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Kansas Freaks Of Nature album cover
3.21 | 257 ratings | 21 reviews | 6% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1995

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. I Can Fly (5:21)
2. Desperate Times (5:24)
3. Hope Once Again (4:33)
4. Black Fathom 4 (5:53)
5. Under The Knife (4:59)
6. Need (4:01)
7. Freaks Of Nature (4:05)
8. Cold Grey Morning (4:13)
9. Peaceful And Warm (6:45)

Total Time: 45:14

Line-up / Musicians

- Steve Walsh / lead vocals, keyboards, narration
- Rich Williams / lead & acoustic guitars
- Greg Robert / keyboards, vocals
- David Ragsdale / violins, guitar
- Billy Greer / bass, acoustic guitar, vocals
- Phil Ehart / drums

- Renée Castle / backing vocals (3)

Releases information

Artwork: Marti Griffin (photo)

LP MCA Records ‎- MCA-6254 (1988, US)

CD Castle Communications ‎- ESS CD 299 (1995, US)
CD Intersound ‎- 9148 (1995, Canada)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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KANSAS Freaks Of Nature ratings distribution

(257 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(6%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(36%)
Good, but non-essential (43%)
Collectors/fans only (11%)
Poor. Only for completionists (4%)

KANSAS Freaks Of Nature reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by ClemofNazareth
2 stars Kansas had basically retired for the second time after Steve Morse left the band at the end of the 80’s. The band was reunited in the early 90’s by a German promoter to play a European tour (except for Steinhardt), and all of them except bassist Dave Hope stayed around to tour for a while in the States. After that it was pretty much the county fair circuit, with all kinds of journeyman players working stints on the road show. The lineup stabilized shortly before this album, which was apparently an attempt to resurrect some new interest in the band, as well as add some new material for the road show. The results were disappointing. The album itself was a real downer, and very few of these songs made their way into heavy rotation on the band’s live playlists.

The opening track “I Can Fly” is co-credited to violinist/guitarist David Ragsdale and Steve Walsh, but I’m guessing the lyrics were all Walsh. This is a depressing and sad biography (or more likely an autobiography) about a guy going through some really heavy sh!t, sounds like the story of a guy getting high to the point of landing in a hospital bed and being brought back from death. Maybe this was part of Walsh’s 12-step program or something, but it’s really a nasty song. There is one instrumental part in the middle that vacillates between middle-eastern sounding keyboards and almost baroque violin sections that’s kind of interesting. Very different for the band, I suppose representing some kind of foggy dream-like sequence, but that’s about it. Ragsdale’s violin actually sounds too good for this song, and Walsh’s voice is really awful. Some of that I think is intentional, but its clear there has been a lot of digital tweaking done to his voice in the studio. The ending makes it clear this is not going to be a happy album –

“You see it all started when I was younger. They said I was good, but I thought they said great;

I crown myself the king of liars – I am what I have learned to hate”. So much for another “Power”!

“Desperate Times” is a multi-vocal track with Walsh sticking pretty much to the middle vocal ranges and actually sounding pretty good. For one of the only times I can remember there is a female backing vocal wafting in and out that gives a nice lilt to the music. I have to mention that Phil Ehart’s drumming is as always extremely tight and precise. Rich Williams offers up some of the best lead guitar work he’d ever done to that point, although those who’ve seen the band in the past ten years or so know that he’s really taken on that role in spades with Livgren and Steve Morse both long gone. Ragsdale is a very accomplished violinist, but I have to say that he doesn’t have it in him to lay out some dirty, nasty, hard-rocking blues ripping riffs like Steinhardt could. He sounds like he’s auditioning for a spot on the New York Philharmonic, and really only clicks on a couple of tunes (“Cold Grey Morning”, “Peaceful and Warm”). This is another morbid song about despair, I guess.

“Hope Once Again” sounds as much like a Desperate Measures song as anything else on that album did, except for Walsh’s voice which is raw once again, and Ragsdale’s violin since that instrument was missing in the mid-80’s version of the band.

