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KANSAS

Symphonic Prog • United States


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Kansas picture
Kansas biography
Founded in Topeka, Kansas, USA in 1970 - Continued activity with different line-ups - Still active as of 2017

Original members Kerry LIVGREN (guitar) and Phil EHART (drums) combined their two separate bands into one large band. Kerry's band was called SARATOGA, and Phil's was called WHITE CLOVER. The band changed its name to KANSAS. They were from the beginning just an ordinary rock band, but were quickly compared to other progressive bands in the 70's like GENESIS, YES and KING CRIMSON. Combining the musical complexities of British prog-rock with the soul and instrumentation of the American heartland, KANSAS became one of the biggest selling and most successful touring acts of the 1970s. With huge hits like "Carry On Wayward Son" and "Dust In The Wind", they helped define the sound of "classic rock". They are loved all over the world.

I- THE 1970s
The Early Days: Their self-titled debut album was released in 1974, but nationwide response was slow. Their second album, "Song For America", saw a softening of KANSAS' sound, with more classical influences evident. The third album, "Masque", featured more pop songs and lyrically quite dark. They suffered ridicule from people around the world, because they wore overalls and had a violonist, which made people think that they were a country music group.
The Best of Times: "Leftoverture", with the popular single "Carry On Wayward Son", became a signature piece and pushed the album to platinum success. The followup, "Point Of Know Return" (1977) contained the ever-popular acoustic "Dust In The Wind". During their tour, they recorded their first live album, "Two For The Show" (1978) and the next studio album "Monolith" (1979).

II- THE 1980s
Seeds Of Change: A year later, the band followed up with "Audio Visions", the last production of the original band lineup. WALSH left the band due to creative differences. "Vinyl Confessions" had Christian lyrical content. The next album, "Drastic Measures" (1983), had some hard rock material on it, including the song "Mainstream". In 1984, the band released a greatest hits compilation, "The Best Of Kansas", which featured one new song, "Perfect Lover".
The Second Generation: The group split in 1983, only to reform in 1986 with the albums "Power" and with "The Spirit Of Things" (1988). Sales of these two albums were not very strong. Thus, the second generation of KANSAS had...
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KANSAS discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

KANSAS top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.99 | 612 ratings
Kansas
1974
4.13 | 715 ratings
Song For America
1975
3.66 | 534 ratings
Masque
1975
4.22 | 1147 ratings
Leftoverture
1976
4.17 | 790 ratings
Point Of Know Return
1977
3.22 | 377 ratings
Monolith
1979
3.05 | 296 ratings
Audio-Visions
1980
2.72 | 235 ratings
Vinyl Confessions
1982
2.20 | 219 ratings
Drastic Measures
1983
2.71 | 235 ratings
Power
1986
2.84 | 199 ratings
In The Spirit Of Things
1988
3.22 | 216 ratings
Freaks Of Nature
1995
3.38 | 141 ratings
Always Never The Same
1998
3.49 | 269 ratings
Somewhere To Elsewhere
2000
3.81 | 281 ratings
The Prelude Implicit
2016
3.70 | 50 ratings
The Absence of Presence
2020

KANSAS Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.32 | 254 ratings
Two for the Show
1978
2.92 | 52 ratings
Kansas - Live at the Whiskey
1992
2.69 | 43 ratings
King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents Kansas (1989)
1998
2.19 | 16 ratings
Live: Dust In The Wind
1998
4.05 | 69 ratings
Device, Voice, Drum
2002
2.26 | 12 ratings
Dust In The Wind
2002
1.83 | 10 ratings
From The Front Row...Live!
2003
2.23 | 11 ratings
Greatest Hits Live (Kansas)
2003
4.16 | 60 ratings
There's Know Place Like Home
2009
4.36 | 14 ratings
Bryn Mawr 1976
2014
2.74 | 8 ratings
Carry on for no Return
2016
4.67 | 29 ratings
Leftoverture Live & Beyond
2017

