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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Kansas

Somewhere to Elsewhere

Review by G. W. Hill

Somewhere to Elsewhere finds Kansas back to their older styles while still being innovative and originally. Fans of the classic prog era of this band should really be able to sink their teeth into this release. The release not only heralds a return to older sounds of the band, but also welcomes back many members who have been out of the band for a time. In general, this can be looked at as a renaissance for Kansas.

The lineup on the disc is Phil Ehart, Billy Greer, Dave Hope, Kerry Livgren, Robbie Steinhardt, Steve Walsh and Richard Williams. Jake and Jessica Livgren lend vocals to one cut.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: The Early Years Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Icarus II
Lyrically this number is based on a true story. Apparently a bomber in WWII was hit after making its run. The pilot had his crew bail out, but he stayed with the plane all the way down to steer it away from Allied troops. As piano starts the cut, then to be joined by violin, it becomes obvious that this band is back in classic form. The song builds through several transitions to make up the intro. As it drops to piano and vocals to begin the verse, the Kansas arrangement is sealed. This one begins building from there on the theme of this verse by getting stronger and stronger with each progression of the arrangement. After about 3 or 4 minutes, the cut shift gear drastically becoming a major hard rocking sort of prog jam to signify the bombing taking place in the story line. The cut then transforms for the next verse into a very strong prog movement, then more hard edged textures. Next comes a return to that strong verse. The number then takes a step back into the mode of it's early styles, and next gets very powerful in a classic Kansas crescendo. A short flourish of solo piano ends the number in find fashion.
When The World Was Young
This is a bluesy rocker that comes across a bit more like Styx than Kansas. The arrangement is quite accessible, but still rather progressive. The riff upon which the intro and breaks are based is very Zeppelinish. The instrumental break is quite strong, and the cut even drops into a refrain from a Kansas classic for a couple bars in the outro.
Grand Fun Alley
Funky rock and roll makes up the mod for this one. Again it really feels like Styx, except for one brief recurring incredibly progish segment. This one ends in rather spooky fashion.
The Coming Dawn (Thanatopsis)
Starting with piano, this becomes a piano/vocal based ballad. It builds organically from there with the other instruments helping to expand on the musical themes established at the beginning. As the cut continues, the arrangement builds in power and complexity, while still maintaining the original theme.
Myriad
In many ways, this prog excursion's extended intro feels a lot like "Song For America". The verse enters and brings the cut down in intensity. Strong vocals carry this one and add emotion. This is the Kansas of old. The cut drops to a very strong extended prog jam that really feels like the classic period of this band. A vocal burst over the top calls to mind Starcastle, though. It then shifts back to verse mode, feeling quite triumphant in its return. The crescendo that follows shortly is so classic Kansas that it is unreal. The crescendo all but ends the song, with a playful brief instrumental segment being the actual outro.
Look at the Time
This one really feels like Kansas does late period Beatles. It begins with a playful sort of Beatlesesque tone that continues throughout much of the piece until a very powerful prog instrumental break ensues. The break encompasses a lot of style changes and really is quite potent. As the piece ends, the Beatles oriented stylings return.
Disappearing Skin Tight Blues
Most of this cut is a pretty standard blues rocker. The vocal arrangement is rather intriguing at times, and the instrumental break adds a nice prog texture.
Distant Vision
Beginning with piano, this is another piece that really has that classic Kansas sort of sound. This one is very strong progressive rock. A wonderful prog intro ensues, then drops off, with some killer piano work taking the piece for a while. The other instruments join in after a time, and the composition keeps moving through the intro. As it drops back down to the verse, the classic Kansas stylings are clearly evident. This one is very powerful and old school in texture. It drops to a dramatic and emotive slower section that is quite classically oriented and begins building from there. All in all this is a very powerful piece.
Byzantine
Starting with dramatic chorale type vocals, an Eastern sort of tone takes the song in dramatic fashion. It then evolves into an acoustic type ballad that keeps relying on both those chorale and Eastern sounds. It then transforms into fast pace prog for a short time, before returning to the earlier modes. The ending of the number is a return to just the chorale tones followed by some ambient sounds.
Not Man Big
A hard rocking cut, this one eventually bursts into a strong hard edged jam with some great Jon Lordish keyboard textures. The instrumental break slows the piece for a short time, then a violin flourish heralds a strong return to the faster modes. Later, it drops to just vocals, then the bass dominates the tune in a funky sort of groove and it begins building in rock and roll fashion from there. This is actually a rather bluesy number.
Hidden Track
This is a fairly silly jam session on a bluesy number about living in a geodesic dome.
 
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