|Musical Style: Hard Rock||Produced By: Kerry Livgren|
|Record Label: CBS||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 1984||Artist Website: Kerry Livgren|
|Tracks: 10||Rating: 75%|
|Running Time: 42:08|
The experience of recording his first solo album Seeds Of Change whetted the appetite of Kansas guitarist/keyboardist Kerry Livgren to work with other musicians. As a result, when CBS gave him a budget for his second solo project, Time Line, it only made sense that he would bring in a group of musicians he had already become acquainted with. Lead vocalist and keyboardist Michael Gleason, for example, initially sent Livgren a demo tape of a band he was in at the time; Livgren was so impressed with what he heard that the two immediately began working together. Gleason eventually went on the road with Kansas as a back up vocalist and extra keyboardist. When Kansas opened for Bloodrock in the mid-seventies, Livgren got to know the bands vocalist, Warren Ham. Ham tried out for Kansas' lead vocalist position following the departure of Steve Walsh, and while he failed to get the gig, he also ended up on the road with Kansas playing saxophone, flute, harmonica and singing back up. Drummer Dennis Holt came out of Nashville as a session player and first met Livgren backstage at a Kansas concert. Upon hearing that Livgren was working on another solo release, he got involved with the project after lobbying heavily to be its drummer. Dave Hope (Kansas) was an obvious selection to contribute the albums bass lines. As work on Time Line progressed, it became evident to all involved that what started out as a solo project was beginning to take shape as a band. Hence, with all its members committed believers, AD officially came together in 1983.
Moving in a mostly guitar and keyboard driven hard rock direction, Time Line lacks much of the over-the-top progressiveness characteristic of Seeds Of Change and his earlier work with Kansas. Livgren makes his presence felt on rhythm and lead guitar, but not to quite the same extent as on Seeds Of Change. There are several songs on the album, for example, that would have benefited from a bit more upfront rhythm guitar driven edge and well timed lead guitar work. AD features two equally talented lead vocalists in Gleason and Ham, both bringing a distinct high quality classic tenor lead vocal style to the band. Hope lays down a rock bass guitar sound and combines with Holt to form a tight sounding rhythm section.
Production values, capably handled by Livgren, showcase just the right amount of polish. The low end sounds full and thick. The rhythm guitar comes across with the needed crispness, while the lead guitar cleanly rises above the instrumentation.
Taking off to a funky groove-flavored beat, the albums title track moves forward with a ton of up-tempo class until it peaks for a catchy chorus backed by a prominent bass line. The edgy rhythm guitar entering the mix at the start of the songs third verse evenly leads the way to an instrumental passage highlighted by a saxophone solo. While I have no problems with a saxophone being used in hard rock, a more creative impact would have been made if Livgren's lead guitar had been allowed to dual with the sax in question. As its title implies, "Time Line" talks about moving along a "time line" to a specific conclusion:
The deception is alluring
But the truth is living
Your desire is reoccurring
But there's always forgiving
As you peer in the distance
The future's waiting
Walking on a time line, you're beginning
Walking on a time line, no end
An upfront bass line accentuated by keyboards gets "Tonight" underway before it slows as the bass guitar remains an influential presence during its first verse. After a blend of rhythm guitar and vocal harmonies carries the second, "Tonight" moves on to a chorus driven in a stylish fashion by keyboards. A tastefully done keyboard solo sustains a minute long instrumental passage. Once again, a stronger statement would have been made if a few seconds of spicy lead guitar had been thrown in.
Penned by Gleason, "Make Or Break It" highlights a touch of rhythm guitar underscored by a punchy bass line, the two leading the song though its verse portions until it picks up in pace for a strong background vocal driven chorus. Livgren's lead guitar work is very well done but a bit on the short side.
The keyboards opening "Take Us To The Water" give way to a crunchy rhythm guitar, a hard rocking atmosphere maintained as the song rushes forward to a grit-laden chorus carried by Ham’s gritty vocal delivery. “Take Us To The Water” gives AD the opportunity to showcase its instrumental sound: A harmonica solo opens an instrumental passage ending to a keyboard solo, while Livgren makes his presence felt as the song fades out to his edgy lead guitar work. "Take Us To The Water" talks about the salvation experience:
I'll give you fountains that never run dry
Like eagles you will fly
No tear in anyone's eye
And the glory won't fade forever, forever on
Lead us to the water, and wash away the fear
Take us to the water that will never disappear
A piano gently takes the majestic ballad "Beyond The Pale" through its first verse until keyboards enter the mix in time to underline a smooth sounding but auspicious chorus. Livgren contributes several seconds of lead guitar exquisitely blended with just the right amount of keyboards.
