Kansas - Somewhere To Elsewhere

Year of Release: 2000
Label: Magna Carta
Catalog Number: MA-9050-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 63:29:00

Kansas (courtesy)As I mentioned in my review of Always Never The Same, I have not been a student of the entire oeuvre of Kansas, though my collection contains more than the requisite Point Of Know Return (at least I think of it as requisite). By which I mean I know each and every track of POKR nearly by heart, words and music, but I cannot say the same of their other albums. But then again, I've played POKR thousands of times, at least, and it is consistently at top of my "all-time favourites" list. Anyway, with that as a reference point, when I tell you this is a mix of classic and modern Kansas, you'll know what I mean. The balance is really a sprinkling of classic Kansas and quite a bit of modern Kansas.

Their latest opens with the beautiful piano of Kerry Livgren and lyrical violin of Robby Steinhardt. In a way, from that moment you know you're listening to a Kansas disk. Unlike their last studio release, 1995's Freaks Of Nature, the production is much better (I feel). It isn't until the guitar crunch of the middle section of "Icarus II" that ever thought of Kansas as a hard rock band. And yet, suddenly I'm thinking how influenced by Kansas Dream Theater is. Sure Dream Theater cranked up the juice a bit more. Not to put too fine a point on it, but if you think of the mellower aspects of Dream Theater, then you'll know why I think Kansas must have been influence. It would be preposterous for me to suggest the reverse. But, when I think of Kansas, it isn't this near-metal thing? Perhaps I am stuck in 1977, being as enamored of Point Of Know Return as I am. And yet, I hear Steinhardt's violin and ? yes, this is the Kansas I grew up with. "Icarus II" is a tragic, moving and epic tribute to the World War II fighter pilots. In fact, part of the proceeds from the sales of Somewhere To Elsewhere are going to the World War II Memorial Fund. In some ways, it has that "end of the album, end of the story" kind of feel, but from the get go seems the perfect and energetic opener to the album.

As long as I'm talking about other bands this makes me think of, here are the other thoughts I had along those lines. "When The World Was Young" made me think of Jethro Tull ? Steve Walsh's gruffier vocals make me think of Billy Joel, especially when he dips into the lower registers (to me, not a bad thing). In fact, "The Coming Dawn (Thanatopsis)," which is a beautiful, understated, epic track - one that harks back to the 70's - to me, sounds a bit like Billy Joel's "2000 Years." Well, and with the epic scope of a Jim Steinman track - you know, the guy who gave us those great Meatloaf hits - only there isn't the same level of bombast. Actually, I liken this track to "Nobody Home" from POKR in terms of scope and feel. This and "Icarus II" are my favourites of the album thus far.

"Myriad" is a strange creature, as the orchestrated opening sounds like, to me, Kansas (as it should) playing a disco-ized classical piece - imagine if Kansas did "Night On Bald Mountain," for example. Actually, I like it?and don't let the "disco" comment put you off?it was the handiest word at the time. It does strongly hark back to classic Kansas - there's a reason for that that I'll get back to. The song builds and rocks. This is pure AOR, and is another one that wouldn't have seemed out of place in the 80's. Which isn't to suggest that Kansas sound totally retro, because the whole "sounds like" thing is more a reference ? a bridge. What's interesting to note about this track is that it was originally written long before Kansas recorded their first album. As Phil Ehart has been quoted as saying, "It was one of the songs we learned when Kerry and I were back in the very first Kansas. It basically harkens back to 1970, 1971, and the song never saw the light of day. And Kerry thought about it in this particular context. He kind of rewrote the whole thing. But there are parts in there that I remember playing 30 years ago."

Kerry Livgren wrote all the tracks for the album, it having started life as a solo project. When it was determined that the songs were better served by Kansas, the process of getting together was begun. Kansas on this outing is Richard Williams (see interview) on guitar, Kerry Livgren on keyboard and guitars, Robby Steinhardt on violins and violas (and lead vocals), Phil Ehart on drums, Steve Walsh on vocals, and Billy Greer on bass and lead vocals. Dave Hope guests on bass.

"Look At The Time" is perhaps the most "accessible" of the tracks, with its Beatles-like harmonies ? somewhat akin to the Magical Mystery Tour period or even earlier to Sgt. Pepper's. "Byzantium" has a Middle-Eastern motif in the instrumentation and in the vocal phrasing of Walsh. The album proper ends with the somewhat enigmatic "Not Man Big." But then, a few minutes later there's the impromptu fooling around of "the mystery track" ? actually, after you've heard a few times and can figure what their singing about, it's quite amusing.

Kansas have fortunately made an album that one will want to go back to again and again. There is so much here that I can't possibly have caught it all. In that it is like Point Of Know Return, as I'm discovering things about that disc 23 years on. I can't say it's their best ever, but only because of my limited perspective. But it is a very strong release and bodes well for the future.

Icarus II (7:17) / When The World Was Young (5:48) / Grand Fun Alley (4:34) / The Coming Dawn (5:42) / Myriad (8:54) / Look At The Time (5:35) / Disappearing Skin Tight Blues (7:) / Distant Vision (8:47) / Byzantium (4:13) / Not Man Big (7:39)

Steve Walsh - lead vocals, backrgound vocals
Robby Steinhardt - violins, violas, lead vocals, background vocals
Richard Williams - guitars
Kerry Livgren - keyboards, guitars
Phil Ehart - drums
Billy Greer - bass, lead vocals, background vocals
Dave Hope - bass

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: July 1st 2000
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.kansasband.com
Hits: 1739
Language: english


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