Kansas - 'Miracles Out Of Nowhere'

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Kansas - 'Miracles Out Of Nowhere'

This excellent recounting of their formative years is essential viewing for any fan of the band.

With sales of over thirty million albums worldwide, Kansas are maybe not as well known or respected in the U.K. and Europe as perhaps they should be. However, that doesn't take away from the fact that they're widely regarded as the best U.S. exponents of that most English of music genres; Progressive Rock. 'Miracles Out Of Nowhere' is the long-awaited documentary film about their rise from the wheat fields of Topeka, Kansas to chartbusting, multi-platinum, stadium headliners. Whilst it seems to stop abruptly at the peak of their success (before personality clashes would tear the line-up apart), what you get is very interesting personal accounts from all six original members about the period of their career from 1973 to 1977.

The band, producer Jeff Glixman and members of the management and music impresario Don Kirshner's record label, as well as fans and peers like Garth Brooks and Brian May, tell the story with reverence and eloquence, largely steering away from the negative and concentrating mostly on the phenomenal music. It's apparent that the band were grateful for the faith shown in them by Kirshner (how many bands these days would be given until their fourth release to become successful?), but despite their humble words you get the impression that they knew deep down that the songs of Kerry Livgren, the golden voice of Steve Walsh and Robbie Steinhardt's expressive violin would eventually combine to reap rewards.

The story of their breakthrough 'Leftoverture' record and hit single 'Carry On Wayward Son' is particularly interesting, with the rest of the band eagerly awaiting Livgren's arrival at the studio every day to see what he'd come up with the previous night. The respect for each other's skills is evident, even from the usually dour Walsh who surprisingly merits their success to Livgren despite their well-documented song-writing battles. The film ends with the band revisiting the scene of the back cover photo of their forty year old debut album and recreating that photo; there's also a funny story involving Steven Tyler that I'll leave you to discover for yourself.

The companion CD contains thirteen important tracks from those first five records, each prefaced by comments from the documentary, and whilst I'm not really a fan of mixing dialogue with music on a CD, it works pretty well here. Maybe another film will one day be made to cover the period from 1978 onwards, but for now this excellent recounting of their formative years is essential viewing for any fan of the band.

Phil Ashcroft

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