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Proto-Kaw: The Wait of Glory

It's been a couple years since Kerry Livren and company released the stellar Before Became After, and since that time the band has been busy touring and recording the follow, The Wait of Glory. Well, the wait was well worth it folks. This is a splendid slice of American prog, rooted in classic sounds but decidedly modern. I think the few years of touring has really solidified this group, and Livgren's writing has really found a second wind, as is a winner from start to finish, and sure to be a favorite of many prog rock fans here in 2006.

Look no further than the mini-epic that kicks off the CD, titled "Nevermore", to instill the fact that Proto-Kaw are once again back, and back with a vengeance. This is a wonderful tune, dark and atmospheric at the outset, which then turns into a symphonic powerhouse with vibrant and vintage keyboard sounds from Dan Wright, Livgren's muscular guitar work, flute from John Bolton, and Lynn Meredith's soaring vocals. In fact, Meredith sounds much stronger on this album than on Before Became After, and he is quickly becoming one of the more powerful and expressive vocalists in progressive rock. "Relics Of The Tempest " recalls late 70's Kansas, and you could almost imagine a little violin in this piece would perhaps make it a long lost song from Monolith. Again, Wright's keyboards play a huge role here, with sweeping synth patterns weaving with Bolton's gentle flute strains, giving way to Livgren and his tasty, melodic melodies. Just a gorgeous piece all around, and sure to be a fan favorite on the album.

The band adds some avant-garde and jazz sounds on "When the Rains Come", an almost Gentle Giant meets The Muffins offspring, with plenty of beefy sax from Bolton and bluesy guitar work. As they do on many songs on this album, Proto-Kaw starts you off in one direction, then surprises you as they go down a completely different avenue. After the raucous beginning, this number then floats to a melodic, almost pastoral conclusion, with lush synths and flutes, acoustic guitars, and Meredith & Jake Livgren's emotional vocals. There's an almost film score feel on the orchestral and symphonic "On The Eve Of The Great Decline", again featuring a great Meredith vocal, gorgeous synths & flute, excellent cymbal work from drummer Mike Patrum, and a brief but stabbing guitar solo from Kerry.

A bluesy feel kicks off the raging "Physic", with sees Patrum and bassist Craig Kew locked into a tight groove while Wrights organ rampages, Livgren's guitar snarls, and Bolton's sax squonks. Once again, just as the frenzy reaches a climax, the band shifts to a funky, almost jazzy vibe, keeping the listeners completely on their toes anticipating what is coming next. A similar proggy/funky/jazzy vibe continues on "Osvaldo's Groceries", a short instrumental that again reminds me of The Muffins, except with the inclusion of some biting guitar work from Livgren. The band then moves back into majestic and epic symphonic prog rock on the emotional "The Vigil", a song that owes as much to Jethro Tull as it does Kansas, but is unmistakably Proto-Kaw. In addition to the multitude of synths and piano from Wright, Kew lays down a nice Jaco Pastorius influenced bass solo on this one, and Bolton's flute passages are some of the best on the album.

After stunning the listener with that breathtaking number, the band flat out kicks your ass on the funky and hard rock sounds of "Old Number 63", featuring a clever vocal from Meredith, huge walls of keyboards and sax, and a seriously nasty funk solo section that sees guitar, organ, and sax do battle. Wild stuff! "Melicus Gladiator" is heavy progressive rock in the tradition of Deep Purple, Kansas, or Uriah Heep, with a particularly aggressive and powerful lead vocal from Jake Livgren, making the most of his spot to shine. The closer "Picture This" ends the album in grand fashion, a melodic and majestic number with stunning vocals and piano leading the way. This one also features a beautiful guitar solo from Livgren, full of fire and rich tone, which then cranks the tune into overdrive and turns it into a classic prog and hard rock gem.

It will be near impossible to not get knocked over and blown away by the varied, well written, and expertly played material on The Wait of Glory. With this release, Proto-Kaw are basically telling the world they are here and here to stay. Is it prog rock? Certainly! Is it a bit of hard rock, jazz, and funk? Absolutely! These guys have managed to put together a melting pot of sounds here that works on all levels, and will certainly win them many new fans and accolades in the months to come. A resounding success, and two thumbs up, way up!

Track Listing
1. Nevermore
2. Relics Of The Tempest
3. When The Rains Come
4. On The Eve Of The Great Decline
5. Physic
6. Osvaldo's Groceries
7. The Vigil
8. Old Number 63
9. Melicus Gladiator
10. Picture This

Added: February 9th 2006
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Proto-Kaw Website
Hits: 5005
Language: english

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Proto-Kaw: The Wait of Glory
Posted by Keith Hannaleck, SoT Staff Writer on 2006-02-09 05:45:56
My Score:

In 2004, Kerry Livgren rejoined his old friend's in his pre-Kansas band Proto-Kaw. They took a roll of the dice with Before Became After, as Livgren says, and the response was incredible. In 2002 they dug in the archives and released Early Recordings From Kansas 1971-1973, which was Proto-Kaw, and that is what started the ball rolling. Now its two years later and they have returned triumphantly with yet another masterpiece called The Wait Of Glory.

I have been spinning this disc for two weeks solid now, listening for different nuances that I did not catch from the previous listen. It works that way with the interesting complex musical structures that Proto-Kaw offers. While I loved Before Became After, I think this album shows more maturity and cohesiveness as a unit. Although the first album was an experiment of sorts, it worked very well and I think this album is one-step better, although I could not imagine that prior to hearing this.

Livgren is one intense writer; he is a Christian on a mission to spread his word through some of the most intriguing and attention-grabbing music made today. This is as good as or better than anything that he did with Kansas. He writes about the excesses of man, his demise, and the dangers of the proliferation of his soul. It could be very dark music but it is not as each track has plenty of light and hope waiting on the other side. As they say, there are two sides to every story.

The emotional opening track "Nevermore" suggest that there is no more need to cry or die, it is what the Great Spirit has in store for us if we live right and seek the light. Lynn Meredith is a fantastic vocalist; he takes Livgren's lyrics and makes them come alive, although I cannot help but hear Steve Walsh at times, especially on "Old Number," I swear I heard Steve chime in with some background vocals, and on "Melicus Gladiator" he sounds very similar to Walsh as well. Meredith does a good job carving out his own territory as a vocalist and sounds original for a majority of the album, but just as on the first album, I cannot help but make that comparison and it is of course a high-level compliment from my viewpoint. The most moving and rich track for my listening was "When the Rains Come," the lyrics really touched my soul. Lines like "The rain will fall with life," give you hope and optimism for a better world.

Kerry Livgren is the consummate artist articulating his deepest thoughts and beliefs through his music, and there are few as prolific anywhere in the world. He could not have aligned himself with a better group of musicians. Some of the changes in the compositions you hear will make your head spin; take "Osvaldo's Groceries" for instance, which is the shortest running track on the album clocking in at just over 3 minutes. The band changes tempo at least 10 times during the course of the composition. This band's modus operandi is to keep you on your toes and listening for changes while intently focused on their lyrics. It requires deep introspection and multi-tasking listening abilities-there is no question about that.

I will say it now; this will easily be one of the top prog-rock albums of 2006. As Before Became After will go down as one of the prog-rock classics, The Wait Of Glory will make Proto-Kaw legends in their own time. This is not to be missed, another perfect 10.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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