KANSAS Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

3.28 | 14 ratings
Best Of Kansas Live (VHS) (aka Live Confessions DVD)
1982
4.21 | 67 ratings
Device - Voice - Drum (DVD)
2002
4.60 | 62 ratings
There´s Know Place Like Home (DVD)
2009
4.16 | 18 ratings
Miracles Out Of Nowhere
2015

KANSAS Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.54 | 78 ratings
The Best of Kansas
1984
3.85 | 48 ratings
The Ultimate Kansas Box Set
1994
3.13 | 14 ratings
The Definitive Collection
1997
3.27 | 44 ratings
The Best of Kansas (1999)
1999
1.43 | 9 ratings
Extended Versions
2000
3.93 | 37 ratings
The Ultimate Kansas
2002
4.25 | 8 ratings
Closet Chronicles - The Best of Kansas
2003
4.16 | 6 ratings
Dust In The Wind
2004
4.16 | 36 ratings
Sail On: The 30th Anniversary Collection 1974-2004
2004
2.97 | 8 ratings
On The Other Side
2005
2.50 | 9 ratings
Works In Progress
2006
4.19 | 20 ratings
Original Album Classics
2009
3.71 | 6 ratings
The Music of Kansas
2010
4.40 | 16 ratings
The Classic Albums Collection 1974-1983
2011

KANSAS Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.75 | 4 ratings
What's On My Mind
1977
4.17 | 6 ratings
Point Of Know Return
1977
4.04 | 7 ratings
Carry On Wayward Son (Adelante, Hijo Descarriado)
1977
3.75 | 4 ratings
Portrait (He Knew)
1978
4.04 | 7 ratings
Dust In The Wind
1978
2.29 | 5 ratings
People Of The Southwind
1979
3.24 | 6 ratings
Hold On
1980
4.00 | 4 ratings
Play The Game Tonight
1982
3.75 | 4 ratings
Right Away
1982
3.75 | 4 ratings
Fight Fire With Fire
1983
2.29 | 5 ratings
All I Wanted
1986
3.13 | 5 ratings
Power
1987
1.48 | 6 ratings
Stand Beside Me
1988
3.00 | 2 ratings
The Light
2001

KANSAS Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Freaks Of Nature by KANSAS album cover Studio Album, 1995
3.22 | 216 ratings

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Freaks Of Nature
Kansas Symphonic Prog

Review by TCat
Special Collaborator Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

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.

 The Absence of Presence by KANSAS album cover Studio Album, 2020
3.70 | 50 ratings

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The Absence of Presence
Kansas Symphonic Prog

Review by dougmcauliffe

4 stars This is the second album released by this new incarnation of Kansas and I really admire that they aren't trying to just emulate their 70s heyday albums and cater to nostalgia. This to me sounds like a band genuinely progressing and creating their own original musical path and sound. The addition of Tom Brislin on the keys is a potential game changer for the band in this later stage of their career, his parts and variety of keys used throughout the album are awesome and really well developed. Even when the keys aren't at the forefront, there's always some subtle playing going on in the background to pick up on with repeated listens. On the last album, The Prelude Implicit I felt like Dave Manions parts were good, but he too often sat in the backround and rarely stood out, so this change is welcome. Speaking of that album, I think this album is an improvement over The Prelude Implicit, meaning this is my favorite Kansas album since Point of Know Return. As far as the sound of the album goes, I think the production is generally good, you can clearly hear every instrument and every member is dialed in, but I think the album is a little too loud and I think the double tracking and vocal effects are used a bit too liberally. Ronnie Platt has an excellent voice already and he doesn't need his voice edited like it sometimes is on this album, my favorite parts from him are when he's just singing without any kinds of harmonies or effects on top of it. However, many of the modern production flares used are very welcome and they're helping Kansas move and progress into this sort of reinvention of themselves. Ragsdales violin playing on this album is seriously incredible, easily his greatest studio performance with the band and I really think him and Brislin are the stars on this album. While I say that, nobody ever sounds like they're just phoning it in, all the instrumental parts sound essential, they're well developed and generally nonlinear. You can just pick any instrument to focus on and chances are the parts are pretty interesting on their own.

