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Kansas - Song For America CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.14 | 693 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Prog Leviathan
Prog Reviewer
4 stars As unlikely as it sounds, Songs to America is what happens when hard rockin' boogie Americana mixes with full-on symphonic rock. The outcome is something that could only happen in the '70's, and makes for fantastic listening. This is not only a great prog-inspired album by one of the era's most popular hard rock acts... it's a great prog record in general.

Today we hear Kansas on the radio only with "Carry on My Wayward Son," but there's a wealth of music in this early album that is much more interesting than that from the band's commercial peak. "Down the Road" opens the album at rip-roaring speed, showing off right away with Steinhardt's lead violin, and its interplay with the heavy use of organ, that this isn't going to be a normal rock experience. This song just plain cooks, and while it is more or less a straight ahead rocker, it throws down a gauntlet of instrumental virtuosity that sets the expectations for the rest of the album pretty dang high!

So what should follow a teeth-kicking hard rocker? Why, a 10-minute symphonic concept piece with multiple movements featuring numerous time signature changes, instrumental passages, and walls of synthesizer sound! Whaaaa?! Who's idea was this? Because it's freaking brilliant. "Song for America" has so many appealing melodies, impressive performances, and a great energy. It's a wonderful example of how a the prog genre is invigorated by a band that knows how to rock, and Kansas doesn't hold back.

So why not follow it up with ANOTHER extended work? "Lamplight Symphony" is dramatic and tension filled, with layers of keyboards, passionate vocals, and an instrumental spectacle at the midpoint. A wonderful balance of intensity, grace, and emotion.

"Lonely Street" returns us to hard rock FM, with a dirty bluesy beat made interesting thanks to the band's ambitious playing. "Devil's Game" is the final hard rocker - a huge, riff-filled, bottom heavy hard rock monster. The dual-guitar- plus-bass combo puts the boots to the listener with aggressive playing, definitely leaving me wanting more.

And I get it with the album's close, the 12-minute "Incomudro--Hymn to the Atman." This is the most ambitious work in the album, showing great restraint, composition, and a sense of journey. We're taken from gentle, breezy passages to the fist pumping, guitar shredding finale that somehow makes even a 2-minute drum solo seem appropriate. A great, and somehow forgotten, prog track.

Bottom line, Kansas shows that they're a versatile, engaging, talented, and probably under rated group with Songs for America. It fits right in alongside the progressive works of bands like Rush from the era, and definitely deserves attention. I enjoyed it much more than what is often considered they're key album, Leftoverture. It doesn't have quite the polish to make it a 5-star masterpiece, but it's unquestionably an outstanding rock/prog experience. Highly recommended.

Songwriting: 4 - Instrumental Performances: 5 - Lyrics/Vocals: 3 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 5

Prog Leviathan | 4/5 |


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