(19 July 2004) To celebrate Kansas' 30th anniversary of their debut album, Sony/Legacy have reissued the bands first two albums on CD with newly remastered sound and deluxe packaging. Kansas consists of Kerry Livgren (guitars and keyboards), Steve Walsh (lead vocals and keyboards), Robby Steindhardt (violin and vocals), Richard Williams (guitar), Dave Hope (bass) and Phil Ehart (drums).
The debut album from 1974 is quite impressive for a first outing. The album opens with "Can I Tell You," a jam rock piece that features some excellent violin work from Robby and is the first track to feature what would become Kerry Livgren's trademark electric guitar sound which is instantly recognizable. "Bringing it Back" a J.J. Cale cover completely rearranged is an up tempo piece that features Robby handling lead vocals, a strong rhythm section and once again stellar violin work from Robby as well.
"Lonely Wind" a gorgeous ballad written by Steve Walsh showcases Steve's great voice with subtle piano and guitar. This track could have easily been a single for the band and is one of the many gems on this disc. Outstanding harmonies showcase what would become Kansas' trademark vocal sound.
"Belexes" a Kerry Livgren composition is a combination of hard rock and progressive rock. Steve's deft Hammond organ work is featured. This track particularly is a showcase for the outstanding musicianship in the band. A fan favorite ending with a short but outstanding drum solo.
"Journey from Mariabronn" is without a doubt the crowing glory of the album. The song opens with a great synth line and builds from there to a soaring instrumental intro somewhat mystical in sound and just all around brilliant and executed perfectly. A gorgeous melody which stays with the listener long after the song is over. This is pure progressive rock with Kansas' trademark touches. The middle section features some of the best drum/guitar interplay in music history. This builds to a frenzy with stunning synth/violin harmonies. The intro is revisited again followed by another verse building to a dramatic climax of soaring vocals and synths. Simply put this track alone is worth the price of the CD.
"Pilgrimage" a mix of rock and R&B features great vocals from both Robby and Steve. These harmonies would become the hallmark sound of the band. Steve and Robby's voices blend together perfectly. Some great soloing from Robby and Kerry give a slight country feel to the song at times. "Apercu" another Livgren composition clocks in at just under 10 minutes and combines all the elements of progressive rock. Complex arrangements, intricate playing, stunning synth leads all weaved together perfectly. A haunting melody underscores the track which comes to a climactic ending. Kerry's thought provoking lyrics is a highlight.
The final track "Death of Mother Nature Suite" has a King Crimson/ELP feel to the track. This track has an eclectic combination of styles throughout the song. From blistering guitar to acoustic strumming to ethereal organ sounds. Steve's Hammond work as well as Kerry's guitar solo's are a highlight. Full blown progressive rock with hard rocking flourishes bring the album to a powerful conclusion. Another Livgren composition this song showcases the musical genius of Kerry Livgren and the complexity of his compositions.
There is a bonus track--"Bringing it Back" live from the Agora Ballroom, Cleveland, Ohio 1975. This previously unreleased live track shows Kansas can deliver the goods live just as good if not even better than in the studio. A blistering version of this track featuring an extended organ solo. Robby brings the song to a thundering finale with some truly outstanding violin work.
Newly remastered sound by Joseph M. Palmaccio at Sony music studios adds clarity and depth to the music that was missing from the original mid 80s first CD releases. Vocals are clear and crisp. Keyboards and violins sparkle. Guitar, bass and drums shimmer with sonic perfection. Separation and detail are excellent throughout making it hard to believe these albums were recorded thirty years ago.
An informative essay written by Bret Adams along with
excellent photos of the band
make this new reissue a must have. Whether you're new to Kansas or a longtime fan this new remaster will be a welcome addition to your music collection--Scott Bassin