Anyways, the album opens with the excellent title track which is just majestic as we're guided through this soaring introduction with great melodic interplay between the synths and violin. The kick in at the 2:00 mark just lifted me off my feet the first time I heard it. We're treated to a nice jam in the middle which for my money, could've been extended or developed more by a couple minutes, but no complaints here. The song ties everything back together with a beautiful flowing ending. Awesome title track clocking in at around 8 minutes, i'll be listening to this track for years to come. The same can be said for the second track "Throwing Mountains" which showcases some extremely strong songwriting and I think it has Platts best vocal performance. It's gotta be one of Kansas's heaviest songs with what I wanna say are subtle hints of Dream Theater and prog metal. It really gets me pumped and fired up with its heavy riffing, nasty violin soloing and generally motivational and driving lyrics and sound. Jets Overhead is a bit more straightforward but still has some excellent violin work and melodies. I almost get Beatlesesque vibes when the verse kicks in. I think this song could have developed and deviated from its path a little more though, especially in the drumming which I think is a little too steady throughout. I really love the main violin melody, especially when it interplays with the synth and I really wish they built something off of that. Good song though. Next is the short instrumental "Propulsion 1." This instrumental is great, probably Phil Eharts best performance, the dude even uses a double kick! Brislin, Ragsdale and Ehart are just firing on all cylinders trading off parts creating one firey and proggy instrumental. From 1:00 forward I was just grinning ear to ear, I wish it didn't end so soon cause I feel like it there was still plenty of room to build off this. "Memories down the Line" is a pleasant ballad with some nice melodic instrumentation in the later half. "Circus of Illusion is a pretty neat track with the violin bringing us in followed by some really cool guitar effects. I'll once again use the word "Majestic" to describe this track, I really like where the song goes in the second half especially. "Animals on the Roof" is another more driving and straightforward song with some excellent organ work. Even if it's one of the less progressive sounding songs, there's still a lot of details and non-standard instrumental detours. I love the jam it kicks into around 2:30 mark. The next song "Never" is the one track i'm not super in to. It's a somber sounding ballad and I just don't think this style has ever been Kansas's strong suit, not every song can be Dust in the Wind. Not offensively bad, it just doesn't do anything for me. However, the closing track "The Song the River Sings" is awesome and another highlight for me. It opens with this mysterious intro and it leads us into the main riff which I really dig. Tom Brislin actually sings lead vocals here and he really does a very fine job. I actually think the rhythm section on this song is very notable, Billy Greer has a really nice bass solo in the middle and in the drum parts are really well developed. However, the song sort of fizzles out with that same mysterious vibe it opened with and it strips down to just some quiet piano. The last two minutes of this song are just nasty, the piano starts building up with this filthy riff and every other instrument successively joins in with a bunch of effects layered on top of it ultimately creating this awesome and heavy playout. I've never heard Kansas do anything like this, it ends up just cutting out "I Want You Shes so Heavy" style and its a shame, cause I wish that kept going on for a couple more minutes.

Conclusion: I'm really enjoying this album and I really hope we get at least one more Kansas album from this lineup. It seems that the band wants that too, and besides, they're atleast gonna have to make a Propulsion 2! Right?!? The band is clearly getting better and realizing their new identity and I really think with Brislin on board if they can just completely dial it in, continue expanding and trying new things, and continue writing adventurous songs like the title track, they're capable of making a classic and a 5 star album. Until then, this awesome release will hold me over, i'm enjoying it more and more with each listen and i'm just happy that Kansas is making new and very inspired music at this stage of their career. Also, this cover art is such eye candy.

