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An album overlooked in the Kansas catalogue being originally released back in 1998, three years after their last studio album ‘Freaks Of Nature’. I remember reading an interview back at that time where drummer Phil Ehart spoke of the band’s desire to record a symphonic album and where better than at the legendary Abbey Road studios.
They were backed by the London Symphony Orchestra and the album featured some new songs, along with classic Kansas tunes given a symphonic makeover. The album also marked the return of violinist Robbie Steinhardt to the band (although he played keyboards on the album).
The album starts with a cover the Beatles classic ‘Eleanor Rigby’ and Steve Walsh’s vocal really suits this song. Then we have the classic ‘Dust In The Wind’ and ‘Song For America’ (preceded by ‘Preamble’ an orchestral piece composed by the conductor Larry Baird). The latter benefits from the orchestral backing, as does ‘Hold On’ and again Walsh is in fine vocal form.
The album featured three new songs, all penned by Walsh and all were ballads. Pick of the bunch is ‘The Sky Is Falling’ which has an epic feel and memorable melody. Song of the album for me though is ‘Nobody’s Home’ where the band and orchestra really fit together and work off each other musically. The rest of the album is good, it is just that the orchestra can sound like it has been added on at times and not reworked into the original songs.
If you are a Kansas fan and missed this first time around do grab a copy as it is a good album. Sadly no extras or sleeve notes on this re-issue. It would have been interesting to get the band’s thoughts on this album and in hindsight why it never really made the impact it could have, particularly given the success of other bands forays into the symphonic arena like Yes and Scorpions. ****
Review by Jason Ritchie
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