Early Kansas Reborn
Bruce Von Stiers
Four years ago I happened to be at Kerry Livgren's home studio for the day job I had at that time. I mentioned that I really liked his former band, Kansas. Kerry gave me a CD from the band he had been leading. I loved the music but never did write anything about the CD. That is, until now.
Kerry Livgren was one of the anchors for the rock band Kansas. The band had many starts and stops in the early days with different name changes and band personnel. It was during the second phase of Kansas, sometimes known as Kansas II, which the musical talent of Kerry really shined through. Years later, recordings from that era of Kansas were released. Kerry reformed the band from that era, giving them the name of Proto-Kaw, which basically stands for “first Kansas.”
Aside from the release of those early recordings, Proto-Kaw also recorded a couple of albums that met with moderate success. In 2011, the band released a new album, aptly titled Forth. This was the album that Kerry gave to me that day at his studio.
Forth has eleven songs and a play time of just over an hour. Kerry wrote all of the songs. He also produced and engineered the album. It was released on Kerry's Numavox record label.
The band features Kerry on guitar, piano, keyboards and percussion. He also does locals.
Lynn Meredith does vocals. Lynn was in the band, Saratoga, which featured Kerry. Later he joined Kerry in what was the original lineup of Kansas. Kerry later left to be in White Clover, which later became the third and most famous evolution of Kansas. Besides being in Proto-Kaw, Lynn also recorded with Stardust Reverie. When not doing music, Lynn has been a collegiate football coach and now acts as a marketing exec for the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.
John Bolton is on flute and saxophone John played on earlier Proto-Kaw albums. He also has been on the original Broadway cast albums for Busker Alley and Curtains.
Dan Wright plays the organ, keyboards and does percussion. Dan was also in Saratoga with Lynn and Kerry.
Jake Livgren does vocals and is on alto saxophone. Jake is the nephew of Kerry. I actually know Jake a little. I was introduced to him by a friend. The two of them had been in a band together.
Craig Kew plays bass guitar. Along with recording with Proto-Kaw, Craig has also recorded with Maria The Mexican.
Mike Patrum is on drums and percussion. Mike still plays in bands, mostly around the Kansas City area.
Additional performers on the album included Steve Morse, Daryl Batchelor and Bryan Nelson. Steve has played with Deep Purple, Dixie Dregs and Kansas. Daryl played on previous Proto-Kaw albums. Bryan has extensive credits as a musician and for composing, engineering and producing.
The first song on Forth is called Daylight. It has a moderate pace with harmonizing vocals. It has a styling similar to some of mellower Kansas songs.
Pilgrim's Wake has a cinematic type of intro. In fact, the entire song has a sort of cinematic, orchestral tone to it. Steve Morse has a great guitar solo in the song. And there is some really cool flute in the song.
Pollex is more of a harder rock song. It kind of reminded me a little of Jethro Tull with some exquisite flute music.
Cold And Clear has a lot of moving pieces. It has the same feel as early Kansas anthems.
Lay Down is a moderate paced ballad with some cool saxophone.
Greek Structure Sunbeam is a slower song, with an almost R & B tone to it.
On The Air (Again) is a kind of slow burning rock ballad.
One To Follow features Daryl Batchelor and Bryan Nelson on their respective instruments. It is a moderately paced song with mild vocals.
Sleeping Giant also features Daryl and Bryan. The song has mellow vocals and music that is at seems, at least to me, at times more like pop than rock.
Things We Are Breaking has a toe-tapping beat.
The final song on the album is Utopian Dream. It is another song that could have fit very well within the catalog of Kansas music. There is some very cool guitar in the song.
I wasn't too sure what to expect when I listened to Forth. I knew that Kerry Livgren had written a lot of the songs for Kansas. So I wasn't sure if the songs on the album would sound like Kansas. In some ways they do, but mostly they branch out in different directions. One key element is the utilizing of saxophones, which weren't included as instruments in the later Kansas lineups. And there is a lot of flute music which I feel enhances the songs they are played on. I didn't know if I'd really like the album. It turns out I liked it a lot. My favorite song is Pollex, in part due to the flute music in it.
Even though Forth has been out a long time, you can still get from various music outlets.
To find out more about Proto-Kaw, visit Kerry Livgren's site at www.numavox.com
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© 2018 Bruce E Von Stiers