KANSAS


"Works in Progress" (Intersound Records; 2006)

Reviewed by Edwin Van Hoof

One of rock’s best known progressive bands of all time is probably Kansas. The band’s long spanning career was marked by many highs and lows, yet they always managed to surprise with memorable releases. Never letting down their fans, Kansas was always able to freshen up for a new round of instrumental perfection. Whether it were their mega progressive early days, the chartbusting era, their illusive AOR melodic rock time, or the return to the sound of greatness; Kansas did what they do best: Capture a creative momentum, not often matched by any other band.

“Works in Progress” is an overview of their third decade, marked by numerous live outputs, warping the band back into the spotlight. Disc One of this collection is the audio library, and Disc 2 is the DVD collection of some monumental performances by the band. 

The audio CD contains some of the band's best live recordings, from the engaging “Always Never The Same” (where the band teamed up with the London Symphony Orchestra), all the way to the more stripped down, in-your-face performance from the “Live at the Whiskey” CD. Differing like day and night soundwise (obviously), Walsh’s voice showed some wear in the Whiskey Club sessions. What's nice to hear is that the man with the expressive and theatrical voice has recovered well, as shown on the DVD section with outtakes from their acclaimed “Device – Voice – Drum” release. 

Without doubt, the most sensational impersonation of classic contemporary rock, boosted by a classical orchestra, are those captured on “Always…”. The powerful versions of “Hold on,” “Song for America,” and the flowing and lingering campfire classic “Dust in the Wind” all stood the test of time well and received a remarkable revival thanks to this collaboration. 

Alongside all these living memories in front of audiences worldwide, the band presents some of the highlights of their productivity in that period. Some of my faves are featured, such as the violin driven classic “Under the Knife,” “I Fly,” or the mighty “Black Phantom 4”. All of these (and more, yeah!) are from the underrated “Freaks of Nature” album. 

Disc Two contains an overview of Kansas from 1992-2002 as well, except this time presented in sight and 5.1 sound. Fans can see this remarkable band perform in front of an audience, spicing up their classic rock songs with lots of enthusiasm and spirit. Again spotlighting the remarkable voice of Steve, the violin and voice of Steinhardt (and Ragsdale) over the impressive playing of Williams’ and Livgren with their great melodies, and the solid foundation provided by Ehart and Greer. The band is impressive and at their best on “Icarus” and “Icarus II,” where the second chapter perhaps can be counted as some of their best songs ever. The mid-section, with an air battle unleashing, is breathtaking and essential to the song. It creates depth and empowers the lyrics about the airmen caught up in this story of fear, hope and true heroism. You can truly relate to the feelings of the airmen, and the epic ending gives hope.

Although the band's studio releases are taking many years to produce, Kansas releases enough to keep fans satisfied without feeling ripped off. “Works in Progress” might not be an addition to the collection of every Kansas fan; it is more for fans just discovering the band or those that lost track of them. Here, they can easily catch up with the band's last decade. Everyone interested in exceptional and true to the heart progressive rock music will also find something to their liking here. This overview is simply well put together, the sound is magnificent, and the digibook looks great. On top of all that, it's easier to carry this CD rather than a pile of the entire Kansas catalog, ain't it?

Kansas: Steve Walsh – vocals, keyboards; Richard Williams – guitars; Kerry Livgren – guitars and arrangements; Billy Greer - bass; Phil Ehart – drums; Bobby Steinhardt – violin, vocals; David Ragsdale - violin.

For more information, check out http://www.kansasband.com.


"Kansas" (Epic / Legacy; 1974 / 2004)

Reviewed by Jeff Rogers

I like to try and review artists by starting with their debut releases and sometimes I just can't help laugh all the way through and count the minutes before it ends. At other times, I listen intently and can hear their musical journey to “where they are now” from where they came. Kansas is one band that you can listen to and know that they haven’t changed that much. They’ve just gotten better. This vinyl flying saucer came from practicing years of boogie rock and dared to challenge Genesis in the booth of weirdness. (I use "weirdness" loosely because they could only be compared to Genesis back in 1974 when this was released and Peter Gabriel was leading the side show during that time.)

The music of Kansas is deeply rooted in violin and keyboards. It's a progressive sound and I remember when I first heard them that I scowled because I was soaking in all the Top 40 hits my Delco would allow (those were the days huh?). Kansas toured and really spread their style of music all around the world. The violin rips on this release and its strings fight the guitar. When listening to the Kansas of '74 you have to keep an open mind because sometimes they are so drawn out in their approach that it seems like they may never make it back to where the song first started. But fans of Kansas know that progressive music is about the musical journey as well as the artists’ interpretation.

Check out the instruments used on this album. You know that progressive rock is about breaking out and breaking new ground with any instrument short of a moonshine jug to make the music move forward. I’m sure when this album hit stores it was met with titled heads because this was “way out there” music. But Kansas has never been duplicated and, when I saw them in Kansas City, MO, Robby Steinhardt remarked that you can be 53 years old and still rock the house. They sure did and, even though they are pushing thirty years of musical acclaim, they still dosed it up and you remembered that rock is not limited only to a guitar, a bass and drums.

The original liner notes are included in the re-release. It reads, in all caps: "WE ARE KANSAS! KANSAS IS A BAND!!" I think it’s strange to state this but apparently it was necessary back then because perhaps nobody took them seriously.

Kansas: Phil Ehart – drums; Dave Hope – bass guitar, vocals; Kerry Livgren – lead and rhythm guitar, piano, organ, Moog synthesizer, vocals; Robby Steinhardt – violin, lead vocals and harmony; Steve Walsh – organ, piano, congas, lead vocals and harmony; Rich Williams – guitar.

For more information, check out http://www.kansasband.com


Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

 


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Revised: 05 Nov 2017 10:54:34 -0500 .