Kerry Livgren, best known as the creative force behind the band Kansas, has released a new album with his pre-Kansas band, Proto-Kaw. The story goes that Livgren was in a band called Kansas but was taken away from them when the band that become Kansas procured a record deal. Years later, Livgren put his old band back together. The name is literally translated to mean “Pre-Kansas.”
The band released a couple of albums but ran out of gigs and broke up. Livgren then suffered a severe stroke. Now, he has returned with a new Proto-Kaw album that features new songs that will be sure to fulfill his prog rock worshiping fans wishes. The songs, mostly new – a couple of tunes were leftover compositions that were either played live or recorded and never released – feature the band playing their hearts out.
The music has heavy Kansas leanings as seen in the songs “Daylight,” “Pilgrim’s Wake” and “Things We Are Breaking.” Other tunes, however, are jazz influenced as seen in “Greek Structure Sunbeam” and “Sleeping Giant.” Many songs feature the flute and a horn section. However, there is plenty of hard rocking guitar to keep this one cranked up loud. Former Kansas, and current Deep Purple guitarist, Steve Morse, lends a blistering solo to “Pilgrim’s Wake.”
This album, and all Proto-Kaw albums, are a labor of love for Livgren and company. On Forth, they have rolled up their sleeves and released the best album in their catalog. The music ranges from Kansas-esque tunes to Jethro Tull folk to jazz to King Crimson. This one is a winner from start to finish.
By Jeb Wright