All in all and despite its minor inconsistencies, the second Kansas album ‘Song For America’ remains a personal favourite of this reviewer..
Written by: Eric
ALBUM: Song For America
SERIAL: PZ 33385
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 Down The Road * 02 Song For America * 03 Lamplight Symphony * 04 Lonely Street * 05 Devil Game * 06 Incomudro – Hymn Of The Atman
WEBLINKS: Site Link
Anyone who has lived or travelled through the state of Kansas will tell you it can be a very harsh and unforgiving land. I remember in the 80’s spending a summer day in the historic Dodge City with 100 plus degree temperatures and choking dust carried by the wind turning the sky into a pinkish-orange glow.
Spring brings the dreaded Tornado season that every year cuts a swathe of destruction through some unsuspecting town or mobile home park and the winter’s can be equally as brutal with heavy wet snow the norm. And yet, there’s something magical and very American about acres of prairie grass and sunflowers blowing in the wind over the state’s rolling hills.
And it’s from this natural tapestry Kerry Livgren, Steve Walsh and company called home and drew inspiration from, creating some of the best and most successful progressive rock to come out of the United States.
It’s appropriate then that Kansas should choose ‘Song For America’ as the title of their second album. Spending the better part of 1974 on the road supporting a debut album that was largely ignored, ‘Song For America’ wasn’t exactly a commercial blockbuster either, but it was arguably their most ‘progressive’.
While Yes and ELP were filling U.S. hockey arenas with European classical motifs, Kansas took a different direction combining hard rock with blues and American folk music with the usual classical tendencies of their peers across the pond.
‘Down The Road’ is Kansas at their heaviest with Robbie Steinhardt’s red hot screeching fiddle taking center stage, but it’s the title track that’s truly the record’s pearl. Progressive and sweeping like the American landscape, it contains in ten glorious minutes all the elements that would bring the band multi-platinum status a year later with ‘Leftoverture’.
A ghost story put to music ‘Lamplight Symphony’ follows and while nowhere near as majestic, is still fine prog rock of the highest order. A bit of a drop in quality as the bluesy Humble Pie-ish ‘Lonely Street’ and the fiery-deal with Satan gone predictably bad – ‘The Devil Game’ are average at best.
‘Incomudro – Hymn to the Atman’ dips into Livgren’s then fascination with Eastern mysticism, it doesn’t have the same fire as the other prog oriented material and gives an album that started out with such promise, a very anti-climactic ending.
Kicking off 1975 and the release of this album with a prized spot on Queen‘s ‘Sheer Heart Attack’ tour, Kansas developed a reputation as one of the hardest working bands on the North American concert circuit following up with shows supporting Bad Company, Fleetwood Mac and Black Sabbath as well as becoming a heavy favourite at colleges and universities.
All in all and despite its minor inconsistencies, ‘Song For America’ remains a personal favourite of this reviewer although ‘Masque’ released later in the year would, in my opinion surpass anything done previous or in Kansas’ dazzling prog rock future.
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