A retrospective of the US prog melodic rock combo 16 studio albums, the classic live double album (“Two For The Show”), 30 million records sold. But much more than the big seventies hits “Carry On Wayward Son” and “Dust In The Wind” is from Kansas but not stuck. Unfortunately, the latter is not available in the original on this anniversary compilation, but in the version that the band recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra in 1998. At some point, such combos always end up with the really big cutlery.
Interludes, meter changes, virtuoso fits and synth solos that reliably lead nowhere
The sextet from Topeka, named simply after the US state they come from, went with a later hardly varied mix of British-infected prog à la Genesis, Yes, ELP, hard rock riffs, melodic hooks and heartland boogie. The unique selling point was and always has been the violin, originally played by Robby Steinhardt, who died in 2021. Amazingly enough, Kansas is still around today, led by drummer Phil Ehart as the sole remaining founding member. After all, the main author was soon lost. Kerry Livgren had found God and temporarily transformed Kansas into a Christian rock band in the early 1980s, prompting singer Steve Walsh to temporarily flee.
The 41 tracks here start off with a new version of “Can I Tell You” which is 20 seconds longer but no different than the original on the debut from anno 1974. After that it continues chronologically, albeit from now to then. And if you listen to the last piece, “Journey From Mariabronn”, and immediately afterwards the first, the title song of their last album, “The Absence Of Presence” (2020), you have to state that Kansas are trying to gain time thematically, to musically but have remained incredibly faithful. Oh, all the interludes, meter changes, virtuoso fits, synth solos, etc. that reliably lead to nowhere… Or maybe to nirvana?
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