorded - this song is that neat moment when earth, wind, fire and water blend in a perfect manner.

'Quantum leapfrog' presents some nice and catchy tunes; the bossa-nova initial drumming is funny and then jazzy segments alternate with rock parts, all spiced with sound effects that produce an average song.

'Gloriana' sounds like a modern hymn; it's gentle and bucolic with the band transmitting an immense pleasure while playing. The entire track is joyful and uplifting - those 9-plus minutes pass by gloriously.

'Occasion of your honest dreaming' has some peculiar folk tunes. Vocals here bring good remembrances of classic acts like THE BYRDS or GRATEFUL DEAD. The short track is dominated by flutes and acoustic guitars together with the harmonious voices.

'Heavenly man' is fair but not in the same level of other tracks. Sometimes it seems a collage of diverse components; full of sound effects but with no objective. Good singing action saves the song. 'It moves you' can be dubbed a gracious short lightning before the great thunder.

'Theophany' is the thunderous one mentioned before, a great album ender with its many variations and possibilities. Song closure leaves an inevitable sentiment of that special thing I look for when I listen to progressive music: do not stop, never stop, give me more!

Closed the pages of this marvelous saga, what remains is obvious: a masterpiece. Essential.

Review by Sean Trane
3 stars After Before Became After came before the after-life of Proto-Kaw, this debut album is not only the result of the P-K archives release on Cuneiform, but also most likely partly the results of Livgren looking for a new band after his fall out with some of his Kansas cohorts. Livgren's Christians believe probably lead him to believe he had some guilts towards those members that got left behind in their pursuit of their RnR dreams of their youth, so he set out to get the group back together again, even though some members were obviously geographically dispersed and one member had sadly disappeared in the previous decade. With only one historical member not rejoining (bassist Mikinsky still plays on one guitar), it looks like Livgren's prayers were answered.

As to what to expect musically after a three decades hiatus, having discovered the archives release on Cuneiform, I knew all too well not to expect something similar to that "album". With this album's artwork (evoking the pre-colonization prairies), the play on word of their name cannot escape anyone anymore: the buffalo/bison being an ancestor of the domesticated (and most likely heavily genetically modified) cow, therefore a proto-cow, hence Prot-Kaw. And you thought those prairie cowboys had no sense of humour!! ;-)

Instead of the ultra early-70's UK derivative prog of the archives release, I expected a very professional and adult prog that the US has gotten us so used to. Yes this album has a very actual US prog sound (sometimes approaching a bit too much for my tastes the AOR realm), reminding of Spock's Beard, Kaipa, modern-day Kansas (at least I'd expect it too, since I have only heard one of their 90's album) and in some weird way some 90's Tull winks thrown in for a good measure. Obviously the psychedelic moods of their archives release are completely absent, replaced by this mature symphonic rock with some jazz inflections, the whole thing being a bit too polished to my liking.

While never being a mega Kansas fan, I found that Livgren's songwriting has retained that special touch that he had already acquired in the 70's: although there is no mention of specific individual credits, my guess is that he wrote all tracks in terms of composition, bar that rather out-of-place Glickstein cover. Lyrically, I seem to detect the same usual Kansas classic themes, so my guess is that Meredith might have helped out, but Livgren took the huge majority of the texts upon him. Meredith's voice is clearly not (understandably) the same than on those demos of three decades gone by, Bolton's sax being less prominent, but his flute taking over and Schulz's drumming is much improved than on those demos.

Anyway, there are some very average tracks like the pedestrian More Worlds, the atrociously sweet ballad Word Of Honour (sounds like a sub-par Toto track), the simili/imitation-fusion of Quantum Leapfrog (horrendous vocals sections), the pedestrian flute-laden Gloriana (obviously Bolton's moment in this album), the expeditious Southern (almost) country rocker Your Honest Dreaming (thankfully short and coming handy with the skip button in further listens) and Heavenly Man which ends much better than it started.

On the other hand, some tracks sound like they might have survived from the 70's era, such as the slightly psych Leaven (you can definitely hear the more passionate moods lacking in other tracks), the early Kansas-sounding Axolotl (a Mexican pre-Columbian deity), and the pompous and bombastic ELP-reminiscent 12-min Theophany, unfortunately with one of those hateful proselytism message that only Christian born- again Americans can bother the whole planet with. Clearly it is those Kansas-ey songs that get my attention, rather than the more modern, tamer material which is more what P-K is all about, nowadays.

One couldn't have expected P-K to develop 70's in order to meet the expectations of that demo Cuneiform release gave fans at their release, so we have a mature prog, that fails to raise much excitement and enthusiasm, but the resulting is a very professional, adult prog that is not far from AOR boredom in their more conventional, with its fair share of pompousness in their more Kansas-ey moments. Fails to really arouse my interest, but there is no doubt that most Kansas fans will love it. I doubt it will stand the test of time, though.