4 Stars

 The Absence of Presence by KANSAS album cover Studio Album, 2020
3.70 | 50 ratings

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The Absence of Presence
Kansas Symphonic Prog

Review by Stoertebeker

4 stars Even knowing the band for more than 30 years I never have been a great Kansas-Fan. But somehow THE ABSENCE OF PRESENCE caught me right away. I can't stop listening to it since it was released yesterday. I have the greatest respect for bands that can be faithful to their roots and sound fresh and new at the same time. And this after 45 years. Great technique meets great melodies. David Ragsdales violin parts are incredible. Everything fits, keyboards, violin, drumming, vocals (and chorus), actually the whole production as well as the cover. And for me, for the the first 4 song of the albums, specially Propulsion 1 the album is a Symphonic-Prog masterpiece. The fifth star was lost somewhere in the second half of the album. But nevertheless, I am listening to it for the tenth tine now (and counting)
 The Absence of Presence by KANSAS album cover Studio Album, 2020
3.70 | 50 ratings

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The Absence of Presence
Kansas Symphonic Prog

Review by TenYearsAfter

3 stars FIRST REVIEW OF THIS ALBUM

In 2011 a dream came true when I finally witnessed my first Kansas gig, since I became a Kansas fan after buying their first two LP's in 1975. I was also pleased with their comeback album The Prelude Implicit from 2016. So how about this new Kansas album, with only two founding members (Williams and Ehart)?

Well, the start is very promising with the dynamic opener, the titletrack: lots of shifting moods, the exciting Holy Trinity of keyboards, guitar and violin, this is trademark Heavy Prog Seventies Kansas, wow! The second track is also exciting featuring an ultra bombastic and heavy sound with powerful Hammond waves and blistering guitar, the singer does a good job. But then the compositions turn mainly into AOR, with some prog tendencies, very well arranged, featuring strong interplay, excellent work on guitar, keyboards and violin, the singer his voice matches perfectly with this AOR friendly Kansas sound, but I miss the elaborate and captivating music from the first two tracks.

Those who love the AOR side of Kansas will be very pleased with this new Kansas album, but I am glad I have seen the band in 2011 (featuring the versatile Steve 'Mr Kansas' Walsh), this new Kansas is not really my cup of tea.

 Point Of Know Return by KANSAS album cover Studio Album, 1977
4.17 | 790 ratings

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Point Of Know Return
Kansas Symphonic Prog

Review by TCat
Special Collaborator Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

4 stars Five albums into Kansas' discography and the band line-up has managed to stay the same through it all. With the release of "Leftoverture", the band had received superstar status, interestingly enough, with their most progressive album. The thing that made the music stand out amongst the superstar rock bands of the 70's, however, was Steinhardt's violin. On the band's first four albums, there was also a presence of a more complex musical structure and that sound was drawing attention. Now, with a taste of the popularity, the danger of making the sound more accessible to attract more listeners was beginning to find its way into the music. "The Point of Know Return", the band's fifth album was the one to find an almost perfect balance between the complexity of "Leftoverture" and the popular sound of commercial, radio-friendly music. For the most part, this album sees them reach that "pinnacle" (get it?).

Unfortunately, another thing started to plague the band, and that was the infestation of popularity among the individual members, most specifically with Steve Walsh, who admittedly was becoming a "prima donna" and entertaining the thoughts of a solo career. Walsh actually left the band for a short time while the album was being recorded, but somehow, the band stayed intact, and that also helped them overall with the sales of this record. Of course, this album went on to outsell the previous album and also produced to major singles, the title track and "Dust in the Wind", the latter being their biggest hit of all. But amongst these gold singles, were some pretty decent tracks that still retained a progressive edge to them, albeit in shorter form and with less complexity.

