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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Kansas

Vinyl Confessions

Review by Greg Olma

Kansas will always be remembered for their Leftoverture and Point Of Know Return albums and will always be linked to the '70s.  The '80s started with Audio-Visions but Vinyl Confessions was where the changes really started to happen.  Founding member Steve Walsh left to form Streets and John Elefante took his place.  It is difficult for a band to change lead vocalists (i.e. Black Sabbath and Van Halen) but Elefante does a great job.  He manages to sing a few tunes in a Walsh style while still retaining his own identity.  The record didn’t really do all that well aside from single “Play The Game Tonight” but as far as Kansas records go, I still rate it as a nice slab of '80s Kansas vinyl.  If you haven’t heard (or if you’re like me and you haven’t listened to it for years), get yourself a copy and enjoy being transported back to the 1980s.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Play The Game Tonight

This track starts off in a very subdued way; just piano and vocals.  As it builds, it reveals itself as quite an anthem.  The chorus is extremely catchy and it is a great cut to introduce new vocalist John Elefante.  This was a pretty big hit for them at the time.

Right Away

Even though it has a very Kansas sounding intro, the verses remind me a little bit of Blue Oyster Cult.  It’s an ‘80s rock tune with another catchy chorus.

Fair Exchange

For fans of older Kansas, this is more up their alley.  It is a heavy tune until the chorus takes a left turn and we get a bit of light-weight Kansas.  It is odd that for a band that put the spotlight on the violin, there is very little so far on this record.

Chasing Shadows

Piano starts off this mellow track but it is a great tune. This is the type of song that reminds you just why Kansas was such a great band.  The violins that come in fit without being overpowering.  The vocals are spot on and although, this one is never listed as one of the top songs by Kansas, I would rate this pretty high in their whole catalogue.

Diamonds And Pearls

This is a funky kind of tune that really has that ‘80s Kansas sound.  I don’t think it has aged well and it is one of the tunes that can be skipped over.

Face It

Here is another ‘80s Kansas song and although it has not aged well, it has a certain charm that redeems it.  Even though it is very pop oriented, it has a great chorus and it has its prog parts too.  Just listen to the middle section and you get sort of an ‘80s Genesis vibe going from it.  They even add some saxophone to the mix and, like I said before, it has not aged well, but all of those things give it a great nostalgic charm.

Windows

Fans of older Kansas will be happy with this cut.  It is a little faster paced and is definitely more rock.  Right before the guitar solo, Robby Steinhardt gets to shine a little.  As I mentioned earlier, that’s an exception because there isn’t that much violin on this record.

Borderline

I really like this tune but I don’t think it is very Kansas sounding.  It reminds me of ‘80s Styx.  There is nothing special about this cut but somehow the band makes it work.  I guess talented musician can “make” the song.

Play On

This cut seems like it was something that the band was working on with Steve Walsh.  Elefante sings in a very Walsh way here.  I’m surprised that the band put this one towards the end of side two of the original vinyl.  It’s a nice rocker that I think could have been a hit for them.

Crossfire

Kerry Livgren really lets his Christian lyrics come through on this one.  Musically, this tune is very much in the older Kansas vein and like “Play On,” it sounds like something that Walsh was a part of (even though he is not credited).  “Crossfire” also contains some great prog elements that are missing on most of this record.  If more of the music on Vinyl Confessions was like this, I think Kansas fans would have embraced this record more but the ‘80s pop elements really took hold of the band and left older fans scratching their heads. 

 
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