Kirshner Records, 1976


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


With the vastness of the Pierce Memorial Archives (is there an echo in here?), it sometimes becomes very difficult for me to choose an album to feature here on "The Daily Vault." Trying to remember which artists have made it onto our pages and which haven't can get pretty difficult - and making it harder is keeping a fair mix of music.

Thankfully, whenever I have problems making up my mind, readers like Dan Zink come to my rescue with requests. Dan wrote to me last week asking us to take a look at Kansas's fourth release, Leftoverture. As soon as I read his letter, I thought, "Now there's a hell of a suggestion!"

Three albums into their career, Kerry Livgren and crew had built up a fan base, but had yet to do anything that would light people's speakers on fire. All of that changed with one song, "Carry On Wayward Son," a track which not only helped define AM radio in 1976 but also gave the band their first top 10 album.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

And while critics could claim 21 years later that this is overblown and pompous, I would disagree to a point. I found Leftoverture to be pleasantly entertaining - when it didn't have a message behind the song. (Editor's note: Since this review ran, a remastered version, with two bonus live tracks, has been issued.)

The centerpiece of Leftoverture is "Carry On Wayward Son," a lovely mixture of harmonized vocals and frequent time changes. Normally, I would say that time changes in a song were distracting. However, in this case, it works surprisingly well. Walsh's vocals ring out strong on this one, as do the guitar work of Livgren and Rich Williams.

For most of the first side,Kansas is able to mix uptempo numbers with slightly more moody works without becoming overbearing. Cuts like "What's On My Mind" rock as well as the top 40 hits, while "Miracles Out Of Nowhere" also features some interesting musical style changes. The rhythmic bass line of Dave Hope also does wonders for this song.

The second side of Leftoverture has the only two mistakes the band makes. Cuts like "Opus Insert," like many of those on this album, ended up being pleasant surprises. However, "Cheyenne Anthem" becomes a little too preachy about the horrors we inflicted on the Indians, and the track itself is weaker. The other, "Magnum Opus," would have been an okay track, albeit a little overblown - but why do bands insist on breaking songs like this into sections? In my mind, I see this as meaning the track is a little more cerebral, and that can tend to scare me away. If I want deep thought, I'll try reading Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance in the john.

While Kansas would have had a harder time making it today (and judging from the way their reunion albums tanked, you didn't need to be a brain surgeon to figure that out), but for 1976, they were exactly what rock radio needed. Leftoverture has some very strong moments on it, and is definitely worth checking out for an enjoyable 40 minutes.

Rating: B

User Rating: A


Chris, I think your comments about "Magnum Opus" explain a lot about why you have trouble with some Yes albums. :-) Personally, it's one of my favorite cuts the band ever recorded. And no mention of Robby Steinhardt's violin and the unique textures it brought to the Kansas sound?
Totally agree with Jasonburg. Magnum Opus is a tour-de-force. While Chris doesn't understand bands breaking songs into sections, I've never understood why some critics have become so hung up on them. It's about the music -- and the music here is stellar. There is no "deep message" to be found here. "Chapters" such as "Man Overboard" and "Father Padilla Meets the Perfect Gnat" are so obviously aimed at nothing more than humor that I can't imagine anyone taking them seriously or looking for some deep, dark meaning. If anything, it shows the band was more than just making "serious" music. The band had a serious -- albeit whacky -- sense of humor. Carry on!

© 1997 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Kirshner Records, and is used for informational purposes only.