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KANSAS

Symphonic Prog • United States


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Kansas biography
Founded in Topeka, Kansas, USA in 1970 - Continued activity with different line-ups - Still active as of 2017

Original members Kerry LIVGREN (guitar) and Phil EHART (drums) combined their two separate bands into one large band. Kerry's band was called SARATOGA, and Phil's was called WHITE CLOVER. The band changed its name to KANSAS. They were from the beginning just an ordinary rock band, but were quickly compared to other progressive bands in the 70's like GENESIS, YES and KING CRIMSON. Combining the musical complexities of British prog-rock with the soul and instrumentation of the American heartland, KANSAS became one of the biggest selling and most successful touring acts of the 1970s. With huge hits like "Carry On Wayward Son" and "Dust In The Wind", they helped define the sound of "classic rock". They are loved all over the world.

I- THE 1970s
The Early Days: Their self-titled debut album was released in 1974, but nationwide response was slow. Their second album, "Song For America", saw a softening of KANSAS' sound, with more classical influences evident. The third album, "Masque", featured more pop songs and lyrically quite dark. They suffered ridicule from people around the world, because they wore overalls and had a violonist, which made people think that they were a country music group.
The Best of Times: "Leftoverture", with the popular single "Carry On Wayward Son", became a signature piece and pushed the album to platinum success. The followup, "Point Of Know Return" (1977) contained the ever-popular acoustic "Dust In The Wind". During their tour, they recorded their first live album, "Two For The Show" (1978) and the next studio album "Monolith" (1979).

II- THE 1980s
Seeds Of Change: A year later, the band followed up with "Audio Visions", the last production of the original band lineup. WALSH left the band due to creative differences. "Vinyl Confessions" had Christian lyrical content. The next album, "Drastic Measures" (1983), had some hard rock material on it, including the song "Mainstream". In 1984, the band released a greatest hits compilation, "The Best Of Kansas", which featured one new song, "Perfect Lover".
The Second Generation: The group split in 1983, only to reform in 1986 with the albums "Power" and with "The Spirit Of Things" (1988). Sales of these two albums were not very strong. Thus, the second generation of KANSAS had...
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KANSAS discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

KANSAS top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.00 | 639 ratings
Kansas
1974
4.14 | 744 ratings
Song For America
1975
3.66 | 556 ratings
Masque
1975
4.22 | 1196 ratings
Leftoverture
1976
4.17 | 822 ratings
Point Of Know Return
1977
3.24 | 400 ratings
Monolith
1979
3.05 | 306 ratings
Audio-Visions
1980
2.74 | 243 ratings
Vinyl Confessions
1982
2.21 | 224 ratings
Drastic Measures
1983
2.71 | 244 ratings
Power
1986
2.86 | 206 ratings
In The Spirit Of Things
1988
3.22 | 221 ratings
Freaks Of Nature
1995
3.38 | 144 ratings
Always Never The Same
1998
3.50 | 279 ratings
Somewhere to Elsewhere
2000
3.82 | 292 ratings
The Prelude Implicit
2016
3.66 | 130 ratings
The Absence of Presence
2020

KANSAS Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.32 | 260 ratings
Two for the Show
1978
2.91 | 51 ratings
Kansas - Live at the Whiskey
1992
2.65 | 42 ratings
King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents Kansas (1989)
1998
2.13 | 15 ratings
Live: Dust In The Wind
1998
4.04 | 72 ratings
Device, Voice, Drum
2002
2.19 | 11 ratings
Dust In The Wind
2002
1.61 | 9 ratings
From The Front Row...Live!
2003
2.08 | 10 ratings
Greatest Hits Live (Kansas)
2003
4.17 | 63 ratings
There's Know Place Like Home
2009
4.23 | 13 ratings
Bryn Mawr 1976
2014
2.58 | 7 ratings
Carry on for no Return
2016
4.69 | 33 ratings
Leftoverture Live & Beyond
2017
4.33 | 3 ratings
Point of Know Return Live & Beyond
2021

