Kansas – Another Fork In The Road: Album Review

Fifty years of Kansas comes to pass in 2023. We’re one step ahead with a career retrospective.

Release Date: 9th December 2022

Label: Inside Out Music

Format: digital / CD / vinyl

Celebrating their 50th anniversary in 2023, Inside Out Music and American Progressors Kansas do the necessary with a career-spanning collection. In anticipation, Phil Ehart calls: ” far more than just another greatest hits album but an in-depth representation of the evolving and winding musical journey of Kansas.

Browsing the stats for that journey makes for impressive reading. Sixteen albums and five live albums, in excess of 30 million sales; these days, it’s unthinkable to consider eight gold albums, three sextuple-Platinum albums (Leftoverture, Point Of Know Return, Best of Kansas), one platinum live album (Two For The Show), one quadruple-Platinum single Carry On Wayward Son, and another triple-Platinum single Dust In The Wind.

Working chronologically backward, from the new 2022 version of Can I Tell You back to the 1974 Kansas album, what’s apparent is the consistent standard. The two tracks from 2020’s The Absence Of Presence that showcase an unanticipated and unexpected late career return to form and the sixteen year gap before 2016’s The Prelude Implicit a mere trifle as Summer proves they still have the chops to create a song with a harmonious hook as well as 8:18 minutes of The voyage Of Eight Eighteen that sees them channeling their progressive sensibilities. Hard to spot the joins to the untrained ear until we get back to the roots of the band in the mid seventies.

It’s ‘Prog’ but not always as we know it. The standard bearers for an American version that veers more towards the A/MOR sound that comes as standard with a glossy polish and some way from what their UK and Euro cousins would be passing off as Progressive Rock. No swords or sorcery, side long fantasy epics or tricky times signatures and musical and technical ecstacy. Easy enough on the ear to convince you that you;re a fan of prog Rock.

House On Fire and Silhouettes In Disguise from the late Eighties fit that bill of more straightforward mainstream Hard Rock – a sign of the times maybe – songs in the running for osundtracking some movie of the era. Interestingly the EU/US variants on Disc 2 see the Euro version getting tracks from In The Spirit Of Things (1988) and Power (1986), two albums omitted or unacknowledged on the US version. A shame as they also miss out on the grandiose standout Rainmaker.

The sprinkling of piano and David Ragsdale’s violin presence helps to add a touch of uniqueness and a long line of talented maucians who’ve passed through the ranks ensure that the music remains beautifully played. Current keyboard player Tom Brislin highlighting the strength of having a virtusoso on board alongside names from the past that include Kerry Livgren, Steve Morse, Steve Walsh and Robbie Steinhardt.

Tracking back through the early Eighties ‘Christian years’ , it’s not until the third disc that we get the instantly familiar Carry On Wayward Son and a live version at that. Those formative years, pre-polish and a little more on the raw side with some reedy organ adding a dirty texture are the ones which might be the go-to years. Deep Purple lite some may argue and where you’ll fin. themost connection to their Transtlantic prog cousins on the evidence presented here. Check Magnum Opus for the clues; clues that you’ll spot throughout the contributions to the finale of the set and which have likely provided as much inspiration for the next generations of US ‘Prog’ bands as our own stars in the UK.

Here’s the new version of Can I Tell You:

The song Can I Tell You may not have been our biggest ‘hit,’ but it is one of the most important songs in the career of the band,” says original member and guitarist Richard Williams. “Can I Tell You was the first song on the demo reel we sent to Don Kirshner. Hearing that demo is what led to Kansas getting a record deal. It felt appropriate, after fifty years, to come full circle and record it with the current lineup.

Kansas online: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Youtube

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