2000’s Somewhere To Elsewhere (STE) is a return of several key members of Kansas and a return to form as well! After a few years off from studio releases, the band looked up their old friends Dave Hope, Robbie Steinhardt and Kerry Livgren to release a new album of Livgren-penned tunes. The result is the best Kansas album since 1982’s Vinyl Confessions.
One of my favorite early Kansas songs is Masque’s “Icarus-Borne On Wings of Steel” from 1975. STE’s opener “Icarus II” is a sequel of sorts and starts off this CD beautifully. It recalls the signature violin riff of the original several times without overstaying its welcome. A worthy opener for certain.
Everyone is in fine form on this album, especially the much-maligned Steve Walsh. His vocals have been said to decline over the years, but you’d never know it from the delivery on the Southern bluesy rocker “When the World Was Young.” Speaking of great vocals, can I tell you how much I’ve missed Robbie Steinhardt’s contributions over the last several years? He hadn’t been a part of the band’s line-up since the aforementioned Vinyl Confessions. He takes lead on “Grand Fun Alley,” and it is signature Steinhardt all the way. It also features some cool harmonies from the rest of the group on the chorus as well. Walsh takes lead again for the gentle and gorgeous “The Coming Dawn (Thanatopsis).” This song could have been a hit ala “Dust In the Wind” if it had been released around the same time.
The CD loses just a bit of steam in the second half, leading me to believe that they put their strongest material right up front. These are still great songs, some even rivaling the best of Kansas’ past glories. “Myriad” features an awesome instrumental break around the four and a half minute mark, and some harmonized vocal scatting that reminded me of Yes during their Relayer period. “Distant Vision” has a very déjà-vu inducing intro and some beauteous piano and violin interplay. “Byzantium” reminds me of Leftoverture’s “The Wall” in some spots, but maintains originality and is not at all derivative.
So there you have it, another excellent album to add to Kansas’ already significant catalog of great recordings. As an added bonus, wait just a few seconds at the end to be treated to a very silly song about living in a geodesic dome.
Reviewed by Terry Jackson on June 9th, 2010