The title track opens the album with a song that is somewhat similar in style to previous albums with a surprisingly complex combination of interchanging meters that resulted in 7/4 meter. By now, most everyone knows this one. "Paradox" follows with an organ based, dramatic sounding song, again with a quick tempo and interesting riffs in the instrumental sections, but changing to a more straightforward rock sound on the verses. It's also over quickly, a sign of things to come for the band. The instrumental "The Spider" follows, and the violin and keyboards take the spindly theme representing the insect. The instrumental is complex, but leads into "Portrait (He Knew)" which smooths things out a bit and presents a more straightforward style again, but with a somewhat hard edge and catchy melody. Kenny Livgren was inspired by Einstein for the lyrics of the song, but later changed it to a Christian theme for his break-off band "A.D." . The song is distinguished by it's sudden change to a fast and greater intensity for the ending. The first side ends with the longer "Closet Chronicles" (+ 6 minutes). This one has a more melodic and pensive feel to it, but the lyrics and melody are solid, yet mostly straightforward, but with a fast and more complex, progressive instrumental section and excellent violin solo. This track also features both Walsh and Steinhardt on lead vocals, the first of the album to include any vocals other than Walsh's. I tend to like Steinhardt's vocals as, even though Walsh has a great range, he can become overbearing after a while.

The 2nd side opens up with "Lightning's Hand", which features Steinhardt only on vocals. This is the only track on the album where Walsh does not participate in any lead vocal, even though he co-wrote the song with Livgren. This one is the heaviest on the album, and is more blues based and hard rock edge with the guitar taking over the spotlight on the instrumental break. This is followed by the mega-hit, "Dust in the Wind", the ever-popular acoustic ballad, the riff of which is based off of a finger-picking exercise that Livgren's wife liked so much that she insisted he write lyrics to it. Of course, it ends up becoming the band's signature song, for better or worse. Once Livgren played it for the band for the first time, they all recognized it as a hit single. Now, it's become a worn-out song. Steinhardt and Walsh return for "Sparks of the Tempest" which brings back the hard-rock sound of the band again. The music moves away from the progressive edge to replace with a straightforward rock sound, yet the song is still interesting nonetheless with a killer guitar break. The violin, however, is missed in this track until the ending theme that it brings in just before the song fades.

"Nobody's Home" is a powerful, slower track that brings in more pomp before it calms to a nice violin-led intro to the verse. Walsh solos again on this one, but his vocals are much better controlled and restrained here, and the violin/keyboard riff is quite lovely and emotional, bringing back memories of the powerful "The Wall" from "Leftoverture" with a song that is just as great. The final track "Hopelessly Human" is the longest on the album at just over 7 minutes. It is probably the most progressive of the tracks on the album with great dynamics, mood swings, meter changes, non-standard song structure and all of that. Both Walsh and Steinhardt share lead vocals, and they do very well here, with Steinhardt tempering Walsh's over- the-top tendencies. Livgren and Williams pass the solos back and forth quite well as they used to do to more of an extent on past albums.

So, even though the band doesn't give up progressive elements all together, this is the album where the movement away from that was noticed the most. However, the album is still salvageable, and as such, is a good gateway to the band's music. If you like the straightforward sound more, then you'll want to move to the later albums. If you like the progressive and complex sound better, then you'll want to move to their earlier albums. But this album has its strengths and as such, should be considered on of their better ones. For me, it's the last worthwhile album for the band, and I quickly lost interest when I heard the albums that followed. It was a sad loss as the band could have gained a lot more respect now if they had not been captured by the tangled net of commercialism. Overall, it's a weak yet sometimes interesting four-star album.

 Point Of Know Return by KANSAS album cover Studio Album, 1977
4.17 | 790 ratings

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Point Of Know Return
Kansas Symphonic Prog

Review by Slartibartfast
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Here is an album that was pretty much one of my intros into progressive rock. And looking at the reviews some people totally don't get it and yet others totally do. There is no way I can compete with the detailed reviews or contest the oversimplistic reviews of those who just don't get it. I am not going to win over the naysayers nor will I deter the fans. Hell, even Dust Up Your Nose, though overplayed on the radio is still a beautiful song. And to think it was almost thrown away by the band. Well, take it for what it is or leave it if you can't take it. It was a masterpiece of an album by the band. And I will have to leave it at that.
 Leftoverture Live & Beyond by KANSAS album cover Live, 2017
4.67 | 29 ratings

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Leftoverture Live & Beyond
Kansas Symphonic Prog

Review by Evolver
Special Collaborator Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams

5 stars After reintroducing themselves with an impressive comeback album, "The Prelude Implicit", in 2016, Kansas of course had to tour and give us a live album.