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I don't know why when I knew Proto Kaw released this album my expectation was something like Kansas. It's probably Kerry Livgren figure in this band and the fact of their debut "vintage" self-titled album. But when I received the CD and have it spun couple times, I did not find it. It's probably my expectation was something like new Kansas with modern technology recording session which I could not grab or sense that kind of style. Of course there are segments which sound like Kansas but they are not that visible. I was not even attracted to spin the CD for the second time, I just put at my shelf because the music was so mediocre, nothing special. Only couple of weeks ago I did try to spin again just to find out any other subtleties observation that I missed on first spin.

Of course, my second journey of this album started with an open mind without any expectation that the music must be something like this or that. The opening track "Alt More Worlds Than Known" (7:31) again does not attract me especially on the beginning part - I think it's about first two minutes of the track. This song really lacks melody and there seems like the melody line being forced like this. Of course, it does not stir my emotion "to like it" or being "energized" with it. It sounds like a plain, mediocre track. The music sounds like The Allan Parsons Project type. When the music enters the interlude part, this is the only strong point that this song offers. The interlude part is beautiful with orchestrated string arrangement that enriches music textures of this song. But when it returns to basic melody line, it's still the same as the beginning part - nothing is catchy at all.

The next track "Leaven" (4:28) again lacks melody line especially during parts with vocal. The orchestration part during vocal session reminds me to the nuance of Pink Floyd "Hey You" of the wall album. In fact, there are similarities when I observe into details. Again, the strong point is on interlude part especially with the use of flute. Third track "Axolotl [for lack of a better name]" (8:30) sounds promising especially with rich textures of the music during the narration part, especially with the combination of Hammond organ, flute and soft guitar riffs. This track I consider where the music starts to take off! This is actually what I expect from the band - something beautiful for each song from intro to end of the song, like this one. The combination of orchestration and flute solo followed with piano to enter vocal line is really nice. This third song has good melody line that does not sound like "being forced".

"Quantum Leapfrog" (5:45) is truly a Crimsonique music - the early King Crimson, of course - especially during the intro part when flute takes the solo role. But it shocks me when the first lyrical verse starts to roll, there is a similarity of the melody with a rock song song "In Trance" by Germany Band The Scorpions. Was it influenced? The author must have known it, I believe. Apart of this, this song is excellent and proves the music has taken off to match my expectation. "Gloriana" (5:44) is a jazz-rock fusion influenced track with Toto musical textures. This song features improvisation work on keyboard. The guitar solo is stunning.

"The Occasion Of Your Honest Dreaming" (3:41) brings the music into upbeat style with guitar solo prior to vocal entering the music. This is intended as a true rocker. The singing style reminds me to Kansas music. "Heavenly Man" (9:10) has catchy intro part with the work of flute followed with symphonic style of music. This is really what I expect to happen with this band. This is the best track this album offers. There are components with improvisation using saxophone in the middle of the track at approx minute 5 backed up with orchestration that makes the music has a strong symphonic nuance. "It Moves You" (4:29) is a light pop rock music with Southern Rock nuance. "Theophany" (11:44) is an excellent epic which combines Kansas and ELP music into one composition. It's another excellent track from this album.

Overall, this is a good prog album with symphonic style, enriched with orchestration. The music is a mixture of The Allan Parsons Project, Kansas, ELP. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Review by aapatsos
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A bunch of 'old' rockers playing 'new' music.

This is a reminder of how good rock music can be. Kerry Livgren gathered the PROTO-KAW 'bunch' of old friends and co-musicians and decided to bring energy from the past; and he achieved that to a great extent! The result is an attractive mixture of classic rock and progressive with a touch of rockin' blues, jazz fusion and classical music. The influences of the band mainly derive from the 70's and you can hear tunes that remind of Jethro Tull, Genesis, Uriah Heep, Deep Purple, Blue Oyster Cult and Kansas. The way the guitar work is blended with flute, saxophone, hammond and keyboards is exceptional.

Right from the start, you are surprised with 'Alt. More Worlds Than Known', which, on a classic rock background, unleashes the beauty of classical music influences with the keyboards and flute contributing to the atmosphere. 'Words of Honor' starts as a rock 'ballad' that pays tribute to the past with emotional vocals and progresses to brilliant prog tunes with Ian Anderson standing somewhere around the corner watching. I can see why 'Leaven' appeals to most reviewers as the best track; a powerful song with many variations throughout (from symphonic to heavy prog), with melodic pianos and a great vocal performance from Lynn Meredith.

The flute yet again makes the difference in 'Axolotl', where, in the most powerful refrain, influences from the mighty Kansas are unveiled, maintaining the high standards of songwriting. The first jazzy track of the record is 'Quantum Leapfrog' where the band seems to jam (quite effectively indeed) all the way through, ending with a hard rockin' break and a return to the initial melody. Rockin' start for 'Greenburg.' with a blues and Purple feeling that does not really impress. 'Gloriana' brings back some of the glory of the initial songs, with a flute melody that will stick into your mind. The music is not great, but flows well with many variations.

