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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Kansas

In the Spirit of Things

Review by Gary Hill

By the time this album was released, Kansas seemed to really be struggling to find their place in the music scene. In a lot of ways, this doesn’t feel like a Kansas album. A lot of it isn’t really very progressive rock in nature, either. It seems that a number of the songs were blatant attempts at hits, mimicking a lot of the music that was around at the time. That Kansas identity is a little hard to find here. Still, there are some moments where they really shine, and even a mediocre Kansas album is still pretty darned good.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2014  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Ghosts

This ballad is pretty. It’s rather sad, too. It doesn’t really sound all that much like Kansas to me, though. The first three minutes are strictly mellow, but it fires out for a while in the last minute or so into a smoking hot hard rocking sound for a guitar solo. It drops back to a short reprise of the mellower movement to end.

One Big Sky
Although musically this isn’t what I’d call recognizable as Kansas, the vocals make clear who it is. The song is quite prog rock oriented. The guitar really rocks, but the keyboard sounds are a little 80s in style, feeling a little cheesy. I love the multiple layered vocal sections on the tune. There is some particularly tasty guitar soloing on this piece, too.
Inside of Me
Although this starts mellower and drops to that kind of motif at points throughout, this is a harder rocking number. The vocal arrangement delivers a Kansas sound. The music doesn’t as much. It’s a strong tune with some prog and some more mainstream sound both built into it. The instrumental break (particularly the keyboard sound) somehow makes me think of Emerson, Lake and Palmer just a little.
One Man, One Heart
This is one of my favorite cuts here. It has a great balance between harder rocking and mellower movements. It’s packed with emotion and it’s very proggy. It’s also quite recognizable as Kansas.
House on Fire
Bordering on heavy metal, this is also an extremely prog oriented cut in some of the instrumental sections. It’s very much set in a 1980s metal type structure and arrangement, though. This really doesn’t feel much like Kansas to me, but it does rock.
Once in a Lifetime
There is definitely an 80s sound to this. It is basically a power ballad. It’s rather generic, but Kansas manage somehow to bring some of themselves to it.
Stand Beside Me
This is very much an 80s styled balladic tune. It’s good, but a little generic. Kansas is better than this, really.
I Counted on Love
Another that has a definite, rather generic, 80s sound, this manages to rise beyond that detriment. It’s a pretty powerful song and does feel a bit like Kansas.
The Preacher
Now, this is Kansas! It’s a hard rocker, but it’s also proggy and very cool. It’s a smoking hot tune. I love the guitar soloing, and the powerhouse vocal performance is great, too. The backing vocals later in the track bring a bit of a gospel vibe to the piece.
Rainmaker
The first half of this has a real musical theater vibe to it. It’s dramatic and balladic and pretty cool. It’s definitely Kansas. Then they launch out into the proggiest section of the whole disc in a smoking hot jam. It drops back to a mellower movement with a wall of vocals. This is definitely the most progressive rock piece of the album. The mellower section is a little too theatrical for my tastes, but this is a great song.
T.O. Witcher
This a short intricate acoustic guitar solo.
Bells of Saint James
Here is another cut that’s among the proggier moments of the disc. It’s more or less balladic, but there is a lot going on here. It’s also one of the most “Kansas sounding” pieces here. It’s also one of the more effective pieces.
 
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