KANSAS Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

3.26 | 14 ratings
Best of Kansas Live (VHS) [Aka: Live Confessions DVD]
1982
4.21 | 70 ratings
Device - Voice - Drum (DVD)
2002
4.60 | 65 ratings
There“s Know Place Like Home (DVD)
2009
4.15 | 20 ratings
Miracles Out Of Nowhere
2015

KANSAS Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.55 | 79 ratings
The Best of Kansas
1984
3.83 | 48 ratings
The Ultimate Kansas Box Set
1994
3.10 | 14 ratings
The Definitive Collection
1997
3.27 | 44 ratings
The Best of Kansas (1999)
1999
1.36 | 9 ratings
Extended Versions
2000
3.93 | 37 ratings
The Ultimate Kansas
2002
4.25 | 8 ratings
Closet Chronicles - The Best of Kansas
2003
4.16 | 6 ratings
Dust In The Wind
2004
4.17 | 37 ratings
Sail On: The 30th Anniversary Collection 1974-2004
2004
2.97 | 8 ratings
On The Other Side
2005
2.50 | 9 ratings
Works In Progress
2006
4.17 | 20 ratings
Original Album Classics
2009
3.71 | 6 ratings
The Music of Kansas
2010
4.40 | 16 ratings
The Classic Albums Collection 1974-1983
2011

KANSAS Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.50 | 4 ratings
What's On My Mind
1977
3.94 | 8 ratings
Point of Know Return
1977
3.96 | 7 ratings
Carry On Wayward Son (Adelante, Hijo Descarriado)
1977
3.40 | 5 ratings
Portrait (He Knew)
1978
3.96 | 8 ratings
Dust In The Wind
1978
2.25 | 5 ratings
People Of The Southwind
1979
3.20 | 6 ratings
Hold On
1980
3.50 | 4 ratings
Play The Game Tonight
1982
3.25 | 4 ratings
Right Away
1982
3.25 | 4 ratings
Fight Fire With Fire
1983
2.21 | 5 ratings
All I Wanted
1986
3.08 | 5 ratings
Power
1987
1.40 | 6 ratings
Stand Beside Me
1988
2.33 | 3 ratings
The Light
2001

KANSAS Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Point Of Know Return by KANSAS album cover Studio Album, 1977
4.17 | 822 ratings

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Point Of Know Return
Kansas Symphonic Prog

Review by prog_traveller!!

4 stars The eras change but the destination does not change: in 1977 the Kansas, led by multi-instrumentalists Kerry Livgren and Steve Walsh, decide to narrate the great adventure into the unknown, creating an emblematic musical fresco, entitled "Point Of Know Return".

The album takes up the speech started by the bestseller "Leftoverture" (1976), which paved the way for success thanks to a single of absolute value like "Carry On Wayward Son". The album was produced by Jeff Glixman, and it replaces the fluidity and gradual unraveling of its predecessor with greater attention to the song-form, which finds synthesis in the megahit "Dust In The Wind". But it would be wrong to focus on a song that probably remains - along with "Carry On Wayward Son" - the most famous of Kansas and not to listen to an album in its entirety that has no failure from start to finish, perfectly alternating the roughness from rock ("Lightning's Hand", "Sparks Of The Tempest") to the sweetness of the most romantic and accessible prog (alongside "Dust On The Wind", the splendid conclusion entrusted to "Hopelessly Human"). Robby Steinhardt's violin is fundamental in the sound of the band, an integral and never frilly part, absolutely organic in the crescendo of a piece like "Paradox". And if the title track may seem superficial, the mystery that cloaks "Portrait (He Knew)" reveals the depths that Kansas know how to plumb even with a apparently light and often sunny approach. In the midst of some direct and more rocking pieces, it is worth mentioning the changes of atmospheres and colors in the pomp rock of "Closet Chronicles", with Walsh in a state of grace, and the dreamlike hues of "Nobody's Home", which complete a picture still vivid and pulsating.