'Occasion of your Honest Dreaming' could have easily been an Alan Parsons-Eye in the Sky-Ammonia Avenue-period track, highlighting 80's keyboards; clearly the weakest track of the album, which does not fit well with the rest. Powerful heavy prog comeback with 'Heavenly Man' (a personal favourite) that brings back vivid memories from the best Wishbone Ash and Uriah Heep eras. 'Theophany' represents the perfect ending with many symphonic prog elements (Genesis and Kansas) and very attractive saxophone intervals. The record ends with jamming (!) showing the amounts of energy these people still have inside them.

This is for the romantics of prog (well, not only for them), an attempt for a return to the roots through inventing new paths, new music. With the exception of 'Greenburg.', 'Gloriana' and 'Occasion of your honest dreaming', the rest are moments that will not be easily forgotten by a careful listener. Besides 'Alt. More Worlds Than Known' and 'Leaven', 'Axolotl' and 'Heavenly Man' are highly recommended, but remember to treat this album in respect. and you shall be rewarded!

'.One man's journey, carries him away from the light of day.'

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars One of the surprise packages of Contemporary Christian Prog.

I bought this album because I received a gift certificate for a Christian store and simply ordered this as I knew Christian prog could be very good (especially Neal Morse). I had no idea this was an incarnation of early Kansas, one of the great bands of the 70s that have released excellent material from Leftoverture and The Point of Know Return and of course their smash blockbuster Carry On Wayward Son. Proto-kaw's Before Became After is an absolute delight from beginning to end - full on progressive with some of the best instrumental sections you will hear.

It begins with the wonderful 7 minute gem "Alt. More Worlds than Known". It features some emotive, reflective lyrics about the born again experience and the music focuses on bristling Hammond mixed with crunching guitar riffs. The bass line is a jazz inspired motif from Kew. Meredith's vocals are crystal clear and at times mesmirising.

"Words of Honor" is a similar style to the melancholy Neal Morse. A quiet, heartfelt song that has a catchy melody. Livgren has a beautiful acoustic style, very easy to listen to. Bolton adds a beautiful flute sound to the timbre.

"Leaven" begins with a majestic crescendo instrumental section. Livgren shines on keyboards, guitars, and drums on this track and other band members compliment this with incredible musical virtuosity. Livgren's guitar riff is as off kilter as any typical prog rhythm, fractured and bombastic, similar to Fripp or Hackett from the 70s. Listen to it now on the Progarchives. It is one of the best tracks on the CD. There are a lot of spoken words to add to the overall effect. It changes course in tempo and metrical patterns with delicious Emerson style Hammond. Sheer bliss.

"Axolotl" has a violin sound using keyboards and is a nice change in pace.

"Quantum Leapfrog" is laced with soaring saxophone and a killer bass riff. A very good track.

"Greenburg, Glickstein, Charles, David, Smith and Jones" is a curio that really grew on me. At first I was not sure but it stuck in my head, particularly the repeated title. The Hammond crashes down with furiosity and feels like Emerson and his infamous knife. It actually was first performed by the psychedelic 60s band The Cryan' Shames, but Proto- kaw really give this a workout and the result is more than satisfying.

"Gloriana" sounds like the glory days of Kansas. It continues for 9 mins and never lets up the progressive feel. I was reminded of early Camel or Caravan for some reason, and it features a very long instrumental section that is simply brilliantly played.

Other tracks include "Occasion of Your Honest Dreaming" which has some nice lyrics about serenity or indeed sincerity of living life to the fullest; and "Heavenly Man", a heavy guitar track that grows on you after a few listens.

The finale is the multi movement suite "Theophany" that runs for about 12 minutes with some excellent instrumental work from the band. The time signature changes are exquisite, ranging from 4/4 to 7/8 and beyond. In fact most of it feels like jazz improv or jazz fusion with eclectic stoccato riffs and wild tempos. It is perhaps the best track on the album. It feels at times like a church service and at other times like a huge wall of sound of keyboards and guitar - it absolutely rocks. The lyrics are about the importance of giving your life to Jesus, a message I can readily relate to, though this may feel like a sermon for some listeners. Do not let any of the lyrics put you off though, because the music and subtlety in the lyrics mix beautifully to make this one of the best prog rock albums of 2004.

I thoroughly recommend it and hope Proto-Kaw continue to produce this brand of music.

Review by ZowieZiggy
3 stars Even if Proto Kaw has not so many things to do with Kansas, the band is attracting many Kansas fans who believe they will see another incarnation of this good band. Yours truly is one of these since '74 (I mean a Kansas fan).

