Kerry Livgren – Seeds of Change (1980)

KerryLivgren_SeedsChange4.5 out of 5 Stars!

Seeds of Change, the debut solo album from guitarist and keyboardist Kerry Livgren, will always remain special to me for three reasons.

First, it showcases Livgren’s enormous skills as a musician outside the realm of his various groups—Kansas, AD, and Proto-Kaw—with music in various styles, including (primarily) Prog-Rock, but also AOR and a touch of Blues Rock.

Second, it features Livgren’s Kansas cohort Steve Walsh singing on the track “How Can You Live.”

And third, it also includes two exceptional tracks—”Mask of the Great Deceiver” and “To Live for the King”—sung by the legendary Ronnie James Dio, which makes Seeds of Change a “must-have” album for all fans of the ex-Rainbow/Dio/Black Sabbath vocalist.

Therefore, with the aforesaid tracks, as well as the Kansas-like Prog-Rock forays “Ground Zero,” “Just One Way,” “Down to the Core,” and the slide guitar- and harmonica-laced blues rock of “Whiskey Seed,” this is an above-average, commendable collection of tracks that Livgren, sadly, could never duplicate with the same level of success on his subsequent solo efforts.

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Kansas – Kansas (1974)

Kansas_14.5 out of 5 Stars!

To my mind, this was one of the best debut albums by any Prog-Rock band of the ’70s. Kansas was truly rare. Few other major Prog bands of the era (Yes, Genesis, Gentle Giant, Van der Graff Generator, Jethro Tull, etc.) debuted with an album where the band’s instantly identifiable “signature” sound/style was fully intact…with most other bands, it typically took several albums before that occurred.

And with the violin prominent and used on every song, often as a lead instrument, along with the layered keyboards mixed with occasionally heavy guitars, a lively and agile rhythm section, two recognizable lead singers, and even a hint of Southern Rock on several tracks (“Can I Tell You,” “The Pilgrimage,” and “Bringing It Back” as examples), Kansas also had a unique Prog-Rock sound for the era, not to mention a unique image—a band member wearing a flannel shirt and overalls? Yes, the group’s image and style was pure down-home Americana at its Midwestern best!

Regardless, from a band residing in the midst of the agricultural heartlands, who would have guessed that the debut album featured a highly sophisticated blend of driving Hard Rock and adventurous Symphonic Prog with strong classical overtones, as witnessed on tunes such as “Journey From Mariabronn,” “Apercu,” “Belexes,” and “Death of Mother Nature Suite,” with everything from the songwriting, to the arrangements, to the performances being nothing short of jaw-dropping. No wonder Kansas went on to become world-renowned within a few short years, and a large influence on many future Prog-Rock bands to come, even those forming in this day and age. Kansas truly deserved all the plaudits it received!

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