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Kansas Always Never The Same album cover
3.37 | 166 ratings | 15 reviews | 9% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1998

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Eleanor Rigby (3:22)
2. Dust In The Wind (4:01)
3. Preamble (3:25)
4. Song For America (9:17)
5. In Your Eyes (4:31)
6. Miracles Out Of Nowhere (6:28)
7. Hold On (4:18)
8. The Sky Is Falling (7:51)
9. Cheyenne Anthem (7:31)
10. Prelude And Introduction (4:53)
11. The Wall (5:29)
12. Need To Know (3:59)
13. Nobody's Home (6:01)

Total Time: 71:06

Line-up / Musicians

- Steve Walsh / vocals, keyboards
- Robby Steinhardt / violin, vocals
- Rich Williams / electric & acoustic guitars
- Billy Greer / bass, vocals
- Phil Ehart / drums

- The London Symphony Orchestra
- Larry Baird / arranger & conductor

Releases information

Mostly covers of the band's previous work, rerecorded with the London Symphony Orchestra and also including a cover of The Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby" plus 4 new songs (tracks 3,5,8,12)

Artwork: Conni Treantafeles with Pennie Moore

CD River North Records ‎- 51416 1384 2 (1998, US)
CD Edsel Records ‎- DIAB 8045 (1998, Europe)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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KANSAS Always Never The Same ratings distribution

(166 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(9%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(35%)
Good, but non-essential (42%)
Collectors/fans only (13%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

KANSAS Always Never The Same reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is actually a compilation of the band's hits with re-arrangement of their original work using orchestra with London Symphony Orchestra. The concept is similar with "The Symphonic Music of Yes" where original band members still play the music and the composition is strengthen with real orchestra. The result is an excellent alternative of Kansas music. Most of the main melody do not change much but the additional orchestration usually adds value during transition pieces or filling the gaps between breaks. Songs highlight include "Miracles out of Nowhere"(re-arranged with more dynamic sounds), "The Wall", "Song For America", "The Wall", "Cheyenne Anthem", "Hold On". There is also one track by the Beatles re-arranged with orchestration "Eleanor Rigby".

I had been insofar familiar with two versions of "Eleanor Rigby"; first by Esperanto "Last Tango" album and the other one from our local rock band God Bless (based in Jakarta). Listening another third version by Kansas of this legendary song from The Beatles is very enjoyable - the arrangement is truly excellent. As I have heard three alternate versions from the original studio version, my preference goes this way: 1. by Esperanto, 2. by God Bless and 3. by Kansas even though all of them are excellent. I even plan to compile all this three versions into one CDR like I did with Genesis' Cinema Show combining the one from The Flower Kings as well.

"Dust In The Wind" which I had been bored because it was repeated many times in typical FM station, is more enjoyable with this album. "Song for America" which has been added with "Preamble" is really great. "In Your Eyes" (written by Steve Walsh) which I had not been familiar with is also arranged beautifully. The other important track to enjoy is "The Sky is Falling".

This project took two years from inception to completion and produced by Phil Ehart, Richard Williams, and Trammell Starks. Orchestra arranged and conducted by Larry Baird. It's rewarding album as we can hear different style of Kansas music. The project remarked the return of Robbie Steinhardt. Overall vocal quality of Steve Walsh had dropped - probably too much drinking? Overall, it's an excellent addition to any prog collection. Keep on proggin' ..

Progressively yours, GW

Review by WaywardSon
3 stars It┤s strange that the band would choose a Beatles cover for the album opener. "Eleanor Rigby" seems to start quite abruptly and this is already a sore point. I would have thought that withThe London Symphonic Orchestra they could have had at least some sort of prelude to set the mood. It┤s a great song but this version on here is pretty average.

"Dust in the wind" sounds very good and Steve Walsh┤s voice suddenly sounds like it was way back in the seventies. (Crystal clear acoustic guitar by Williams)

"Preamble" is a prelude to "Song for America" and this is how the album should have started. The way it changes into "Song for America" is really majestic and beautiful.

