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Robby Steinhardt

Not In Kansas Anymore: A Prog Opera

Review by Gary Hill

Robby Steinhardt was probably best known as the violinist for the band Kansas. He was certainly a unique individual in the prog rock scene of the day playing that instrument. This solo album was recorded recently, but released posthumously as he passed away shortly before its scheduled release. I think this set is exactly what you'd expect from him. It captures the same kind of range of sounds that Kansas was known for. While there is a core band here, there are also a number of guests including Pat Travers, Patrick Moraz, Billy Cobham, Steve Morse, Lisa Fischer, Bobby Kimball, Ian Anderson and more.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2022  Volume 1. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2022.

Track by Track Review
Tempest
There is a real fusion angle to this smoking hot instrumental piece. Steinhardt's violin brings the Kansas textures, but the cool bass is in charge of the fusion texture.
Truth to Power (Only Truth Can Change the World)
An acapella vocal blast brings this into being. The track works out to more of a mainstream rocking jam. This is a decidedly AOR number. This gets into proggier (and seriously intense jamming near the end. Pat Travers provides a guitar solo late that is part of that intensity.
Mother Earth (Is Calling You)
While this is more balladic, it's still a rocker at its core. It just happens to be a melodic rocker. There is plenty of prog in the mix here. I dig the vocal arrangement. There are some Beatles-like elements at play here and there on the song. This is a more Kansas-like song. The number turns very powerful and symphonic prog oriented before it's over. Patrick Moraz guests, playing piano while Sonny Ferguson brings his acoustic guitar skills to it.
Rise of the Phoenix (Climb to Grace)
Billy Cobham plays drums on this, while Steve Morse provides two guitar solos. Classical music with the sounds of birds brings this into being. A tastefully chaotic guitar part rises upward as this moves forward. This works outward into some serious prog meets fusion jamming. This instrumental is one of the hlghlights of the set.
The Phoenix
With a great balance between mellower and more rocking zones, this feels a lot like Kansas. It has a great AOR prog vibe to it. The instrumental break has more pure prog at its heart and is on fire. Billy Ashbaugh guests on drums.
Prelude
Symphonic prog is the order of business on this instrumental. It gets into some seriously rocking zones. Guest Charlie DeChant plays flute and recorder on this.
Dust In the Wind
Here we get a redo of the classic Kansas tune. While this is played faithfully for the first part, there are some interesting twists and enhancements later. This song has a whole host of guest on it. I've been impressed with Lisa Fischer over the years watching her perormances as a backup (and sometimes lead) singer as part of the Rolling Stones' touring band. Here she provides the female lead vocal. Chuck Leavell handles the piano, Liberty Devitto plays drums and Bobby Kimball provides backing vocals. Charlie DeChant is back on flute and recorder and Jim Stringer plays acoustic guitar on the tune.
Pizzacotto – (A Slice for Baby Boy Flynn)
Ian Anderson plays flute and pennywhistle on this song. Harpsichord brings this cut into being. The arrangement fills out with a minstrel sort of approach. This is a powerhouse symphonic prog instrumental.
Downtown Royalty
This is a cool tune. It's more mainstream rocker, but it does reach for more. It's a solid number and some good variety. The guests on this one are Les Dudek (slide guitar), Charlie DeChant (flute) and Davonnda Simmons (backing vocals).
Not in Kansas Anymore
Rayford Griffin plays drums on this song. With an odd-little intro skit, this turns out to more of a melodic prog rocker from there. It leans heavily on the AOR side, but does have some blasts of more challenging prog, too. There is a little nod to "The Wizard of Oz" at the end of this song.
Bonus Track:
                                 
A Prayer for Peace

This instrumental piece has the symphonic prog thing down really well, leaning on the classical music angle. Steinhardt's violin work really is the centerpiece of it.

 
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