Kansas: Miracles Out Of Nowhere

DVD/CD package that seems Topeka too soon...

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It’s been 40 years since Kansas’ self-titled debut album appeared, and this double CD/DVD set is being hailed as the celebration, “revealing the untold story of the great American progressive rock band”.

While it’s very good at what it actually does, be warned: it really only charts the course of the band up until about 1978. This is not the entire 40-year story of Kansas.

What’s impressive, aside from the 80-minute documentary itself, is that it reunites the original line-up who recorded every album between 1975’s _Kansas _and 1980’s Audio-Visions; no mean feat given that main songwriter and guitarist Kerry Livgren suffered a terrible stroke in 2009. Livgren famously became a born-again Christian in the early 80s (as did bassist Dave Hope, who would go on to become an Anglican priest). The move would fuel singer/keyboard player Steve Walsh’s departure in 1981, and his subsequent replacement by John Elefante, before Kansas disbanded for two years.

Not the band’s entire history, but > what is here is excellent.

Essential factors in their story, one would have thought. Yet none of this features in Miracles Out Of Nowhere. And yet whilst the documentary acknowledges that it is 40 years since Kansas was released, it also makes no mention of the fact that they remain a going concern, even if Walsh has recently retired and only drummer Phil Ehart and guitarist Rich Williams remain from the five members featured here.

So, effectively five or so years from a 40-year career are dealt with here. As over an hour rolls and you become aware that the film is drawing to a close the fan in you begins thinking, “Hang on, what about…”

But while there’s an air of missed opportunity, what is here is excellent. The six original members speak intelligently about their origins and early days in Topeka, forming out of early local bands Saratoga and White Clover, still sounding somewhat amazed at landing a recording contract with 70s rock impresario Don Kirshner, whose patience and fondness for his charges (who self-effacingly admit the unlikeliness of their fame) resulted in the smash hit albums _Leftoverture _and Point Of Know Return.

An accompanying CD features the songs, annoyingly with some dialogue from the documentary left in. Input from Brian May (Queen toured with Kansas in the 70s), filmmaker Cameron Crowe and diehard fan Garth Brooks are better touches, as is the final shot of the band today, replicating the famous shot of the back cover of the debut album. Reminding you that the likes of Kansas are unlikely to see the light of day again.

Jerry Ewing

Writer and broadcaster Jerry Ewing is the Editor of Prog Magazine which he founded for Future Publishing in 2009. He grew up in Sydney and began his writing career in London for Metal Forces magazine in 1989. He has since written for Metal Hammer, Maxim, Vox, Stuff and Bizarre magazines, among others. He created and edited Classic Rock Magazine for Dennis Publishing in 1998 and is the author of a variety of books on both music and sport, including Wonderous Stories; A Journey Through The Landscape Of Progressive Rock.