Steve Walsh sounds really good on "Need to know" and "Nobody┤s Home" (as with "Dust in the wind" and "Song for America")

However, there are songs on this album where he is really straining his voice and at one point (during "Hold On") one could swear that they are listening to Joe Cocker!

Another observation is the timing in "Cheyenne Anthem" and "Hold On" during the quieter moments. I could almost picture the band nodding and counting the bars for when to come in! It sounds quite awkward and makes it an uncomfortable listening experience (especially for someone who has grown up listening to these classic Kansas songs)

The strong point about this album is that it contains a lot of Kansas┤s classics, so the songwriting is excellent. The weak point is the way some of these songs are executed, particularly with regards to Steve Walsh┤s voice. The best tracks are "Dust in the wind" , "Preamble", "Song for America", "Need to know" and "Nobody┤s home"

I still feel that "Freaks of Nature" was their best album during the nineties (I gave it four stars) But, with "Always never the same" it can be summed up as good, but not essential.

Review by ClemofNazareth
3 stars This was a really strange album for Kansas, and not a particularly memorable time for the band. They were coming off a big disappointment after the release of 'Freaks of Nature', which most of the band thought was going to be their reemergence as a major American act. It wasn't even close. Singer/keyboardist Steve Walsh had gone through rehab after a substance abuse meltdown in Atlanta and had been temporarily replaced on tour (he would relapse and have another meltdown just as the studio sessions for this album were wrapping up). Violinist/guitarist/singer/songwriter David Ragsdale had moved on after 'Freaks', as had keyboardist Greg Robert. Violinist Robbie Steinhardt was back with the band after nearly a fifteen year absence, but his presence on this release is largely on vocals with fairly tepid violin work in front of the London Symphony Orchestra, which supplements the band on every track. This lineup is two-thirds of the original band, and would be their last personnel changes until Steinhardt would leave by mutual consent in 2006.

Walsh's voice starts off a bit husky, and deteriorates rapidly as the album progresses. He doesn't sound quite as bad as he did on the 'Live at the Whiskey' from a few years prior, but he is definitely struggling to find his range, and often missing it. Drummer Phil Ehart seems to struggle a bit to keep in time with the orchestra, especially on the more languid portions of the album. The overall timing here is just a bit awkward. Guitarist Rich Williams and bass player Billy Greer, on the other hand, are both pretty solid throughout, although on many of the more well-known works ("The Wall", "Cheyenne Anthem") there are some very tasty guitar bits that have been replaced with uninspired orchestral movements. Finally, the backing vocals here are just weird. In several places it sounds like Walsh has overdubbed his lead vocals with himself on backing. Robbie's vocals are quite distinctive and you either love them or you don't, but I will say that he seems a bit rusty at times, particularly on "Cheyenne Anthem" and on backing vocals for "Miracles out of Nowhere".

That's not to say there aren't some solid moments here. I seem to be in the minority in really liking the version of "Eleanor Rigby" that the band opens with. Sure, Kansas isn't known for cover tunes (name any others that they've recorded - J.J. Cale's "Bringing it Back" and "Ghost Riders in the Sky" are the only two I can think of). But it kicks things off like some of the early albums - unexpected, upbeat, and rocking. Walsh's voice is as good as it gets anywhere else on the album, and the orchestra has an arrangement that they are clearly comfortable with, unlike several of the Kansas standards that would follow.

"Dust in the Wind" is okay, but really this is a song that is made for strings, strings, and more strings. It's a mystery to me why there isn't about a 40 or 50 seat violin/cello deafening blast of strings on this song. I think the band missed a real opportunity here, especially considering this was released as one of two singles for the album.

