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Masque (Bonus Track Version)

Kansas

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Album Review

Kansas' third album, Masque, is a lyrically dark effort courtesy of guitarist/keyboardist Kerry Livgren's brooding songwriting. Musically, Masque foreshadows the tight melodies and instrumental interplay on the next two albums, Leftoverture and Point of Know Return, which together serve as the peak of Kansas' vision. The band deserves more respect than it gets for incorporating British hard rock and progressive rock to become the only U.S. progressive rock band of note during the genre's 1970s heyday. Robbie Steinhardt's violin work certainly helped give Kansas a distinctive sound. The liner notes indicate Masque is a "concept album" thanks to the title's definition: "A disguise of reality created through a theatrical or musical performance." Vocalist/keyboardist Steve Walsh's "It Takes a Woman's Love (To Make a Man)" is the leadoff track, and it's atypical of the rest of the album. The song is a fairly basic yet groovy pop/rock tune about musicians' loneliness on the road, but it is spiced up with some saxophone lines. "Two Cents Worth" addresses guilt, misery, and spiritual longing — pretty heavy stuff for six guys who were only in their mid-twenties. In "Icarus—Borne on Wings of Steel," Kansas' prog rock ambitions show through the mythology-based lyrics and the densely arranged guitars and keyboards. Walsh and Steinhardt's "All the World" is largely a bleak examination of loneliness and death, although it does end with a glimmer of hope. "Child of Innocence" is a tough blast of hard rock with a soaring chorus. "Mysteries and Mayhem" rocks along, yet it's rich with haunting nightmare imagery and biblical references. The nine-and-a-half-minute epic "The Pinnacle" closes the album. [The 2001 CD reissue on Epic/Legacy adds previously unreleased demos of "Child of Innocence" and "It's You."]

Biography

Formed: 1970 in Topeka, KS

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Fusing the complexity of British prog rock with an American heartland sound representative of their name, Kansas were among the most popular bands of the late '70s; though typically dismissed by critics, many of the group's hits remain staples of AOR radio play lists to this day. Formed in Topeka in 1970, the founding members of the group — guitarist Kerry Livgren, bassist Dave Hope, and drummer Phil Ehart — first played together while in high school; with the 1971 addition of classically...
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Masque (Bonus Track Version), Kansas
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