Somewhere To Elsewhere

Kansas

Kansas is one of many classic rock bands from the 70s to not only reunite; they've reunited with all original members. Apparently, anything less is considered rather pathetic and demeaning to the original package. In the case of Kansas, the real coup is the return of Kerry Livgren, the band's original guitarist, songwriter and visionary who penned such noble hits as "Dust In The Wind" and "Carry On My Wayward Son." Needless to say, Somewhere To Elsewhere is pretty much Livgren's baby. To the joy of the band's earliest fans, this trip down memory lane draws heavily from the pre-hit days of Kansas — a prog rock fest that sizzles with a slightly slower-loading roster of players, but trudges forward with a renewed spirit and a desire to show that this band still has it.

The disc starts off with subtle aplomb as Kansas falls into "Icarus II," a tribute to the fighting pilots of World War II. The opening piano line integrates itself smoothly with Robby Steinhardt's flowing violin lines — a familiar trademark of the Kansas sound. Ironically, as familiar as most of the keyboard parts sound on the disc, they are not performed by Steve Walsh (who nevertheless handles most of the lead vocals). It looks as though Livegren took that upon himself as well as playing guitar, writing all the songs, and co-producing the album with drummer Phil Ehart and guitarist Rich Williams.

Livegren certainly hasn't lost his gift for songwriting. While such musical exercises like "Icarus II" and "Myriad" sloop back and forth across a progressive backdrop, Livegren's pop instincts fall neatly into place on such fare as "When The World Was Young," "Look At The Time" and "Byzantium," the latter two both gliding on Beatlesque melodies that ascend into rigorous crescendos. There are a couple of paltry numbers that Somewhere To Elsewhere could have done without, but for the most part, this return-to-form record holds up magnificently. Yes, there is relief from the fractured fizzle clogging up the airwaves today. Just don't expect to hear it on the radio.

~ Shawn Perry

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