With “Black Fathom 4” I think we see the sound that Ragsdale has been brought back into the band to recreate. This is a heavy, mostly rocking sound with a more straightforward beat and guitar work bordering on shredding. That said, this has kind of a catchy chorus, and the minor chords give it a bit of an edge. Not a bad song, and would probably quite good live. This one actually has some progressive tendencies, with a couple of major tempo changes, a two or three minute instrumental part with each instrument offering up a short solo stint, and a kind of futuristic theme (although the scene seems closer to Mad Max than say, Star Trek).

I don’t know what the hell “Under the Knife” is about. The vocals almost sound theatrical in spots. The lyrics are murky, something about falling in love with a surgeon’s knife, or killing his girlfriend…. I don’t know for sure. Another self-indulgent ‘woe is me’ song from Walsh. I don’t know what this guy was going through in 1995, but he sure as heck wasn’t a very happy guy. Walsh’s keyboards even sound like something from the theater – maybe ‘Phantom of the Opera’. This is a goofy song. Its not bad, just not Kansas.

“Need” is another depressing Walsh tune. This one is about breaking up, or maybe getting tossed out by his woman. Ehart lays down some erratic drums here that are pretty interesting, and Ragsdale does this choppy violin thing in the background that is a really nice touch to an otherwise nondescript song. Once again Walsh errs on the side of safe and doesn’t try to stretch his voice. If the lyrics had been more interesting this would have been a pretty good song; as it is, this is just average for these guys.

Kerry Livgren makes an appearance of sorts by handing the band “Cold Grey Morning”, a thick guitar and fast-paced drum piece that’s heavy on riffs and rather light on vocals. The “na-na-na-na” chants are unnecessary, and overall the arrangement doesn’t sound anything like a Livgren work. About the only reason I see for this being on the album is that it matches the depressing mood of the rest of the tracks. There’s some really strange fade/echo thing done to Walsh’s voice that serves no purpose and only makes the listener wonder if this is another production trick to hide his fading pipes. The instrumental bridge in the middle is just awkward. Williams has some very nice blues guitar work here though, and Greer’s bass sets a very funky pace. Ragsdale has finally loosened up on violin and is working with the music instead of standing off to the side of it.

The closing track “Peaceful and Warm” is by far the best thing on the album. This is a classical Walsh rock ballad, and apparently the best they could manage as an upbeat ending (at least nobody ends up on a hospital gurney in this one). This is yet another nostalgic look by Walsh back at his youth, in this case some reminiscing about growing up on the Missouri River in St Joseph, Missouri, along Interstate 29. I live much further north on Interstate 29, and have been through the stretch he’s referring to. It is actually a somewhat desolate and depressing place. No wonder the guy is a gloomy Gus. This is just a pretty comfortable Kansas melody with just the right amount of violin fills, acoustic guitar, and a kind of John Mellencamp sound to Walsh’s voice. There are almost no keyboards or drums on this one except at the very end, where there’s a bit of a reprise of “Hope Once Again”, which I guess is a not-too-subtle way of trying to make sure all their fans don’t run out and slit their wrists after being totally bummed out by the gloomy mood of these tracks.

This is not a bad album, not even for Kansas. The guys have done a few things right: resurrect an active violin sound; bring back some of the progressive texture that was all but abandoned in the 80’s; and (for the most part) not try to push Walsh’s voice where it won’t go any more. However, Steve Walsh was clearly in charge, and was clearly going through some really rough personal issues at the time. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to separate that from the music, and what fans are left with is by far the most morbid and hopeless work ever from a band that isn’t known for that kind of music. Too bad. It was good to see the band back in business, but I have to say that this album is only for serious fans like me. Novice listeners and those curious to become familiar with Kansas should start with anything released before 1980, and definitely save this one for when they have become a full-fledged Wheathead. I really hate to do this, but - two stars.


Review by WaywardSon
4 stars The only serious problem on the first song "I can Fly" is Steve Walsh´s voice which sounds like he is having difficuly reaching the notes, but after a bit he gets it right and the song comes together. There is some pretty heavy guitar on this song by Rich Williams, in fact I think this could be the heaviest sounding Kansas album.

"Desperate Times" is very catchy and has some strange sound effects during the song. "Hope Once Again" is very good, especially the part where Rich Williams take over from David Ragsdale´s violin solo. The backing female vocalists at the end of the song sound really nice as well.

