[Review] Kansas: Monolith (1979)

The band revs their injuns for one last, classic ride through the stars.

Kronomyth 7.0: A monolith in stereo.

If the last few albums represent the peak of Kansas, we’re still a long way from the bottom. Monolith is a very good album that followed a pair of great ones, Leftoverture and Point of Know Return. While it doesn’t contain anything as grand as “Dust in the Wind” or “Carry On Wayward Son,” both Reason to Be and People of the South Wind would make my shortlist of classic Kansas moments. Behind them are half a dozen songs that feature the usual flights of fancy, superlative musicianship, religious undertones, and yet still manage to rock.

There’s more than a little fustian and filigree on Monolith, which the band produced themselves. Sometimes, it all sounds a bit silly (e.g., Angels Have Fallen), but prog fans have come to expect a certain amount of pomp as filler. The material is once again split between Kerry Livgren and Steve Walsh, although their different musical personalities meet in the middle this time. Walsh’s material is more proggy than usual, and Livgren delivers some kickin’ rock guitar riffs on songs like A Glimpse of Home.

In my opinion, Kansas began to lose their way in the 80s, but they ended the 70s on a high note. Monolith may be the last classic Kansas album. I’m sure there are people who enjoy Audio-Visions and In the Spirit of Things always seems to have its champions, so it’s not that the band didn’t have something to say after Monolith, I just didn’t listen as closely. Here, I’m still drawn in by the dazzling interplay, philnomenal drumming and celestial nature of it all. For some reason, there doesn’t appear to be a definitive remaster of this disc, which seems an oversight (nudge, nudge).

Original elpee version

A1. On the Other Side (Kerry Livgren) (6:23)
A2. People of the South Wind (Kerry Livgren) (3:40)
A3. Angels Have Fallen (Steve Walsh) (6:36)
A4. How My Soul Cries Out for You (Steve Walsh) (5:18)
B1. A Glimpse of Home (Kerry Livgren) (7:10)
B2. Away From You (Steve Walsh) (4:20)
B3. Stay Out of Trouble (Steve Walsh/Robby Steinhardt/Richard Williams) (4:12)
B4. Reason to Be (Kerry Livgren) (3:50)

Original 8-track version
A1. On the Other Side
A2. How My Soul Cries Out for You
B1. People of the South Wind
B2. Stay Out of Trouble
B3. Reason to Be
C1. Angels Have Fallen
C2. How My Soul Cries Out for You
D1. A Glimpse of Heaven
D2. Away from You

The Players

Phil Ehart (drums and percussion), Dave Hope (bass), Kerry Livgren (guitar and keyboards), Robby Steinhardt (vocals and violin), Steve Walsh (vocals and keyboards), Richard Williams (guitar) with The Four Fleshmen (background vocals on A4), Harrison’s Restaurant on Peachtree Avenue in Atlanta, Georgia (crowd sounds on A4), The O.K. Chorale (background vocals on A3). Produced by Kansas; engineered by Brad Aaron, Davey Moire.

The Pictures

Album package concept by Kansas and Bruce Wolfe. Art direction and design by Tom Drennon Design. Illustrations by Bruce Wolfe. Photography by Neal Preston.

The Plastic

Released on elpee, cassette and 8-track in July 1979* in the US and Canada (Kirshner, FZ/FZT/FZA 36008), the UK, Germany and the Netherlands (Kirshner, KIR83644), Japan (CBS, 25AP-1590), Mexico (Epic, LNS17267) and New Zealand (Epic, ELPS 3998) with gatefold cover and lyrics innersleeve. Reached #10 on the US charts (RIAA-certified gold record). (*First appeared in 7/26/79 issue of Rolling Stone.)

  1. Re-issued on compact disc in 1986 in the US (Kirshner, ZK 36008).
  2. Re-issued on compact disc on September 1, 1990 in Japan (CBS, CSCS 6041).

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