The instrumental preamble to "Song for America" is pretty good, even if it kind of sounds like the opening music for a science fiction film, or maybe a Moody Blues album. And "Song for America" itself comes out quite nicely with the orchestral backing blending well with a pretty straightforward rendition by the band. The orchestra does a great job of capturing the magnificence that Kerry Livgren intended when he wrote this one twenty years prior.

Walsh manages to put together a new song with "In Your Eyes", and he keeps his vocals in conservative range so the overall sound is pretty good, plus Williams and Steinhardt complement each other well on guitar and violin.

The lead-in for "Miracles Out of Nowhere" just make me wince, because I know Walsh is going to try and hit the high ones here, and that he won't manage to pull it off, and he doesn't. Still, there's something about the arrangement here that takes me way back to the seventies every time I hear it, really a reminiscent tune. The violin helps quite a bit. This is one of a couple tunes where the horns are out-of-place though, and should have been left out.

The messiest track on the album is "Hold On", originally released on 1980's 'Audio- Visions'. Walsh's voice is just haggard, and the backing vocals sound more like Spock's Beard then Spock's Beard does. This is a great song, but it just doesn't wear well with time.

"The Sky is Falling" has some great guitar work, both acoustic and electric, and Walsh sounds quite a bit like he did in his first solo album 'Schemer-Dreamer'. This isn't really a Kansas-sounding tune, but a decent effort nonetheless.

I've already commented on "Cheyenne Anthem", one of my favorite Kansas songs but not handled well here. The echo effect on Steinhardt's opening vocals is just cheesy, and the extended instrumental section would have benefited with less from the horn section and more guitar from Williams. This really sounds more like a Disney soundtrack than it does a Kansas song, which is too bad because this arrangement was really made for a strong symphonic treatment ? this just isn't that treatment.

The prelude/introduction that leads up to "The Wall" is really more of a recital on the part of the orchestra than anything from the band. In fact, there isn't much of the band to hear. But "The Wall" itself is worth the wait, especially with the cello and double-bass parts toward the ending climax. Very well done, and even the horn section can't screw this one up.

There's one more Walsh composition, "Need to Know", which is pretty slow and doesn't feature the orchestra too much, but is instead a kind of ballad-like piece that picks up a bit of steam as it chugs along. Walsh's voice is pretty clear for the most part, although even here he manages to get raspy on the more powerful parts. Overall though this is a pretty decent inclusion.

Finally, "Nobody's Home" from 'Point of Know Return' closes out the album. This is another song that was made for orchestral accompaniment, and the London Symphony doesn't disappoint. Walsh's vocal inflections are a bit odd, but the string section captures the really spectacular violin parts of this song well. Like "Dust in the Wind" though, I thought the sound mix could have been a bit cleaner and given more separation between the strings and piano. This is a small complaint however, as is the slightly goofy spacey-sounding synthesizer ending. Neither takes much away from a very solid ending to the album.

It's actually too bad that there wasn't a stronger effort to really build up the symphonic blending of the Livgren tunes here with such a capable orchestra. This is a decent album, but I have to believe it could have been spectacular if the song selection would have favored more Livgren compositions, and perhaps even if a few tracks could have been converted to purely instrumental ("Cheyenne Anthem" especially). Overall this isn't essential by any means, but it isn't bad either. I think three stars is warranted, with a disclaimer that Walsh's voice borders on a distraction at times, and the band could have done better had they not been dealing with some of the personal issues that affected them at the time. But it is what it is, and Kansas fans who have not heard this one will probably enjoy it for the most part.


Review by ZowieZiggy
3 stars The least I can say, is that I am not really found of those associations. When rock meets classic has never been my cup of tea. Whether it's Yes, Purple, Tull. ELO being an exception with El Dorado but the essence of the band in this album was pure symphony s o it worked pretty well. Thinking of Kansas and their violin-oriented sound, it might be a worthy exercise.

Since Kansas was not very prolific in those days (they released only one good album three years before this one) they decided to join forces with an orchestra and re- arrange some of their This is a studio album.