"Black Fathom 4" is supposed to be about some war(in Yugoslavia if I remember correctly) On this track there is some really amazing violin playing by Ragsdale and some great drumming by Phil Ehart.

Things slow down on "Under the Knife" and the lyrics are quite morbidly interesting! "Need" is also a slowish number and Walsh sounds really emotional on this song.

"Freaks of Nature" is quite a heavy song for Kansas with some spectacular drumming from Ehart. The whole band show just how tightly they can play together. The only Livgren penned song on the album "Cold Grey Morning" is also quite morbid (especially for Livgren!) but good.

"Peaceful and Warm" is a great song with good lyrics, one of Walsh´s best compositions which builds into a fully blown orchestra towards the end! Almost five stars, close but no cigar.

Review by Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Freaks of Nature" was teh studio album in which the return of Kansas for the 90s began to take full shape. Yo ucan tell that the refurbished band was prepared to take back the ideals of musical cleverness in a prog context while maintaining the essential intention of sounding fresh and renewed. The influence of prog metal has been received by the band with taste and good disposition, as it is obvious in the opener,tracks 2 and 4 and the powerful namesake track. 'I Can Fly' is really incendiary, with a Walsh that cannot hide his graspy vocal tone but also cannot deny his genuine passion that still makes him one of the finest performers in the USA's prog scene. The hard rocking first section and last sections are intertwined by an epic interlude built by the dialogue between violin and two keyboards emulating orchestra, harp and the sound of a storming wind. 'Desperate Times' and 'Black Fathom 4' are less epic but equally robust, which is mostly due to the prominent presnece of the guitar riffs and the sense of energy that Ragsdale can (as if effortlessly) create with his violin. Phil Ehart also deserves a special mention regarding his drumming functions for these two tracks: arguably, his best input for the album are comprised here. The least complex of teh rockier songs is the namesake one, but far from trivial, it sets an example of how Kansas can easily retrace its core nucleus and search for effective songs guised in an old-fashioned Kansas style. The only trivial song in this album is the mid-tempo ballad 'Need', which sounds too related to the standards of AOR. More majestic are these other two mid-tempo songs: 'Hope Once Again' and 'Under the Knife'. Both are proper vehicles for Walsh's passionate singing and Ragsdale's soaring violin chops: these two elements lead the way for the whole ensemble in the building of genuinely emotional atmospheres. Although Livgren is not a band member, he is present with the song 'Cold Gray Morning', which is very much in the vein of the best moments of "Monolith" and "Audio-Visions" albums. In fact, I like this song better than most of Livgren's efforts for the aforesaid albums. The albums ends with a beautiful prog ballad called 'Peaceful and Warm'. One of the best Walsh compositions ever, the song's first section is sung, featuring a duet of acoustic guitars and solid violin colors gently accompanied by subtle synth layers; the second section is instrumental, with the piano laying the basic chords on which the whole band builds an emotionally charged climax where words are no longer needed. A beautiful end for a very good album, full of decent to great songs, with very few irregular moments. "Freaks of Nature" is an effective mixture of vintage Kansas and new musical starting points.
Review by ZowieZiggy
3 stars The last two Kansas studio albums were IMO the poorest ones of the band (both one star on my scale of value). Surprinsingly, they released three years before this studio album a rather good live album ("Live At The Whiskey"). Walsh had the good idea to add again a violin player in the line-up : David Ragsdale. Although I am not able to judge his skills as a musician, what I can say is that it was nice to have this instrument back in the band.

So, it was with a good feeling that I discovered this album. From the very first number, I was overwhelemd with joy. "My" Kansas was back again, some fifteen years after what I consider as their last decent studio album : "Audio-Visions" to name it.

Well, at least musically since Walsh on the lead vocals sounds absolutely terrible on "I Can Fly". But the sound of the band is the one I have been missing for such a long time : rocking like crazy (good old days are back). The structure of the song is complex; it is probably the most elaborate of the album with several tempo changes. It will include brilliant and peaceful violin break (almost classic) in the middle section should please any Kansas fan.

The second number "Desperate Time" is very pleasant : wild chorus and very good instrumental parts (although I find that the short drum solo in the middle part could have been skipped). "Hope Once Again" is a rock ballad. I have never believed that this was the best side of Kansas, but one of their greatest hits (if not their greatest) was of that vein, so I guess they tried to reconduct the formula. I must say that attempt is not the worse in the genre.

