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




Symphonic Prog

3.75 | 59 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars This record has a remarkable history. These are the recordings of one of the early incarnations of Kansas. This version of the band didn't get any chances to record a proper album ever. Kerry Livgren is the bridge between this pre-Kansas and the Kansas that got signed by Don Kishner to record their debut album. In 2002 Livgren decided to bring this stuff to the daylight after almost 30 years of being unreleased. 7 of the 9 tracks are demo recordings, 2 songs are live performances. The sound quality of these recordings may not be overwhelming as these guys couldn't afford any studio tricks but it is decent enough to be enjoyable. After all it has been recorded 30 years ago and some other albums which were released at the time haven't a top quality sound either. The sound of the live tracks is less good but still good enough to enjoy the compositions. Listening to this album I was impressed by the variety of influences. Off course there's some links to the sound of Kansas but not so many as one could expect. You can tell by the differences that Proto Kaw really is another band. Van Der Graaf Generator must have been a major influences here as can be heard in the way that the sax and the organ are handled. Some vocal parts on the opening track "Hegemonium" are also quite similar to VDGG. This track has a dark atmosphere and includes some psychedelic excerpts. Other moments on this record are reminiscent to ELP, Colosseum or even early Floyd. Moreover there're influences noticeable from jazz and avant- garde. When compared to Kansas there's more room for solo improvisations and unusual excerpts. Sometimes it works like on the magnificent track "Nactolos 21", sometimes the extensions seem too long and pointless like in "Reunion." but it's always interesting to hear. On the sleeve notes Livgren mentioned that he was writing a lot of stuff at the time. Every single gig there were tracks that got out of the set list and replaced by new ones. This comes as no surprise to me as you sometimes can feel the pointless direction of some solo's. I must not forget to mention I discovered this album after their 2004 album "Before became after" where the balance between song compositions and musical interludes is a lot better. But again, let's not forget this was recorded during the same time when ELP and VDGG released totally unconventional albums that were masterpieces nevertheless. The instrumentation differs from Kansas also, the most important difference is the presence of a sax instead of a violin, there's also flute and the overall sound is less heavy as the guitar riffs are almost absent. There's also quite a bit of variation in moods when one track is compared to another. From depressing to chaotic to laid back, this album has it all. Two tracks did make it to a Kansas album years later. "Belexes" appeared on the debut album and became a concert classic. Here it doesn't fit to the atmosphere of the rest of the stuff. "Incomudro" ended up on "Song for America". The versions of Proto-Kaw are sounding different due to the use of other instruments but the compositions stays pretty much the same.

It may not be a surprise this album lacks cohesion as the recordings are dating from various studio sessions and weren't intended to end up on one album. But this is just a minor complaint as this record can be considered as a lost gem of the time. Fans of the quoted bands and listeners who like prog from the early seventies should have a listen. The richness of the music will definitely impress them. At first sight this album may look like a collector's item for fans of Kansas but apparently there's a lot more to it.

Fishy | 3/5 |


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