MCA, 1986


REVIEW BY: Bruce Rusk


After a three-year hiatus (the band never officially broke up), Kansas returned in 1986 with a new lineup and a new sound. Steve Walsh had left in 1980 largely over his discomfort with singing Kerry Livgren's evangelical lyrics. He was back, along with original members Rich Williams and Phil Ehart, and now had more creative control of the band.

During his absence, Walsh started his own band Streets, which enjoyed moderate success, and he brought Streets bassist Billy Greer along with him to the new Kansas lineup. Greer was an excellent singer himself, and would create some razor-sharp harmonies with Walsh. Rounding out the new five-piece lineup was guitar virtuoso Steve Morse. Morse's contributions teamed up nicely with Walsh’s. The two Steves shared a love of expansive, powerful melodies. Both are among the best on their respective instruments, and their synergy created a powerful combo, nicely playing on the Kansas signature Wall Of Sound from their earlier days. The album is full of big riffs, big harmonies, and big synthesizers.

Walsh was able to steer the band towards a more rock-oriented sound with barely a shadow of the old progressive sound the band started out with -- and lacking, of course, the violin that had been their trademark. Not surprisingly, you can catch a number of moments where Walsh's keys echo the old violin, creating a momentary bridge to their former sound. That aside, this is straight-up arena rock with all the trappings, including the ballads like the only charting single “All I Wanted.” It's a nice enough song, for a middle-of-the-road pop ballad. There's nothing distinctive, and it's certainly not up to par with what these guys are capable of. “Can't Cry Anymore” fares much better as a ballad, and Walsh delivers one of his best vocals ever recorded. Still, I expected more. People wanted more. There aren't any songs here that would get thousands of people up on their feet clapping their hands. That’s the kind of power you needed in 1986.  my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The rockers carry the album better, but they aren't the rockers Joe Camaro was looking for. Walsh is an introspective and creative lyricist, with a flair for the dramatic. Sadly, it's never really translated into the kind of songs that made great radio fare.  “Three Pretenders,” “Silhouettes In Disguise,” and “We're Not All Alone Anymore” are hard, driving songs that get your toes tapping, but they don't stick with you.

Kansas helped create the arena rock sound and helped pave the way for bands like Journey and Foreigner.  While those bands found an audience with big dumb power ballads and riff-heavy sing-alongs, Kansas plied the trade with a more creative artistic edge. On Power, the sound comes full circle and they sound more like their more commercially successful followers, but they lacked the right combination of catchy hooks and memorable tracks to get people to raise their lighters.

Power did generate a top 10 single with “All I Wanted,” but it didn't provide the momentum the band needed. It seem like the public post-Leftoverture was waiting for the next “Carry On Wayward Son” and not finding it, looked elsewhere. It's a shame, because Walsh sounds better than ever, Morse brings anything he touches up a level, and band on the whole sounds as tight as ever. While the songs didn't light any fires, the execution is excellent and shows how talented they were as artists. Still, there are some really good songs here. In hindsight, the album is more interesting and fun as a historical relic today then it was relevant back then. In short, I like Power better now than I did then.

Rating: B-

User Rating: C+



© 2008 Bruce Rusk 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 MCA, and is used for informational purposes only.