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Progressive Rock CD Reviews



Review by Greg Olma

I don’t know why I never considered Kansas a prog band.  I was always putting them in the classic rock genre and leaving it at that.  Now that I have had a bit of time to pull out some of their remastered CDs, it made me realize how wrong I was.  Their earlier output was prog and it wasn’t until they moved their sound into a more commercial state that they made the public (myself included) lump them into classic rock. Their third release titled Masque really showed them in what I consider their purest form.  Their first two releases are great but here you can hear the early rumblings that would transform into “Carry On Wayward Son” a record later.  Even though you won’t hear any of this on radio, you can still hear a number of tunes performed live by the current band.  Songs like “Icarus” maintain their set list status alongside classic rock staples like “Dust In The Wind”.  If someone were to ask me to recommend a Kansas album that was not part of the “classic-era”, then Masque would be it.  The remastered version adds a couple of bonus tracks that, while not essential, makes for a nice addition to the many Kansas fans out there.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 4 at

Track by Track Review
It Takes A Woman’s Love (To Make A Man)
Even though the opening tune here has a very distinctive Kansas keyboard sound, it has a very commercial bent to it.  It has the sound of band really trying to write a hit (and for the most part, it works).  It has a bit of country flavoring in the guitar solo and it definitely has a 70 classic rock sound.  Towards the end there is saxophone added that makes it sound a little like the theme for Saturday Night Live (at least that is my impression).
Two Cents Worth
This is more Kansas sounding to me.  Kerry Livgren was always an underrated guitar player in my book and here he shows off a little of what he’s got.  His playing may be under-stated but it is a key ingredient to the overall sound.  This track has a little funkiness to it and although it sounds a little dated, it has a charm to it that makes you forgive the dated sound.
Icarus (Borne On The Wings Of Steel)
Here is where Kansas shows off their prog leanings.  There are parts of this tune that remind me of Jethro Tull and believe it or not, they are the heavier parts.  Steve Walsh was one of the best singers in the 70’s and listening to him here shows exactly why.  Not only does he have a great set of pipes, he also plays a mean keyboard.  This tune has become a concert favorite and before “Carry On Wayward Son” hit big, this is the tune you could have pointed to let people know what Kansas is all about.
All The World
The guys continue with some “prog lite” but things get heavy towards the middle of the tune.  The violins courtesy of Robby Steinhardt are really pronounced here.  I’m surprised this cut has not been more of a “fan” favorite (or deep cut) because it has all the same elements of the classic Kansas songs.
Child Of Innocence
The Jethro Tull sound is present in the beginning of this track but then it shifts quickly to their own atmosphere. This is another tune that has stood the test of time and became a concert favorite.  The guitars on this song are really superb and it really shows that these guys were accomplished musicians and never quite given their dues for being master players.  This is one of the heavier cuts on this album it really packs a lot into its four and half minutes.
It’s You
This one starts off with a bit of honky-tonk piano before it slips comfortably into a poppy Kansas rocker.  It’s not very heavy but in 1975, this was rock music.  It’s very short and clocks in at two and a half minutes so I think the idea was that this was going to be the big hit off the record.
Mysteries and Mayhem
Here is another heavier track.  There are parts like Walsh’s keyboards sound that give this the patented Kansas sound but for the most part (to me at least), it does not sound like them.  Even the guitar solo reminds me of early Alex Lifeson (of Rush fame).  It is a faster rocker but somehow it doesn’t fit the rest of the album which confuses me because this one made it into their live set even later in their career.
The Pinnacle
This song is Kansas being themselves and cementing their sound.  This is the epic prog piece that probably made record executives back in 1975 scratch their heads but it is the type of music that we have come to love from the band.  There are heavier parts mixed in with slower parts and an all around prog-ness that only British bands like Yes and Jethro Tull were able to get away with (at the time).  Here is great example of what can happen when you leave great musicians to get on with their craft.
Child Of Innocence (Rehearsal Recording) (Bonus Track)
This sounds just like the title would suggest.  It has a heavier sound and has more of a good bootleg vibe to it.  In 1975, this was the sound of a band jamming out tunes and perfecting them for recording.  It is a nice addition to this CD.
It’s You (Demo) (Bonus Track)
The first that strikes you about this demo is the honky-tonk piano on the beginning of the finished piece is missing.  Other than that, it is fairly the same tune.  It’s nice to see how the track progressed from demo to finished product so it is also a welcome inclusion to this CD.
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