The premises of "Point Of Know Return" are hidden in the title of the album itself, where the word "no" has been replaced by the verb "know", displacing the English-speaking audience and creating a play on words that establishes a strong bond between the knowledge, its pursuit and the limits of the human strike, represented by the point of no return.

The departure towards the indefinite (or the tension to overcome one's limits) is the topos of the title track, which translates the era of geographical discoveries and its illustrious protagonists (first of all Christopher Columbus) into music. The narrative is dominated by the irreproachable desire to reach and contemplate the coveted goal ("Point Of Know Return"), an obsession that transpires from Walsh's insistent request and the frenetic embroidery of the violin, an essential component of the Kansas sound, capable of reinforcing the sense of latent uneasiness. The themes involved expand, leading us to the landscape of "Paradox". The lyrics acquire greater complexity, giving the song a cryptic and philosophical flavor: the burning question about the meaning of life can turn into an unusual desire, which pushes the human being looking for an answer. Man has always lived trying to make sense of his existence, convinced that reality hides much more than what it wants to show (... 'Cause I've been here and I've been there / seems like I've been everywhere before / I've seen it all a hundred times / Still I think there surely must be more). Consequently, the musical sector expands and intertwines: the intro of "Paradox" is entrusted to the sacred sound of the hammond, interspersed with short pauses; soon, the organ flows into the fast and intense touches of the violin while the whole acquires folk and regal colors, almost baroque. The fugue that is generated is structured on Walsh's warm, hard-oriented voice; the digressions of the strings multiply and expand in various and changing dynamisms (descending and tight rhythmic scales). "The Spider" is an instrumental interplay in which the band focus their technical expertise, articulating scores, which see the different instruments (keys, violin, guitar) alternate, overlap and merge with dynamism and vivacity such as to recall the rapid flick of a spider. The previous piece carries out the task of structured interlude to "Portrait (He Knew)", which deepens and updates the common thread of the disc, focusing the text on the historical and human figure of Albert Einstein: the famous physicist is the allegory of man that, driven by the thirst for knowledge (He was in search of an answer), crosses the limits of knowledge to arrive at new, great achievements. The word "portrait" is cleverly disguised in the text in the form of different and apparently unrelated words (view, his vision, a different idea, master plane), all expressions that lead back to the same, same meaning: the image of a revolutionary plan but incomprehensible to most people, conceived by a brilliant and prolific personality, aimed at revealing the hidden secrets that surround us and are hidden in each of us (In search of the nature of what we are). Once again the image of human dualism recurs, where the boundary between genius and madness is thin and blurred.

Without knowing it, Kansas with "Point Of Know Return" described not only an allegorical journey but also reached the apex of their artistic path. Beyond all, "Point Of Know Return" is yet another extraordinary testimony that reason and heart, science and myth are the two indivisible components of the human self, which challenge and love each other in a endless altercation.

 Leftoverture by KANSAS album cover Studio Album, 1976
4.22 | 1196 ratings

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Leftoverture
Kansas Symphonic Prog

Review by prog_traveller!!

5 stars Let's talk about the breakthrough album, which gives Kansas the notoriety they enjoy today, selling over three million copies. This is the fourth studio album, a masterpiece with a very personal style that has become a reference for many rock bands. By merging the complexity of English prog-rock with the American country sound that the group name itself represents, Kansas have been able to pack extraordinary hits, which can be counted on AOR playlists of all time. Leftoverture is a puzzle with an impenetrable meaning, which even culminates with a five-part suite entitled "Magnum Opus" which features titles that guarantee this enigmatic nature, such as "Father Padilla Meets the Perfect Gnat" and "Release the Beavers".