"Black Fathom 4" is a great hard (even heavy at times) rock song : Walsh's voice is getting better and resembles again as the one we were used to. Kansas trademark is definitely back. A strong rhytmic section, good vocals and nice violin. I can't honestly ask for more. Fifteen years of misery and boredom have been erased. A "Miracle out of Nowhere", really.

Of course, the compositions are not as brilliant as in the early days, the format of the songs is somewhat shorter than before but the typical music that Kansas had provided was back again and I guess that this only makes it a worthwhile album. The lyrics of "Under The Knife" refer to resurrection. It is indeed a resurrection : nice melody and overall good unity in the band (if you except the new Ragsdale on the violin, the quintet is playing together for quite some time). "Need" is maybe sub-par : a mellowish rock song, almost a ballad at times. Not impressive.

We'll go back to the hardest side of the band with the title track : a brilliant intro which will not be confirmed throughout the number. A bit incoherent in its instrumental parts (one can even distinguish some similiraties with "Watcher Of The Skies"). The heavy "Cold Grey Morning" is just a filler, but there are not so many here, so we'll have to live with it.

The closing number "Peaceful and Warm" starts... peacefully indeed. Nice acoustic guitar and very light (almost unoticeable) violin play. Here and there some piano touches. Yet, the mellow pace is a bit lenghtly. The track takes off for the last two minutes.

It's so nice to hear that Kansas can still compose good songs again. They took their time to do it (to say the least) but they are back. Ragsdale violin play is omnipresent and this is fine with me. I missed this so much that I can only applaud. Three stars.

Review by Tarcisio Moura
3 stars Charming, but quite uncharacteristic, that´s the conclusion. Kansas first studio release in the 90´s is interesting, but different from what most fans waited for so long. With Steve Walsh in charge, Freaks Of Nature sounds pleasant enough to satisfy the ones (like me) who never really dug their 80´s stuff. On the other hand it´s not up to their 70´s effords. Times have changed a lot, indeed. Even the Kerry Livgren tune they got (Cold Grey Morning) is not what you´d expect from him. Also Dave Ragsdale violin playing is not very much like Robby Steinhardt. However, It was good to hear the violin sound and some prog stuff too back to Kansas music.

So, if you don´t mind much for the opener, I Can Fly, a very unusual and strange song for the group´s style, the rest is quite good. Hope Onde Again, Black Fathom 4, Under The Blade and the aforementioned Cold Grey Morning are fine songs done usually with their great musicanship and tasteful arrangements. Steve Walsh´s voice also is not the same as on the old times, but he still can handle the job quite well. And I guess , for 1995, this record was well timed. It is only a pity that it did not get much attention or airplay. Certainly, the ugly cover didn´t help matters...

Not a masterpiece, nor essential, but good anyway. But be sure to get all their 70´s stuff before tacking this one.

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Hmmm...I´m kinda confused here. This actually sounds like Kansas again, with David Ragsdale´s violin sounding really good. This album is listenable and even has som interessting parts that can be concidered prog. Just listen to the middle part of I can Fly.

The album has a pretty raw sound that suits it well. It leaves the impression that Kansas actually care again. The violin is very omnipresent which is really great. The trees don´t grown into the sky though, as this is basically a hard rock/Pop album and not much more. There is still no resemblance to the seventies genialities, but at least this is bearable.

I have to note though that Steve Walsh doesn´t sound well on the album. Where has his voice gone ? Too much booze maybe ?

If you are a fanatic fan this is much better than anything Kansas made in the eighties and in that respect I recommend Freaks of Nature over their eighties stuff.

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
3 stars

Freaks Of Nature is the only studio album of original material that Kansas released during the 1990's. In sits between 1988's In The Spirit Of Things and 2000's Somewhere To Elsewhere in their discography. Hearing this album it is clear from the start that it was a determinate step away from what the band was doing in the 80's and a step back towards the 70's. The violin is reinstated as a dominant part of the sound of Kansas (while previous albums had been without that instrument). It is however not Robbie Steinhardt that plays the violin but David Ragsdale.

