Seventh Key

Seventh Key

Magna Carta Records, 2001

REVIEW BY: Bruce Rusk

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/05/2004

[An earlier version of this review appeared on Houseofshred.com in 2001]

As a fan of all kinds of music, and more importantly a fan of all kinds of musicians, nothing makes me happier than seeing a truly talented, yet relatively unrecognized performer step out from their usual role as band member and take the limelight. Such is the case with Billy Greer. For 16 years Billy has been the "Seventh Key" to the musical entity known as Kansas. Besides laying down the bottom line on bass, his searing tenor voice has been the lynchpin to the awesome vocal harmonies Kansas is known for. Kansas' fans have admired this secret weapon for years and have been clamoring for some original Greer material for some time.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Seventh Key proves what Kansas fans have known for years -- Billy Greer can sing like nobody's business. Teaming with Billy in Seventh Key is veteran Streets/Steelhouse Lane guitarist Mike Slamer, who also produced. Slamer lends his distinctive shredding and impeccable ear to produce a fresh, lush sound. Also on the disc are a crew of familiar faces; guitar-god Steve Morse and Billy's fellow Kansas members Steve Walsh, Rich Williams and Phil Ehart are all on hand (Walsh and Morse also contributed songs to the project). The bulk of the disc features Greer on bass and vocals, Slamer on guitar, drummer Chet Wynd, David Manion on keys and another great voice, Terry Brock, providing harmony vocals.

Greer and Slamer unleash a blistering shred-fest right out of the gate, with the opening track "The Kid Could Play," a tribute to Billy's departed friend Marty Conn. What follows is a great collection of original songs. From balls-to-the wall rockers like "Prisoner of Love" and the anthemic "Only the Brave," and melodic rockers such as "Every Time it Rains" and "No Man's Land," to gut-wrenching power ballads like my fave from the disc, "Surrender."

The highlight of this disc is the inclusion of four "lost" songs from Billy's early days with Kansas, including a couple of great tracks penned by Kansas wailer Steve Walsh. These songs were originally written and recorded for Kansas' Power album, but were never released. The original recordings for two of the songs were too damaged to use, but the other two original demo tapes, "Every Time it Rains" and "No Man's Land" appear in remastered form on this album.

Sonically, think of the likes of Journey and Whitesnake with more up-to-date arrangements. Solid classic rock styling wrapped up in modern sound and production. I was much more impressed with this disc than recent releases from more established classic rock icons. Fans of great melodic rock with eat this up.

Rating: B+

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