Now, to be honest, this is more a Livgren affair in terms of song writing and the input of someone of the calibre of Walsh is obviously lacking to reach the heights of the great "Kansas" (which means their early years of course).

One of the most Kansas songs of all (but I admit that one shouldn't be too much attracted by these similarities) is Axolotl. At times it is almost a rip-off from the great "Song For America" (the track). And this one is almost on par: symphonic, powerful, bombastic and melodic. It has it all. Fluting is extremely enjoyable and all these elements make it easily the best track available on this record.

"Before Became After" already started on the good mood with a fine and melodic funky-rocking "Alt More Words Than Known". Whereas the violin play was a great Kansas asset, it is replaced with some superb fluting here. Still, this song is flirting with the heavy sounds and those orchestrations are a bit invading IMO.

The same feeling applies during Leaven which features the best vocal part from this album. It is a very good exercise from Lynn Meredith and when it is combined to some sweet (but short) fluting I am very pleased to listen to this. But there are also some more disturbing and heavy moments in here. A vociferating sax even draws this track into the VDGG mood.

The funky cacophony of "Quantum Leapfrog" definitely won't lead this album to the masterpiece status. I far much prefer their sound while they come up with a nice song as Gloriana: full of tact and featuring plenty of symphonic beauty. This song is a fine travel through the repertoire of some good old prog giants (Genesis, VDGG, Tull and even Kansas; would you believe!). It is a pretty diverse song, but again these synths orchestrations were not all that necessary.

If you would like to listen to some Supertramp oriented song, "The Occasion of Your Honest Dreaming" is the one for you. But not for me (although I like the Tramp quite a lot, this is not the problem). There is also one very special song featured on this album: It Moves You. It hesitates between painful vocals and a great guitar part. When I listen to this track, I am often keen on pressing the magic key. But since I know that there is a great guitar solo little later, I just have the whole song played most of the time.

If you are into ELP, there are many chances that the pompous "Theophany" will be smooth to your ears.

In all, this is a good album. It doesn't sound very personal to my ears; it definitely borrows a lot to many bands we all love. Three stars.

Review by Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Before there was Kansas, there was.Kansas? Proto-Kaw happens to be an earlier incarnation of Kansas, but despite Kerry Livgren at the helm of the band, the music is quite unlike anything Kansas proper has given us. For one thing, the supplemental instrument is not a violin, but a saxophone and a flute. Lynn Meredith has a distinctive voice, one that has clearly matured and mellowed over time. With few exceptions, he refrains from hitting soaring notes like those Steve Walsh is (was) known for, but that doesn't mean Meredith is not a highly capable and expressive vocalist. Kerry Livgren provides us with some of his best guitar playing in recent years, using a pleasant bluesy tone and some tasteful dual leads. The rest of the band is very tight musically, and they create a sound that is distinctively theirs. Luckily for us listeners, these men have rekindled friendships and are realizing their musical dream, the one that consistently eluded them years before.

"Alt. More Worlds Than Known" A perfect way to open this album, this song represents (almost) everything that is right with Proto-Kaw. There are crunchy guitars, flickers or organ, growling bass, and vocal work right up front that let's us know we're in for something good. A majestic interlude separates one part from the next. The instrumental section is full of flute and dual lead guitar work, with some synthesizer lead for good measure. Craig Kew gets to show off his noteworthy bass groove to set us up for the inspiring end of the song. In the end, Lynn Meredith is pleading, singing from the heart, demonstrating that, while he may not be a master tenor, he is full of soul, able to raise most anyone's flesh in a fit of chill bumps. Fortunately, this is merely the first of several exceptional songs.

"Words of Honor" The second song is a comforting one, full of hope. It's easy to listen to, and the lyrics convey an encouraging and warm feeling. I almost feel that the beautiful simplicity of the song is ruined by the more complex and heavier business going on in the middle; perhaps those segments could have been a part of a different, longer piece of music so that "Words of Honor" could stand alone. As it is, it's a charming song, and a worthy addition to the album; the final stanzas are heartfelt and relevant.

"Leaven" "Leaven" features some spoken word before launching into what could be part of a soundtrack to an epic war movie set in the Ancient Near East. The stringed instruments are full of character, really adding to the ambience of the song. The song uses varied time signatures (the main riff is in 11/8). It goes from heavy rock to soft flute and piano passages to bring in the vocals, which are moving on many levels. Seven minutes in, there is a frantic, almost tribal-sounding passage that ends the song well. It is refreshingly complex, and quite simply one of Livgren's best.

"Axolotl" The flute-driven introduction is calm and pleasant, but the vocal melody in the verse is a little whiny and tacky. The chorus makes up for this with determined lyrics and a great tune. The instrumental section is nothing less than brilliant, and it's a real shame the verses are as weak as they are. Otherwise, this one's a great effort.

