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Album Review

For any art rock band, the fourth album means it's time for a self-styled masterpiece — if you need proof, look at Selling England by the Pound or Fragile. So, with Kansas, the most determinedly arty of all American art rock bands, they composed and recorded Leftoverture, an impenetrable conundrum of significance that's capped off by nothing less than a five-part suite, appropriately titled "Magnum Opus," and featuring such promising movement titles as "Father Padilla Meets the Perfect Gnat" and "Release the Beavers." Of course, there's no telling whether this closing opus relates to the opener, "Carry On Wayward Son," the greatest single Kansas ever cut — a song that manages to be pompous, powerful, ridiculous, and catchy all at once. That they never manage to rival it anywhere on this record is as much a testament to their crippling ambition as to their lack of skills. And it's unfair to say Kansas are unskilled, since they are certainly instrumentally proficient and they can craft songs or, rather, compositions that appear rather ambitious. Except these compositions aren't particularly complex, rhythmically or harmonically, and are in their own way as ambling as boogie rock, which still feels to be their foundation. It's not really fair to attack Kansas for a concept album with an impenetrable concept — it's possible to listen to Lamb Lies Down on Broadway hundreds of times and not know what the hell Rael is up to — but there are neither hooks nor true grandiosity here to make it interesting.

That said, this still may be Kansas' most consistent set, outside of Point of Know Return. In 2001, Sony Music released a remastered, expanded CD edition of Leftoverture — the sound on the latter puts it in just about the same sonic league as Rhino's expanded Yes reissues and Atlantic's Genesis remasterings. Every part of the music benefits, with a presence akin to a live performance, but the real delight is Dave Hope's bass, which is now so out there in the mix that it's like listening to John Entwistle's work on a Who album — and around and above his instrument everything just roars out (though in terms of the actual playing he could be compared more with Greg Lake from In the Court of the Crimson King or the first ELP album, or Boz Burrell's work on the harder songs from King Crimson's Islands album). In essence, a great album became an even greater CD with this release, and David Wild's essay gives some good insights into the band and the making of the record, while producer Jeff Glixman explains that the original LP was mastered to accommodate the limitations of vinyl, and the redone CD just bounds over those sonic barriers. The added treat comes in the form of a pair of bonus tracks, previously unissued live versions of "Carry On Wayward Son" and "Cheyenne Anthem," roughly contemporary with the release of the album — neither is essential listening in terms of any revelations (these guys did well in the studio, in terms of generating an exciting sound), but together they constitute a great sonic snapshot of the band at this early peak; and it's nice to know that they could capture the electric/acoustic textures of "Cheyenne Anthem," and Robbie Steinhardt's delicate singing live, even then. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine & Bruce Eder, Rovi

Customer Reviews

You don't have to like "prog" rock

The iTunes review of this album is a typical critic's bashing of anything that even approaches prog rock - pay it no heed. Yes, this album CAN be accurately labeled "prog rock" (done American style)... but I'll wager that never even occured to ninety percent of the people who've ever enjoyed this album. Simply, this is well-crafted, intelligent ROCK music... not just dumb bangin' rock, but songs with some ideas (and emotion) behind them. It bears up to repeated listenings.

Kansas deserve more credit

The review is a joke. But then again, who is qualified to judge this record, really? The members of Kansas. The members of Yes? King Krimson? Alan Holdsworth? It’s a short list, really. These guys wrote epic, multidimensional songs with changing time signatures and changing keys displaying mind-blowing chops, for pop music, and despite all that, somehow they managed to make it accessible for millions of people. Certainly this feat is worthy of more credit than the reviewer gives. Take that for what you will.

Kansas's Best is Still a CLASSIC!!!

The itunes review is proof that "critics are those who have failed in art and literature". Are you kidding me? This is not only Kansas's best but arguably one of the best classic rock albums of all time! From the postive message of "Carry On Wayward Son" to the introspection of "The Wall" and the spiritual soaring of "Miracles Out of Nowhere", this album stands as a monument to an era of brotherly love and positive themes I don't see much of in music today. Everytime I listen to this album it takes me back to a time in my adolescence when music and friends where influencing how I was going to grow as a human being and I thank Kansas for influencing all of us in such a positive and spiritual way. I may be older now but I will always--CARRY ON!!!


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, with many of their hits becoming staples of AOR radio playlists. 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 trained violinist Robbie Steinhardt, they changed their...
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Leftoverture, Kansas
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