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Kansas - Kansas CD (album) cover

KANSAS

Kansas

 

Symphonic Prog

3.98 | 585 ratings

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Ivan_Melgar_M
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Prog Specialist
4 stars This is where the saga officially begins

We're in 1974, in the UK Progressive Rock had grown from a local fashion to a serious genre that was developing beyond proportions, but still USA was more or less immune to that fever, it's true that people in North America listened the iconic British bands, but it was hard to find a real representative band from this country that played an autochthonous form of Prog that included their local characteristics and blended them with the Symphonic sound so popular on those days.

Probably people would expect a band from a big city to start USA's Prog history, but it was in the centre of the tornado corridor, in Topeka - Kansas, where Country music rules that a group of talented musicians dared to blend Hard Rock and Symphonic Prog but with an extra ingredient that nobody would had expected, Country music.

From the ashes of "White Clover" and "Saratoga", Kansas was born in 1971 and disbanded temporally in 1972 just to resurrect in 1974 when they were ready to take the musical scenario by assault with their unique sound and the novelty of using a violin as central instrument along with the keyboards, unlike most bands of the era.

It's true that their sound was not yet completely developed, they sounded more like a violin guided Hard Rock band, rather than a full Prog band, but the seeds of what KANSAS would become are present in their eponymous debut.

The album starts with "Can I Tell You", a frenetic song with Robby's violin leading the band by the hand through some sort of orchestral Hard Rock, but with Rich Williams adding guitar riffs in the vein of DEEP PURPLE or any famous band of that era, while Steve Walsh proved he was a powerful Hammond keyboardist and a strong lead vocalist and that human metronome called Phil Ehart keeping the time as a Swiss watch.

"Bring it Back" is an odd song, some sort of Blues with a complex arrangement, Robby Steinhardt proves he can be a second lead vocalist with his hard rocking voice while keeping the Progressive elements alive in his wild violin.

It's important not to forget Kerry Livegren, who's main responsibility is in composition but plays the role of a wild card, adding extra guitar and keyboard when necessary and of course Dave Hope, the perfect support for Phil Ehart.

If the album is the starting point of KANSAS career, "Lonely Wind" is the first evidence of a Symphonic band that besides rocking as professionals, are able to create incredible Symphonic melodies with piano and guitar, an extraordinarily beautiful melody that presents a versatile band.

Now is the time for one of he best tracks in KANSA history, "Belexes" is the point when they really notice what they are able of, the band creates an extremely complex structure with every characteristic of what we know as Progressive Rock, the changes are simply breathtaking and Steve shines both in keyboards plus vocals. Last week I saw the band in Lima, and he song sounds as fresh as 35 years ago. The amazing characteristic of this album is that they seem to grow from song to song,if "Belexes" was a 100% frantic Prog song, "Journey From Mariabronn"is a delightful Symphonic track with all the elements that would make of KANSAS the most authentic USA band. Even when the structure and arrangements are extremely elaborate, the band never forgets the melodic essence of their music, sad, nostalgic but at the same time vibrant and original, a perfect masterpiece. "The Pilgrimage" is an unusual song even for early KANSAS, after an extended jazzy intro, the band jumps into some kind of electric Country music in which they let their roots see the light, the combination between almost Psychedelic Hammond C3 (If I'm not wrong) and the country fiddle is surprising for anybody, not what they will attempt later, but a nice experiment.

With "Apercu" we return to Prog Melodic territory, Robbie takes the band on his back with his violin while Steve and Kerry add oneiric keyboard passages, not a particularly complex song, but it's clear that the bad is reaching maturity from the start, the majestic and dramatic sound so characteristic of the Topeka guys can be listened all along the track.

So..What else do they need to close an excellent album? Maybe a short epic? Yes, that's what we receive with the fantastic "Mother Nature Suite", an 8 minutes track in which KANSAS finds their definite sound, absolutely orchestral and Symphonic with Hard Rock fugues and extremely complex structure with a Steve Walsh singing at his peak, there's nothing else we can ask to consider "Kansas" a superb album, something unusual in an official debut.

Would love to rate "Kansas" with 5 stars, because this guys showed love and respect for Prog, but dared to be different to all the rest, the addition of North American musical genres to pristine Symphonic is something only a handful of musicians have achieved with such success.

But, I believe KANSAS has superior albums like "Song for America" or "Leftoverture", so will control my enthusiasm and rate it with 4 solid stars.

Ivan_Melgar_M | 4/5 |

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