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Kansas - Kansas CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.98 | 591 ratings

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4 stars Perhaps because the band had the temerity to score hit singles off its best albums, Kansas have always been underrated in prog circles. I think the sextet made some terrific music, particularly on its first five albums. This debut album too doesn't get the recognition of later albums, but most who've heard it will recognise it as a highly impressive debut.

In fact I think the opening salvo of Can I Tell You throws down the gauntlet for much of what was to come over the next few years for this great band. It has double lead vocals, prominent violin and organ and some short potent guitar solos. Along with the driving Belexes, an energetic Spanish influenced work featuring great Walsh vocals and excellent organ runs by Livgren, it is my favourite of the five shorter pieces on this album.

The other three (ahem) short cuts aren't bad pieces but they don't rank as bona fide Kansas classics. The J.J. Cale cover Bringing It Back reveals Kansas' beginnings as a boogie-woogie bar band, and yet has one of my favourite Robbie Steinhardt solos ever. Lonely Wind is a first early hint that members of Kansas would one day hit the Christian music trail, but again great violin lines and lovely chorus save it from being as cheesy as most other efforts in this style (Ironically it was penned by Steve Walsh, not Kerry Livgren who famously made the transition to Christian music). The bouncy The Pilgrimage has too much of an Americana vibe for my taste yet I do like the solos, especially (yes, you guessed it!) Steinhardt's. In fact, I do feel Steinhardt does some of the best playing in his career on this first Kansas album.

The highlights of this album are still the three lengthy prog epics ... Journey From Mariabronn, Apercu and Death Of Mother Nature Suite. Journey From Mariabronn is a sweeping tune that rarely stays in the same segment for long. Organ, piano and biting lead guitar keep the song going while Steve Walsh's almost hysterical voice often takes the tune to the edge of a precipice. There then follows a lively interlude in which Robbie Steinhardt's violin takes centre stage before Kerry Livgren's Moog synth joins him. It all builds up to lovely, quintessentially proggy outro.

Apercu is a big disjointed but has so many bits of stunning playing from the soloists that I don't know where to start (the rhythm section also deserve a mention for staying so tight throughout). There are some mellow bits and a heavy rock outro to boot. That outro leads into the absolutely beautiful Death Of Mother Nature Suite, a half-angry, half sorrowful masterpiece from Kerry Livgren. One of the earliest songs (certainly in prog) to show any sort of environmental awareness, it also moves dramatically from section to section and features masterly violin and organ solos. Thematically this piece seems to foreshadow future Kansas classics Song For America and Cheyenne Anthem, and one could argue that Kansas made its boldest statement on this first album, and spent the next few albums refining the formula.

The three epics alone make this album worthy of any prog fans collection, but I happen to think the whole album is one of Kansas' most consistent. I find it difficult to respect those who criticise Kansas as lightweight without investigating albums like this. ... 79% on the MPV scale

Trotsky | 4/5 |


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