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Kansas - Masque CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.66 | 544 ratings

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4 stars When I joined Prog Archives several years ago, used to read the harsh criticism made by some reviewers towards KANSAS and got really angry, time has passed and I simply laugh, it's true they don't sound like GENESIS or YES, because they are from United States of America, and not from a big metropolis, they are from a state where Country music and Hard Rock are the general rule, so it's understandable that they mix elements of their own background with Symphonic Prog to create a different and unique sound.

But is even funnier when people complain about their USA musical roots that make them unique, this is the same people who shout "clones" when a band sounds remotely similar to a Prog icon, in other words people protest if a band is influenced by another one and protest if they are unique, as I always said, the worst enemy of Prog is the Prog fan.

"Masque" is usually criticized because of "It Takes a Woman Love (To Make a Man), people shout POP or AOR. for God's sake, this is pure Blues oriented Rock with hardly any POP connection. But what people don't notice or care about is the subtle organ in the vein of early Proggers and the killer guitar. Surely we are not talking about one of the best KANSAS track, but it's a solid song from a USA band, if you want versatility you need different sounds and the Topeka guys have never been afraid of variety.

"Two Cents Worth"is a forgotten KANSAS track, sounds unusual because is not exclusively a Livegren song, but a collaboration with Steve Walsh, again STEVE adds that bluesy soul but taking care of adding the complex elements with the keys, complementing Steinhardt's violin, reminds me a bit of DOOBIE BROTHERS but much ore elaborate.

Now, those who want pure Prog, will enjoy "Icarus - Borne in the Wings of Steel", one of the timeless masterpieces of the band, full of radical changes linked by the organ, violin and guitar in such a way that sound fluid and coherent, but overall, the excellent drumming of Phil Ehart who makes even the most complex songs sound natural and easy, there's not a flaw, a patch, a wrong note every section leads perfectly to the next one, the work of a real band.

The heartbreaking "All the World" adds the perfect doze of melody and drama, a tortured song in which the leading violin melts with Steve's vocals and the majestic choirs to create a special atmosphere that leads from sensibility to nostalgia. Never understood why this song was forgotten by the band.

"Child of Innocence" is a minor KANSAS classic, even though the band gives priority to the Hard elements, the Symphonic support and structure are always present, the vocals shared by Robbie and Steve are delightful, while Steinhardt is vibrant and aggressive, Walsh is melodic and calmed, another great team work.

As a breath between two solemn Prog tracks "It's You" provides the necessary relief, but don't mistake it for a simple song, the frenetic violin keyboard organ interplay is fantastic, the band exploits the two minutes presenting an elaborate but fun track.

"Mysteries and Mayhem" is a typical KANSAS song, as usual they allow Steinhardt to take the lead but each and every member of the band has something to say, when it's bot the breathtaking organ, the hard guitar of Rick Williams add the rocking elements, and the balance is kept by Hope and Ehart, one of the most solid rhythm sections in Prog.

The album ends with "The Pinnacle", an epic in the purest style of Kansas, where they blend the classical sensibilities of Robbie and Steve with Williams Rock side, the structure is simply delightful and always surprising. It's amazing how nothing can be predicted but after listening everything is coherent and logic.

Even when they jam, every note is in it's place, it takes a great talent to achieve this, specially with an ever changing song a fantastic closer.

The real problem is how to rate the album, I don't believe it's in the level of the two previous releases and much less of "Leftoverture", but still is a transcendental album of one the most notorious icons of Progressive Rock that deserves credit.

Lets face it, when the first peak of Symphonic Prog in Europe was ending, Kansas was still growing and taking good care of offering a fresh and original sound without sacrificing quality, and that deserves at least 4 stars.

Ivan_Melgar_M | 4/5 |


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