I wonder why Kansas decided to feature "Eleanor Rigby" here. This version is not bad but I do not think it was relevant to play htis one on a Kansas effort, be it with a symphonic orchestra. "Dust In The Wind" works pretty well with the orchestra. Unlike the Tull (and dull) effort, this album keeps the vocals and do not replaces them with the orchestration. It has more a backing and supporting role. The band has its role to play and the combination works pretty well here. From time to time, the horn section will be a bit "too much" but these moments are rather scrace, so...

"Preamble" is a pure work of the orchestra and not a Kansas song as such. Classic music, period. Skip it. Same applies to the later "Prelude & Introduction". On the contrary, "Song For America" sounds nice (but this will be a tendancy that will prevail throughout the album). Kansas music goes along pretty well with an orchestra.

"In Your Eyes", as "The Sky Is Falling" and "Need To Know" was unknown to me. Maybe that Walsh wrote them especially for the occasion, I don't know. Anyway, they are not particularly brilliant. Don't get me wrong : they are not bad songs but they cannot compete with most of the other ones which really belong to the best of Kansas' repertoire. The last sounding at times to "West Side Story" (but that's the risk with such effort).

I guess the whole would have been better with some other Kansas epics like (Journey from "Mariabronn", "Magnum Opus", "Lamplight Symphony" or "Incomudro").

Several greatt numbers of the band are featured here. Of course, at times the orchestration might be a bit intrusive but not too much after all. Some songs as "Hold On" were not particularly brilliant in their original form, so the addition of the LSO will not change anything. One of my preferred number here is the very emotional "The Wall". It was a very good number in its original form. Just a pity that Walsh is not on par on the vocals. A great song by all means. One of the few tracks during which the orchestra takes too much place is probably "Nobody's Home".

This might well be the best ever effort of that genre (at least the ones I have heard). Even if, like me, you are not keen to listen to a symphonic orchestra, this record is worth a spin. Three stars.

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Well it┤s better than a normal best-of I guess, but it┤s really not that good. I think it sounds like a shadow of what was once Kansas. Steve Walsh has terrible problems with his voice, he sounds like he has a soar throat. This is devastating for beautiful songs like Dust In the Wind and Cheyenne Anthem. And what about that orchestra. It seldom works very well with an orchestra in rock music and this is no exception. It sounds cheesy at best. No no no, dig out your old copy of Two for the Show and listen to how Kansas sounded when everything that mattered to them was their music.

I really haven┤t got much to say about this release as I am so dissapointed that they keep destroying their legacy like this.

Review by Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Amazing Kansas classics (and a few new ones thanks to vocalist and keyboardist Steve Walsh) are revamped with modern technology and the grand accompaniment of the London Symphony Orchestra. I could certainly be greedy and wish other songs had been given the symphonic treatment ("Journey from Mariabronn," "Apercu," "Icarus- Borne on Wings of Steel," "The Pinnacle," "Closet Chronicles" and "Hopelessly Human" all rush to my mind), but I am thankful for this adventurous album. Not only do some marvelous versions of some marvelous Kansas songs appear here, but Steve Walsh includes three new tracks that are all very good. Also, the London Symphony Orchestra performs two instrumentals, one of which is a medley of songs that didn't appear on this album in full form. On another note, the artwork is incredibly attractive, and the booklet impeccably designed.

"Eleanor Rigby" A fantastic version of a great song right here, full of spirited vocals, heavy guitars, and of course, the majesty of the orchestra. It's dark, unexpected, and a grand way to kick off this record.

"Dust in the Wind" As expected, the orchestra takes a major role here. Otherwise, it's another version of a classic song. I personally don't like the acoustic guitar sound here, but when there are a dozen versions of the same song by the same band, there's little reason to be overly critical since I usually wind up skipping the track anyway.

"Preamble" This delicate and lovely orchestral piece graces the listener with themes from the forthcoming "Song for America."

