(All Album Reviews by Chuck AzEee!)
Kansas, the often maligned and severely underrated sextet from Topeka Kansas, released their eponymously named debut in late 1974, and is often overlooked by most Progressive rock fans.
Kansas, featuring just eight songs (two being jointly related in suite form), might be the greatest
debut album by any of the 70's era American Prog bands.
Led by their two main songwriters, guitarist/keyboardist Kerry Livgren and lead vocalist/keyboardist Steve Walsh, often wrote or combined to create most of the musical repertoire on Kansas albums. The rest of the band consisting of lead vocalist/violin virtuoso Robbie Steinhardt (whom sang on some Kansas greatest epics) lead guitarist Rich Williams, bassist Dave Hope and drummer extraordinaire Phil Ehart.
Kansas starts with two pop-rockers, The great "Can I Tell You" and the cover version of J.J. Cale's slap-happy "Bringing It Back" (containing some fine fiddling by Robbie) are typical for the band as they wanted to draw fans to their music, but these songs weren't a great assessment to how great the band's musical chop were. Next up is one of progressive rock's greatest power ballads, "Lonely Wind" (a sign of things to come for Kansas and other American prog acts). The fourth track is the hard rocking "Belexes", which is one of the powerful songs sung in fine screaming form by Steve. Now the songs that finish off this great album, are what makes Kansas one of progressive rocks greatest bands, "Journey From Mariabronn" (My personal favorite) is a powerful track that features time signature changes that any Rush fan would take to. Another great track, the subtle Gentle Giant-ish "The Pilgrimage". For the closer, "Apercu/Death of Mother Nature Suite", clocking in at nearly 18 minutes, is the longest track that the band ever recorded, is one of Kansas greatest songs.
Kansas showcases its musical influences ranging from Yes, King Crimson, Emerson Lake and Palmer in places, but none of the aforementioned boogied like Kansas did. The greatest American progressive rock band might have still been showing their growing pains on their debut, but even here you could see greatness coming.