Another thing to note is that Freaks Of Nature rocks harder than we are used to from Kansas. The album came out on the Magna Carta label which held many bands from the burgeoning progressive Metal scene. This album is however more Heavy Prog than Metal and actually reminds of bands like Uriah Heep and Deep Purple. The album is rather guitar dominated with keyboards taking a back seat and organ and piano being the main keyboard instruments involved.

The songs are well written and melodious but unfortunately not memorable enough to elevate this album beyond just good. Nothing is of low quality, but there are no real standout tracks or gems here either. Long time fans of the band will not be disappointed with Freaks Of Nature, but I doubt that this album will create any new converts to the band.

Review by Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I picked this up years ago in the discount carousel of a gas station during a family vacation, which might normally say a lot about the album at the outset. But all it says to me is that I got a great deal on an oasis in an terribly arid period of my favorite band. This album rocks, and rocks hard. Finally the violin has returned, only it is not the beloved Robby Steinhardt wielding the bow; David Ragsdale may be playing the same instrument, but his style and skill give the music a completely different flavor, and it by no means disappoints. He has a cleaner tone and a more restrained way of playing, which is of course a contrast to his predecessor's way of handling things. The bass guitar stands out more on this album than any other Kansas recording, and the guitars are generally the heaviest they've ever been. The drumming is terrific (I never expect less, really). Keyboardist Greg Robert, who toured with the band a bit, is credited as a full member, but since Walsh plays keyboards too, it's impossible to know what Robert's contribution to the recordings was. For once, there is a female vocalist, Renee Castle, who is a guest on "Hope Once Again." It's too bad this album didn't regenerate Kansas's status as a viable American progressive rock band (which it possibly could have done), but it got very little attention outside the circle of diehard fans. Quite simply, this is the best album Kansas ever did without the general involvement of Kerry Livgren. It's a shame it gets so little attention.

"I Can Fly" I was never completely impressed by this opening song, but it wore on me over the years. It is full of changes, and it sounds very close to the music Steve Walsh would be making at the turn of the century. It's full of heavy guitar contrasted with a more orchestral respite.

"Desperate Times" Irresistibly catchy, this more simplistic song has a pulsating guitar driving it throughout, and during the chorus, Ragsdale sounds like he almost lit his strings on fire. He gets to do a bit of plucking also, which leads into a beautifully powerful instrumental section, courtesy of Rich Williams's gorgeous guitar tone. Even Billy Greer and Phil Ehart get some of the spotlight, as there is a section with Greer's growling bass under Ehart's rapid fire snare and tom fills.

"Hope One Again" The jewel of the album, featuring magnificent lead guitar and poignant violin. Walsh sounds phenomenal singing such lovely words. The whole song is itself a highlight, but the highlight of the highlight is the glossy violin followed by one of Williams's best guitar solos ever.

"Black Fathom 4" Kansas takes a heavy approach with stomping bass and guitar chords that give way to more subtle music and lovely violin work. Greer once again stands out as he paves the way for Williams and Ragsdale to solo all over each other in a brilliant moment of polyphony. Walsh sounds abysmal though, as he pushes his voice far beyond his newfound limitations, eliciting shrieks that sound like a preteen's attempt at mimicking David Lee Roth's screams.

"Under the Knife" Perhaps it is overly dramatic, but I confess that this is one of my favorites on the album, and I liked it immediately. It's a clever arrangement for an otherwise straightforward song, boasting some great guitar, stellar violin riffs, and mysterious lyrics. Greer steps into the fore with Ragsdale toward the end.

"Need" This is another fine offering, with a slight Turkish flavor, mellow organ, and Greer's bass warbling around. It's a rock ballad, sure, but it's one of Walsh's best.

"Freaks of Nature" The title track is not so good, however, though that has nothing to do with Williams's (excellent) guitar playing; it just isn't that strong a song. The vocals, vocalizations, and lyrics range from forgettable to laughable. Even the instrumental section is grating and directionless. I usually don't hesitate to pass on this one.

"Cold Grey Morning" Livgren sneaks a mighty composition onto this album, showing that sophisticated rock is not lost on him (or Kansas). The introduction is one of the best moments on the album. Williams's plays a clean guitar solo in the middle that showcases what a fine musician he is. Before the chorus returns, there is a brief reprisal of "Paradox" from Point of Know Return, which is played again on piano at the very end.

