|Musical Style: Progressive Rock||Produced By: Kerry Livgren|
|Record Label: Numavox||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2007||Artist Website: Kerry Livgren|
|Tracks 14||Rating: 85%|
|Running Time: 67:13|
Collector’s Sedition (Director’s Cut), the latest solo release from guitarist/keyboardist Kerry Livgren, had its beginnings in the material Livgren put together for Kansas’ 2000 reunion album Somewhere To Elsewhere. Livgren was in a particularly prolific songwriting period at the time when, in a conversation with Kansas drummer Phil Ehart, he mentioned that the new songs he was working on had a Kansas-like feel to them. The decision was made, as a result, to record a new Kansas album, with the band having their pick of the tracks that eventually made up Somewhere To Elsewhere. Once the recording process was complete, however, Livgren realized he still had a wealth of quality material in his possession that he did not view as “seconds” or “leftovers”. In the words of Livgren, “I was somewhat surprised at some of the material that Kansas had chosen and some that they hadn’t.” Hence, Collector’s Sedition Volume I, a compilation of demo recordings from the Somewhere To Elsewhere sessions, was released in 2000. But what Livgren came to regret over the years was that the demo versions of the songs were released at all; in other words, they deserved the same high quality production values the Somewhere To Elsewhere material received. Returning to the studio, Livgren re-recorded (for the most part) the songs encompassing Collector’s Sedition Volume I: the majority of the lead vocals were re-done as were some of the guitar tracks; the electronic drums were replaced by a live drummer while the same was done for the samples bass tracks. With every song re-mixed and re-mastered (“Song Du Jour”, whose masters were lost or destroyed, being the lone exception), Collector’s Sedition (Director’s Cut) was released in late 2007 with a new bonus track in “So Ends The Show”.
What we have in Collector’s Sedition (Director’s Cut) is a well rounded compilation of material that finds the artist giving us a bit of variety from a stylistic standpoint but reflecting many of the musical influences of his past and present in the process (including, of course, Kansas but also AD, his solo work and latest material with Proto-Kaw). Speaking of Kansas, there are several tracks here that sound as if they were written with Kansas in mind, especially the majestic progressive rock of “The Sentinel” in addition to “Safe Alone” with its “Diamonds And Pearls” (off Vinyl Confessions) style horn section. Other progressive based pieces include “On The Air” (a number that brings to mind Proto-Kaw), the sublime “The Man With An Iron Heart” and epic flavorings characteristic to “The Dragon”. It is these five songs, in my opinion, that echo the artist’s sentiment concerning the material Kansas did not choose for Somewhere To Elsewhere. Trust me, the quality of the five is of a comparable level and would form the foundation of a very solid Kansas album.
As for the remaining composition on Collector’s Sedition (Director’s Cut), this is where Livgren gives us that “variety from a stylistic standpoint” in question. “Red Money”, for example, is a blues rock number and “As It Should Be” a Latin flavored instrumental, two styles Livgren has not experimented with extensively in the past. “The Navigator” and “At Every Turn”, on the other hand, are acoustic based pieces that hearken back to “Dust In The Wind” (off Point Of Know Return) or “No Standing” (from Reconstructions by AD). The more commercial sounds of “Hindsight” and “No Time For Love” would sound right at home on FM classic rock radio. Finally, “Cold Gray Morning” is a revamped version of “Cold Grey Morning”, a composition Livgren put together for Kansas’s 1995 release Freaks Of Nature.
A total of six lead vocalist participated on the album: Jason Beddoe, Dan & Sam Billen, Kreg Hoover, Jake Livgren (Kerry’s cousin) and Darren Rogers. Fortunately, the quality does not go down with either of the six. Jake Livgren, my favorite of the vocalists appearing here, showcases a vocal delivery reminiscent to that of Steve Walsh (Kansas) while Darren Rogers and Jason Beddoe, who both performed on Livgren’s 1994 solo album When Things Get Electric, bring a blues tinged classic rock element perfectly suited for the progressive based material here. The same can also be said for
Dan and Sam Billen and Kreg Hoover as well.
One of the more enjoyable aspects to any release involving Livgren is the opportunity to hear his adept lead guitar work. Quite the proficient musician, he best bestows his edgy and at times emotionally charged playing on “On The Air”, “Hindsight”, “The Man With An Iron Heart” and “The Dragon”. His keyboard work, always highlighting and accentuating the backdrop, in no way comes across overriding or heavy handed. Other musicians performing on the album include Proto-Kaw bassist Craig Kew (who also handled bass guitar duties on When Things Get Electric) and drummer Mike Patrum.
Production values are on par with Somewhere To Elsewhere in reflecting a polished and professional feel.
Cinematic instrumental album opener “Am Juengsten Tage” is carried its distance by a lush joining of keyboards and orchestration.
“On The Air” reminds me of Proto-Kaw. One of the more guitar driven compositions here, the song really grooves its distance in giving rise to quite the copious melody, occasionally breaking for the more tranquil passage in which keyboards play a leading role. Livgren, of course, makes his presence felt throughout an extended instrumental jam with his edgy work on lead guitar. In the end, this is a very fine track that leaves me surprised it was not chosen by Kansas.
The same can be said for “The Sentinel”, a progressive rock number whose vocal lines sound as if they were written with Steve Walsh in mind. Almost epic in capacity, “The Sentinel” proves quite classy with its bombastic environs in which a piano gently underscores its verse portions and keyboards a majestically delivered chorus. Leftoverture era Kansas – or even AD’s Art Of The State – is the first thing that comes to mind when listening to this one.