"Quantum Leapfrog" There's a lot of funky of bass and saxophone going on here, as well as some slightly campy harmonizing. That alone probably makes it something of a "hit or miss" track for most people, but I suspect it will appeal to Gentle Giant fans. There is some spectacular guitar and organ soloing there and here also. This is the track when John Bolton gets an ample opportunity to exhibit his talent as a saxophonist. Despite the lyrics, "Quantum Leapfrog" is clearly a track for the musicians to "show what they know" and be a tad quirky at the same time.

"Greenberg, Glickstein, Charles, David, Smith and Jones" A cover of a song by The Cryan Shames, this track is more of a mainstream "bonus" song, which was not included in the original release. It's sort of fun, but nothing much more than that. The arrangements in the middle are not bad, though. If you like it, enjoy; I skip it.

"Gloriana" Overall, this song is fantastic, but there are parts of it that make me cringe, namely the verses. "Well it just isn't right to give into the night" ranks down there with some of The Flower Kings lyrical stinkers- worse really, because it's lazy, cheesy, and the melody does nothing to help it. Moreover, the transition almost five minutes in. well, doesn't exist. Yet again we have another victim of progressive rock musicians' tendencies to jump right into a new segment without any form of evolution happening. These "quantum leaps" are rarely effective, and seem slothful on the part of the composer. Still, there's plenty of praiseworthy aspects of this song. The chorus is brilliant and majestic. It moves my heart in a way that few lyrics do. Then there's the middle instrumental section- talk about paying homage to "Journey from Mariabronn!" The riff is similar in flavor, only rather than a 6/8 time signature, we get an 18/4 time signature (7+7+4), and instead of violin and synthesizer, there is a crazy saxophone solo followed by a more reserved synth pad bit. The music that bookends the whole piece is excellent guitar-led work from the pen of Mr. Livgren, and the song ends in a stirring way.

"Occasion of Your Honest Dreaming" With the possible exception of the cover above, this is decidedly the worst track on the album. It seriously sounds like a bad jingle for breath mints or some such thing. The only thing that could salvage this one is the lead guitar playing, and perhaps the brief middle section (which is rather good), but other than that, this one makes me want to hide my face in shame. Fortunately, it's the second shortest.

"Heavenly Man" Here we have a fair song. On the one hand, the music is well-written, and the way the vocal melody follows the music in certain parts is certainly interesting, but this time it's the instrumental section in the middle that suffers. There's good soloing going on both from Livgren and organist Dan Wright (largely from the former), but that's part of what makes the song somewhat bland. There are more pleading lyrics in the end (although not as moving as those in the first song). Regardless, this is a decent effort.

"Theophany" This is a shelved gem from Kansas's early years; an earlier version of the lyrics is printed in Kerry Livgren's (semi-auto) biography Seeds of Change: The Spiritual Quest of Kerry Livgren. The three minute instrumental introduction is a stately and regal one, as though greeting the procession of a mighty king (and considering the songwriter, perhaps it is). The verses are decent, but not as phenomenal as the music that preceded it. The musical interlude approximately five minutes in is embarrassing, though- not awful, just embarrassing. It sounds like the theme song for a cheesy game show in the 1970s. The transition after the last verse is a little sloppy. Other than that, this is an excellent song from Before Became After.

Bonus Tracks:

"Belexis" "Belexis" predated Kansas's first album by some time, and Proto-Kaw's live version here just goes to show how even a fairly straightforward progressive rock song can be very different when other musicians (and especially a vocalist with a different range) are playing it. There is a long piano introduction and some jamming before the song proper. People accustomed to the original may be put-off with Meredith dropping the octave in certain parts, but after a few listens, his singing here has it's own gritty charm. The saxophone gives this song a funkier flavor than the original. Dan Wright's solo should have been mixed louder, and the drum solo is marginal, but other than that, this is a great live version of fantastic song.

"It Moves You" This is a sad attempt at smooth jazz, really, sort of like what Toto was doing some of the time ("Gerogy Porgy" anyone?). It's all the better that this track was removed from the main album in the special edition and relegated to the bonus disc. All they needed was to get Diana Ross and Kenny G in on this one- they would have fit right in.

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
4 stars Proto-Kansas (or Kawnsas)

Here is another one of those amazingly unlikely come-backs. Proto-Kaw was a band that existed in the very early 70's and was Kerry Livgren's pre-Kansas band. Kansas released their debut album in 1974 and Proto-Kaw was no more. Until the new millennium, that is! They surprisingly reunited after 30 years of absence! Hence, Before Became After is a very explanatory album title.