The final operetta is in close contact with the opener, "Carry On Wayward Son", the greatest single born from the mind of Kansas, a song capable of being redundant, powerful, laughable and catchy at the same time. The compositions, on the other hand, are not particularly complex, rhythmically or harmonically, so clinging to the boogie rock that is the basis of the entire production of the American group. Powerful pieces follow one another, full of harmony and aided by the enormous riffing that makes each piece a sonic monolith with a surprising impact. From the a cappella choirs to the light pizzicato, from the catchy and airy chorus to the histrionic vocals, the passages are really tasty, rendered with great class and fluency. This is the real progression, and as big as Kansas are and have enjoyed global success, they remain a decidedly underrated group, due to the humility that has always kept them from rivaling everywhere.

After three excellent albums, Kansas have not yet managed to gain real fame, also given the rather original musical proposal, which is at the center of varied influences such as progressive, pomp, country, folk and jazz. The single taken from 'Masque' - 'It Takes A Woman's Love', was not enough for a commercial affirmation of the group, and so they are required (or imposed, depending on the point of view) to insert a most catchy piece in their toil. This is how 'Carry On Wayward Son' was born, opener of the album, destined to split with 'Dust In The Wind', the title of the most famous song of Kansas.

But it is not a song: the initial guitar riff immediately makes it clear that you are not in front of an ordinary group and the assonances of the verses create a poem in notes of rare perfection. And the rest of the album is no exception, miraculously remaining in the balance between an almost disarming simplicity and original and stimulating ideas. Although 'Leftoverture' is, more than previous works, centered on keyboards, the rock soul is still very much present, and it seems as if the riff of 'Carry On' immediately comes to make it clear. 'The Wall', with its dreamy keyboards and the emotional transport of the voice, leaves room for numerous instrumental digressions in the smell of progressive, becoming an emblematic piece of the musical style of Kansas, as well as one of their best. If 'What's On My Mind' is once again an example of immediacy, on 'Miracles Out Of Nowhere' Walsh's vocal acrobatics hold the spot. In 'Opus Insert' the keyboards introduce in an extremely suggestive way what is one of the pieces in which the Christian thought underlying the Topeka band's lyrics becomes more evident. The loose 'Questions Of My Childhood' is based on exceptional piano work and the excellent contribution of Robby Steinhardt's violin. In 'Cheyenne Anthem' there is room for the social commitment of Kansas, who in each of their albums insert a piece oriented in this sense: on 'Leftoverture' they deal with the cause of the American Indians, forced to leave the one who it was their land. What could give rise to a cloying and banal song is instead the basis of a piece full of mood changes, in which the voices of Walsh and Steinhardt alternate in a crescendo of emotions. The closing of the album is entrusted to 'Magnum Opus', an almost entirely instrumental piece in which the technical expertise of the musicians does not translate into sterile technicality, a lesson that unfortunately many prog groups of the nineties do not seem to have understood.

'Leftoverture' is almost completely written by Kerry Livgren, but it would be wrong to attribute to him alone the merits of what remains an absolute masterpiece of music, going beyond genres and eras thanks to the impossible coexistence of musical frankness and complexity. The album is the result, yes, of Livgren's compositions, but also of the alchemy of the voices of Steve Walsh and Robby Steinhardt, of the tempo changes made natural by the harmony of the rhythm section composed by Dave Hope and Phil Ehart, of the backing up Rich Williams' guitar. It is a very good example of a total that is far greater than the sum of its parts. Essential album.

 Monolith by KANSAS album cover Studio Album, 1979
3.24 | 400 ratings

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Monolith
Kansas Symphonic Prog

Review by Artik

4 stars This one has more classic rock than prog on it (compared to previous albums) but I have no problem with this as the prog ingridient is still present (just with different proportions) and this album is full of familiar Kansas sound. So I consider it a part of Kansas classic albums run. I initialy had to use to their blend of styles. Beeing a fan of british type of prog I was struggling to like Kansas' strong american rock flavour put to it. But once I learned to like and apreciate their unique style I'm happy as long as they deliver their trademark sound. And You immediately know it's Kansas from the first note of the album 'till the last. It's true I would like to hear a smartly composed epic or two, preferably with a lot of violin (just like it was typical of them earlier), but I still like this one enough to spin it and enjoy it when I'm in Kansas mood. I may not love it but I really like it. It's still good old Kansas here, the band like no other. 3,5 stars rounded up to 4 for pulling the overall note a bit higher to make this one a justice.
 The Absence of Presence by KANSAS album cover Studio Album, 2020
3.66 | 130 ratings

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The Absence of Presence
Kansas Symphonic Prog

Review by prog_traveller!!

