Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Mice Trying to Sing

Kansas : Dust in the Wind

On October 11, 1977 Kansas released Point of No Return. Their highest charting album ( at #4) , it would sell four million copies thanks to the single "Dust In The Wind", a finger picking exercise Kerry Livgren turned into a Top 10 hit.  At my high school's talent show, two squeaky voiced girls bravely played the song. The guy next to me sang the chorus "Mice Trying to Sing, all we are is Mice Trying to Sing". 

I have never hears the song the same way since.

Rolling Stone's John Swenson was among the critics who dismissed the album :

Like the inflated balloon that whisked Dorothy and Toto into Oz, Kansas continues its heady ascent into the free space provided by the ever-expanding art-rock market. The key to success for this group is that it plays the same kind of music as Yes and Genesis, but its members are average mid-westerners instead of inaccessible British pop stars. This finally paid off with Kansas' fourth album, Leftoverture, which produced the band's first single, "Carry on Wayward Son."

Understandably, the followup tries to duplicate the hit formula: the songs are shorter, the hooks more condensed, the general sound more hard-rock oriented than since the first Kansas album. It seems to work, although the added songs only serve to stretch overextended lyric ideas even thinner. The pompous sentiment expressed in virtually all Kansas songs is a wan and ridiculous rehash of the bargain-basement exoticism employed by the British art-rock crowd. The band's strength is in the purposefulness of its ensemble playing, because there isn't a virtuoso soloist on board. Keyboardist Steve Walsh's Keith Emerson/Rick Wakeman imitations provide most of the single-line excitement, and his capsule presentation of the first Emerson, Lake and Palmer album, "The Spider," almost gets to the point where it sounds like there's something going on. But the whole thing is unsettling -- I have a feeling we're not in rock and roll.

From Billboard's review :

This six-man rock outfit that broke through with its last LP Leftoverture, a top five album, and hit single "Carry On, Wayward Son," follow up with a much tighter and consistent effort. The instrumental interludes and backing showcases the talents of each member. The generous use of percussion, strings, organ, synthesizer and vibes all fuse together to create a well-conceived, sophisticated, almost surrealistic, rock work. Tempos change from high energy rockers in the manner of "Wayward Son" to lyrical ballads to some lushly orchestrated instrumentals. The vocals remain tight throughout and a bit more disciplined. Best cuts: "Point Of Know Return," "Hopelessly Human," "Dust In The Wind," "Portrait (He Knew)," "Nobody's Home."

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