Back in the mid to late 70's, Kansas was one of the biggest bands around. They had huge albums like Leftoverture, and Point of Know Return, and sold out concert halls around the globe. However, shortly after these albums were released, the core band--Steve Walsh (lead vocals, keyboards), Kerry Livgren (chief songwriter, guitar, keyboards), Robbie Steinhardt (lead vocals, violin), Rich Williams (guitar), Dave Hope (bass) and Phil Ehart (drums)--splintered into different musical directions, leaving the door open for an assortment of new personnel to come and go. Longtime fans gave up hope that the original band would ever reform & create new music together.
Well, egos and creative differences were put aside and the original six members of the group (along with bassist/vocalist Billy Greer) did in fact reform, and created one of the best albums of their career-- Somewhere to Elsewhere. Recorded at Livgren's studio in Berryton, KS, the new album finds the band's master craftsman back in the fold after a 17-year absence. Livgren could have easily gone into the studio and recreated the band's earlier musical style. Instead, he successfully explored new musical territory; all the while keeping the songs in true Kansas form.
Over half the songs surpass the 7-minute mark, which is sure to please fans of the group's older material. The new tunes were all written by Livgren, and cover a wide spectrum of musical territory. The first two tracks, "Icarus II" and "When the World Was Young" briefly revisit some of Kansas' past material. "Grand Fun Alley" features a deep, nasty funk on the verses, while "The Coming Dawn" is a beautiful and touching ballad. Billy Greer handles the lead vocals on "Look at the Time." The tune has a Beatlesque quality to it and great harmonies, with an evil, menacing jam in the middle section of the song.
"Distant Vision" and "Myriad" are classic Kansas in the truest sense. "Myriad was an interesting song, because parts of it were written even before this particular Kansas was even formed," said Ehart in a recent interview. "It was one of the songs we learned when Kerry and I were in the very first Kansas. There are parts in that that I remember playing 30 years ago. And it was actually called Myriad back then; we kept the title." "Disappearing Skin Tight Blues" is the most commercial tune on the CD. The chorus has a great hook on the chorus, and a bluesy groove throughout. "Byzantium" finds the band in a quiet, Eastern mode, unlike anything they've ever done before. Its haunting melody sticks in your mind the first time you hear it. The only problem is that it's too short.
The CD also includes an unlisted bonus track, a short acoustic tune that I'll call "Geodesic Dome." It sounds like something the band threw together while they were in the studio, but it's a cool bonus. Livgren said his intention for the album was to capture the band's "original fire and vision," and that the album would have many "familiar stylistic twists, and new twists as well." I'd say it lives up to and surpasses those intentions. Somewhere to Elsewhere is a true return to form for Kansas, and a step forward at the same time. It's sure to please existing fans, and given the chance, will surely win new ones as well.
|© 2000 Steve Marshall|