The chose to give us a complete performance of "Leftoverture", along with a big helping of classic Kansas tracks, and three from their latest album.

Astonishingly, this may be the best Kansas live album in their catalog.

Focusing on the seventies track, they ignore completely the albums "Monolith" through "Always Never The Same", and it appears to have been a smart decision. This group seems to flourish in the most difficult passages of Kerry Livgren's epic compositions.

"Icarus II" and "Icarus" (yes, they are played out of order here) are both breathtaking, as are most of the set.

The performance of "Leftoverture", from start to finish, is breathtaking.

Even the tracks from "The Prelude Implicit" come off well, the live setting adding energy to the performance.

If you were wondering if these new Kansas album were worth checking out, absolutely they are!!!

 The Prelude Implicit by KANSAS album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.81 | 281 ratings

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The Prelude Implicit
Kansas Symphonic Prog

Review by Evolver
Special Collaborator Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams

4 stars Of all of the albums by 1970's prog bands still hanging on after 40-or-so years, this one surprised me the most.

With only guitarist Rich Williams and drummer Phil Ehart remaining from the first Kansas album, with bassist Billy Greer and fiddler David Ragsdale from the 80's and beyond, and three newcomers, I wasn't expecting much.

First of all, Ronnie Platt's vocals sound almost identical in tone and delivery to Steve Walsh.

The songs, even without Walsh & Kerry Livgren contributing, are remarkably similar in style to the early, classic Kansas albums.

While the compositions don't quite reach the complexity of the best tracks of the seventies, they have the same feel as the old albums we know and love.

I am looking forward to hearing more from this version of Kansas.

 Drastic Measures by KANSAS album cover Studio Album, 1983
2.20 | 219 ratings

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Drastic Measures
Kansas Symphonic Prog

Review by TCat
Special Collaborator Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

2 stars One of the things that made Kansas' sound recognizable more than anything else, was Robby Steinhardt's violin. The other thing was Steve Walsh's distinct vocals. By the time the album 'Drastic Measures' came out in 1983, these things were both missing. Robbie was disenchanted with the religious direction the band was going in, and left before the recording started. The religious lyrics came about because Kenny Livgren had become a born-again Christian, and since he wrote most of the lyrics, Walsh decided to leave the band a few years prior to this, and after considering different vocalists, including Sammy Hagar, John Elefante was chosen to replace Walsh. Elefante sounded nothing like Walsh, and was also a Christian. So, unfortunately, 'Drastic Measures' was doomed from the beginning.

Other than the departures of Walsh and Steinhardt and the bringing in of Elefante, the band remained the same with Kerry Livgren, Rich Williams, Dave Hope, and Phil Ehart. However, Kansas had already pretty much abandoned their progressive rock sound of their glory days. By the time this album was released, most of the rabid fans of the 70s had given up on the band ever sounding like their former selves. The music had turned to a hard rock / pop sound with no violin, no progressive traits, and Kansas was bound to become one of the indiscernible rock/pop bands of the 80s.

'Drastic Measures' is a pretty much washed-out version of the band, and was beginning to sound more like the pop sound of Chicago, but without the horns. Of course, there is the decent hit 'Fight Fire with Fire' which did okay on the singles chart, but didn't have anything on it that made people think 'Hey, that's a new song by Kansas!' For all they knew, it could have been 'Starship' or 'Foreigner'. In fact, David Pack, lead singer of 'Ambrosia', another washed-up rock act, came along for this fiasco as a background singer. 'Mainstream', the third track on the album is also a little better, but nothing close to their earlier output.