As its title implies, "New Age Blues" moves in a hard rocking blues influenced direction. Introduced to several seconds of gritty open air rhythm guitar, a harmonica kicks in before a driving riff pushes the song to a sweeping chorus bolstered by polished vocal harmonies. An extensive instrumental section opens to a guitar solo that gives way to vocal harmonies backed by more lead guitar.
The keyboards found throughout "Slow Motion Suicide" are laid on a bit thick for my taste. While the keyboards in question play a reduced role during the songs verse portions, they return to the forefront of the mix to accentuate a catchy chorus moving at an upbeat tempo. Please note I have no problems with the quality of the music here; however, it is the musical direction I question. For example, I would much rather have heard a crisp rhythm guitar underline the keyboards prevailing over the song in addition to allowing Livgren to cut loose on lead guitar.
"High On A Hill" represents Livgren at his best. The song features a grand entrance to keyboards and pounding drums before slowing to a piano upon transitioning to its first verse. Picking up in pace, “High On A Hill” culminates as it reaches an expansive chorus resonating an anthemic feel. After the song makes a time change to several seconds of sweeping keyboards, it moves on to several seconds of the albums best blues flavored lead guitar work. "High On A Hill" points to the finished work of Christ on the cross:
Look on high, to the hill
To the place where time stood still
Then you'll see there's no returning
From a heart where love is burning
How can men hope to hide
Blinded by their pride
Due to lacking the same high level of energy and inspiration found on the rest of the albums material, the melodic rock of "Life Undercover" does not quite make the grade. A restrained mix of rhythm guitar propels the song forward from the start until it reaches an ineffectual chorus backed by vocal harmonies placed way too forward in the mix.
"Welcome To The War'", the albums most progressive influenced track, is also prime Livgren. Fading in to the sound of keyboards, a portentous atmosphere is created as a slowly played acoustic guitar prevails over the song during its first verse. Gaining momentum, "Welcome To The War" reaches a superb energy-laden chorus underscored by a crisp sounding rhythm guitar. Livgren is right on target with a bountiful amount of blues flavored lead guitar work. "Welcome To The War" touches upon the believer’s promise of eternal life:
The Power and the Glory will not be put to shame
The world in which we're meant to live
Has been revealed and conquered in His name
To those who hold the future as a time when all is well
The truth is in the knowing of a Heaven or a hell
For the aliens and strangers it's a time we must endure
For the light grows dim, the victory is sure
On Time Line AD has nailed several exceptional winners in "Take Us To The Water", "New Age Blues", "High On A Hill" and "Welcome To The War". With "Life Undercover" being the lone exception, the rest of the albums material easily stands up under repeated play. That being said, I cannot help but think that several tracks here would have benefited from the presence of a bit more rhythm and lead guitar. Time Line, in the end, literally stands the test of time as a noteworthy debut of a band that went on to record three more albums.
Please note that Time Line was initially released on vinyl in 1984, but it was not issued on CD until 1992 when it was included as part of the two disc boxed set entitled Decade. Sony Music later re-issued Time Line on CD in 1996 with a twenty four minute interview with Livgren.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: "Time Line" (4:02), "Tonight" (4:52), "Make Or Break It" (3:48), "Take Us To The Water" (4:27), "Beyond The Pale" (3:33), "New Age Blues" (3:54), "Slow Motion Suicide" (4:46), "High On A Hill" (3:51), "Life Undercover" (3:26), "Welcome To The War" (5:10)
Kerry Livgren – Guitars, Keyboards, DMX Prog. & Bass
Michael Gleason – Lead Vocals, Keyboards & Percussion
Warren Ham – Lead Vocals, Woodwinds & Harmonica
Dave Hope – Bass
Dennis Holt – Drums & Percussion
Also Reviewed: Kansas - Vinyl Confessions, Kansas - Somewhere To Elsewhere, Kerry Livgren - Seeds Of Change, Kerry Livgren - Collector's Sedition (Director's Cut), Kerry Livgren - Prime Mover (Redux), Proto-Kaw - Before Became After, Proto-Kaw - The Wait Of Glory
Also See: A Musical And Lyrical History Of Kansas
"Interview With Kerry Livgren." Renaissance Records (1996): Compact Disc.