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Kansas - 1979 Monolith

ARTIST: Kansas
ALBUM: Monolith
LABEL: Kirshner
SERIAL: FZ 36008
YEAR: 1979
CD REISSUE: 1986, Kirshner, ZK 36008


LINEUP: Steve Walsh - vocals, keyboards * Kerry Livgren - guitars, keyboards * Robby Steinhardt - violins, vocals * Rich Williams - guitars * Dave Hope - bass * Phil Ehart - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 On The Other Side * 02 People Of The South Wind * 03 Angels Have Fallen * 04 How My Soul Cries Out For You * 05 A Glimpse Of Home * 06 Away From You * 07 Stay Out Of Trouble * 08 Reason To Be


Reviewing this album many years later, isn't it ironic and prophetic when you look at the album cover and relate it to life in the 21st century. We are so near to destroying this planet, and to see native Red Indians wearing astronaut like helmets throughout the cover-art is too close to the truth for my liking. 'Monolith' as a word/term is not one used in everyday speak. I recall only ever seeing it in 'Space Odyssey 2001' and in archaeological books. It means something structural, vast and yet unknown. In the case of Kansas, all three conditions equally apply. The album, released in May of 1979, sits on the boundary of past and future efforts. Many consider 'Monolith' to be the last of their truly great symphonic efforts, following admirably in the wake of 1976's 'Leftoverture' and 1977's 'Point Of Know Return'. Perhaps not as progressive as either of those efforts, but definitely not as 'sell-out' and commercial as much of their future eighties fare. There are two definitive strains of music on 'Monolith'. Those songs that have been written by Walsh and those written by Livgren. Structurally, both sets are contrasting, but still provide much to grasp onto. Walsh's songs are by far the most symphonic and deep, whereas Livgren's compositions are lighter and more optimistic. Apparently by this stage both members were not working as a team anymore, bringing their material to the table separately. The divide between the two would eventually fragment the band soon after, as would the Christian ideals espoused by Livgren and Dave Hope, in conflict with the non-beliefs of the others.

The Songs
The album leads off with Livgren's 'On The Other Side', a song about (what appears to be) writers block! Trying to draw lyrical inspiration from from the other side, so to speak. The single off the album 'People Of The South Wind' was a strange choice, but considering there were only eight tracks and this was the most commercial, none of the others were really contenders. The first of the Walsh compositions is the dramatic 'Angels Have Fallen', for me one of the album highlights. It proved at this stage of their career that symphonic prog was not a lost art. Ending side one is 'How My Soul Cries Out For You', a straight-out hard rock blast with guitars very much to the fore. 'A Glimpse Of Home' reminds us of their earlier works, symphonic twists and turns, guitars and violins taking center stage. Meanwhile 'Away From You' is a bubbly sort of tune that straddles the fence of several genres and styles. Take your pick. Probably the only song that doesn't belong on this album is 'Stay Out of Trouble'. It's overly southern-rock inclination could've made it a starter on albums recorded by the likes of The Allman Brothers for instance. Thankfully the last track 'Reason To Be' is a beautiful acoustic ballad which makes side two tolerable.

In Summary
'Monolith' as a body of work see Kansas at a transition point in their career. Leaving behind the truly symphonic art-form they pioneered for a shorter/crisper dig at commercial (a.k.a radio) music. With the changing times and changing attitudes, progressive rock would take a backseat for a few years, as radio and MTV dictated the musical climate. This impacted on Kansas as well, as you'll surely notice with their slew of (IMO inferior) eighties releases. Probably not their best work, but if you liked the aforementioned 'Leftoverture' and 'Point Of Know Return', then 'Monolith' makes a great trifecta.

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#1 | tompa on April 22 2006 12:05:46
Some say this is where Kansas begun to go downhill. I disagree. That downhill slide started with Audiovisions. On this album the band keep up their high standard, although with a little less pomp. The ballad Reason To Be is definitely on par with Dust In The Wind.
#2 | richardb on June 15 2008 17:00:35
One of my favourite Kansas albums. They still have the prog/pomp influences but I found it had a more commercial slant than 'Leftoverture'. Stand out tracks for me are 'How my soul cries out for you' and 'A glimpse of home'.

Richard B
#3 | Eric on June 30 2008 21:49:35
There was fragmenting going on in Kansas long before Livgren's conversion and as early as '75- the band were split in two camps- lot's of fighting etc...
#4 | rkbluez on November 06 2012 01:38:26
Great album...would love to see Legacy finish remastering the Kansas CBS/SONY catalog...up til now all of the remasters have been amazing.
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