what Frank is listening to #20 – KANSAS – Audio-Visions – (Epic) – 1980
In a lot of ways "Kansas" embodies everything that was bad about the 1970s – part prog rock, part mainstream heartland rock, part stadium rock, pointless instrumental breaks, bombastic lyrics, meathead fans with artistic pretensions (no doubt) … in fact it would be funny (in a Spinal Tap sort of a way) if valuable resources weren't used to make this. English Prog Rock is bad enough but American prog rock has to be the pits, only beaten by prog rock from Canada. In fact, mostly anything from Canada around this time wallows in muck.
That's not to say that "Kansas" don't have any good tunes … they do (a few) … but not on this album.
"Kansas" were formed in Topeka, Kansas in 1970 and through relentless touring built up a strong fan base. They were really only an album band, the singles never did that well. By their fourth album, in 1977, they had gone platinum as did every album up to and including this one, their eighth, from 1980 (#26). It's an understatement to say they were popular.
The singles off this LP were:
Hold On #40
Got to Rock On #76
In any event it was music for the pretentious and self important and usually appreciated by, I assume, girlfriendless nerds … the musical equivalent of people who like the film, "2001: A Space Odyssey".
This type of stuff can be traced back to The Beatles but from the Beatles' small pretensions grew other bands with grander ambitions if limited ability – Moody Blues, post-Syd Pink Floyd, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Genesis, Yes, Rush (Canadian), Marillion, Camel … you can accept and indeed expect these pretensions from the English but "Kansas" are a fucking band from … Kansas, for fucks sake. What were they thinking? You grow wheat in Kansas and it aint near any "art" centres … see below … in red is Kansas
So I'm not sure how this band evolved, or hatched, but for a bunch of blokes from nowhere they hit paydirt (sic) so … good for them
Tracks – if I have to pick one: "Loner" has some frenzied playing and banal lyrics …
"Got to Rock On"
Interestingly, two of the main members became born again Christians after this albums release …. another reason to dislike prog rock?. Oddly I found myself looking for some divine intervention whilst listening to this album.
The lyrics of "Hold On" make it clear where the songwriter was going
Look in the mirror and tell me
Just what you see
What have the years of your life
Taught you to be
Innocence dyin' in so many ways
Things that you dream of are lost
Lost in the haze
Hold on, Baby Hold on
'Cause it's closer than you think
And you're standing on the brink
Hold on, Baby Hold on
'Cause there's something on the way
Your tomorrow's not the same as today
Don't you recall what you felt
When you weren't alone
Someone who stood by your side
A face you have known
Where do you run when it's too much to bear
Who do you turn to in need
When nobody's there
Outside your door He is waiting
Waiting for you
Sooner or later you know
He's got to get through
No hesitation and no holding back
Let it all go and you'll know
You're on the right track
I aint keepin this record.
I can see Powderfinger going this way …
(originally posted: 02/05/2009)