Today’s selection is not Rap. It’s not Low-Fi, and it’s not British. So combo-breaker away for the usual record club fare this season. And it’s from a band many of you will recognize in some capacity – even though most of the songs they’re known for are the product of the 70’s. One of the pioneering progressive rock acts….
Kansas – Leftoverture
Listen to it here: http://grooveshark.com/#!/playlist/Kansas+Leftoverture/76827227
Read about the band here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kansas_%28band%29
Fun Facts: “Carry On Wayward Son” has been included on soundtracks for the following movies and television shows: Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Family Guy, Gentlemen Broncos, Happy Gilmore, Heroes (1977), Scrubs, South Park (“Guitar Queer-o” episode), King of the Hill (“My Own Private Rodeo”), Strangers with Candy (“Yes You Can’t”), and Supernatural (during the intro for each season finale), and Supernatural: The Anime Series (as the ending for each episode). It was also featured in the Guitar Hero II, Guitar Hero Smash Hits, Rock Band 2 and Rock Band Unplugged video games.
On September 13, 2012, Kansas began a new tour with a performance at the Best Buy Theater in New York City . Opening for them was the band King’s X and an unusual one-man-band called That 1 Guy. This tour featured many hits from the albums Leftoverture and Point of Know Return, as well as material from a number of their other albums.
Preconceived Notions: To my knowledge Kansas has exactly two songs. This album has one of them, the 1st track. The fact that there are tracks on this album actually after this track is mildly stunning. I have to hand it to the selection however, as it’s a change of pace and in its worst moments all I am really dreading about this thing is a certain hokiness.
After Listening: One thing about 70’s rock, even prog rock is that you get what was advertised. Mid range guitar tones (a personal “ugh” for me), keyboards straight off a Queen album, and vocals that are spouting semi literate poetry about getting laid in a quasi rock opera/broadway delivery. Kansas (on this record anyway) seems a shade of gray in this time period and genre….not quite as straight corporate rock as say Boston or Bad Company, but not quite as art music rooted as Yes or Styxx. The compromise makes it easy to see why they are forgotten about-as the middle of this album seems to drift into an unremarkable jam. Yet I give the band credit, it doesn’t sound like they are trying to appeal to all audiences…even in their poppier moments you can get glimpses of their rock side.
Favorite Tracks: Carry On Wayword Son – Well duh. What made this song a huge hit? It’s probably the chorus, but there’s a good deal to be said about the bombastic qualities of the rhythm and the accents. It’s loud, but melodically catchy and that’s a recipe for success.
Magnum Opus – There are kettle drums and a vibraphone on here – which is a nice reminder that rock bands used to at least try different tone colors. In addition, there is some good guitar work here even if the tone of it is a little flaccid. I also like the ambition of trying to squeeze so much into an eight minute piece. It’s not legendary, but it could’ve been a failure on an epic joke scale and it wasn’t that either.
Least Favorite Track: Opus Insert – it sounds like a mismatched combo of hippy rock and pop music. The keys and bass are outfront, but this sounds like it belongs off-off-off broadway, possibly in the dumpster in the alley. Neither moving nor catchy, its brightness feels very manufactured and sterile.
Overall 3.013 I’m inclined normally to savage bands that bore me, but although this album achieves that, I just can’t be too hard on it. For one thing, it does have a hit that I’ve been listening to at random moments for over 30 years of life. And I can’t help but think Carry On would sort of overshadow all of this album for most casual listeners to the point where it would be very difficult to pay the rest of the thing the proper attention. And it’s because of this, that the rest of the album isn’t the mega hit I’ve been saturated with, that I need to look deeper at how I feel about the rest of the thing. Yes, parts of it did bore me, yes much of it feels like it’s been done before and better….but objectively that’s really not the case. Mid 70’s progressive rock has a distinct style, but that style is apparent to us now decades later….at the time, Kansas was still shaping the actual stereotype we would come to later generalize so many bands under. So I have to give them credit for being part of the scene near its inception, as well as having a fair amount of ambition in trying out ideas. That all said, there’s something to be said for how the music holds up over time as well- and this record loses a lot of life as the years continue to pass.
Kansas – Leftoverture
Preconceptions: Even though this is my pick, I haven’t listened to this since 7th grade. Oh, it was my jam then, yo.
After listening: Among the Questions of my Childhood is “why did I like this album?”
Favorite Track: Carry On my Wayward Son is the lone song I can honestly say I still enjoy.
Least Favorite: Magnum Opus is the worst sort of long-winded prog-noodling that came out of the late 1970s. Check out the breakdown of the title:
“Father Padilla Meets the Perfect Gnat”
“Howling at the Moon”
“Industry on Parade”
“Release the Beavers”
Reading the title is way more fun than listening to the actual song.
Overall: While it’s obvious how it can appeal to my Dungeons & Dragons youth of the early 80s, this album is so cheesy the band should be called Wisconsin . Every criticism I have thrown at 40’s Zappa & Metallica pics and Paul’s Civil War punk opera silliness is valid for Kansas ’ fiddle-prog. Opus Insert almost turns into a Zappa tribute for 30 seconds (the studio must have left the marimba unattended that day.) A little nostalgia made this tolerable, but I am sure I’ll never need to listen to Kansas again, at least until the Supernatural season finale.
Prelisten guess: 1.8
Kansas-Leftoverture (9/18) Nebraska dominates Kansas in every aspect. Bruce’s Nebraska album is better than any album from the band Kansas, because like their state, they suck. .6