Kerry Livgren has long been one of my favourite song writers. His contributions to Kansas over the years are amazing and now he proves his talents once again with this old/new band where he also plays guitars and keyboards. Lynn Meredith is an excellent vocalist and it is unbelievable that he has not made use of his vocal talents for so many years (not that I know of anyway). Proto-Kaw consists here of six people (just like Kansas in their heyday). We have the more traditional progressive type line-up featuring guitars, keyboards, drums, bass and vocals and in place of Kansas-like violin we have instead Jethro Tull-like flutes as well as saxophones. But unlike that of Jethro Tull, the sound of Proto- Kaw is not particularly folky but rather highly symphonic with a jazzy touch. You could perhaps detect a slight World-Music influence too.

The players are all of them obviously very skilled and the sound is dominated by excellent guitar, flute and sax solos as well as by very melodic vocal parts and symphonic keyboards. The music of Proto-Kaw is not really that similar to Kansas but I think it will appeal to the same kind of people as well as to any fan of classic symphonic progressive rock of the 70's. The band has a sound of their own and even if this music is clearly in the tradition of classic Prog, I do not find this music derivative at all. They copy neither Kansas nor any other band that I know of. The uniqueness of the band is present also in the visual aspect of it, with the buffalo being a strong symbol for the band.

The material is highly melodic and strong and the arrangements are mostly interesting. It is hard to pick out favourite tracks - they're all good and several are excellent! But Leaven is the track that best depicts all the different aspects of the album into one song and is therefore a strong candidate. It is a fantastic song! The longer tracks like Theophany, Gloriana and Leaven are more symphonic and contain jazzy parts. Shorter tracks like Occasion Of Your Honest Dreaming are more strongly melodic and a bit poppy. In a good way!

I don't own this album on CD yet, but the legitimately downloaded version I have is different from the one listed above. My version has 10 (+ 3 bonus) tracks instead of just the nine in total as listed here. The running order is different too. My version has a song called Words Of Honour in between Alt. More Worlds Than Known and Leaven, as well as a song called Greenburg, Glickstein, Charles, David, Smith And Jones in between Quantum Leapfrog and Gloriana. This puts It Moves You among the bonus tracks together with a version of the Kansas instrumental Belexes and a single edit of Words Of Honour.

I re-arranged the tracks to be able to listen to both versions. While listening to the shorter version I really miss the excellent Words Of Honour (absent from the short version) much more than I miss It Moves You (featured only as a bonus track on the long version). The addition of Greenburg, Glickstein, Charles, David, Smith And Jones also speak in favour of the longer version even if it is merely good and not really excellent. It is different from the other tracks and perhaps an aquired taste, but I like it. The conclusion is that I prefer the longer version.

I highly recommend this album to any fan of classic progressive rock as it is an excellent addition to any Prog collection. But make sure you get the version with Words Of Honour on it!

Review by Mellotron Storm
3 stars PROTO-KAW are of course the first incarnation of KANSAS that never did release an album. Thankfully they did record some demos and there were some live recordings all of which were released under the title "Early Recordings Of Kansas-1971-1973". I am a huge fan of that album, and in fact played it about a month ago. It has such a VDGG / KING CRIMSON flavour to it and is experimental at times too. So when "Before Came After" came out I was really hoping for something similar to these demos and live tracks. Maybe I was expecting too much, after all it's been over 30 years, my fear was that they would try to be more like KANSAS and focus on melody and catchy tunes and lose that VDGG / KING CRIMSON spirit. My fears were met with this album. I still enjoy it but it doesn't compare to those early demo tracks and live songs. Not even close.

"Alt. More Worlds Than Known" is a good track with organ and guitar early as the vocals come in, then the sound gets fuller. The long instumental section is my favourite part of the song. It's pretty intense late. "Words Of Honor" features reserved vocals, flute and strummed guitar before organ, bass and drums join in. "Leaven" is led by the drums early as spoken words come in. It's heavier before 1 1/2 minutes. Organ a minute later. It settles with vocals and piano around 3 1/2 minutes. Heavy before 5 minutes. Themes are repeated.

"Axolotl" has a laid back with vocals. Both get fuller as contrasts continue. Flute later and some nice guitar to end it. "Quantum Leapfrog" is different from the rest with the lighter vocals and synths. "Greenburg, Glickstein, Charles, David, Smith And Jones" is a lot of fun. "Gloriana" is one I can't get into. "Occasion Of Your Honest Dreaming" is a catchy tune. "Heavenly Man" has some enjoyable guitar and organ when the vocals stop. "Theophany" opens with piano, organ and drums standing out. A change after 2 minutes. Vocals a minute later. It's brighter and more uptempo before 5 1/2 minutes. Sax joins in after 7 minutes. This is good.

KANSAS fans with miss Walsh's vocals and the violin but the music i'm sure will appeal to you. Good album.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars Before there was Kansas, there was Proto-Kaw. Actually, Proto-Kaw was Kansas, and when Kerry Livgren joined the Kansas that we know so well, he took the mane with him. And thirty years later, after Cuneiform resurrected some of their old tapes, Livgren reunited the surviving members under this new name.