Other than this, the album just stumbles through a bunch of mediocre tracks that don't have any staying power. 'Andi' tries to be a power ballad, but is completely uninteresting. 'Going Through the Motions' lives up to it's title, it sounds like a band doing just that. Things even go further downhill for the uninteresting 'Get Rich', then the band high-centers on pop ballad 'Don't Take Your Love Away' as they try their best to capitalize on Chicago's style of hit songs of the time, 'End of the Age' only confirms that it is definitely the end of the innovative age for Kansas with an extremely boring song, and 'Incident on a Bridge' suggests that this album was sinking long before it was started.

The band would temporarily break up after this, only to return in 1986 with Walsh back on lead vocals, but without Livgren who had figured by this time that he had completely left the band hopeless as even he was sick of the religious direction he attempted to take the band in. However, the heart and soul of the band would never completely return.

Elefante isn't a bad vocalist, but, try as he might, he can't bring that unique sound that Walsh's voice had, and the material he had to work with was quite weak. Livgren's lyrics were not so outwardly religious this time around, but this doesn't save the music either. The material is just so bland and mediocre, same as a lot of the huge bands from the 70s that were struggling to fit in and be relevant. The best thing these bands could have done is got together and formed one big band called 'Mediocre' and left it at that. Then at least there would have been a good excuse for them all sounding so much like each other. This album is not even good, its just tired, boring, poorly recorded (the only album Kansas would record digitally), and full of mostly mediocre drivel. Another sad chapter that was unfortunately common in many bands at the time.

 Somewhere To Elsewhere by KANSAS album cover Studio Album, 2000
3.49 | 269 ratings

BUY
Somewhere To Elsewhere
Kansas Symphonic Prog

Review by TCat
Special Collaborator Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

3 stars The year 2000 saw the return of the original line-up of Kansas, the first time they had recorded a studio album together since 'Audio-Visions' in 1980. Even though several incarnations of the band continued to record albums, the original line-up of Steve Walsh, Kerry Livgren, Rich Williams, Dave Hope, Phil Ehart and Robby Steinhardt didn't reunite until the release of Kansas' 14 studio album 'Somewhere to Elsewhere'. For this album, Billy Greer was also along, even though he was not in that classic line-up, he had been in the band since 1985.

The entire band recorded at Kerry's studio, all except for Walsh, who tracked his vocals in his home studio. The line up featured Walsh on lead vocals on 7 out of 11 of the tracks and the vocals were his only contribution to the album. Livgren composed all of the tracks and played guitars and keyboards, produced and mixed the album and sings on the hidden track at the end. Steinhardt played violin and viola and sang lead vocals on 3 tracks. Rich Williams played guitar and helped produce the album. Dave Hope plays bass on only 2 of the tracks while Bill Greer provides bass on the remainder of them and sings lead vocals on 1 of them. Phil Ehart provides the drums and acts as producer.

So, hopes were high for this album because it was to be a return to the classic prog sound of the original band. Many fans had given up on hearing that classic sound again, but the band was out to give them one more surprise. 'Icarus II' hints to the return to form with a 'continuation' of their masterpiece from the 'Song for America' album. From the opening strains, you can hear the familiar sounds of the band that once was. The sound is a bit cleaner than before, and Walsh's vocals are a bit strained, but not so much as you might expect since he still has a lot of power behind them, maybe a touch more gruffness. Little snippets of melodies are borrowed from the original Icarus song, but as it moves into the instrumental break, the guitar gives us a heavier sound than what we had before, but the lovely violin parts are there to remind us that who the band used to be. There is also more of a progressive edge to the music than what we have heard for a while, and that is great, but it's not quite as complex as it once was. But it is by far better than what we have heard from the since 'Point of No Return'.

