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Kansas - Masque CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.66 | 543 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Sonically as strong as its great predecessor "Song for America", yet not as cohesive regarding the repertoire, "Masque" still very much deserves to be labelled as an excellent item in both Kansas' history and prog rock vintage tradition worldwide. Starting with two comercially oriented tracks, the listener can tell that this band can genuinely rock without losing its musical distinction. 'It Takes a Woman's Love...' takes a lesson from the school of GFR, while 'Two Cents Worth' indulges in a rock-blues context with a funny vibe related to the ironic testimony of a decadent drunkard. Both songs are sort of stylish, but let's face it, only entertaining, not really substantial in the grand scheme of Kansas' things. From 'Icarus' onwards things stand up to the usual level of classic Kansas grandeur in a very consistent manner. 'Icarus' is a multicolored rocker that starts softly with those high piano arpeggios accompanied by refined washes on synth and violin: these washes announce the splendid display of well-ordained complexity that is to be developed fluidly by the full band. This song has great energy and a sense of darkness married very cohesively. 'All the World', one overlooked song (undeservedly so) penned by Walsh and Steinhardt, finds the band diggind deeper in the dark side, creating avery interesting contrast between the languid sung passages and the harder-edged motifs that complete the instrumental interlude. The latter includes aggressive violin stuff and weird synth ornaments that keep a creepy aura to the song in avery effective way. Too many good qualities for a song that shouldn't be so overlooked... Anyway, the album goes on with a good rocker, 'Child of Innocence', that combines the hooks of powerful guitar riffing and the sense of cleverness provided by the moderate use of tempo shifts along the way. 'It's You' returns to the easy going spirit of the first two tracks, but elluding their frivolity by the dynamic use of violin solos and solid interplaying between the organ and drum kit. 'It's You' is an adequate moment of rest between the solemnity of 'Child of Innocence' and the uneasy torment of 'Mysteries and Mauyhem', one of the fiercest Kansas pieces ever. This track is both ballsy and complex, virile yet unearthly, a reckless flame with a controlled fire: the two guitars, the organ and the violin fight constantly (and successfully) to keep up with each other's challenges, while the rhythm duo creates a bullet proof pace for the overall sound. Great!!... but not as great as the magnificent closer 'The Pinnacle', a showcase for Livgren's ability to mix emotion and reason in both lyrics and music. This tale of mystical experiences of the mind in its struggle to grasp and accept the fact of death couldn't find a better sonic accomplice than this succession of beautiful motifs, violin leads, the best organ solo ever by Walsh (including intriguing dissonances), etc. In a few words, the utilisation of the band's output as an orchestra. This 9+ minute gem has to be one of the best album closers ever in the history of art rock and prog rock: the last section and the final climax are spine chilling - pure emotion recycled across the incarnation of great musical inventiveness. General balance for "Masque": 4.33 stars.

Addendum: Purchase the special edition with bonus tracks and you'll get some pleasant treats. The demo version of 'It's You' is more muscular than the final version, with more room for guitar leads; the demo version of 'Child of Innocence' is also more muscular but slower. Both bonuses complete the idea of what Kansas struggled to achieve such a good album prior to their absolute peak (the 76-78 era).

Cesar Inca | 4/5 |


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