Kansas - 1980 Audio Visions

richardbrichardb Poole, Dorset

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ARTIST: Kansas
ALBUM: Audio Visions
LABEL: Kirshner
SERIAL: FZ 36588
YEAR: 1980
CD REISSUE: 1996, Legacy, ZK 66417 * 2011, Epic (Japan), EICP-20079 (remastered)

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: image

LINEUP: Phil Ehart - percussion, drums, vocals * Dave Hope - bass, vocals * Kerry Livgren - guitar, percussion, keyboards, vocals * Robby Steinhardt - violin, viola, vocals * Steve Walsh - percussion, keyboards, vocals, vibraphone * Rich Williams - guitar, percussion, vocals

Additional Musicians: Terry Ehart, Victoria Livgren - vocals * Four Bassmen, Joey Jelf, Lisa White, Donna Williams - vocals, background vocals * Anne Steinhardt - violin, viola, vocals

TRACK LISTING: 01 Relentless * 02 Anything For You * 03 Hold On * 04 Loner * 05 Curtain Of Iron * 06 Got To Rock On * 07 Don't Open Your Eyes * 08 No One Together * 09 No Room For A Stranger * 10 Back Door

WEBLINKS: www.kansasband.com

Background

As my first introduction to Kansas was via their 'Monolith' album, my expectations of their follow up were slightly different from those fans who preferred the more progressive side to the band.

They had been weaned on a diet of 'Left Overture' and 'Point Of Know Return' no doubt. Whilst I'm a big fan of keyboard/guitar interplay in rock music (witness my love of Saga and Trillion for example) I have found 'Left Overture' and 'Point Of Know Return' to be a listening chore (as opposed to pleasure) at times.

Blame this on my attention span decreasing with age, or the fact that perhaps I'm one of those individuals who don't 'get' these albums. Anyway, for what it's worth, I actually think 'Masque' is the pick of their more 'progressive' output, but I strongly suspect I'm in a minority.

'Monolith' was more radio friendly than previous releases but lost none of the trade mark musicality that Kansas are famous for - to my ears at least. As 'Monolith' contained a brace of excellent songs 'How My Soul Cries Out To You' and 'Away From You'.

I therefore approached 'Audio Visions' with eager anticipation. However my enthusiasm does not appeared to have been shared by 'Rolling Stone' magazine.

They were highly critical describing 'Audio Visions' as 'the musically overwrought and lyrically fatuous product of a collective hubris gone haywire'. Fortunately I subscribed to 'Sounds' magazine or else I might have completely bypassed 'Audio Visions'.

The Songs

Creative divisions had started to rear their ugly head as a result of Livgren's conversion to Christianity which were at odds with Steve Walsh and other band members who wanted to pursue a more commercial direction.

Consequently the album comes across as disjointed veering between more radio friendly material and less commercial fare penned by Livgren which have strong religious overtones.

The Christian theme in the lyrics is obvious from opener 'Relentless' ..'Though we can't conceive forever and it sometimes hard to care, our lives do not compare to what's awaiting us there'. Musically this is a dramatic hard rock opener with a memorable chorus embellished (though not overwhelmed) by instrumental flare in the mid-section.

'Anything For You' is a mid-tempo affair driven by Walsh's piano - pleasant though unremarkable.

'Hold On' (penned by Livgren reputedly for his wife) is mellow and introspective and again deals with issues of religious faith.

'Loner' is similar in structure to 'Away From You' - a galloping hard rock tune with some electrifying guitar work.

Side One closer 'Curtain Of Iron' is both lyrically and musically the heavyweight of Side One. It handles the weighty subject matter of religious oppression under Communist Regimes - very topical at the time considering this was 1980.

Side Two opens with the more upbeat 'Got To Rock On' my favourite cut on the album and a tune that wouldn't have been out of place on Walsh's 'Schemer Dreamer' solo LP. Once again his piano comes to the fore, driven along by pounding drums and powerful guitar riffing on the chorus.

'Don't Open Your Eyes' is musically tame and at odds with the dark, foreboding lyrics.

'No-One Together' meanders along without really gaining any momentum or purpose suffers from pretentious lyrics (e.g. 'Lo the horn of plenty is bursting at the seam The harvest of the world will be our prize') wistfully presenting religion as the universal panacea to the world's troubles.

The dual guitars of Livgren and Williams rock hard on 'No Room For A Stranger' It's the usual tale of a lovelorn man down on his luck at the hands of a femme fatale.

'Back Door' ends the album on an uplifting note, closing to the strains of bagpipes, an unusual choice of instrument and one not synonymous with the Kansas sound.

In Summary

'Audio Visions' represented the beginning of the end for Kansas Mk1 and creative differences and (as already documented elsewhere on this site) led to Walsh departing and forming Streets.

Many long-standing fans also started to fall out of love with Kansas at this point and 'Audio Visions' represented the start of their creative decline - the moment the band 'jumped the shark' if you like.

My enthusiasm also started to dwindle after 'Audio Visions' and 'Drastic Measures' aside (which I don't consider to be a typical Kansas album) my interest wasn't really piqued again until their 1995 release 'Freaks Of Nature'.


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