"Song for America" The orchestra continues, and introduces the initial guitar riff of one of Kansas's best pieces. This dazzling work of art is given a majestic treatment, as the orchestra fills out the sound with stately washes and whimsical embellishments. Both the voice and violin of Robbie Steinhardt are clear and well used. As with many versions of "Song for America," the band chose to leave out the synthesizer solo that follows the two verses, which in my opinion isn't all that big of a loss, except that with the involvement of the London Symphony Orchestra, they could have used that section to really make the song even more of an outstanding version than it already is.

"In Your Eyes" This new one from Steve Walsh is a moderate rocker with an uplifting chorus. Walsh's voice does sound rather strained, particularly toward the end. While this is certainly a great song, it simply does not compete with the progressive classics that appear on this album

"Miracles Out of Nowhere" As with "Dust in the Wind" here, I don't care much for the creamy acoustic guitar tone. I also find the orchestra severely underused, especially during the polyphonic middle section. Otherwise, this is a splendid version of one of my favorite Kansas songs.

"Hold On" This fan favorite is cloaked with a Celtic feel. Sometimes I feel Walsh's raspy voice ruins such staggeringly beautiful music, but I've grown accustomed to it. I would like to have heard Steinhardt sing this one.

"The Sky is Falling" After a very good orchestral introduction, the music goes in a completely different direction, featuring a polyrhythmic clean guitar section before diving into a grittier, southern rock sound. The lyrics are more on the down-to-earth, blues-rock side of Kansas, and at the end, Steinhardt performs a wonderful violin solo.

"Cheyenne Anthem" One could hardly improve on this disheartening but beautiful song, and yet here is this: A completely wonderful reworking of this lovely tribute to a Native American tribe. Instead of stark piano under Walsh's voice, there's the spectacular orchestra, and the lyrical climax is more powerful than ever. In fact, the orchestra handles most of the music during the instrumental section, and does a breathtaking job. In lieu of the haunting vocals during the final verse, there is Rich Williams, who successfully captures the sonic beauty of the final moments.

"Prelude and Instrumental" This piece is an exhibition of the guest orchestra at their finest. It is an explosive medley of several Kansas songs. An excerpt from "Point of Know Return," noticeably absent from the album, can be heard here. There is also a delicate reminder of "Lamplight Symphony," which is unfortunately often forgotten, and it almost brings me to tears hearing it here.

"The Wall" Another of my favorite shorter Kansas songs, there is nothing particularly new during the amazing introduction. The music is unadorned at first, with Williams' velvety electric guitar, until the orchestra and rhythm section come in and fill out the sound. This is most definitely Walsh's best singing of this song, and his inflections during the second lyrical section always give me chills. It's a brilliant rendition of the song, perhaps better than the original.

"Need to Know" This is the third new offering from Walsh. It is a quiet ballad with heartfelt lyrics. Says Walsh, "I wrote 'Need to Know' after I saw Sling Blade about ten times in a row." The heavier section is abrupt and unexpected.

"Nobody's Home" This underappreciated song begged for an orchestral makeover, and it gets it here (and how!). The simple piano during the verses is still there, but the silky sound of the orchestra lends this lovely song the life it needs. It still retains its delicate air. An otherworldly sound (completely appropriate given the nature of the lyrics) returns the listener to the introduction, and this extraterrestrial noise remains to the last moments, particularly in the end. What a fantastic and unpredicted rendition!

Review by snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I am a big fan of Kansas starting from early eighties, when I first have listened their music ( It was Leftoverture, happily). The second was "Point of Know Return" ( happily again). Than I found few earlier works, and only after went to latest. To be honest, "Point of Know Return"and "Leftoverture" are two best and last strong albums for me.

And after so many years - "Always Never the Same"... You know, ir returned my interest to the band. No, it is not like I found something new in this concert soundtrack, but old-gold classics sounded well again, a little bit different, but attractive!There are not too many live albums of classic prog groups with Orchestras, which got successful, or at least acceptable. "Always Never The Same" is one of them.