"Peaceful and Warm" I think this proves that Walsh does a better job writing acoustic songs than Livgren does, which is a little weird, really. But Walsh's "Taking in the View" was the greatest song on Power, and "Peaceful and Warm" is quite simply one of the best parts of Freaks of Nature. "Dust in the Wind" is a great song, but lacks complexity, and (through no fault of Livgren) actually suffers from repeated airplay. This song is haunting, desolate, and yet retains an element of coziness not heard on any other song on this record. The violin is nothing less than exquisite, and everything here is a sharp contrast to the heavier music that permeates the other pieces. The final couple of minutes is uplifting instrumental music using lovely piano and violin; I've heard this "hidden piece" is called "Beware the Gnat," but I can't find a credible source to confirm that.

Review by b_olariu
3 stars 3.5

Kansas are back after a seven years gap in prog rock music with a new release , back then named Freaks of nature , released in 1995. Almost anyone expected a new release from the master so it was kinda high expectation from me aswell. Having the album since he was release, on cassete, I had the time to listen carefuly since then. To tell the truth I like it, is a good album, with some mediocre moments aswell, but generaly is a good one no doubt.The previous Kansas album In the spirits of thing was for me an enjoyble release, this one is little edge in places, that AOr feeling of the late '80's is gone living place to a much more room for the violin and guitar. The line up almost as the original with some minus musicians, but they manage to create IMO a pleasent album, at least for me. The violin of David Ragsdale is very proeminent on every piece, the guitar aswell, the voice of Walsh is ok on every track. Some pieces caught my attention from the first time, still today after 15 years still impress me as much as then: opening track I can fly , Desperate times, Black fathom 4 , Under the knife and Peaceful and warm, all great tunes, in places capture the magic of old kansas but not entirely, they still needed a much more progressive elements, lots more keybords to be as in the glory days. The only track that is mediocre to me is Need, totaly useless in this context. Anyway , a 3 star album to me, close to 3.5, not as good the'70's music they release, but a fair release from the masters.

Review by VanVanVan
4 stars I really, really dislike the term "underrated," but I think as far as Kansas albums go that's a fair description for this one. What we have here is what I would argue constitutes a sort of "return to form" after the decent but comparatively weak "Power" and the mess that was "In the Spirit of Things." True, there are no lengthy epics like the ones on early Kansas albums, but we still have here a lot of tight compositions and passion in place of a lot of the bland cheesiness of their late eighties albums.

The album kicks off with "I Can Fly," which starts off with some introductory noise before David Ragsdale makes his first studio appearance as Kansas' violinist. Walsh's vocals join in soon after, and the listener will immediately notice that his voice is not nearly the same as it was even seven years ago on "In the Spirit of Things." It's qutie raspy, and you can hear him straining to sing notes that would have been in the middle of his range in his prime. That said, it's better to hear him sing passionately with this voice than to blandly intone eighties love ballads with his old one. "I Can Fly" quickly builds in intensity from there and it's quite a good opener for the album. "Desperate Times" is equally good, starting with a simply string and bass repeated pattern but building into a nice song, with some very good violin and a cool little guitar/violin duet that breaks up the otherwise standard structure of the song. "Hope Once Again," is another good song, slower than the first two tracks but powerful nonetheless. "Black Fathom Four" is, in my opinion, the best song on the album. A killer violin "riff" opens the song, and we're treated to some of Steve Walsh's most visceral lyrics ever. One of the darkest and most intense Kansas songs of any era. "Under the Knife" is also great, with dark, primal sounding verses and a catchy chorus. "Need" is one of the weaker songs on the album, in my opinion, but it's still interesting, with some tribal sounding drums and bass that's pretty far off anything Kansas had done before. The title track starts off with a very cool sounding guitar lick, but it goes downhill from there, with dark but cliched lyrics and a "na-na-na" chorus that sounds way too close to the 1967 song "Hush" for comfort. What comes next, is, shockingly, a Kerry Livgren track, "Cold Grey Morning." Amazingly, it fits in with the rest of the album and doesn't seem out of place; I don't know the story of why Livgren wrote a song for the album but it definitely works. The album closes with "Peaceful and Warm," a Steve Walsh-penned acoustic track. Walsh definitely proves that despite his hard-rock tendencies he can pull this kind of song off, something he would do again on his two later solo albums. It's a great closer, even though the lyrics are a bit predictable. Plus, it finishes with a section almost reminiscent of "Cheyenne Anthem," which sounds great and ends the album on a high note.

