CD Number: Sony Legacy
I remember watching Don Kirshner's Rock Concert in the early 70's and seeing a band called Kansas playing a song I loved; it was "Can I Tell You." I recall that night as if it was yesterday. They were different, unlike anything I had ever heard before, although I did not truly discover the power of Kansas until their fourth album Leftoverture. What a mistake it was for me to wait and pass on Kansas and Song For America. Thanks to the incredibly successful remasters market I get second chances all the time, and this is one of those sweet returns to the past.
Kansas was playing bars in their home state looking for a break before Don Kirschner gave them a shot at stardom. The famous music man that made the Monkees a household name, could see the potential in their marketability beyond the borders of one state, particularly with lead off track on their soon to be debut album "Can I Tell You." He was right. Although their entrance into the music buying public's consciousness happened over a few years, the ultimate commercial success came with the smash "Carry On My Wayward Son" from Leftoverture, yet these two albums served as the cornerstones of a long and successful career. While "Can I Tell You" was full of violin and driving keyboards unfound on the top 40 charts, it was a viable radio ready tune set for cross over success; however, that was the only song on the album with that potential. Two songs that clocked in over seven minutes, "Journey from Mariabronn" and "Death of Mother Nature Suite," which are now considered prog-rock classics and a part of the Kansas signature sound, would clearly define them as progressive rockers.
Kansas sounds as vital and fresh today with these newly remastered discs as they did 30 years ago, and not just because of the great sound, because they were original and there was no other band recording music like them. There is a luster and clarity that is hard to ignore with these time-tested recordings. Notably, the voice of Steve Walsh is absolutely soaring. Kansas was an excellent debut, although I think Song For America served as their calling card, whether it was recognized as such or not at the time-it is indeed a landmark release for the band that would set the table for further triumphs. They were a step ahead of the rest with the artwork presented on their album covers as well. How could you not notice the eye-catching artwork on these two albums? Their music would follow suit and keep listeners' attention.
What was being explored on the first album would reach its fruition on the second release with marathon runs like "Song for America" and "Incomudro-Hymn to the Atman." For some listeners with more mainstream tastes, the intricate song structures and odd time signatures were too complicated and excessive, thus the move towards a more commercial sound for the imminent across the board breakthrough success they would soon enjoy was unavoidable. They managed to keep their values and musical foundation intact regardless of the changes that they would go through, and I really admire them for that. I find these albums to be the archetypal progressive rock music with brilliantly executed musicianship. The tremendous vitality and the risqué attitude of this band made them what they were, and that is the very reason they continue to gain more attention with the passing of time.
There are the bonus tracks, one on Kansas and two on Song For America. They are nothing unusual; in fact, the edited version of "Song For America" is noticeably out of sync in a few spots. That one song is the only flaw I could hear, all the rest is pure prog-rock magic. With this remastered and repackaging treatment of their catalog, new fans will discover them and the old guard will be delighted. I am certainly excited and pleased with the results that Sony/Legacy and the band have produced on these titles and I look forward to more (there will be).