Kansas - Always Never The Same

Year of Release: 1998
Label: River North
Catalog Number: 51416 13842
Format: CD
Total Time: 71:06:00

Let me begin by stating that I like Kansas, but I'm not intimately familiar with their past material. I've several albums, but I'm most familiar with Point of Know Return, as it is one of my favourite albums. Perhaps that pegs me more as a fan of their more commercial prog - "Dust In The Wind" was their biggest hit (according to one chart I've seen recently, it placed as high as 6 on the US Charts) - but "Dust" isn't necessarily my favourite track.

Anyway, I haven't immersed myself in classic Kansas, though I recognize enough song titles to know that "Dust" isn't the only classic track.

That said, you'd think that an updated version of their big hit "Dust In The Wind" would sparkle just the same twenty years later. Sure, some updating would be necessary or what's the point. However, I find myself asking, what's the point? It doesn't sparkle, it doesn't update the original, except Steve Walsh's vocals sound twenty years older. So, this track is a disappointment.

Always Never The Same opens with an uninspiring version of the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby," - here it seems out of place - followed by "Dust."

But then we get the next track "Preamble," which begins with the London Symphony Orchestra taking the lead, and as the band comes in, seques into "Song For America."

Things really improve from "Preamble" on, and for those who love classic Kansas, the collaboration with the LSO brings an added dimension to the music. This is one of the things I have loved about progressive music - lush, full arrangments, the sense of the epic.

One of the new tracks here is Steve Walsh penned "The Sky Is Falling." This is bouncy, rocky tune, more in line with Kansas of their recent studio albums than the classic sound. It's not a bad track because of that mind you, as it's kinda catchy, and, in a way, wryly observant on the ironies of life.

The closing track is "Nobody's Home" which has been one of my favourites. There is something very poignant about this Kerry Livgren/Steve Walsh penned tune, and so very applicable today, even with its futuristic spin - the initial assumption is that it's man exploring space, finding nothing; I've always read it as man returning to Earth, finding nothing left to say we were ever here. How does it fare here, in this new yet familiar setting? For me, it loses something with the fuller, slightly different arrangement - the sense of haunting isolation, of desolation is lost. Which doesn't make it a bad arrangement, it just has a different effect.

Have Kansas embarrased themselves with nostaligia trip? No. This isn't bringing out the favourites once more to relive old glories. In a way, it's like what George Lucas has done with the Star Wars saga - some of it works, some of it doesn't, but that which does adds dimension.

If you have never heard Kansas, this is a good introduction (once past the first two tracks), and for long time fans, it comes recommended.

Eleanor Rigby (3:22) / Dust In The Wind (4:21) / Preamble (3:25) / Song For America (9:17) / In Your Eyes (4:31) / Miracles Out Of Nowhere (6:28) / Hold On (4:18) / The Sky Is Falling (7:51) / Cheyenne Anthem (7:31) / Prelude and Introduction (4:53) / The Wall (5:29) / Need to Know (3:59) / Nobody's Home (6:01)

Phil Ehart - drums
Billy Greer - bass and vocals
Robby Steinhardt - vocals and violin
Steve Walsh - vocals and keyboards
Richard Williams - electric and acoustic guitar
London Symphony Orchestra, conductor Larry Baird
J T Thompson, James Majors, Larry Stock, Jim Roberts - additional drums

Kansas (1974)
Song For America (1975)
Masque (1975/2001)
Leftoverture (1976/2001)
Point of Know Return (1977/1984/2002)
Two For The Show (1978)
Monolith (1979)
Audio Visions (1980)
Vinyl Confessions (1982)
Drastic Measures (1983)
The Best Of Kansas (1984)
Power (1986)
In The Spirit Of Things (1988)
Carry On (1990)
Live At The Whisky (1992)
Box Set (1994)
Freaks of Nature (1995)
Always Never The Same (1998)
King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents Kansas (1998)
Definitive Collection (1999)
Best Of Kansas (altered re-release) (1999)
Somewhere To Elsewhere (2000)
Live! Extended Versions (2000)
The Ultimate Kansas (2002)
Device-Voice-Drum (2002)
In Concert (2003)
Sail On: The 30th Anniversary Collection 1974-2004 (2004)
On The Other Side (2005)
Kansas: Extended Versions (2005)
Works In Progress (2006)
Super Hits (2007)
Discover Kansas (2007)
There's Know Place Like Home (2010)

Best Of Kansas Live (VHS) (1982)
Live At The Whisky (VHS) (1995)
Device Voice Drum (DVD) (2002)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: April 10th 1999
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.kansasband.com
Hits: 858
Language: english


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