It is realy difficult to mix the sound of rock band with sound of symphonic orchestra, and dˇesn't miss the balance. There we can hear the successful example. Plus"Eleanor Rigby "-it sounds very in place there.

I think the album will attract any old "Kansas " fan and confirms group return to form.

Review by Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars At the beginning of the latter half of the 90s, Kansas refurbished once again its line-up in order to re-introduce the talent and presence of alumnus Robbie Steinhardt. The first studio endeavor by this quintet of Walsh, Steinhardt, Williams, Ehart and Greer was this labor of revision of old classics from the original line-up, revisiting their bombastic potential and developing a full frontal artsy rework with the assistance of a powerful orchestra. This is basically what "Always Never the Same" is all about ? a reformulation of compositions from the band's first era (1974-80), tracks that have always been around but now sounding not the same. There are also three Walsh-penned new songs, which are really very good (I will go into that with further detail later). The opener is a foreign track, 'Eleanor Rigby', one of those Beatles' songs that stated a seminal standard for the inception of chamber concepts into rock'n'roll. For this excellent cover, Kansas makes it a true mixture of symphonic colors and rocking energy, emphasizing the main character's sense of solitude amidst a world of overblown events and sounds. The mood of this song's lyrics makes it quite proper that the perennial Kansas anthem 'Dust In the Wind' should follow: this version revamps the middle section by doubling the length of the ever-evoking viola solo. Lovely! But even lovelier is the version of 'Song for America', whose overall stylish mood is preceded by a 'Preamble' and an orchestral intro to the initial riff: the aforesaid intro is played every time Kansas performs with orchestral background. Later on, 'Miracles Out of Nowhere' and 'Hold On' continue to fulfill the tapestry of meticulous exquisiteness that makes this album's framework. The former is not radically changed from the slightly more concise arrangement that has been delivered from the late 80s, but the latter benefits from a substantial enhancement of the introspective element by reinforcing the otherwise subdued role of the violin (somewhat related to The Moody Blues' 'Nights In White Satin'): in fact, I regard this version as the definitive incarnation of 'Hold On'. Earlier, 'In Your Eyes' (one of the new songs) revealed itself as a candid mid-tempo rocker adorned with an elegant interlude full of classical leanings. Impressive, indeed, but not as much as the ostensibly more ambitious 'The Sky Is Falling': this one bears a tight exercise on eclecticism with its opening dramatic chops (later, reprised in the interlude), its moderately blues-inflicted main body, a dynamic guitar intro, and a delicious set of brief violin solos all the way into the fade-out. This track should have been performed much often in Kansas gigs, I really dig it as what it is: a clever re-installment of Kansas' sophisticated tradition. The third and last new song is 'Need To Know', a personal statement of Walsh's emotional ups and downs, brought out with a well-ordained mixture of passion and finesse ? symphonic ballads like this one, I can't seem to get enough of them. Before 'Need To Know', 'Cheyenne Anthem' and 'The Wall' go on with this journey to a refreshed past: both songs (just like 'Song For America') have a powerful orchestral feel to them in their original incarnations, so it just felt natural that the orchestra should add its input without reorganizing the song's proper scheme. 'Prelude and Introduction' serves mostly as homework for the Kansas-freak: spot the portions from 'Point Of Know Return', 'Lamplight Symphony', 'Carry On Wayward Son', etc. during the whole sequence that builds up to the first note of 'The Wall'. The album ends with 'Nobody's Home', a forgotten symphonic anthem from the band's pinnacle (the POKR album) that finds a proper augmentation in the beginning (a bombastic intro) and the end (keyboard FX of some departing UFO). In this way, the image of a visitor's disappointment is conveniently conveyed and the full circle of solitude that had started with the 'Eleanor Rigby' cover is completed. A great album, indeed, which states an accomplished focus on Kansas' orchestral-oriented side and tradition.
Review by Ivan_Melgar_M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars It was about time

Many bands have released compilation albums with a Symphony Orchestra with different results, some good, some terrible, but the logic choice to attempt this is KANSAS, being that the massive use of violin and fluid Symphonic arrangements, makes the idea of enhancing the Classical approach of their music with an orchestra a logical choice.