3 stars The Absence of Presence is the band's sixteenth studio album and it represents a nice mix of old and new sound from the band. What is really important to say is that they are making surprisingly good on the second act of their career and they are one of those legacy bands that still to this day deliver fine music.

What was really exciting for me is a return to some of the longer tracks that clock in between 5, 6, and 8 minutes. Organ-driven beats come bursting through the album with some heavy guitar work, melodic violin playing and in between, a smooth showcase of the AOR-crossover.

This album has something for everybody Circus of Illusion represents a true prog rock force filled with trademark violin and organ followed by a great rhythm section and guitar solos, same can be heard on Throwing Mountains. The album also delivers some modern touches in their music and nice ballads.

3,5 stars

 The Absence of Presence by KANSAS album cover Studio Album, 2020
3.66 | 130 ratings

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The Absence of Presence
Kansas Symphonic Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Reviewer

4 stars When 'Somewhere To Elsewhere' was released in 2000, with the classic line-up reunited for the first time in years (plus of course long-time bassist Billy Greer), I was hopeful we were going to see a new beginning for one of the most important bands ever to come out of America. Yet while that album was a huge success, and beloved by all fans, it was not meant to be, and it was a long sixteen years until their next release. By that time there had been significant changes in the band, not least being singer Steve Walsh retiring and main songwriter Kerry Livgren again not being involved. But Phil Ehart (drums), Billy Greer (bass), Rich Williams (guitars) brought back violinist David Ragsdale in 2006 (he was of course in the band throughout the 90's), plus new singer and keyboard player Ronnie Platt, rhythm guitarist Zak Rizvi and additional keyboard player David Manion. Now, just four years later and we have another new album, and while Manion has departed he has been replaced by Tom Brislin who has played with the likes of The Syn, Camel, Yes, Renaissance and Anderson/Stolt so definitely comes in with plenty of pedigree.

The album commences with "The Absence of Presence", gentle piano is joined by plaintive violin, and then just 25 seconds in we are in full Kansas territory and if it as if they have never been away and that it is the classic line-up all over again. By a minute into the album I had a massive smile on my face, and when the song became just piano and vocals, plus plenty of harmonies, I was grinning from ear to ear. I have no idea how long I have loved this band, but it is well over 40 years, and it was almost like listening to one of their classic albums from the Seventies for the very first time. It seems almost as if the guys have decided they need to stick with a Kansas style, as opposed to move it in any different direction, so the result is something which is both immediate and very enjoyable indeed.

I am sure I will never see this band in concert, as we rarely get groups like this down to little old New Zealand (although Yes have made it twice), so I will continue to play the DVDs and albums, and while there are some from their middle period which rarely make it onto the player, I am confident this one will continue to do so for years to come.

 Leftoverture by KANSAS album cover Studio Album, 1976
4.22 | 1196 ratings

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Leftoverture
Kansas Symphonic Prog

