Live At The Whisky
Intersound Records, 1992
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/28/1998
Knowing that it's been some time since Kansas graced the pages of "The Daily Vault," I spent some time browsing the aisles of my local used record store in search of something unique I could review. Sure, I could have dusted off the self-titled debut album or any other title I have lingering in the Pierce Archives, but I wanted something different.
Lo and behold, there it was, buried under some Kinks tapes - Live At The Whisky, a 1992 release I had never heard about. After listening to it, I can understand why this album is so little heard about.
Time has not been kind to Steve Walsh and crew. Once the kings of AM radio with songs like "Carry On Wayward Son" and "Dust In The Wind," the band never really regained their foothold in the industry when they reunited in the mid '80s. Walsh's voice is definitely not the same as it was in 1976; the way he dances around passages where his vocals would soar into the octave stratosphere painfully demonstrates this.
It's the hits that have fallen the greatest distance on Live At The Whisky. "Point Of Know Return," once one of my favorite songs from Kansas, has lost almost all the magic that it once had, especially in Walsh's vocals. The same story is true of "Dust In The Wind," and even a guest appearance by former member Kerry Livgren can't save the day. "Carry On Wayward Son" comes the closest of the three, but is still a disappointment.
The guitar work of Richard Williams and David Ragsdale is pretty good, though I could have lived with cutting out about half of Ragsdale's violin work. At times, it seems like violin is thrown into some songs just to show off - sorry, but it doesn't work.
Many of the selections on Live At The Whisky are going to be head-scratchers for all but the diehard fan. However, the greatest performance on this album comes on "Miracles Out Of Nowhere," a song that, for its running time, captures the old glory of this band and demonstrates they're not dead yet.
But if there was any question as to how much power Kansas has lost over the years, one only need to go to the end of the tape, where "Lonely Street," a live cut from 1975, was tacked on. The difference in Walsh's vocals and the band's overall performance is night and day when compared to the bulk of the material on Live At The Whisky.
I can appreciate why Kansas brought out Live At The Whisky when they did; they wanted to show their fans what the band sounded like today (back when 1992 was "today"). But if they had one cut from the 1975 show in Cleveland, one has to wonder why they didn't release more material from that show.
Live At The Whisky is a painful reminder that time is not always kind to bands, and Kansas was not lucky enough to dodge the passage of time. This is a release that is strictly for the fans, or anyone who is stuck in the '70s.