The first thing that strikes me, is how much this band sounds like early Kansas. In fact, it underscores just how integral Livgren was to the classic Kansas sound (and how much their sound suffered when he left). I know, there is no violinist in this band, and there is saxophone and flute, but the essential sound that was Kansas is here on this album.

Another thing to note is singer Lynn Meredith, who's voice didn't sound particularly strong on the old tapes, with modern production, sounds young, and clear toned, very similar to a young Steve Walsh, without quite the range.

And while the songs don't quite break out into masterpiece level, all are quite good, even the ballad leaven, which starts out a bit too pastorally, but breaks into a fine middle section. The best track is the closer, Theophany, which, at almost twelve minutes, has enough changes (and a nice bass line) to make a classic Kansas fan happy.

I know this has been described as "Christian rock", but, although there is some noticable spirituality in the lyrics, Livgren never proselytizes.

Review by apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars The release of Proto-Kaw's early material gave the chance to Kerry Livgren to correct a historical abnormality.Although geographically difficult, he managed to gather the old core of Proto-Kaw for a possible reunion and Lynn Meredith (vocals), Dan Wright (keyboards), John Bolton (woodwinds) and Brad Schulz (drums) made this dream come true, while Livgren recruited also bassist Craig Kew, whom he had known during the recordings of his solo career.Four old Proto-Kaw tracks were reworked and along with five new compositions completed the new album of the group and their official comeback after 30 years.''Before became after'' was released in 2004 on Inside Out.

The albums finds the old rockers up-to-date with the recent prog stylings and a combination of vintage sounds with fresh and interesting ideas sums up Proto-Kaw's brand new face.However, most of the psychedelic influences of the past are gone, leaving their place to a more friendly sound, where Classic 70's Prog meets melodic and almost AOR-esque delicate musicianship.Additionally Proto-Kaw now sound a lot closer to Livgren's KANSAS.Even if some commercial touches are evident throughout the album, the compositions are kept to a very high level.Powerful organs and atmospheric synthesizers meet heavier electric guitars and the sweet vocal harmonies of the group to offer enjoyable and sufficient Progressive Rock with lovely melodies, tight structures and influences from Symphonic Rock, Melodic Rock and Hard Prog.The majority of the album is built around orchestral atmospheres, rockin' grooves with marching bass and pounding drums and virtuosic, proggy exercises, while the sax and flutes of John Bolton are still present, although rather kept in the background.The most efficient thing about Proto-Kaw is that they were able to produce some very dramatic instrumental parts and mix them nicely with clean melodies in the same track, creating some very majestic textures.

History does not repeat itself exactly in the case of Proto-Kaw.A group of maniac, vintage rockers achieved to deliver an album full of incredible melodies in the vein of KANSAS, keeping part of the group's old identity in the most complicated passages.Strongly recommended...3.5 stars.

Review by kev rowland
4 stars I have been a Kansas fan for many years, but it was only recently that I became aware of something unusual in that band's past, namely that prior to Kansas there was a totally different band with the same name, the only link being that of songwriter/guitarist/keyboard player Kerry Livgren. Amazingly some old recordings of the original Kansas had survived and Cuneiform wanted to release them. Kerry agreed and got back in touch with the original band members. The result is a brand new album, with virtually the original band (second keyboard player Don Montre passed away at the age of 39, and bassist Rod Mikinski only had time to record one song and has been replaced by Craig Kew). Five of the songs are from the original period, with five new ones, hence the title. The band couldn't use the name 'Kansas' again but instead settled on Proto-Kaw as 'Proto' means 'Pre' and 'Kaw' is most likely the original, Indian, name of the territory Kansas is currently located at

Given that Kerry Livgren composed all of these songs, as well as most of those of the later Kansas there is little surprise that there are some similarities. However one major difference is that in the original Kansas there was no violin, but John Bolton provided saxophones and flute. This gives the music a very different feel, something that is described in the press release as "progressive jazz psychedelia". It is quite an unusual album to listen to in that it is so similar at times to the style of music I have loved for so long, but just different enough so that when I first played it I found that at times it strangely grated. But the twists and turns combined with Kerry's great song writing and Lynn Meredith's great vocals (apart from a small amount of work with Plastique, Lynn has not been singing for thirty years - incredible) have made an album that is an essential purchase for progheads.

Although this will be picked up by many due to the Kansas connections, this is an album that should be heard in its' own right ' I may not be playing it as often as 'Somewhere To Elsewhere' (when a certain K Livgren again wrote all of the songs) but it is one that I will often be returning to.

