Reviews June/00

Kansas / Somewhere to Elsewhere / SPV 085-71012 CD


Kansas - First record in 20 years with original line-up Tracklisting:Icarus II; When the World was young; Grand fun Alley; The coming Dawn(Thanatopsis); Myriad; Look at the Time; Disappearing skin tight blues; Distant Vision; Byzantium; Not man Big; Outro.

Well, this is the biggest surprise in years for me!! Kansas is back in full line-up and their are back, indeed.
All the tremendous trademarks that made this band big in the 70's and 80's are here. Grand melodies, exceptional production and last but not least the extra-ordinary collaboration between guitarist kerry Livgren and vocalist Steve Walsh.
This time around frontman and violinist Robbie Steinhardt joined Kansas again and gives the band this unique two or three frontmen configuration. But Kansas has always been and always will be a productive collective experience and without Phil Ehart on drums, Billy Greer on bass and vocals, Dave Hope on bass and Richard Williams on guitar the three front figures would'nt be as strong and dynamic.
The album has a magnificent starter with the mighty "Icarus II" with its strong melody, Walsh's excellent voice and the heavy guitar break in the middle that lays a solid ground for the beautiful violin. But also the more light footed "When the World was young" with the grand background chorus and the extraordinary voice of Steve Walsh (that more and more reminds me of a wise old Asian in his looks). But the most beautiful song on this magnificent album is to me "Distant vision" with its slow but varied rythm and expression of emotions - the violin solo is outstanding and the arrangement is grand! The whole feel of the album is taking the listener back to the multi-platinum strings and strains of "Leftoverture" but also forward to the front edge of creative and progressive music-making
The whole album is outstanding and therefore very hard to pick out just a few tracks - it should be heard of every lover of good music. It's rare to me to have an album that clicks the first time and still have the opportunity to grow for every listen - "Somewhere to Elsewhere" is Kansas at their best, but on the other hand they have never released anything bad - to be recommended!

Chapter 23 / Flying in the face of conventional wisdom / Independent release


Chapter 23 - Flying in the face of conventional wisdom Tracklisting:Big Top; Shake Down; Come what I may; Mr. C; Cold Steel & Neon; Shoot the Moon; Catch 22; Can't stand the weather.

This is an example of how good it can be when a bunch of enthusiastic musicians get together and do what they like - play music!!.
According to the pressmaterial Chapter 23 has their influence a place between Kansas, Deep Purple, Uriah Heep and Queensr˙che. And it might be true that they have listened to a couple of records in that genre now and then - but the whole concept surrounding Chapter 23 is much more, they have their own identity.
Main man behind the project must be drummer, songwriter, engineer and cover designer Don Nafe, but all musicians should not be forgotten, Michael Hemish is an extraordinairy guitarist that has listened to people like Neal Schon and Eddie Van Halen, vocalist Pierre Lauzon and Allan Wilmore on piano and organ are also hard to miss.
I like more and more tracks for every listen - but the first tracks that stood out was "Shoot the Moon", "Can't stand the weather" and "Shakedown" all with a very significant sound - sometimes rough but then again funky and emotional.
For a independent release it has a very fine production that allows every musician to breath and stand out, If the band got a producer like Terry Thomas or Robert John Lange on their next album only the sky is the limit.
Check their website out - They should be back in the studio again and maybe this time I will be as surprised as I was on this one - brilliant!

Hair of the Dog / Rise / SPITCD072


Hair Of the Dog - Rise Tracklisting:Rise; Five to Nine; Color me Fire; You are the One; Mokur Jahoobees; I can't fight You; Rescue Me; Bum Jenkins; Twice; The Almighty Strut; Sometimes is enough; Hammered; I; (Out of Control).

Acording to a little sticker on the cover of this release with the american band Hair of the Dog is "Van Halen meets Kiss & Aerosmith in the new millenium" - but if I have to point out any source of inspiration it have to be Little Ceasar. Vocalist Ryan Cook is very close to Ron Young and the whole attitude towards building an album on strong tracks - entire power chorded rock anthems is very much in the vein of Little Ceasar.
For the recording of "Rise" - which is the bands second album, they hooked up with production legend Michael Wagener. And the band have to admit that he is a big part of the bands panoramic improvement in sound, having brought his vast metal acumen to the recording process at his base studio in Nashville.
Besides the whiskey-hoarse and very powerful singer Ryan Cook, Hair of the Dog is a group effort with Mike Dupke on drums, Brian Saputo (Boot) on bass and John Sepetys on guitar. And with their feet stomping in the Southern Swamps this effort is smoking and smelling. Gutsy, grinding, no-frills rock with a sometimes country feeling to it!
Ther are a number of good tracks here but I have to point a few ones out: First track is the title-track "Rise"and very much lay down the soul and spirit to the whole record - hard hitting and powerful but the foursome shows softer sides to themselves too, on a track like "You are the one" their Van Halen affection comes to the surface - a powerful ballad with a great hook and a superb guitar solo. A more laid back track made for the fun of it is the tongue-in-cheek testimony to big boobies called "Mokur Jahoobees". There is also a cover of a pretty strange track from Kiss "I" from "The Elder"-album a nice gesture to throw bits and pieces of other Kiss songs in the breakdown section near the end of the track.
Powerful- full of good spirit, music and Jack Daniels Hair of the Dog is ready to carry the torch of rock'n roll straight forward. And remember the hidden acustic track "Out of Control" at the end of the album - party on, Dudes!

© Steen Peitersen 2000