It's also important to notice that they did it in the right moment, the band had suffered the terrible Elefante years when they lost a huge part of their fanbase (as well as Walsh and Steinhardt), and only with "Freaks of Nature" started to recover the lost path, so they needed their 70's glorious stuff in a new costume to rescue the interest of the people in the band, and "Always Never the Same" fulfilled the purpose, the voice spread and people knew that Steve and Robbie were back and playing good old stuff with a couple of new songs, so the mood was prepared to accept them again something that consolidated two years later with the release of "Somewhere to Elsewhere".

Now, going to the album I must say that the orchestration is absolutely tasteful they avoid long artificial intros and codas like in "Days of Future Passed" because KANSAS doesn't require it, while THE MOODY BLUES had to create a Symphonic atmosphere on POP tracks, KKANSAS material is Symphonic enough "per se" and the London Symphony Orchestra is there to enhance the already existing atmosphere, adding only what is necessary-

The band had to make the songs a bit slower in order to adapt a more complete sound, and tame a bit the usually frenetic performances of Phil Ehart and Rich Williams, in other words they sacrificed the hard edge for a more Classical approach.

Some people are surprised by the abrupt start of "Eleanor Rigby", but that's the best option they had, the orchestra could work in the body of the song and allow the band to start it as a Rock song.

A track that I wanted to listen with an orchestra was "Dust in the Wind", normally I press the skip button because the track has saturated me, but the new arrangements made their most popular song sound fresh and original.

Another high point is in "Song for America", being that the strings are played in a lower volume than the horns and flutes, allowing Robbie Steinhardt to be almost a soloist without affecting the essence of the song

The only track I don't like too much is my favourite KANSAS song "Miracles Out of Nowhere", being that the orchestra kills the natural atmosphere and they sacrifice the Rock essence , which is an integral part of the melody.

Despite the┤obvious vocal problems of Steve Walsh, "Always Never the Same" is a very good album and an interesting experiment that we will see again on October 13 when their new Symphonic CVD is released.

My rating would be 3.5 stars, but being that this is impossible in Prog Archives, will go with 4.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
3 stars Most albums of bands playing their back catalog along with a symphony orchestra are epic disasters, with maudlin orchestrations dragging the entire album to elevator music levels. Kansas, with some very good and dynamic orchestration, has managed to escape that pitfall. This album is actually good.

After the strange choice of Eleanor Rigby as an opener, and the obligatory Dust In The Wind, the orchestra begins the first of two overly long interludes leading into a great rendition of Song For America. Thankfully, the song selection leans heavily toward the early (better) albums. The other highlights are Cheyenne Anthem and Nobody's Home (surprise! both from the earlier albums).

The only glaring omission is Carry On Wayward Son. But I won't fault them for not playing it. Steve Walsh's voice was getting tired by this period.

Review by Tarcisio Moura
3 stars This is a strange CD indeed. At first I thought it was Kansas playing live backed by an orchestra, but no, it is really a studio recording of them playing a few classics, a Beatles cover version and 3 new songs by Steve Walsh. It was an uncertain time for the band. Their previous CD of original material did not reached the success they hoped for. Now with Robbie Steinhardt back to the fold after 15 years, they decided to do this experiment. It would be another two years before they release another album (2000┤s excellent Somewhere To Elsewhere, where the whole band was reunited for this project).