Originally appeared in Feedback #79, June 2004

Review by siLLy puPPy
4 stars The band Kansas actually had three different line-ups in the 70s with only Kerry Livgren being the sole member to transverse all the different incarnations of the band. The band formed as far back as 1969 and went through a few cast member changes before a second version now referred to as Kansas II emerged in the aftermath. This is the period when Livgren and company produced a plethora of progressive leaning rock that took a cue from all the greats of the era including but limited to King Crimson, Yes, Pink Floyd, Zappa, Deep Purple and beyond. After the positive feedback from releasing their archival "Early Recordings From Kansas 1971-1973" in 2002, the newly named PROTO-KAW felt a magical rekindling of spirits and decided to have a go at taking a stab at the unfulfilled desires which they abandoned thirty years prior. Due to legal restrictions on how the trademarked band name Kansas could be used, the band cleverly found a way of telling the story all in the context of legal loopholes. PROTO (original) plus KAW (name of the Native American tribe also referred to as Kanza or Kansa) produced a name that had an exact equivalency and finally at long last despite most members not even being in contact with each other for three decades cleverly named their debut album of completely new music BEFORE BECAME AFTER.

This newly formed line up of Kansas II aka PROTO-KAW consisted of six musicians and a few extras. The songwriter-in-chief and musical director was Livgren who also contributes guitars, piano, keyboards and served as engineer-in-chief to boot. Also on board is Craig Kew on bass, Brad Schulz on drums, Dan Wright on organ, keys and percussion and the proto-vocalist Lynn Meredith who gave Steve Walsh a distinct style to improve upon. John Bolton is also on board and contributes the sax and flute which were present on the early Kansas that were released archivally and are present on this updated version of PROTO-KAW which give this release a distinct if distant relative type of feel to the popular era of 70s Kansas. Rod Mikinski from the Kansas I era contributes bass to the track "Axolotl" and a couple extra background vocalists are included as well. All tracks are originals with Kerry Livgran serving as songwriter, producer and engineer however the track "Greenburg, Glickstein, Charles, David, Smith and Jones" is a cover of the 1968 song by The Cryan' Shames although properly processed in a progified manner to symphonically fit in with the neighboring tracks that surround it.

BEFORE BECAME AFTER sounds nothing like the unreleased tracks released two years prior. This is a fully updated band that took their stowed away musical mojo and fully unleashed it in the context of the early 21st century. While the early days showed an uncompromising trend to delve into many prog arenas covered by Yes, King Crimson, Genesis and even the most psychedelic arenas, the current PROTO-KAW is firmly placed in the symphonic prog realms and sounds most like Neal Morse and Spock's Beard if you need a firm comparison. This is particularly true of the first track "Alt. More Worlds Than Known" which is a dead ringer for a Morse solo effort but PROTO-KAW never gets stuck in a rut and the tracks while unified in a common overall sound do differ substantially. What keeps them unified is the fact that they revolve around strong melodic hooks, tend to engage in extended jams that exhibit a healthy dose of progressive rock attributes which include time signature deviations as well as extended polyrhythms. The positive Christian oriented lyrics also bring the Morse comparisons to mind however PROTO-KAW is a bit more subtle and refrain from ever delving into the repulsive pits of preachiness.

When all is said and done, BEFORE BECAME AFTER is an excellent set of strong melody oriented progressive rock tunes. Lynn Meredith has an extremely pleasant voice and although not quite on par with Steve Walsh at his peak has definitely maintained his vox box over the years and blows away the abysmal "Somewhere To Elsewhere" which was the Kansas album that attempted to be relevant in the brave new world. It is obvious that these guys had unfinished business and the passion is fully aflame like the glowing bison that graces the album cover. The guitar and bass lines rule the roost here with the drums supporting them, but the keyboards and symphonic touches quite tastefully add the frosting on the cake which make an extremely pleasant album, which to be honest, totally caught me off guard. I was expecting the usual "stuck in the past" approach for an aged cast of band members who lost their opportunity decades prior. Perhaps the reason this works so well is because despite the time that had elapsed, the unfulfilled members still had all those ideas pent up and once in cahoots with Livgren's music world expertise allowed everyone to cross-pollinate into some new musical beast. Whatever the reason, this is superb symphonic prog and although i find there to be a Neal Morse sort of connection seems more cohesive than most of his output. The flute and sax that add a touch of jazz-fusion also contributes to a richer sound. Love this one!

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Report this review (#182526) | Posted by epignosis11 | Monday, September 15, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars As I was sifting past lame metal album after lame metal album at our locl music store in hopes of maybe finding some Dream Theater or Queensryche for my younger brother, I came across this album. The cover looked formilular, but I couldn't place it. Then it hit me, I had heard the song "Heav ... (read more)

Report this review (#30427) | Posted by JedHead | Saturday, September 11, 2004 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Leaven is the stand-out track from this one. There are other good ones, but none that come close to it. Some of the tracks, like Greenburg, Glickstein, Charles, David, Smith and Jones are turkey's. I really had to force myself to listen to them. In all, there's some nice stuff on this album, b ... (read more)

Report this review (#30426) | Posted by | Saturday, August 21, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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