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(70 min, InsideOut)
TRACK LIST: 1. Nevermore 9:17 2. Relics of the Tempest 5:07 3. When the Rains Come 8:56 4. On the Eve of the Great Decline 4:51 5. Physic 5:45 6. At Morning's Gate 3:11 7. Melicus Gladiator 4:52 8. The Vigil 7:20 9. Old Number 63 6:51 10. Osvaldo's Groceries 3:17 11. Picture This 6:42 12. One Fine Day 4:32 + DVD (recorded live at the Progressive Legends Showcase, 2006): 1. The Occasion of Your Honest Dreaming 6:12 2. Words of Honor 4:20 3. Skont 8:01 LINEUP: Kerry Livgren - guitars; keyboards; backing vocals Dan Wright - keyboards, organ; backing vocals Lynn Meredith - lead vocals John Bolton - sax, flute Mike Patrum - drums, percussion Craig Kew - bass, backing vocals Jake Livgren - guitar; keyboards; vocals With Daryl Batchelor - trumpet, flugelhorn
Prolusion. American band originally formed in the early 70s as Kansas (second formation). Reunited in 2002 for the release of "Proto-Kaw: Early Recordings from Kansas 1971-73". Subsequently recorded and released "Before Became After" (2004), under the Proto-Kaw moniker.
Analysis. Blazing the trail! Proto-Kaw is on fire with their sophomore release, "The Wait of Glory", which takes up where "Before Became After" left off, taking the band's music to new heights. The songs are all new, where the last release was a blend of old and new. The lineup is the same as before, with one change and one addition, Mike Patrum having replaced Brad Schulz on drums and multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Jake Livgren (nephew of Kerry) has been added to the team as something of a utility fielder. Original members: John Bolton (sax/flute), Kerry Livgren (guitars/keyboards), Lynn Meredith (vocals), Dan Wright (keyboards) and Craig Kew (bass). Another new sound in the mix is the trumpet and flugelhorn of Daryl Batchelor, who plays on few tracks. Having two saxophones and a trumpet provides a much more saturated horn sound for several of the songs. It's difficult to know how to describe Proto-Kaw, because there is truly no one like them, which makes comparisons nearly impossible. Naturally, as all the music is penned by Kerry Livgren, you will hear a riff here, a phrasing there, that belies his style, yet for each band he has played with and written for, something unique has happened musically. There are the slightest hints of past songs, as wine will be flavored by the surroundings of where its grapes were grown. Each band Kerry has written for has been part of his development as a songwriter. Each band has been a catalyst for new creativity. Proto-Kaw is now providing that synergy of talent. In writing for this CD, Livgren has seized on the strengths of the band, pulled out the stops and pushed the limits. "On "The Wait of Glory" we went into it as a functioning band. I knew what the band sounded like and what they were capable of. "Before Became After", that was all totally unknown and a roll of the dice. With this album, I was able to write the material envisioning the band that was going to be performing it," he says. Proto-Kaw is definitely American Prog-Rock: infused with American musical idioms, not in the lineage of the Canterbury bands. Symphonic Art Rock coexists with elements of Jazz and Rhythm & Blues, majestic themes abutting hard rocking jams. The band at times chases through labyrinthine rhythms and time signatures and then suddenly breaks free into the wide-open spaces of straight ahead rock. The album opens with Nevermore, in the Symphonic Art Rock vein, with tinges of Mid Eastern motifs recalling the flavors of Leaven and Byzantium from "Before Became After" and "Somewhere to Elsewhere", respectively. Beyond the intro, the first half is of a slower tempo, Lynn's vocal carrying the melody with John's flute providing the harmony. It's a lovely melody set in a minor key. Then, about the midway mark, the band begins rocking harder, with guitar, organ and keyboard solos. The voices of Meredith, Jake Livgren and Kew all work so well together, blending beautifully in When the Rains Come. Their harmonies remind me of The Alan Parsons Project or The Moody Blues here. Fans of Jake (from Kerry's solo work) will be pleased to hear him take lead vocal duties on Melicus Gladiator (melicus is Latin for melodious or lyrical), one of the rockers on the disk, which also shows that Dan is Mr. Wright behind the keyboards. Jake also sings the second lead on Picture This. There is a sense of longing in several of the songs, lyrically and musically, longing either for what was or what is to come. The Vigil is one of these. There is a melancholy beauty to this track, reflected in the lyrics and the flugelhorn played in the distance. "We were never alone, for it's chiseled in stone. There's a place in the heart that reveals it. We can run for a time, but the mountain we climb is a door that is closed - something seals it till we're standing outside - wanting in." Piano is the main accompaniment to the vocals on The Vigil, though there is a variety of instruments moving in and out of the arrangement. Craig creates some wonderful little embellishments in a subtle bass solo. A stylistic bookend could be found in On the Eve of the Great Decline, one of my favorites amongst a collection of songs from which I find choosing a favorite a difficult task. This one also has a haunting quality to it, one of the quieter tracks, more of an acoustic feel for much of it, with John's flute figuring prominently in the mix with Lynn's vocals. The theme is the decline of civilization. The Vigil has more of a hopeful resolution in its conclusion of these two. If there is longing in some of the songs, there is joy in others. One Fine Day, Physic and Osvaldo's Groceries exude exuberance. Physic bursts forth with energy in a drivingly grooved Jazz Fusion intro. Kerry, Dan and John trade solos early on and again in the latter part of the song, with each turning in some of the most furious playing on the album. There's Symphonic Art Rock. There's Jazz Fusion. There's simple beauty. At Morning's Gate is truly beautiful. The resonant cello sound is an excellent choice along with the piano accompaniment during Lynn's vocals. The arrangement during the instrumental passages is grand and swells dramatically between verses. Picture This is another track with soaring melodies and sweeping instrumental passages. Then there's funk. Old Number 63 has a driving beat with an R&B vibe, James Brown-esque screams and Tower of Power style horns, Bolton armed with a growling bari-sax. The verses are spoken, coming about as close to rap as is comfortable for this prog fan, but it works. Osvaldo's Groceries gets the award for quirkiest track. It's an instrumental tune that moves kaleidoscopically through a variety of styles very quickly including a touch of Eastern European accordion and Munchkins from Mars (you'll see what I mean when you listen). Comparisons might be made to Gentle Giant or Happy the Man, though it is a point of reference primarily in the compositional complexity, the juxtaposition of elements. I think this one would have made Frank Zappa smile. The CD closes with One Fine Day, which is another funky rocker with an R&B vibe, guitar & sax solos. It's a feel good song that will be fun live, a good note to end on. The pacing of "The Wait of Glory" is excellent as the band moves from song to song, style to style sometimes from track to track, sometimes within tracks.
Conclusion. With "The Wait of Glory" Proto-Kaw continues to define and redefine the sound of progressive rock. Proto-Kaw is solidly progressive, but never forget how to rock! The album is full of lush symphonic arrangements juxtaposed against solid, hard rock, though never harsh in tone, retaining warmth in their sound. For those familiar with "Before Became After," "The Wait of Glory" has all that and more! Recommended. Period. This one is definitely worth its "wait" in gold.
KW: January 20, 2006
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