After repeated spins I found Always Never The Same a more interesting CD than good. The band missed the opportunity of using the orchestra for some stuff that maybe would benefit more from it than other tunes that eneded up in the final cut. Take Song For America for instance: this epic really works in this format. However, stuff like that were totally ignored (Journey To Mariabronn, Icarus, Lamplight Symphony, Closet Chronicles among several others). Instead they recorded three new songs that are good, but are not in the same league as their best and hardly need the orchestra as much. The recording of the Beatles Eleanor Rigby is another thing I don┤t really understand. The arrangement was not bad, but with so many classics left in their own cathalog, why on earth they had the idea of taking room from the compact disc for such a risky enterprise?

Ok, some others tracks do work here: Nobody┤s Home is one of them. This forgotten tune from Point Of Known Return did improve a lot with the use of the orchestra. However, songs like Hold on did not. Walsh┤s voice was not at his prime, to say the least, so some more demanding perfomances should be avoided. Dust In The Wind is ok too and its arrangement would be repeated almost note by note on their live DVD Device - Voice - Drum (2002). A few of the new band arrangements are good too (Miracles Out Of Nowhere for exemple shows how the band was still in fine form).

Conclusion: a good, if not essential, experiment. For a band who produced so many great epics that surely would be good to hear with an orchestra, I┤m disappointed with the choice of material. They could have done a lot better. Still the ones recorded here are too good to be discarted as weak or bad. So I guess a 3 star rating is fair enough.

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
2 stars We're not in Kansas anymore

When looking at the track list of this album you will immediately notice several familiar song titles which might lead you to assume that this is either a live album or a compilation of some kind. It is not a compilation as all the material here is newly recorded. It isn't a live album either, though it does have a live feel. But neither is it a regular studio album. What we have here is the band re-recording some of their classic songs and a few new ones together with the London Symphony Orchestra.

The album was recorded in the famous Abbey Road Studios in London, England and this location explains why they choose to open the album with a cover of a well-known band that is associated with the studio in question. This is followed by orchestral versions of Kansas classics like Song For America, Miracles Out Of Nowhere, Dust In The Wind, and Hold On, alternating with orchestral interludes and some newly written songs.

In my opinion, Kansas' wonderful music is not benefited by the orchestral treatment and the presence of the orchestra adds little of value. The novelty of the orchestra wears off pretty quickly and one is left wondering what the point of the whole exercise is.

Preamble is composed by conductor Larry Baird and functions like an intro to Song For America while Prelude And Introduction is an orchestral medley of some other Kansas songs. The most interesting new compositions are In Your Eyes, The Sky Is Falling, and Need To Know, all of which were written by Steve Walsh. These are not essential by any means, but at least they make this album worthwhile for the fans as they are not available elsewhere.

The selections from the band's back catalogue are rather predictable and most of these songs are featured in much better versions on multiple live albums. If you wish to hear Kansas performing with an orchestra with much better results than what can be heard on this album, I would recommend the very much better live concert video and album There's Know Place Like Home.

Latest members reviews

3 stars For me I have a very strange reaction to this CD, its kind of like a love hate relationship a part of me enjoys the fact that theres a symphony orchestra backing kansas and another part hates the fact the many of the old keyboard lines have been replaced by, tired sounding uninspired symphony ... (read more)

Report this review (#47982) | Posted by Trouble X | Friday, September 23, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars While not as terrrific as the Jethro Tull symphonic CD (and really, nothing is close!), this is still a very solid effort. The opening cover of the Beatles Eleanor Rigby is really quite good and this CD also contains my favorite version of Song For America. I could have done without some of their la ... (read more)

Report this review (#21930) | Posted by | Sunday, February 8, 2004 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Great stuff, even allowing for the Return of Robbie Steinhardt and the continuing decine of Walsh's vocal capabilities. Hell, even the Beatles cover on this is passable! What's more than passable are the Copelandesque Prwamble, easily the best piece of instrumental work the band has ever produced, a ... (read more)

Report this review (#21928) | Posted by | Wednesday, December 31, 2003 | Review Permanlink

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