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Proto-Kaw: Before Became After

When the original Kansas emerged from relative obscurity in late 2002 with an album of early recordings, the excitement was palpable. Far from an exact blueprint for the Kansas that we know and love, this was a collective that owed more to the likes of King Crimson and Frank Zappa than its hit-making successor. And it was good. Good enough to warrant some members to pick up their instruments once more, soldier forth and deliver an album of new and old material composed by guitarist/keyboardist Kerry Livgren.

And it shines.

Even though this lineup has never recorded an out-and-out album before, even though some members hadn't played in a band for a decade or more, Before Became After suggests that not a moment has gone by since the unit split in the early morning light of the 1970s.

Vocalist Lynn Meredith hits all the right notes, while sax/flute man John Bolton blows his heart out throughout, adding sometimes eerie, sometimes sublime but always fascinating textures to songs such as "Heavenly Man" (where keyboardist Dan Wright absolutely shreds) and "Leaven" (monster riffs all around). Drummer Brad Schulz plays with a subtle but nevertheless powerful flair that allows each track's melodic structure to come to the fore while never compromising power. Craig Kew (a newcomer) adds melodic bass lines to each of the tracks, fitting the band like a tailor-made suit.

Livgren's writing (both new and old) shines here, taking on a new life with these new players who spur him into delivering some of his most blistering and memorable guitar solos to date, to say nothing of fine new compositions such as "Gloriana," which may surpass "Song For America" and "All The World" (a deep cut from Masque) in beauty and ambition. (Plus, Bolton delivers some sax sounds there that make you long to hear him tear loose in four-piece jazz combo.)

If there's a downfall to this album, it's that it doesn't quite capture the band at its live blistering best (OK, so the unit has played one proper live show in the last 30 years but what a show it was!) but we have to hope that the release of this new material will correct that situation and make this this new/old venture one that's spoken of in the same reverent tones as its famous successor.

A special limited edition with more than enough extra goodies has also dropped. Either way, you owe it to yourself to make this part of your collection.

Track Listing:
1. Alt More Worlds Than Known (7:31)
2. Words Of Honor (4:34)
3. Leaven (8:28)
4. Axolotl (6:06)
5. Quantum Leapfrog (5:45)
6. Greenburg, Glickstein, Charles, David, Smith and Jones (3:05)
7. Gloriana (5:52)
8. The Occasion of Your Honest Dreaming (3:40)
9. Heavenly Man (5:55)
10. Theophany (4:29)
9. Theophany (11:143)
Total Time: 61:06

Added: July 17th 2005
Reviewer: Jedd Beaudoin
Score:
Related Link: Official Site
Hits: 5647
Language: english

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Proto-Kaw: Before Became After
Posted by Duncan Glenday, SoT Staff Writer on 2005-07-17 19:33:24
My Score:

The Harry Potter books introduced the word 'muggle' as someone who isn't a wizard. In our world we might use the word to describe those unfortunates who are not progressive rock fans.

The next time a 'muggle' asks you that annoying 'what is progressive rock' question, play this record for them. Like its better-known sister group Kansas, Proto-Kaw has just enough AOR approachability to have immediate appeal to your muggle friend. But once they're hooked, they'll start to appreciate the real music on Before Became After. There are jazzy sections, there are sweeping vistas of gorgeous symphonic rock, and it is one of the more melodic, emotionally appealing bodies of work to emerge from the American music scene in years.

Nine tracks spread across an hour and 3 minutes yielding an average of 7 minutes even, giving each song all the time it needs to develop character and explore complex shifts in tempo, key and time signature. The vocals are excellent, the instrumental delivery is flawless, and this record is arguably more 'progressive' than the early Kansas classics. Which brings us back to your muggle friends. Tell them that prog is an advanced version of Kansas, and by the time they've spun the CD four or five times and are hooked by the melodies and lost in the grand symphonies and nodding their head to the fusion sections . They'll get it!



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