Reviews: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Kansas - Somewhere To Elsewhere
   
Musical Style: Progressive Rock Produced By: Kerry Livgren, Phil Ehart & Rich Williams
Record Label: Magna Carta Country Of Origin: USA
Year Released: 2000 Artist Website: Kansas
Tracks: 10 Rating: 90%
Running Time: 68:13
Kansas - Somewhere To Elsewhere

Somewhere To Elsewhere, Kansas' thirteenth studio album, originated when the material the bands former guitarist and keyboardist Kerry Livgren was working on for a solo album began to remind him of the classic Kansas sound.  Livgren, as a result, got in touch with drummer Phil Ehart and recommended that he listen to the material in question in addition to suggesting that perhaps they could record in the future as well.  Ehart and guitarist Rich Williams proceeded to visit Livgren at his studio in Topeka and agreed that the new songs did in fact bring to mind Kansas.  Subsequently, all six original members of Kansas worked together for the first time since the bands 1980 release Audio-Visions.  Returning to the fold are Livgren, Ehart and Williams joining bassist Dave Hope, violinist/vocalist Robby Steinhardt and lead vocalist Steve Walsh.  Billy Greer, who has been with the band for fifteen years via Walsh's post-Kansas group streets, helps out on bass and lead vocals. 

What we have in Somewhere To Elsewhere is an inspired work of progressive rock in which Kansas returns to its classic sound of the 70's, the album attaining a level of excellence found on the bands most noteworthy efforts such as Leftoverture and Point Of Know Return.  Walsh's raspy classic rock flavored voice still sounds as strong and robust as ever.  The precise drumming of Ehart combines with the steady bass lines of Hope and Greer to form a solid rhythm section.  Livgren remains at the top of his game on keyboards and forms an underrated guitar team with Williams.  Steinhardt continues to effectively accentuate the bands sound on violin in addition to helping out in the lead vocal department.

With immaculate and big budget-like production values, Somewhere To Elsewhere literally breathes life in allowing each member of the band to rise above the instrumentation.

After "Icarus II" gets underway in classic Kansas style to a combination of piano and acoustic guitar backed by Steinhardt's violin, it briefly picks up in pace only to slow to a piano for its first verse.  The rhythm guitar taking over at the start of the second leads the way to a strong melodic flavored chorus before moving to the front of the mix to help drive an instrumental passage carried by a blistering guitar solo.  "Icarus II" details the plight of a World War II bomber crew:

Dodging all the tracers, the sky is full of lead
I can see the pilot's faces
Safety in numbers, eagles overhead
We are in the sights of aces

Flak, bursting all around
Friends going down in flames

The crisp rhythm guitar at the start of "When The World Was Young" takes a backseat in the mix as it moves forward in an acoustic laced manner, a combination of piano and vocal harmonies underscoring the song as it gains momentum for a catchy hook filled chorus.  The lead guitar and violin interplay taking place during a minute long instrumental passage is nothing less than textbook Kansas.  "When The World Was Young" talks about how the choices we make when we're young have a lasting impact on our lives:

It's been a long and amazing time, how it's wasted is such a crime
And the stories we heard still echo in the distance
Filled with promise and pain, we had everything to gain
But the pride that comes before a fall is with us

Steinhardt's gritty lead vocal style perfectly suits the funky blues based hard rocker "Grand Fun Alley".  Subsequent to a laid back and bluesy guitar line buttressing the song during its verse, an edgy rhythm guitar kicks in and brings out the best in a stately chorus reinforced by just the right amount of vocal harmonies.  A keyboard solo opens an instrumental passage highlighting several seconds of blues based lead guitar work underscored by a punchy bass line.

