The third studio album from Topeka legends Kansas has long been considered the pinnacle of this band throughout its proto-prog era by fans and critics alike.
Written by: gdmonline
SERIAL: PZ 33806
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
LINEUP: Steve Walsh – vocals, keyboards * Kerry Livgren – guitars, keyboards * Robby Steinhardt – violins, vocals * Rich Williams – guitars * Dave Hope – bass * Phil Ehart – drums
TRACK LISTING: 01 It Takes A Woman’s Love (To Make A Man) * 02 Two Cents Worth * 03 Icarus – Borne On The Wings Of Steel * 04 All The World *. 05 Child Of Innocence * 06 It’s You * 07 Mysteries And Mayhem * 08 The Pinnacle
WEBLINKS: Site Link
The third studio album from Topeka legends Kansas has long been considered the pinnacle (excuse the pun) of this band throughout its proto-prog era by fans and critics alike. But it depends who you talk to. Kansas – after an inauspicious start the previous year, was beginning to find its feet and finding a niche all of its own within the space of two years.
‘Masque’ as an album has two faces/masks it seems. Mythological in one sense (the Icarus theme), allegorical being the other. The record cover in itself is a hybrid of aquatic creatures combined to create a mosaic, an allegory as it were, though the imagery does not appear to convey itself within the context of the album’s lyrical narrative other than ‘Mysteries And Mayhem’ perhaps?
‘It Takes A Woman’s Love (To Make A Man)’ was the album’s first single, the hard driving organ makes this sound like Prism or some other Canadian band doing early 70’s proto rock. Personally I don’t think it’s the best representation of Kansas from a prog or symphonic rock perspective.
‘Two Cents Worth’ is a mix of symphonic, funk and boogie. Strange but true. You hear this on Steve Walsh’s quacking keyboard parts though Livgren’s guitar shines through on the solo section. I’d say this track along with the preceding one doesn’t fit the Kansas musical narrative they are best known for.
‘Icarus – Borne On The Wings Of Steel’ is a Kansas standout, it’s where their progressive and symphonic elements collide in a musical splash. The track is quite epic in delivery, and remained a fan favorite for years. It’s an album highlight for sure. There is a greater emphasis on Robby Steinhardt’s violin work on ‘All The World’. It’s a 7 minute symphonic extravaganza, as it meanders like a stream gradually building up momentum further downstream.
Don’t be judging the book by its cover, as in the case of ‘Child Of Innocence’ which is no ballad or soft rocker. Steve Walsh is vocally forcrful while the song itself veers more toward hard rock as the instrumentation testifies. A keyboard arpeggio lead-in sets the scene for ‘It’s You’. Steinhsrdt’s violin pirouette fuses nicely with Walsh’s ivory work.
‘Mysteries And Mayhem’ is the second major highlight on the album following ‘Icarus..’. At a mere 4.20 minutes, this track has survived into Kansas’s most recent set lists. ‘The Pinnacle’ at 9 minutes has a lot in common with material on ‘Leftoverture’, with frequent tempo changes and instrumental variations. The symphonic aspect is strong here.
As good as ‘Masque’ was back in 1975, the record label Kirshner was looking to direct the band in a more commercial direction (in other words: a hit single). Whether by fair means or foul, this was achieved on their next album ‘Leftoverture’ which arguably became the Kansas breakthrough album.
Kansas would change their musical direction several times, particularly through the 1980s, but inevitably would circle back to their symphonic origins as the years rolled by. All of their earlier albums hold nuggets within, but one could say that ‘Masque’ has a rich seam of musical running through it. Quite how GDM has left this unappreciated album off the review queue indeed remains a mystery.
Entire Album (Select Tracks)