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Kansas - Song For America CD (album) cover

SONG FOR AMERICA

Kansas

 

Symphonic Prog

4.14 | 690 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

R-A-N-M-A
3 stars I've been a member of PA for more than three years now, and a frequent visitor for even longer, but this is my first time reviewing a Kansas album. The reason for that is I find them or at least the ones I have at any rate frustratingly inconsistent. Kansas as a group is both exceedingly talented and progressive in its approach to music, but their sound is not always entirely to my liking. Most of the time regrettably I am forced to cherry pick the music I want to listen to rather than the whole album which I prefer to do. So, without further ado, I give you my review of Song for America.

One of the principle elements to Kansas' sound is their fusion of southern bogey and folk in with standard rock and symphonic prog. Their approach is not always balanced and sometimes one of those elements will override the others. The fairly short Down the Road is an example of the southern bogey element coming front. It is up tempo and toe tapping and for a song which comes in under four minutes in length does some pretty crazy stuff. The musical pedigree of the track can easily be traced to the southern US. I'm afraid that I'm not from there myself and a bit of cultural miscommunication keeps me from really enjoying this piece despite its merits.

Next we move on to the title track. This is why I love Kansas. The southern elements are still there, especially the folk, but this time the bands works at it from a more progressive angle. The result is an exceptional ten minute mini-epic about the colonization of America. It's never boring, the story is clear and the band seems to have more focus. After an excellent ride, the piece reaches its absolute zenith after the 7 minute mark when the piano breaks out of a repetitious passage into a brief but memorable solo, sort of like the strings near the end of Thick as A Brick. This is an extremely solid work from start to finish. In a word, sublime.

In my mind, Lamplight Symphony is sort of like the anti-Song for America. Where Song for America is bright, exciting, complex and entertaining all without overstaying it's welcome, Lamplight is for the most part gloomy, dull and overly long. It isn't all bad though, when the band puts the narrative aside and instead turns its attention to marking a great sounding album they come up with a great extended instrumental interlude to this otherwise downcast affair.

Following Lamplight is Lonely Street. The tone changes again rather abruptly. It is a rock song with one foot in the blues. It is the least progressive track, and even the instrument segment fails generate anything that catches my ear. Devil Game is another fairly typical rock track for the most part. It doesn't really do anything that I haven't heard before throughout the beginning. Once again though, the instrumental portions stand out from the rest of the track. I like it better than Lonely Street and Lamplight for that matter.

Closing out the album is the nearly unpronounceable Incomudro ? Hymn to the Atman. It begins in much the same style as Lamplight, but evolves into something much more in fairly short order. There is a part early on with echoing vocals which really makes me think of some of the Flaming Lips later work. The pace then quickens and an adventurous instrumental takes shape. This is certainly the best track on the album after Song for America itself and the by a wide most progressive. An awesome way to finish any album.

Songs for America is a mixed package, but on the balance it's a good one. I think this is owing to their somewhat muddy musical heritage. They are at their best when they are capable of bringing all of their disparate sources of inspiration together. I can see how many people at this site might take to this album more than I have. It's good, but it's a long way from cracking my top ten. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a lot of variety. The truly progressive portions carry the album. There is, however large chunks of it which are quite generic and even at times boring. It lands three stars out of five.

R-A-N-M-A | 3/5 |

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