Review Summary: Kansas' sophomore effort is intense and epic. While not without its flaws, Song For America brings out the best of the band and remains a beautiful release from the Progressive Rock titans.
The Road to Kansas, Part II: Across America
While not a standout success as the Progressive Rock entourage were hoping it would be, their debut album nevertheless became the foundation for how Kansas would operate for the next decade. As their sophomore album was drawing near, the band began to take in more ideas and transform their music into something that would define them for the next 40 years. Make no mistake, Song For America
is the Kansas we all know and love. Their debut was an amazing album, but it's Boogie Rock and acoustic elements would never return after that debut. Instead, the band looked onward towards more electronic elements.
Like the previous album, Song For America
has short tunes and elongated pieces. The most notable piece is Song for America
, a massive, 10-minute undertaking filled with standout synthesizers, electronic guitars, and violins galore. It relishes in its excess with so little shame that one can't help but feel exuberant towards it. Another "long song" would be the 8-minute slow ballad Lamplight Symphony
. Unlike Song for America
, Lamplight Symphony
downplays the violins and guitars in favor of more organ, piano, and percussion elements. While it is overall a great track, some pieces tend to overlap each other to the point where it all becomes jumbled, this left certain instruments in the cold and really hindered what was an overall good track.
features a soft beginning with small guitar flicks as everything builds up with a Hard Rock opening about 50 seconds in. When compared to many of their songs that they made and would make in the future, Lonely Street
was really the closest Kansas ever got to pure Hard Rock. Hell, at certain moments the riffing borders on Heavy Metal, but doesn't fall off into the wagon 100%. The great aspect of this tune is in how the track seamlessly goes from soft to hard in quick succession without interrupting the flow of the overall track itself. Of course then we are treated to good ol' Kansas in their synth-laden The Devil Game
; a track that basks in synthesizers and background violins as Steve Walsh soars his vocals with such veracity and passion. By far one of the best tracks on the album itself, it wastes no time bringing in some clean guitar solos and beautiful composition of the instruments themselves.
Of course the album has some flaws. The opening track Down the Road
completely clashes with the overall theme of Song For America
. The song deliberately tried to repeat the style of Kansas' debut album, but fails in that regard. Since most of the album does not even remotely sound like this, the opening track comes off as off putting. Even Steinhardt's Bluegrass vocals stand in contrast to Steve Walsh's vocals for the rest of the album. It simply didn't fit.
The album finishes off with the 12-minute epic Incomudro-Hymn to the Atman
, one of the greatest Kansas epics of all time. From it's subtle composition, beautiful background guitars, and psychedelic vocal effects; Incomudro-Hymn to the Atman
remains one of Kansas' finest tracks in their storied history. Of course, many have pointed out the absolutely blatant similarities between this tune and the stylings of Pink Floyd (Dark Side of the Moon
was released in '73). While it is true that this specific track openly replicates numerous aspects of Pink Floyd's Progressive Rock style, that does not make it bad. Dark Side of the Moon
was one of the most successful Progressive Rock albums in the genre's history, and many bands wanted to capitalize on the success that Pink Floyd captured. With that said, this fact does not takeaway from the fact that the song is absolutely glorious.
As Song For America
came into the picture, Kansas found themselves redefining their music only two albums in. With the higher success their sophomore record brought them, Kansas would continue to use this style for most of their career. Song For America
isn't the greatest thing since sliced bread, but it is a damn fine album and a fine way for Kansas to continue their career. Little did they know, they would soon see greener pastures beyond their wildest dreams.