Review by chiang

2 stars Seven Songs and a "Nice Opus". I never got into Kansas really. They are so pop to my ears. (I'm an old hardcore prog fan). Some reviews talks about this album remind them of Emerson, Focus or Crimson, I can't find that in this album. I decided to give them another chance and I just listened carefully to each track on the album. Hence, my opinion: They play instruments very well. The first seven tracks are written on "song format" (you know, the sequence: verse-chorus-verse-chorus-instrumental- verse-chorus -end) although many of them got an instrumental coda. (the third song "What's in my mind" doesn't even do that). Prog songs never go this way (at least "Tarkus", "Close to the Edge", or "Lark's tongues in Aspic" don`t do that). Only "Magnus Opus" is different. This one is made like a suite with different themes put together. I like the way many instruments take turns, change tempo and different signatures appear. Melodies are friendly, neoprog stile. All in all this doesn't make it a prog album to me. (Maybe in the States it can be, ha-ha).
 Point of Know Return by KANSAS album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1977
3.94 | 8 ratings

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Point of Know Return
Kansas Symphonic Prog

Review by Heart of the Matter

4 stars Excellent single out of an excellent album. Where's the catch, then? There's none, if you love singles like I do.

On the A face "Point Of Know Return" introduces the well-known but ever effective tale of sailors in the hands of an uncertain destiny. After a brief symphonic intro consisting in a few powerful chords by the band, the main melody kicks in driven by Mr. Steve Walsh' voice over the most simple and memorable piano line... and it never let you go.

On the so called B face (another A, really) "Closet Chronicles" begins with vocals nicely floating over an ondulating Hammond, and then goes over to a full-blown hard-prog workout, with odd metric shifts, blistering guitar solo, you name it. Gorgeus classical bridge, too

 Somewhere to Elsewhere by KANSAS album cover Studio Album, 2000
3.50 | 279 ratings

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Somewhere to Elsewhere
Kansas Symphonic Prog

Review by Squire Jaco

4 stars Featuring the classic lineup of Kansas ("Kansas is still..."), the sextet of Ehart, Livgren, Walsh, Hope, Williams and Steinhardt is joined by recent bass player Billy Greer to produce a very nice comeback cd that mostly follows in the footsteps of their classic 70's style.

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

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

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

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

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

3-1/2 stars

 The Absence of Presence by KANSAS album cover Studio Album, 2020
3.66 | 130 ratings

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The Absence of Presence
Kansas Symphonic Prog

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

4 stars "We still stand out. It's the way since the days of our youth. The strangest sight. Like animals on the roof"

America's best band is back with a new record! The line-up is almost the same as on the previous The Prelude Implicit, with one important exception: the addition of keyboard player Tom Brislin. Having previously performed live with Yes, Camel, and Renaissance, Brislin has now joined Kansas. That means that he has played with four of my all time favourite bands! I already knew that he could play, but Brislin surprises everyone here by contributing his own compositions and lyrics to many of the songs on The Absence of Presence, and even sings lead vocals on one! Kansas are really lucky to have landed Brislin.

The rest of the band are in top form as well, with vocalist Ronnie Platt and producer/guitarist Zak Rizvi, both of whom joined the band for the previous album, now having settled firmly into the line-up. Violinist David Ragsdale, who first joined the band in the early 1990's, performs better than ever, and Billy Greer, a member since the mid 1980's, is still going strong. Drummer Phil Ehart and guitarist Richard Williams have of course been there since the beginning. As a collective, these seven men carry the great legacy of Kansas into the 2020's.

The Absence of Presence is a stronger album than The Prelude Implicit, the latter having failed to impress me much even though I do like it. Rizvi is again responsible for the bulk of the music, while Brislin provided most of the lyrics. Brislin is the sole architect behind Memories Down the Line, The Song the River Sang (on which he also sings lead vocals), and the instrumental Propulsion 1. The latter is one of my favourites on the album together with Jets Overhead and the eight plus minute title track.

Let's hope for a live release next, preferably a live video, as I would love to see this line-up in action playing these new songs live mixed in with classics from the history of this great band.

