Archive for Leftoverture

Great Rock Albums of 1988: Kansas- In the Spirit of Things

Posted in 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 18, 2022 by 80smetalman

I can’t totally blame being in England for missing Kansas’s 1988 album, “In the Spirit of Things” because I was still in the States when I missed their previous album, “Power” and only had a vague knowledge of the one before that one. Like so many, my Kansas memories were stuck in the 1970s with such classics as “Leftoverture,” “Monolith” and “Point of Know Return.” While those albums were huge for the band, I think this one can stand right up there with them. It’s that good.

Two theories from me as to why “In the Sprit of Things” tanked commercially, both of which are related to changes from the 1970s to the 80s. Back in the 70s, bands didn’t need to have a great hit single to become known. Look at Frank Zappa. I even remember hearing an interview with Kansas saying that they would probably only have two or three hit singles but the 70s albums I mentioned were all listened to by many. I had a friend who was a big Kansas fan. Anyway, in the 1980s, unless you were a metal band, no hit single usually meant no notice from the public.

The other reason was that by 1988, music was essentially dumbed down and put into neat little categories making it difficult for great progressive rock bands like Kansas. In the 70s, people weren’t quick to pigeon hole bands and just accepted bands like Kansas for the music they made. Sure, there was progressive rock, mixed with some very hard rock and other musical fluctuations as well, but that was no longer acceptable in the 80s. In the case of Kansas, the hard guitars made some people think they were metal while the keyboards made others think they were some trendy top 40 band, which they weren’t. For me, it’s a shame because once you get past the pigeon-holing, you get a great album.

Opener track, “Ghosts,” is what Kansas has done so successfully over the years. It starts as a progressive rock ballad, then goes more mainstream progressive before Steve Morse’s guitar kicks in and he lays down a cool solo. It opens the album with great promise. They do go more 80s rock with “One Big Sky” with some great blend of keyboards and guitar. In addition, there’s a choir at the chorus bringing an additional element to the song. I think if they had released this one as a single, it would have been successful in the late 1980s climate.

“Inside Me” is a progressive rocker that really rocks. I can picture in my mind Dio or Savatage playing this song. Morse’s guitar work is tops here and you get a real pronounced bass line from Billy Greer. It’s almost the hidden gem, definitely a second one. It’s back to 1970s style progressive magic on “One Man, One Heart.” That intro is mesmerising and it turns into a pretty good rock tune after. The more rock part continues with “House on Fire.” Turn the guitar up a notch and you have a pretty good metal tune. You even get a guitar solo tradeoff between Morse and Rich Williams.

The first half of the album, or side one if you had this on cassette or vinyl ends with a cool power ballad, “Once in a Lifetime.” This one ticks all the boxes of what a good power ballad should be, meaningful vocals, good power chords and a riveting guitar solo. The second half begins with what was the intended single, “Stand Beside Me.” While I can see why this song, another power ballad but more ballad than power, would be chosen to be the single, but I still stick by my belief that the single released should have been “One Big Sky.”

For me, the next couple of tracks are the best part of the album. “I Counted on Love” starts with a cool guitar solo but then goes into more power ballad but the vocals are superb. You might be thinking that three power ballads in a row might be a bit much but somehow, it works on the album. Then we get to the true hidden gem of the album, “The Preacher.” It comes in with a uplifting neo metal vibe and carries on. While I won’t call it a headbanger but you can’t help bobbing along to the beat. The backing vocals are brilliant, especially with the choir assisting but the power chords and guitar solo just take this song to another level. This one is Kansas’s most rocking song since the legendary “Carry On My Wayward Son.”

If you want to go into more traditional progressive rock that tells a story, then “Rainmaker” is the song. It sounds like it could have been sung in a play but I love it on the album. It’s a definite return to the progressive rock which made Kansas a household name a decade earlier. Following a rather intriguing acoustic instrumental, the album closes with “Bells of St. James.” This is another song which could have been on a metal concept album. Another one which could have been performed by Dio. Actually, I think Ronnie would have nailed it but Kansas do the job perfectly themselves. The hard guitars and the harmonizing at the chorus with the backing sound effects all pitch in to make the song cool.

