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Kansas - Kansas CD (album) cover

KANSAS

Kansas

 

Symphonic Prog

3.98 | 584 ratings

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Epignosis
Special Collaborator
Eclectic Prog Team
5 stars This is a great debut from America's greatest progressive rock band. What Kansas (sometimes) lacks in the way of the symphonic majesty of European and especially British acts, they make up for with raucous, foot-stomping grit. Instead of flowing capes, it's ragged overalls. It's symphonic rock music with its own gruff charm. It's a good answer to the question, "What would it sound like if The Charlie Daniel's Band added a synthesizer?"

"Can I Tell You" Kansas kicks off its first album with a patriotic song that blends thumping bass, grinding electric guitar, and unrefined but skillful violin work. In fact, it's the violin playing that simply makes this song, particularly in the instrumental section in the middle. The lyrics are simple enough, perhaps just filling in when Robby Steinhardt isn't fiddling away like the Devil went down to Kansas.

"Bringing it Back" Here is one that's honky-tonk through and through- a J.J. Cale penned song about smuggling drugs from South of the Border. And clearly Steinhardt saw no need to rest his hands- and he takes lead vocals here on top of it. I would not classify this song as progressive rock, but more as a tribute to their backwoods charm.

"Lonely Wind" Things slow down a good deal with this quiet ballad. The opening chords are interesting, but they give way to hackneyed (or at least lazy) lyrics. Fortunately, the energy of chorus makes up for this at least some. The instrumental build is exceptionally uplifting, particularly when the vocals break back in. Despite the lackluster lyrics, Steve Walsh sings them beautifully, and his harmonies display his undeniable talent as a vocalist.

"Belexis" This tune thunders away from the beginning, with guitars and organ sharing the opening melody. This song possesses a simpler structure than what is to come, but features a funky organ solo, a blistering guitar solo, and a drum solo that makes me think Phil Ehart was only showing us a bit of what was to come on the closing song on their second album.

"Journey from Mariabronn" Based on Hesse's Narcissus and Goldmund, this song has both emotive lyrics and breakneck instrumental passages. The middle section contains masterful guitar soloing over building diminished chords, a remarkable synthesizer solo, and quite simply one of coolest musical themes in progressive rock. It ends with power vocalizations by Walsh before building up to its thunderous conclusion. This is the finest moment on this album.

"The Pilgrimage" Despite having a mysterious title that screams "progressive rock," this song sounds like it should exist as some obscure country rock band's B-side. It isn't a terrible song, but it lacks just about everything that makes Kansas's great moments great, excellent vocal harmonies aside.

"Apercu" This is a strangely ignored gem in the Kansas song list. Not only is this nine and a half minute wonder the second best song on this album, it features some of the best instrumentation Kansas has to offer. The introduction is progressive rock at its finest, and from that moment the listener knows he is in for a treat. The verses are quiet and pensive, with lyrics reflecting on reincarnation (a theme in Livgren's early works). The chorus explodes, asking, "Were you with me? Have we done it all before?" These two lines a powerful but simple way to express the concept in the song. Just over three minutes into the song, there is another quiet part leading to a powerful vocal crescendo, that segues into a display of musical and compositional excellence. During the instrumental section halfway through, there is a I-V bass alternating bass line (a bluegrass staple), but instead of banjos and yodeling, there's violin and electric guitar. This is a stunning song, and not to be missed.

"Death of Mother Nature Suite" This song features a heavy opening riff that leads into sad, gentle verse. The environmental lyrics do not touch me, though they try to strike a nerve with the gruff "And now she's going to die" part. The instrumental section throughout the middle is somewhat boring compared to those of the longer pieces that came before it. However, the organ solo and guitar riffs here are some of the best on the album. The acoustic guitar-driven ending is interesting, and gives way to a final impressive solo. This is a good effort, but not an especially good closing song. If you want a great "eco-friendly" song, you'll find it in "Song for America."

Epignosis | 5/5 |

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