 Freaks Of Nature by KANSAS album cover Studio Album, 1995
3.22 | 221 ratings

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Freaks Of Nature
Kansas Symphonic Prog

Review by TCat
Special Collaborator Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

3 stars In 1982, Kansas released 'Vinyl Confessions' a rather lackluster record which would also be the last time a violin (which is probably one of the trademark things about the band's sound) would be used for quite some time. The band's line-up would go through so many changes over the next several years, that no one could keep up with who was in the band and who wasn't, but one thing for certain, that violin sound kept the band from effectively playing their best tracks in concert, and they basically just became another rock band trying to hang on and living off of their band name.

Then, one of the best moves the band would make in many years, would begin movement back in the right direction. In 1991, David Ragsdale was brought into the band, bringing back the violin as one of the main instruments again, and suddenly, things starting sounding great again. After some successful touring where the band was once again able to do justice to their best songs, the band finally released the first album to have new material since 1988 and would call it 'Freaks of Nature'. The question was, would it be able to live up to the quality of music the band had released in its heyday.

In order to do that, it would be thought that most of the original band would have to be along for the ride. Steve Walsh still remained mostly loyal to the band, so is there, of course. However, Kenny Livgren is absent, and that is noticeable to some extent. Steve Morse no longer threatened the band (thank goodness), so that was a big plus. Rich Williams (guitar) was also loyal to the band and also participates in the album along with the other loyalist Phil Ehart (on drums). At the time, Greg Robert was the main keyboardist and had been since 1986, and Billy Greer was also along for the album and still continues to be with the band to this day. So, for this album, the line-up was pretty solid and Ragsdale, being the newcomer and the one bringing back the central instrument of the band, was going to have to live up to a high bar. Fortunately, he had sent the band a demo tape several years previously, and this is what got him hired on as a regular band member.

One other attempt to return to their most popular sound was bringing back Jeff Glixman as a producer, who also produced the band's best albums, namely 'Song for America', 'Masque', 'Leftoverture', and 'Point of No Return'. With these things coming together, the outlook for 'Freaks of Nature' is a good one, but did it come along too late? Many people had given up on the band being able to release a good record as many loyal fans had been disappointed too many times in the past. This would show in this album's sales as the public was hesitant to buy an album with all new material on it. It would be the only official Kansas album to not appear on the Billboard charts. Also, critics were quite harsh with it.

However, the album isn't as bad as some would make it out to be. There are some bumpy sections throughout the album that keeps it from reaching the pinnacle of their best work. But, it definitely isn't one that should be ignored either. 'I Can Fly' starts off with some extremely bad vocals right away which are very grating and not a good way to introduce the album. But when Ragsdale's violin comes in, there is a feeling of hope. Not much can save this first track, unfortunately, after that embarrassing introduction, but at least the rest of the band tries to do so.

As the music continues though, things do improve, including Walsh's voice. This is a good thing because Walsh is the only lead singer on this album. My first impression of this album was filled with dread after that first track and I thought Walsh was washed up. But things do improve as 'Desperate Times', 'Hope Once Again' and the heavy 'Black Fathom 4' are much better, and it would have been a great album if the band continued in this mode. Things tend to level off on 'Under the Knife' and 'Need' as the band seems to fall back into its more lackadaisical style that plagued them during the 80's. Those songs aren't bad, but they are a far cry from anything pre-'Point of No Return'. It gets even worse with 'Freaks of Nature' and the sappy 'Peaceful and Warm'. However, Livgren's only contribution to the album, the song 'Cold Gray Morning' sits in between these tracks and it is one of the better tracks of the 2nd half of the album.

So, the album is a step better than the previous albums of the 80's, and Ragsdale's violin is a welcome addition to the band. Fortunately, he would continue on with the band with a break between 1997 and 2006. Even though it didn't show in the sales of the album, over time, this gradual return-to-form by the band would prove to be a good thing for them. It would take time for the band to match the output of their previous years, but at least now, they were working towards that end, not just resting on their laurels. Even though it was not perfect, it was, for me, an album that gave back hope that Kansas could return to the amazing band it had been before. This album gets 3.5 stars from me, but is rounded down to 3 because of the weaker 2nd half. But it is a good sign of better things to come.

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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