So I got a little ahead of myself (skipped forward several albums) with that last post, since I hadn't said anything about Leftoverture
, Point Of Know Return
, or Monolith
. Regarding the first two, what's there to say? I consider them (along with Masque
) to be the
essential Kansas albums... their Holy Trinity.
is underrated. In spite of some cheesy synth sounds here and there, it's a solid album.Audio Visions
is where they really start to lose their way; the writing isn't up to snuff, and they feel like they're just going through the motions. Primary lead vocalist Steve Walsh quit after this album.Vinyl Confessions
and Drastic Measures
feel like Kansas albums in name only. VC is very much in a "Christian Rock with some violin thrown in" vein, and DM is, quite frankly, a mess.
I'm gonna say a few more words about Drastic Measures
, because it is, in its own way, a fascinating train wreck of an album. You could say it is the sound of a band imploding. Walsh's replacement John Elefante wrote most of the material for the album; and without Walsh on vocals or violinist Robbie Steinhardt (who left after Vinyl Confessions
), nearly all traces of the original Kansas sound have been obliterated. Much of it is pop/rock in the vein of other popular acts of the time (e.g. Foreigner).
The opening cut and single "Fight Fire With Fire" is catchy, competent power pop, but sounds nothing like Kansas. The second track, "Everybody's My Friend", is essentially Elefante whining about the pressures of being a rock star. And it doesn't get much better after that.
The oddest thing on the album by far is "Andi", a quiet ballad about a transgender girl:
Yea, she wants to be a lady
Can anyone see?
That's she's trapped inside a little boy's body
For the dream of her life
To be a lady
That's all she wants to be
Keep in mind that this was back in 1983. From a band with several "Born Again" members.
Livgren contributes only 3 songs to the album; one of them ("Mainstream", which also happens to be the only cut that clocks in at over 6 minutes) is a blatant jab at the music industry in general, and the new direction of the band specifically:
It's so predictable and everybody judges by the numbers that you're selling
Just crank 'em out on the assembly line and chart 'em higher (higher, higher)
Just keep it simple boys it's gonna be alright as long as you're inside the
Mainstream, are we moving too far away
Is it worth it if it doesn't pay
The centerline is status quo, it's
For the masses in Consumerland
Give 'em everything that they demand
Survive another year
Livgren also wrote the album closer, "Incident On A Bridge". The final two lines of the chorus:
Now the bridge leads on, to a brighter dawn
It's waiting for me
He left the band shortly thereafter, effectively putting the final nail in the coffin of "Kansas V2.0". So his final songwriting contribution to the band was likely a kiss-off of sorts.