Kansas - Kansas / self-titledKansas - Song for America

Kansas / Song for America


First Appeared in The Music Box, September 2004, Volume 11, #9

Written by John Metzger


In 1974, Kansas co-opted Britainís progressive rock movement, colored it with a healthy dose of Americana, and spiced it with hard-hitting Southern blues. It was a formula that, over the course of a career that now spans 30 years, has served the band quite well, particularly on its fourth and fifth outings ó Leftoverture and Point of Know Return, respectively ó and even if there have been more lows than highs, its legacy continues to thrive, despite the fact that many of its finer moments have been forgotten by many and no longer fit within the increasingly narrow focus of classic rock radio.

Kansasí self-titled debut as well as the subsequent Song for America, however, were a jumbled mess that found the ensemble stumbling its way through a series of misguided attempts to transform its strangely unique concoction into something functional. In other words, the band was learning and growing in full public view, a notion that seems foreign in todayís market of disposable one-hit wonders. Granted, the overwrought falsetto vocals, banal lyrics, and whirring synthesizers undercut some of Kansasí music, and despite the virtuosic proficiency of the instrumentalists and intricately complex arrangements of the songs, both collections severely lacked cohesive visions and tended to drag under the weight of imperfect melodic structures. Yet, the albums also featured at least a few highlights ó most notably, the wicked frenzy of Can I Tell You and the sophomore effortís majestic title track ó that were as captivating as they were quirky. Even lesser tunes ó such as the sweeping epic Incomudro-Hymn to the Atman; the pressure-cooked boogie of Bringing It Back, which is stretched considerably on the concert rendition featured as the initial setís lone bonus track; and the sprightly bounce of The Pilgrimage, with its Yes-like harmonies and quietly creeping Grateful Dead-meets-Allman Brothers Band-inspired introduction ó had their moments. Of course, none of this was enough to overcome an abundance of exceedingly dull and overly pretentious moments that zapped the bandís momentum long before it could ever gain traction, but then again, this was clearly a work in progress.

So, just what is Kansasí legacy? Itís a little difficult to grasp it from the hodgepodge of material featured on either its eponymous album or Song for America, but within the groupís uncertainty lay not only the promise for its future successes but also the foundation upon which Widespread Panic sculpted a few magnificent moments of its own.


Kansas ó starstar

Song for America ó starstar Ĺ


Kansas is available from
Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!

Song for America is available from
Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!



1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!


Copyright © 2004 The Music Box