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1. Can I Tell You - 3.32 (Williams-Ehart-Hope-Steinhardt) 2. Bringing It Back - 3.33 (J.J.Cale) 3. Lonely Wind - 4.17 (Walsh) 4. Belexes - 4.23 (Livgren) 5. Journey from Mariabrown - 7.56 (Livgren - Walsh) 6. The Pilgrimage - 3.43 (Livgren - Walsh) 7. Apercu - 9.43 (Livgren - Walsh) 8. Death of Mother Nature Suite - 7.43 (Livgren) (All arrangements by Livgren-Walsh-Steinhardt-Ehart-Williams-Hope) Kerry Livgren - lead & acoustic guitars, synthesizers Steve Walsh - keyboards, vocals Robbie Steinhardt - violins, vocals Phil Ehart - drums Rich Williams - rhythm guitars Dave Hope - bass
I first heard their famous (platinum) albums "Leftoverture" and "Point of Know Return" both on one cassette. Then I told my friends just for fun: "Kansas... it is somewhere in England". And really, for many years, I have never heard a band from America that could sound so English! After these Kansas's albums I bought "Monolith", and later, through "Song for America", on to "Masque", their second and weakest work, in my opinion, in the '70s, and then I stopped, mistakenly. Thereby, my now favourite and their best, I think, album was unknown for me for years. Even now, reading so many rock books, articles and reviews, I see that this incredible debut passes up to now in most cases unnoticed or underestimated.
In the first two songs an absolute ruler is Robbie Steinhardt's violin. Later, I haven't heard from him such fantastic virtuosity together with inventiveness! Deeply impressed by his technical level, I forgot for some time my favourite masterly violinist Jan Luc Ponty. Can I Tell You and Bringing It Back quite resemble each other stylistically and structurally with their fast energetic tempo and scores of incredible rapid violin solos crossing all the theme, including vocals lines. And if Bringing It Back is just a cover version, it was excellently rearranged in the same stylistics as Can I Tell You.
Lonely Wind, the third track, is the first prog-ballad on the album. Mostly vocals-based, this songcontains, however, some interesting gentle arrangements from keyboards and cello. And starting from Belexes and going till the end over the rest tracks we can hear all and even more components that two years later would make "Leftoverture" platinum.
If the first two tracks are so astonishing with a rare virtuosity, on Belexes and Journey from Mariabrown the band shows all what true progressive rock is all about. Fast guitar themes are very unexpectedly changed by melancholy, introduced by piano and violin, and the two lead vocalists are demonstrating various moods, ranging from optimistic to dramatically desperate. On the whole, the band simply incredibly balances between open rockish, sometimes even metal, structures and classical pieces. I already need to say that, unlike slightly polished "Leftoverture", "Kansas" contains three very different phases, of two songs each, separated by two prog-ballads.
So, the second lyrical drawing line between the three so different battlefields of progressive rock is the track named The Pilgrimage. Of course, this one is quite related to its partner in making the truce, and is made in the same vein of prog-ballad with fine non-aggressive arrangements.
Apercu and The Death of Mother Nature Suite, going together without pause, are a real prototype to "Magnum Opus" from "Leftoverture". That very first long epic composition from Kansas remains up to now my favourite from them at all, and, surely, this is their most progressive thing ever. It is very profound and at the same time beautiful, full of all kinds of elements of progressive rock, with an exceptional variety of forms of its manifestations, when such different genres as pure progressive metal and pure classic music are not simply in a pleasant neighbourhood, but effectively intertwine.
Summary. It's a very rare case, when the debut album of a great band is their best work ever, though, of course, Kansas has other gems in their collection-discography as the mentioned "Leftoverture", and also "Point of Know Return", not counting simply good albums like "Monolith" or their latest "Freaks of Nature". Nevertheless, no one of them can surpass "Kansas", for it was the triumph of the debut on which the main thing was already played, and the way was shown... "Kansas" was originally released on "CBS Records" (now a division of "Sony Music").
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