Track Listing:

  1. Ghosts
  2. One Big Sky
  3. Inside of Me
  4. One Man, One Heart
  5. House on Fire
  6. Once in a Lifetime
  7. Stand Beside Me
  8. I Counted On Love
  9. The Preacher
  10. Rainmaker
  11. T.O. Witcher
  12. Bells of St. James
Kansas

Steve Walsh- keyboards, lead vocals

Steve Morse- guitar, vocals

Rich Williams- guitar

Billy Greer- bass, vocals

Phil Ehart- drums

Additional Musicians:

Steve Croes- synclavier

Terry Brock- background vocals on track 4

John Pierce- fretless bass, track 7

Bob Ezrin- percussion, backing vocals

Reverend James Cleveland and the Southern California Choir- backing vocals on tracks, 2, 9 and 10

When listening to “In the Sprit of Things,” the question which comes to mind is: What were people thinking back in 1988? How could such a great album go by with little attention? I’m sure I’m going to get a lot of responses from people saying they have this album and how great it is. At least I hope so.

Next post: Honeymoon Suite- Racing After Midnight

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Great Rock Albums of 1979: Kansas- Monolith

Posted in 1979, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on August 1, 2012 by 80smetalman

 

When you have put out two very successful albums in a row, like Kansas did with “Leftoverature” and “Point of Know Return,” it isn’t easy going for the hat trick. After refamiliarising myself with their 1979 offering, “Monolith,” I have to conclude that it might not quite match the previous two albums, but it’s a great album nonetheless. It did take me back to that year where I used to listen to it with my friend who was a big Kansas fan and I remember how good this album was. I ┬ánever in agreement with the clown from Rolling Stone who claimed that Kansas were trying to be an American version of The Moody Blues or Emerson Lake and Palmer. Kansas have always been unique with their sound and I have always appreciated that.

When I hear the harder rock song “How My Soul Cries Out For You,” I am in total disagreement with the above comment from Rolling Stone, not that I have ever paid much attention to them anyway. While none of the tracks are on a level with the classics “Carry On My Wayward Son” or “Dust in the Wind,” “Monolith” features many good tracks in its own right, including the one already mentioned. I have always loved their use of the violin and Robby Steinhardt is very good at his craft and this definitely shows on the intro to “Angels Have Fallen,” which is a cool classic Kansas track in its own right. The entire track seems to follow in the vein of these songs and what you get is a good solid album that you must listen to with full attentiveness because you never know when they spring another surprise on you with the changes in the songs.

Track Listing:

1. On the Other Side

2. People of the South Wind

3. Angels Have Fallen

4. How My Soul Cries Out for You

5. A Glimpse of Home

6. Away From You

7. Stay Out of Trouble

8. Reason to Be

Kansas

Phil Ehart- drums

David Hope- bass

Kerry Livgren- guitar, keyboards

Robby Steinhardt- violin, vocals

Steve Walsh- vocals, keyboards

Rich Williams- guitar

There is no doubt that many will have their own favourite track on this album, especially the single “People of the South Wind.” Whatever your fave, it is assured that “Monolith” is a great album from a band that brought its own unique style to rock back in the late 70s.

Next post: Soundtrack to The Warriors

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Great Rock Albums of the 70s: Kansas- Leftoverture

Posted in 1980s, Heavy Metal, Heavy Metal and the 1980s, Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 10, 2011 by 80smetalman

Back in the days when commercial radio didn’t largely suck, I remember riding in the car to go to the beach with my then girlfriend, when the song “Carry On My Wayward Son” came blasting through the airwaves and filling up the car speakers. It can be said that I was hooked from the moment. I found myself playing air guitar along to it and this was in the days before playing air guitar was popular.

“Carry On My Wayward Son” became a huge hit for Kansas, made the album “Leftoverture” a success and catapaulted the band into the limelight which would last throughout the rest of the 70s into the early 80s. The album itself was a do or die situation for Kansas as their record label was threatening to drop them if the album didn’t sell. Not only did “Leftoverture” sell, it went platinum and it is now established as one of the great rock albums of the decade. One of the reasons for its success, is that Kerry Livgren took over much of the song writing and took Kansas in a different direction. Out were the long sprawling songs of the previous albums in favour of shorter more accessible ones.

Track Listing:

1. Carry On My Wayward Son

2. The Wall

3. What’s On My Mind

4. Miracles Out of Nowhere

5. Opus Insert

6. Question of My Childhood

7. Cheyene Anthem

8. Magnum Opus

Kansas:

Phil Erhart- drums percussion

Dave Hope- bass

Kerry Livgren- guitar/ keyboards

Robby Steinhart- violin, viola, vocals

Steve Walsh- keyboards, vocals, xylophone, vibraphone

Rich Williams- guitar

While “Carry On My Wayward Son” is the most known song on the album, (it even appears in the Guitar Hero episode of South Park) the other tracks are very enjoyable as well. The entire album is one of those great summer vibe albums you can listen to while doing your outside summer activities. Listen and rock out!

Next post: Norway Remembered

To buy Rock And Roll Children, go to: www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/RockAndRollChildren.html

Also available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Froogle