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Proto-Kaw - Before Became After CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.89 | 150 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

kev rowland
Special Collaborator
Honorary Reviewer
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player Don Montre passed away at the age of 39, and bassist Rod Mikinski only had time to record one song and has been replaced by Craig Kew).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

kev rowland | 4/5 |


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