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Kansas | Ultimate | review | rock | Lollipop

Kansas

The Ultimate Kansas (Legacy)
by Craig Regala

Two CDs, 26 cuts across the life of the band including a couple perennial classic rock cuts. What to say, what to say... Better than Styx but not as good as Jethro Tull. Why? Well, the music didn't have the full-on rock heft it should've. There's something hesitant about it, mannered and kinda prissy. The "progressive" rock parts are much more evident than I remember as a boy, and there's a lack of attack. Really, maybe the Midwest does have a certain identity: Hell, a ton of emo bands lacked heft too, and they also had this "wandering in the wide-openness, caught between wonder and pensiveness about life and values" feel. Really Kansas is closer to a simpler mid-American version of the Dixie Dregs. Less bluegrass and jazz, more of the pomp and circumstance of light classical programming. Not that they adapt Copeland like ELP did, but it feels like their approach was formed by listening to the squared-off rhythms and overtly melodic focus of local bands that played in the town square in the '50s and '60s in much of America. They didn't have much swing, and lacked the inventiveness of the prime Yes material, and they didn't bite off the wiry jazz fusion stuff The Jeff Beck/Jan Hammer band did. I mention those two because you often saw these records in the same collections, as well as the aforementioned Tull, who made a half dozen records you need before anything by these guys. There are good tunes spread over The Ultimate Kansas: Well-written, strong identities, and played great, it's just thin and sort of nancy. They cut the energy in half with their arrangements, and geez, how many school musicals was the singer in?

 


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