We're on our way, and the harder edge continues in 'When the World was Young'. Walsh's vocals seem a bit shakier on this one, especially in the lower registers. His strength is in his mid-range now, as his higher register tends to be a bit blown out. He has to almost scream to get the higher notes out, but granted, its not that bad. This track is a bit more on the accessible, hard-rock side with less progressive sound, but still better than what we have heard lately. The violin, guitar and keys are all restrained and straightforward, not as progressive as the first track. Again, there is a snippet of classic Kansas riffage towards the end that the fans will recognize. 'Grand Fun Alley' features Steinhardt on lead vocals. His voice sounds very much like it used to, just not as sure of itself, but the music seems lightweight for his voice. Again, this track is also straitforward compared to the band's glory days, but the guitar solo is pretty good, but the synths are unconvincing, and it all comes across as sounding like Styx's attempts at a comeback. 'The Coming Dawn (Thanatopsis)' brings Walsh back to the mic for a slower, ballad-like track with piano and violin accompanying him at first, and then bringing the band in later. The track is decent enough, but, again, it is a bit straightforward. There is that uplifting feel to it, similar to 'The Wall' from Leftoverture, lovely and passionate, with nice build in the instrumental section. However, it starts to droop a bit just before the vocals come back in. It's a good one for lovers of the heartrending side of the band.

With the longer run time (+ 8 minutes), there is hope that this track is more on the progressive side like the opening track. It starts off slow and rhapsodic at first, but then the band comes in and builds the music and sounding like something from 'Point of No Return', there are hints of progressiveness there, the song structure a little more complex, but still leaning towards the hard-rock sound. The best part comes along halfway through when it goes into the instrumental break, and things get more complex, and the nod to the jazz sound is a nice surprise. However, the band's attempt to scat (?) is a bit cringe-worthy. It's not bad, but it's not at the level of their best work. 'Look at the Time' features Greer on the vocals as he gets to tie the two sides of the band together, the old and the new. This one is a bit weak though, the background singers sounding like they don't really want to be there. The middle instrumental section is not too bad as it sounds a bit symphonic and the violin and guitar try to save the track.

'Disappearing Skin Tight Blues' brings back Robby on the vocals. A violin introduction starts things off, but soon gets replaced by the blues riffage that seem to accompany his vocals most of the time. This time, his vocals prove he is more sure of himself again. It's a bit bright on the chorus, however, for a blues song, but it's kind of fun anyway, bringing a more carefree side to the album. It turns out to not be as corny as you might think, and Steinhardt is more convincing on the more blues- driven tracks anyway. It's a good track, just not progressive as much as it is nostalgic, and it fits well on the album. 'Distant Vision' is a better return to form like the first track on this album, and one with a decent runtime to prove it. It has a long introduction before Walsh's vocals come in and a good amount of complexity in the tricky meters. Once again, the time is used well here, the composition is great and you get an excellent reminder of the great band that used to be. For the first time in a long time, Robby shares the lead vocal work as he sings in the middle section, and this is the best he sounds on this album. This is a definite highlight of the album.

'Byzantium' begins with a choir singing and the low strains of a viola. This sparse intro brings in Walsh's vocals for something that is completely different for Kansas, and its good to hear them try out a different sound, not always trying to copy themselves. It's a nice change of pace and a pleasant surprise. 'Not Man Big' finishes it all off with a pretty good rocker that moves through various tempo shifts, gives the organ a chance to shine, and utilizes the viola and guitar together well, and even has time for a short, blistering violin solo that you wish was longer. The ending is a lot weaker than it should be though, as it just kind of takes up space. There is a short, hidden track called 'Geodesic Dome' which features Livgren doing some rare vocalization. It's a low-fi track that is supposed to be humorous, I suppose.

Overall, it's a pretty good attempt at bringing back the classic line-up one more time, but, other than 3 great tracks (Icarus II, Disappearing Skin Tight Blues, Distant Vision), and a few surprises here and there, it still doesn't quite match up to their best work. It's worth a listen, and many fans tend to give it rave reviews, but doesn't quite hit the mark for me. The best tracks on here do a decent job of recovering their original sound, but it would have been nice to hear the band's take on some updated progressive styles and not revert so much to the more popular hard-rock style that it does too often on the album. And the real complexity of the music isn't there anymore either, though it does come close in a few places. It's worth picking up, anyway, at least from a fan's perspective, but don't pay a lot of money for it. At least it's better than what they have done for a while. 3 stars.

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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