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Proto-Kaw - Early Recordings from Kansas 1971-1973 CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.75 | 54 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars As a Kansas fan, I was well aware that one of its early incarnations made prog under the influence of the most avant-garde side of the genre (Soft Machine, Zappa, VdGG, early KC), but it wasn't until I purchased this CD in July '03 (a self-made birhday present) that I fully realised what it really meant. Even back then, Livgren served as the major writer (in fact, the only writer), and you can tell that he absorbed a lot of Wyatt-era SM, Zappa, KC, jazz-rock, VdGG, electric blues, and even some Procol Harum and Pink Floyd... and so did his group fellowmen, or so it seems since they manage to play and interplay in full compenetration with the written material: most of the time, the sax/flute player and the two keyboardists (one of them also plays some sax) steal the limelight with their terrific, powerful performances, and Meredith sings with genuine enthusiasm and awasome precision. Every now and then, Livgren comes to the fore playing some well crafted solos and laying some psych effects (a-la Page/Hendrix), but defenitely he chooses not to be the most featured soloist. The overall sound is raw, acid, powerful: it's a pity that the sound quality is not that good (specially in the last two numbers). The compositional themes are well defined, yet the expansion jamming is the most recurring thing in most of the tracks, particularly in the longest tracks (3, 5, 6, 7, 9). From these, 'Nactolos 21' and 'Totus nemesis' are some of my favourites, due to their adventurous punch and accomplished character. On a softer side of things, 'Reunion in the Mountains of Sarne' and 'Greek Structure Sunbeam' shows the band at its most introspective. The opening song is also a perfect example of how you can deal with a structured composition and cleverly exploit its musical potential. Despite the quality sound problem, I'm convinced that the recue of this material is an enormous blessing for prog audiences - it is also a good thing that a refurbished Proto-Kaw has taken adavantage of this momentum in order to make a new recording of some other old stuff... but that's a subject for another review.

P.S.: Track 7 'Incomudro' was to become one of the first suites of the "official" Kansas, recycling its symphonic aspect in a decidedly neat manner. Track 4 'Belexes' was also eventually part of the famous Kansas' repetoire, translating its original R'n'B trend into the language of stylish hard rock.

Cesar Inca | 4/5 |


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