Always Never The Same

Kansas

River North Music, 1998

http://www.kansasband.com

REVIEW BY: Bruce Rusk

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/22/2008

Always Never The Same finds the original Kansas lineup almost intact. With Robby Stienhardt back in the fold, Kansas made its way to Abbey Road studios and brought along The London Symphony orchestra. They chose a studio setting for this recording, as opposed to a live venue as a lot of the band + symphony projects have done. They would tour extensively with a symphony in support of this album, but I like the clean production of the studio recordings.

Fitting for these historical surroundings, the disc opens with a strong cover of The Beatles' “Eleanor Rigby.” They make a nice job of it, adding some power to the song with the orchestra behind them. The excellent vocal harmonies add a nice Beatlesque touch. bim_ad_daily_vault_print_250
Kansas has always been a band that wrote music like an orchestra and rocked out with it, so this is a very natural-feeling album. The symphony is a perfect accompaniment to the classic Kansas songs, some very familiar and some you may not have heard. FYI: There's no “Carry On Wayward Son” here, but they do brush off the classic “Dust In The Wind,” the orchestra being a perfect vehicle for expanding the spare original arrangement for a more dynamic approach, and of course, the full string section is a no-brainer for this song. “Song For America,” "Nobody's Home,” and “Miracle Out Of Nowhere” benefit especially from the symphony, allowing them to recreate their dense, layered sound in a new way.

Steve Walsh pens three news songs for the disc. “In Your Eyes” and “Need To Know” are fine songs, but the poppier “The Sky Is Falling” seems out of place.  The orchestra is conducted by Larry Baird, and he co-arranged most of the tracks. His symphonic flourishes fit in perfectly with Kerry Livgren's compositions. Baird also arranged two instrumental tracks with the full orchestra that encompass snippets of many Kansas songs. These add an especially nice touch to the overall flow of the album. Longtime producer Jeff Glixman adds his legendary skills on the mixing boards, which guarantees a pristine, vibrant production.

This album would open a new phase in the band’s life that would get them back on the road with newfound purpose, and eventually back into the studio a few years later.  I really enjoyed revisiting these songs in a new form, and the album is a nice announcement of the band’s return to a productive and vital stage of their long career.

Rating: B

User Rating: B

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© 2008 Bruce Rusk and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of River North Music, and is used for informational purposes only.