To be honest, I started this review with the intention of giving the album a 3 or 3.5, but as I re- listened to it in preparation for this writing I decided that it really does deserve a full four stars. Though drastically different in style, this is easily on par with "Monolith" and it's certainly better than "Audio-Visions," two albums from the end of Kansas' classic lineup. This is definitely the best album from the Walsh-led Kansas, and it proves that he can most definitely hold his own as a songwriter even when held up for comparison against the mighty Livgren. I would highly recommend this album to any Kansas fan, it's great.


Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars In 1982, Kansas released 'Vinyl Confessions' a rather lackluster record which would also be the last time a violin (which is probably one of the trademark things about the band's sound) would be used for quite some time. The band's line-up would go through so many changes over the next several years, that no one could keep up with who was in the band and who wasn't, but one thing for certain, that violin sound kept the band from effectively playing their best tracks in concert, and they basically just became another rock band trying to hang on and living off of their band name.

Then, one of the best moves the band would make in many years, would begin movement back in the right direction. In 1991, David Ragsdale was brought into the band, bringing back the violin as one of the main instruments again, and suddenly, things starting sounding great again. After some successful touring where the band was once again able to do justice to their best songs, the band finally released the first album to have new material since 1988 and would call it 'Freaks of Nature'. The question was, would it be able to live up to the quality of music the band had released in its heyday.

In order to do that, it would be thought that most of the original band would have to be along for the ride. Steve Walsh still remained mostly loyal to the band, so is there, of course. However, Kenny Livgren is absent, and that is noticeable to some extent. Steve Morse no longer threatened the band (thank goodness), so that was a big plus. Rich Williams (guitar) was also loyal to the band and also participates in the album along with the other loyalist Phil Ehart (on drums). At the time, Greg Robert was the main keyboardist and had been since 1986, and Billy Greer was also along for the album and still continues to be with the band to this day. So, for this album, the line-up was pretty solid and Ragsdale, being the newcomer and the one bringing back the central instrument of the band, was going to have to live up to a high bar. Fortunately, he had sent the band a demo tape several years previously, and this is what got him hired on as a regular band member.

One other attempt to return to their most popular sound was bringing back Jeff Glixman as a producer, who also produced the band's best albums, namely 'Song for America', 'Masque', 'Leftoverture', and 'Point of No Return'. With these things coming together, the outlook for 'Freaks of Nature' is a good one, but did it come along too late? Many people had given up on the band being able to release a good record as many loyal fans had been disappointed too many times in the past. This would show in this album's sales as the public was hesitant to buy an album with all new material on it. It would be the only official Kansas album to not appear on the Billboard charts. Also, critics were quite harsh with it.

However, the album isn't as bad as some would make it out to be. There are some bumpy sections throughout the album that keeps it from reaching the pinnacle of their best work. But, it definitely isn't one that should be ignored either. 'I Can Fly' starts off with some extremely bad vocals right away which are very grating and not a good way to introduce the album. But when Ragsdale's violin comes in, there is a feeling of hope. Not much can save this first track, unfortunately, after that embarrassing introduction, but at least the rest of the band tries to do so.

As the music continues though, things do improve, including Walsh's voice. This is a good thing because Walsh is the only lead singer on this album. My first impression of this album was filled with dread after that first track and I thought Walsh was washed up. But things do improve as 'Desperate Times', 'Hope Once Again' and the heavy 'Black Fathom 4' are much better, and it would have been a great album if the band continued in this mode. Things tend to level off on 'Under the Knife' and 'Need' as the band seems to fall back into its more lackadaisical style that plagued them during the 80's. Those songs aren't bad, but they are a far cry from anything pre-'Point of No Return'. It gets even worse with 'Freaks of Nature' and the sappy 'Peaceful and Warm'. However, Livgren's only contribution to the album, the song 'Cold Gray Morning' sits in between these tracks and it is one of the better tracks of the 2nd half of the album.

