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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Proto-Kaw

Before Became After

Review by Gary Hill

Proto-Kaw was one of the early groupings of the band that was later known as Kansas. When Cuneiform records released an album of their old material in 2002 it got the creative juices in Kansas/Proto-Kaw man Kerry Livgren. He decided to put this band back together, and Before Became After is the result. This disc is certainly a more modern sounding release than that one. It has a lot of progressive rock influences written all over it. While this does sound a bit like the more progish period in Kansas' history, this music seems to have a lot in common with the sounds of Yes, Emerson Lake and Palmer and Jethro Tull as well. This is a very strong progressive rock disc, and would be an excellent addition to any prog collection.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
More Worlds Than Known
A burst of sound starts this cut. Keys take it before the band launch forward into a killer verse style. Then it shifts into a killer instrumental with a flute solo ala Jethro Tull. Another instrumental break later starts with a keyboard driven segment, then moves into a rather funky bass driven part. Another flute-dominated section comes in after that. This extended segment is very dynamic, covering a lot of musical territory while still maintaining a consistent theme. It makes its way after a false ending to it verses section, this time infusing it with a new energy. They then move this into a new musical path. This gets quite dramatic before its conclusion.
Words of Honor/Leaven
Starting in a more sedate, almost mystical tone, this one builds in a powerful, yet rather gentle and harmonious form. A spoken voice comes over top, and the band moves this into a jazzy short of excursion. Eventually they bump up the intensity and crank this up. A killer segment takes it into very Yes, Kansas and ELP type direction. It later drops t a mellow and sedate flute driven segment. Next it makes its way to a powerful and moving verse section based on piano. They then launch from this point into a dramatic high energy Kansas link jam that also takes on ELP like leanings at times and includes some soaring saxophone and vocals. They back down to the mellower section from the beginning along with the spoken words, then kick that up. Another high-energy prog adventure takes it from there.
Axolotl
Feeling a lot like one of the mellower pieces from King Crimson's debut disc, this one runs through in this texture for quite a time. After the first verse it flows headlong into a hard edged Kansas like romp that moves upward. It eventually drops back to a pretty melodic jam for a time, then they power this up into an almost heavier take on the earlier Crimson elements with perhaps a touch of ELP thrown in before dropping it back down for the next evocative verse.
Greenburg Glickstein, Charles, David, Smith and Jones
Piano and flute begin this. They bump it into a triumphant sounding-rocking segment, then move it into a very prog rock take the feels a bit like Kansas meets Tull. This drops to a pretty balladic segment. They kick this part up infusing new energy. A flute solo runs over the verse later. They drop it back to a jazzy take on the piano and flute arrangement, then jet it into a killer rocking jazzy jam. This gets quite intense. Then they drop it back to the verse section, delivering it with a lot of emotion. They move this next through another instrumental segment based on the familiar themes. It drops back to a bell ringing part that ends it. 
Gloriana
A more modern fusion based segment, at times feeling just a tiny bit like Jethro Tull, start this. Then it gets more into a psychedelically textured bluesy rocker. This ha a very '60's pop rock texture to it. It drops into a mellower almost melancholy feeling jam with a flute solo. A quick move back to the '60's styled verse gives way to a short flute flourish that ends it.
Occasion of Your Honest Dreaming
This hard rocking jam is a more energized and quirky take on the classic Kansas sound. They eventually move this one into another fusion oriented hard rocking jam that really smokes. They drop it back to the earlier section as they carry forward, then it moves into a new hard edged jam, at first slower, then with a renewed intensity. This again feels a little like Kansas. The heavier verse segment that comes out of this has a crunchy Kansas sound with neo-classical touches all over it. This is a very awesome and powerful segment.
Heavenly Man
This comes in as a bouncy, mellower pop rock cut. The early segment is a bit weak, but the band turns it into a more dramatic balladic section that is much more effective, then shift to a killer jam. They do take it back to the lightweight segment eventually, though.
Theophany
I can't possibly imagine a song not by ELP sounding more like them than the opening segment of this one. It is based on that dramatic neo-symphonic style that Emerson Lake and Palmer used to do so well, but a later section feels more like Kansas. When they launch it into the balladic mode, this is very powerful. They power it up, then move it back down from time to time. This is a potent piece. It eventually moves into a fusion sort of jam, but this feels a little lightweight. This wanders into much more dramatic textures later, then gets dark and heavy. It builds very slowly in a rather weird and plodding fashion from there. This gets a little spooky at times and quite metallic. It suddenly jumps up its speed and begins to take the listener on a roller coaster ride with it increasing velocity, then it shifts in the midst of this to a more full on prog mode. This ends abruptly, and the fusion stylings return to take it again. They drop it back down to the ballad to carry on. This builds up to a more powerful and energetic segment. They then drip it back to a potent Kansas like jam, then once again boost the speed and intensity. The guitar screams out for a short time before the song ends in noisy chaos.
 
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