“Hindsight” gives us a taste of quality classic rock. Driven at a mid-tempo pace, I enjoy how “Hindsight” features a nice highlighting touch of organ and a hook driven chorus in which Jake Livgren exhibits his even vocal delivery. Nevertheless, one of the highlights to the song is a sweeping instrumental passage showcasing a run of stately lead guitar.
Those of you who have followed Livgren’s career over the years know the artist is capable of delivering a top of the line acoustic piece. And such is what we have in “The Navigator”, a compelling mix of the acoustic and classic that actually brings to mind AD’s “No Standing” (off Reconstructions). The lead work this time comes across in a bluesy manner.
FM radio might take to “No Time For Love”- if it were open to music of such a quality. This one, of course, stands out with its big chorus hook along with an excess of up-tempo disposition that almost gives rise to a commercial feel. Another track with Jake Livgren on vocals, “No Time For Love” delivers a soul based sound that, to be quite frank, does not have a great deal in common wit much of Kansas’ back catalog (in this reviewers opinion); hence, its exclusion from Somewhere To Elsewhere. Nevertheless, the quality of the music cannot be denied.
“Safe Alone”, in contrast, gives rise to the more Kansas based sound. The horn section during the songs verse portions, for instance, reminds me of “Diamonds And Pearls” (off Vinyl Confessions) while the vocal lines, again, sound perfectly suited for Steve Walsh. A Kansas-like piano even upholds its pre-chorus while the horns return to drive the up-tempo flavored chorus that follows. I also enjoy the jazz-fusion feel exuded throughout the extended instrumental section in which a pulsating bass line stands out cleanly in the backdrop.
“Cold Gray Morning” made its initial appearance on Kansas’ 1995 release Freaks Of Nature (under the title “Cold Grey Morning). The version here, it must be noted, is thirty seconds longer. The song begins to a symphonic based instrumental opening carried by a blend of keyboards and orchestration. Slowing in tranquil fashion for its first verse, “Cold Gray Morning” picks up in pace for a grand and stately chorus fortified by a highlighting vestige of rhythm guitar. A minute long instrumental section runs the gamut of sweeping keyboards to lead guitar of a majestic variety.
The Latin influenced instrumental “As It Should Be” is another song that does not immediately bring to mind Kansas. But that is alright because it finds the artist stretching and moving in a musical direction we have not always heard in the past. A crisp sounding acoustic guitar and well placed horn section (and occasional traces of organ) shores up the song along with, of course, Livgren’s sizzling lead work in abundance. This one is different but it works.
The album even takes a bluesy turn with “Red Money”. What we have here is actually one of the more blues based compositions put together by Livgren. Yes, even more so than “New Age Blues” (from AD’s 1984 debut Time Line). The key elements putting the song over the top, nevertheless, are Livgren’s scratchy lead guitar (once more, delivered in abundance) and a soulful vocal performance from Darren Rogers that stands in complement to the grit flavored feel to the music.
“At Every Turn”, a shorter piece at just 3:30, is another acoustic number that borders on ballad territory. The song flows ahead slowly from the start, not picking up in pace until procuring a chorus interwoven with a cacophony of backing vocals.
What follows are two of my favorite compositions on Collector’s Sedition in “The Man With An Iron Heart” and “The Dragon”.
Kansas style progressive rock at its best, “The Man With An Iron Heart” gets underway slowly in a keyboard driven manner as occasional traces of guitar accent the background. Once the rhythm guitar steps forward full and firm, the song achieves a poignantly charged chorus of the sublime variety. More inspiring lead guitar adds to the ennobled scene. If I were to invite an immediately comparison it might be the old AD track “The Fury” (from Art Of The State).
“The Dragon” is one of the more epic pieces composed by Livgren (right up their with “Up From The Wasteland” – also off Art Of The State – or “Ground Zero” from his 1980 solo outing Seeds Of Change). Palatial and cinematic in texture, the song combines equally emphasis on orchestration and operatic vocal harmonies with symphonically driven passages sustained by Jason Beddoe’s emotional vocal delivery. Effective use of acoustic guitar is made as well. The instrumental portions to “The Dragon” prove equally stunning with a riveting lead guitar dancing over a forward swell of keyboards.
Closing things out is “So Ends The Show”, another shorter (1:37) composition driven by piano and keyboards along with an accompanying audience track.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Am Juengsten Tage” (2:59), “On The Air” (4:43), “The Sentinel” (7:31), “Hindsight” ( 6:13), “The Navigator (5:08), “No More Time For Love” (4:37), “Safe Alone” (5:13), “Cold Gray Morning” (4:43), “As It Should Be” (5:04), “Red Money” (4:38), “At Every Turn” (3:30), “The Man With An Iron Heart” (5:06), “The Dragon” (5:54), “So Ends The Show” (1:37)
Kerry Livgren – Guitars & Keyboards
Jason Beddoe, Dan & Sam Billen, Kreg Hoover, Jake Livgren & Darren Rogers – Lead Vocals
Craig Kew – Bass
Mike Patrum – Drums
Praetorius Pesterwald – Bass
Yetsper Danteetsper – Drums
Also Reviewed: AD – Time Line, Kansas – Vinyl Confessions, Kansas – Somewhere To Elsewhere, Kerry Livgren – Seeds Of Change, 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