So, the album is a step better than the previous albums of the 80's, and Ragsdale's violin is a welcome addition to the band. Fortunately, he would continue on with the band with a break between 1997 and 2006. Even though it didn't show in the sales of the album, over time, this gradual return-to-form by the band would prove to be a good thing for them. It would take time for the band to match the output of their previous years, but at least now, they were working towards that end, not just resting on their laurels. Even though it was not perfect, it was, for me, an album that gave back hope that Kansas could return to the amazing band it had been before. This album gets 3.5 stars from me, but is rounded down to 3 because of the weaker 2nd half. But it is a good sign of better things to come.

Latest members reviews

2 stars Um?? not so much. With Livgren and Steinhardt gone from the band since the early 80's Kansas trues to sound like Kansas but only comes close on a few tracks off the next 3 albums this one included. At least the violin was back and never to leave again. David Ragsdale is a great musician and his ... (read more)

Report this review (#2713442) | Posted by Sidscrat | Saturday, March 26, 2022 | Review Permanlink

3 stars One heck of a non-lazy, powerful "comeback". This is a loud yet dynamic album. Kansas has gone light over the 80's With Audio/Visions being such a varied, corporate album ("Monolith" was the last "true" prog effort of that line-up) yet was to be trumped by later 80's albums: the somewhat forg ... (read more)

Report this review (#953933) | Posted by Monsterbass74 | Saturday, May 4, 2013 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I feel that this album is a little underrated . Yes not as good as their first albums(all masterpieces) but in my opinion much better than Monolith or Audio Visions. This album was the first with Walsh that really showed an improvement to finish in the 2000 album...but in my opinion this o ... (read more)

Report this review (#865014) | Posted by robbob | Friday, November 23, 2012 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Without the musical writing skills of Kerry Livegren, Kansas is just not the same band. Only the second to last song has his mark on it, and it is one of his weaker ones. However, this is not a bad album, just not excellent. I enjoy "I Can Fly", "Hope Once Again", "Under the Knife", and "Freak ... (read more)

Report this review (#445844) | Posted by mohaveman | Wednesday, May 11, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This has to be the most under-rated album ever! Okay maybe not, but seriously (sorry to invoke a Phil Collins album), this is seriously under- rated stuff! At least the good old boys of can rate a bit above 3. Although by now Kansas had become a dinosaur artifact that couldn't ... (read more)

Report this review (#282129) | Posted by Brendan | Saturday, May 15, 2010 | Review Permanlink

2 stars Return of the violin, not of the inspiration. This introduction sentence may seem a little harsh considering that Kansas made several important moves in order to make Freaks of Nature better than their three terrible previous albums. And better it is, but not enough. First, in the person o ... (read more)

Report this review (#120222) | Posted by Bupie | Monday, April 30, 2007 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Maybe it was low expectations on my part, but "Freaks of Nature" jumped out and grabbed at me at first listen. The first two tracks are very tight powerful prog rock songs very much in the tradition of classic Kansas. There's no doubt these musicians are seasoned professionals and that this ba ... (read more)

Report this review (#89518) | Posted by bluetailfly | Tuesday, September 12, 2006 | Review Permanlink

1 stars Album flat out sucks dust from the wind---Walsh is through, Livgren thank God escaped-- what else can ya say about a bunch of has-beens. Music on all tracks lack song writing that earlier results produced. Thought I was listening to a chinese orchestra with rap backgroung tracks. I feel as t ... (read more)

Report this review (#21925) | Posted by | Tuesday, April 26, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This remarkable work of Kansas evoque the early years of the band, with powerfull arrangements, showing the band in total shape.Mixing moments of pure progressive with hard ones,and folk moments, the compositions are exciting, with fantastic works of violin and drums, excellent vocals and int ... (read more)

Report this review (#21923) | Posted by | Monday, May 24, 2004 | Review Permanlink

3 stars The band's first new product for 7 years elicited a big sigh of relief from Fans all over the world. A crisp production seemed to have papered over Walsh's vocal cracks, and there was some top quality Kansas music on offer, especially the wistful Peaceful And Warm and Hope Once Again. Look out for ... (read more)

Report this review (#21921) | Posted by | Wednesday, December 31, 2003 | Review Permanlink

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