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Kansas - The Ultimate Kansas Box Set CD (album) cover

THE ULTIMATE KANSAS BOX SET

Kansas

 

Symphonic Prog

3.85 | 48 ratings

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ZowieZiggy
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Do not look any further. If you do not know the band but want to give them a try, this is for you. Their greatest albums (the early days) are very well represented and the almost all their progressive songs are here, which won't be the case in some later poor "Best Of" which will be more commercially oriented.

I will first (and very briefly) start with the very few minus points of this wonderful release : three great songs are missing : "Aperçu" from their debut album, the beautiful "Lamplight Symphony" from "Song for America" and "Miracles Out Of Nowhere" from "Leftoverture".

I would also have expected a track as "Cheyenne Anthem" from the same "Leftoverture" to be featured here. Not that I consider it as one of their greatest track, but I know that Kansas have always been the defensor of the Indian cause and I'm sure they might have liked to have it featured here, but they probably did not have the final decision in terms of track selection.

On this double CD, only one number does not really fit in this fantastic ensemble. The track "People Of The South Wind" (from "Monolith") is by far the poorest one. AOR / FM music at its worst. But one wrong choice out of so many numbers is just anecdotal, but so you have the detailed picture.

Now, the good points. These are countless on this work. Almost all their long songs are present in an unedited version. This is extremely rare in compilations. Usually, long numbers are emasculated or ignored. Kansas work is presented in the most logical way : chronologically.

Their very good debut album is featured with three songs : "Can I Tell You" (in a demo version, not bad at all). "Death Of Mother Nature Suite" is presented in a live rendition, a bit longer than the original and somewhat harder. I preferred the studio version, but it gives an idea of how the band sounds live, and after all it is a good idea to highlight this aspect of their work as well.

One of their all-time best (but several of those will be featured here) "Journey From MariaBronn" is also presented. All the subtlety of the band is featured and if you have one single doubt about Kansas progressiveness (I'm not sure that this word exists but you get the idea, I hope) just listen to it. Keyboards and violin will fill your ears and make these almost eight minutes, a very interesting experience.

IMO, their best album is "Song For America". It will be represented with three numbers as well. The fantastic title track in its ten minute format, the great rocking number "The Devil Game" and most important probably, a great live rendition of one of their anthems which had never been feautred on a live album "Incomudro - Hymn to the Atman". This version is extended by four minutes (clocking at over sixteen minutes). It is mainly due to a longer and good drum solo. So, finally, we got this great track in a live format !

From "Masque" (their third album), the choice could hardly have been better (well maybe a song as "All the World" also would have deserved a place here but if all their great numbers needed to be featured on a compilation effort, the two CD format would not have been appropriate.

With "The Pinnacle" and "Icarus" we'll have the two longest track of the album (if you except the one I have just mentioned in my remark) and the two most progressive ones as well. "Child of Innocence" and "Mysteries and Mayhem" will confirm the rock side of the band in a brilliant manner.

Most of the essential tracks from "Leftoverture" are here as well : their hit "Carry On...", the magnificent "The Wall" (one of their most melodic and symphonic song), the rocking "Opus Insert" (maybe not essential enough to sit here) and the fabulous closing number of this other great Kansas album "Magnus Opus". One of the highlights from "Leftoverture".

Bizarrely enough, as a Kansas maniac, I could never praised their fifth album "Point Of Know Return". With the exception of "Closet Chronicles" which is feautred here as well, the other numbers are not my cup of tea. Even not their hit single "Dust In The Wind". "Point..." and "Portrait" being just two good rock songs. Not more.

From their later production, we will have the pleasure to get only the best tracks featured on their less creative work (up to 1980, where this compilation stops). If we except "People..." which I have already talked about, "On The Other Side" (played live here) and a "A Glimpse Of Home" can almost compete with the greatest Kansas tracks. The latter being more on the harder edge of the band.

Same will apply for the album "Audio Visions". Even if "Hold On" is not my cup of tea, I fully understand that some commercial tracks needed to be integrated on this compilation effort. The other two songs "Relentless" (a good and inspired rock song) and "Loner" really belonged to the best of this average album. The latter, again, will be fully hard-rock oriented. I would have been more happy if a song like "Curtain Of Iron" which was fully in the great Kansas tradition would have been here, but we can really not complain too much.

We'll get the traditional unreleased track to push sales amongst Kansas fans of course. But I guess that the purpose of a compil is to sell, so I can hardly blame their record company for this. Even if "Wheels" does not belong to their all-time best, this rock ballad is not too bad; a bit mellowish but featuring some nice background violin. Of course, it is not essential.

On top of this one, the addition of some rare live tracks and alternative (and good) versions of existing tracks (for a mere forty minutes) will make this compilation appealing to traditional Kansas fans as well.

I guess that to get a better compilation, you would need to have all the Kansas original material in a CD format and create your own one (which I obviously have done and which sits on four CD-R's). Five stars for this collection of great tracks and a fantastic way to discover this fabulous US band.

ZowieZiggy | 5/5 |

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