The beautiful keyboard based ballad "The Coming Dawn (Thanatopsis)" gives Walsh the opportunity to shine with his abundant classic rock flavored voice.  Subsequent to a piano slowly propelling the song through its first verse and chorus, an acoustic guitar enters the mix and leads the way to its second chorus in a sweeping and majestic flavored fashion.  Steinhardt's violin perfectly blends with the acoustic guitar throughout a nice extended instrumental passage.  Livgren's words convey great depth and meaning:

But when my world starts to fade
I'm still hoping this foundation that I laid
Will endure and carry on...into the coming dawn

Introduced to a combination of piano and lead guitar, the epic length (8:54) "Myriad" picks up in pace when the rhythm section enters the mix and helps carry the song through its first two minutes.  Once "Myriad" slows to a piano upon reaching its first verse, the rhythm guitar steps forward at the start of second and takes it to a chorus projecting an expansive and upbeat feel.  An eclectic mix of keyboards and organ opens a three minute instrumental passage allowing the band to display its first rate musicianship.

Greer takes over on lead vocals on the stylish "Look At The Time".  The combination of piano and keyboards at the beginning of "Look At The Time" transitions to a crisp sounding rhythm guitar, a touch of vocal harmonies underlining the song during its first verse and the brief but smooth sounding chorus that follows.  An organ enters the mix at the start of an instrumental passage carried by a portentous mix of orchestration and keyboards. 

"Disappearing Skin Tight Blues" gives Steinhardt the opportunity to display his abilities in the areas of both lead vocals and violin.  Opening to a combination of violin and piano, the song abruptly picks up in pace when a blues flavored rhythm guitar enters the mix in time to carry its first verse.  Slowly gaining momentum, "Disappearing Skin Tight Blues" advances to a moving sing-along chorus driven by upbeat vocal harmonies.  A minute long instrumental passage blends a mix of orchestration and keyboards with a bit of lead guitar.

The grand piano commencing the awesome "Distant Vision" is soon joined by the violin, a blend of organ and rhythm and acoustic guitar conveying the song over its first two minutes as it picks up in pace.  A crunchy rhythm guitar proceeds to take "Distant Vision" through its first verse until it peaks for a chorus immaculately punctuated by an acoustic guitar.  Following an extensive instrumental passage driven by a near perfect mix of rhythm guitar, piano and keyboards, the pace slows to an acoustic guitar as Steinhardt briefly takes over on lead vocals to deliver an uplifting message:

Now a tempest rages in my heart, as this fever furies on
Soon these islands promise rest and hope, my answers wait beyond their shores
Dream on...

Hungry eyes are standing on the sand, they beckon us to bring the tide
Sovereign hand must hold me now, I plead with You
Be my solace and my guide...by my side

Ominous medieval style vocal harmonies underscore the sublime "Byzantium" from the start, an acoustic guitar holding sway over the songs first two verses before it picks up in pace for a touching chorus bolstered by an exquisite blend of acoustic guitar and orchestration.  The medieval vocal harmonies return to carry "Byzantium" over its last thirty seconds.  Beautiful song.

The upbeat hard rocker "Not Man Big" slowly fades in until a swiftly moving rhythm guitar quickly takes it to a hard hitting chorus bolstered by heavy gang style background vocals.  After several seconds of spicy lead guitar gives way to a tastefully done keyboard solo, a hard rocking rhythm guitar closes out an exciting two minute instrumental passage.  I like how the song ends as the gang style backing vocals return and are carried over a blend of clapping hands, piano, organ and a bit of lead guitar.

Somewhere To Elsewhere proves a terrific reunion album giving prominence to Kansas' still vibrant progressive rock sound, a top notch production job and Livgren's inspired songwriting.  As a result, I cannot help but rank it among the top progressive rock releases of 2000.

Review by: Andrew Rockwell

Track Listing: "Icarus II" (7:17), "When The World Was Young" (5:50), "Grand Fun Alley" (4:38), "The Coming Dawn (Thanatopsis)" (5:44), "Myriad" (8:55), "Look At The Time" (5:37), "Disappearing Skin Tight Blues" (7:02), "Distant Vision" (8:48), "Byzantium" (4:15), "Not Man Big" (8:39)

Musicians
Steve Walsh – Lead Vocals
Richard Williams - Guitars
Kerry Livgren – Keyboards & Guitars
Robby Steinhardt – Violins, Violas & Lead Vocals
Dave Hope – Bass
Billy Greer – Bass Guitar & Lead Vocals
Phil Ehart - Drums

Also Reviewed: Kansas – Vinyl Confessions, AD - Time Line, 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

 

Reviews: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
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