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Thread: Monolith 40 Years Later... KANSAS

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    Monolith 40 Years Later... KANSAS

    Kansas released Monolith 40 years ago this month.
    one of my favorites, the band was trying to return to the sound of Leftoverture.
    it had 2 hits, 3 classics, 2 rockers and Away From You.
    not as commercially successful as the previous 2 albums, but it held it's own.
    these songs have aged well, and i never get sick of listening to them.
    and another debate... should 'No One Together' (recorded during these sessions)
    have been included on the album or not?


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    When it was released I found Monolith to be a substantial step down in quality from both Leftoverture and PoKR. Audio Visions continued the slide, and from that point on I was out. My opinion only, and based on this thread I plan to re-visit at least Monolith to see if anything strikes me differently than it did 40 years ago.
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    Moderator Poisoned Youth's Avatar
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    In some respects, I would call Monolith the most underrated album in their catalog. For me, it's a culmination of their styles found on previous albums. There are proggy moments, hard rockers, soulful moments, etc.

    It's a very solid Kansas album that came out in the wrong year, 1979. In a way I think they (or the record company knew this) and released their most "late 70s sounding song" in People of the South Wind. As late 70s singles go, it's not that great. If this had come out in the mid 70s, the world at large might know a few more Kansas songs like On the Other Side and Angels Have Fallen.

    And I think the result of this was Audio-Visions which is really kind of a mess with some interesting songs like Curtain of Iron and No One Together mixed with a nice radio hit like Hold On, and a bunch of tracks searching for a sound. And the rest of the 80s material is pretty spotty, but I could put together a 1 disc 80s comp and be very satisfied with that.
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    Member Vic2012's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BravadoNJ View Post
    should 'No One Together' (recorded during these sessions)
    have been included on the album or not
    Yes. It should have been there in place of How My Soul......(even though HMSCOFY is quirky and fun). Would've made the album stronger.

    Overall not a big favorite but it's worth having in my collection. I've always liked their southern rock tracks, so Stay Out Of Trouble is a favorite track.

  5. #5
    I need to revisit this one myself. My initial impressions weren't great, compared to what came before, but that has been quite a while so that might have changed.

  6. #6
    It's a bit worse than what came before it and a lot better than what came after. The last essential Kansas for me.

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    Member TheH's Avatar
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    I really like this album but I think 'No One Together' should have been included.

    It would have changed the balance of the album to the better, they could have left
    one of the ballads of the album instead.

    Overall I think the A side ist top, B side is so so...

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    Member Guitarplyrjvb's Avatar
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    Love it! Could never understand why it was maligned.

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    I adore Monolith. I like it better than Point Of Know Return, Song For America or Masque (the debut and Leftoverture being untouchably great...)

    "No One Together" is a terrific track and makes Audiovisions almost worth owning...

    Almost.
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    My first Kansas album that I bought without having heard them at all based purely on the strength of a review in Sounds. I wasn't keen at first but then the penny dropped. For me only Away From You and Stay Out of Trouble are sub standard, the rest is excellent especially Angels Have Fallen, On The Other Side & A Glimpse Of Home. I didn't know that No One Together had been recorded during these sessions so would definitely have preferred it to the aforementioned tracks. I later collected all of Kansas's albums and love them all, the best American band ever. I later learned of course that Kerry Livgren had been putting songs aside for his solo albums during this time which is why it is perhaps less strong compared to its predecessors. I must play their albums more!

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    Member Guitarplyrjvb's Avatar
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    The documentary "Miracles out of Nowhere" is great and stops just before Monolith. It's been playing ing on AXS.
    Last edited by Guitarplyrjvb; 05-10-2019 at 04:24 PM.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Guitarplyrjvb View Post
    The documentary "Miracles out of Nowhere" is great and stops just before Monolith. It's been plying on AXS.
    Yeah, I saw that a few years ago. They talk about the band's rise to success, no discussion of Monolith, Walsh's departure, the Elefante years, Walsh's return and the arrival of Steve Morse, etc. I love the bit where they're talking about doing their first big photo shoot, and the photographer took them to a McDonald's and a truck stop, and they were pissed that they weren't taking photos out in the prairies or whatever. The Steven Tyler story was funny too. Maybe that's why they stopped having good opening bands: because certain people's egos were getting bruised by having to "work" to get the audience back after a blazing set by the opening band.

    ANyway, about Monolith: I actually don't remember much about this record. I have it on LP, Kerry autographed it for me that time Proto-Kaw played the NEARfest pre-show (and I'm still kicking myself for not thinking to dig out my copy of Seeds Of Change, his first solo record). I haven't listened to it much, though. The main thing I remember is People Of The South Wind, which I thikn is a really good song. OK, so it wasn't a hit or it came "a little too late" or whatever. I still like it, it's got a catchy refrain, and I like that keyboard thing on the intro.

    As for the later records, I don't know Audio Visual that well. The Elefante era records were kind of a mess. Play The Game Tonight and Fight Fire With Fire were great songs, but I don't remember much else on those records that was worth anything. Everybody's Mine Friend is one, in particular, that strikes me as being really lousy. Then Steve Walsh came back and more Steve Morse replaced Kerry, but I swear those two records sound like whichever Emilio Largo wannabe at the record company handed them a Survivor record and said "Could you guys make a record that sounds like this?". On the other hand, I still like I Can't Cry Anymore (and I love the video, with Richard Belzer as the record producer who literally pulls all the stops out as he puts the "over" in "over-producing").

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    When Monolith came out I was disappointed with it and did not think it stacked up to their previous stuff. I didn’t hate it, but just did not think the music was at the same level. Over the years it has grown on me though, and today I really enjoy it.

    I have posted this here before, but it is really too bad that the band did not film this tour as it was their peak as a live act IMO. They had a huge production with all the bells and whistles, a great light show, pyro, Steve Walsh playing a little bit of everything all over the place, and a dummy being dropped from the lighting rig being carried out on a stretcher. I have seen Kansas close to 20 times over the years, and this tour is still probably my favorite. Very little footage of this tour exists unfortunately.

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    Member Vic2012's Avatar
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    Listening to Monolith right now......because of this thread. First listen 5 years. All it takes is the power of suggestion. Thank you thread......

  15. #15
    A classic in my mind. I get how it gets overshadowed by the previous records but I can enjoy this selection of songs as much as any in their catalog. Still remember in '94 seeing the Kansas band in essentially a bar - nearly **** myself when they played 'On the Other Side.' Had previously not heard that version of the band play any Monolith material.

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    I saw them in the early 00s. They played a proggy medley that included a bit of On The Other Side ( the proggy bit with the anvil strikes). It's a fine album. Angels Have Fallen is the prog epic of the album. It's classic Kansas.

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    I'd been a mild Kansas fan (fan enough but hardly overwhelmed) since Overture, and when I looked backwards, I preferred Song For America, but it's really the debut I prefered (and still do nowadays). Never particularly fond of POKR (didn't like the shorter song format), I had major hopes seeing the incredible artwork of Monolith (not only their best, hands down, but also in my top 20 ever).

    The inner and outer gatefold drove me to write two short stories (long lost nowadays) which would most likely very embarrasing me nowadays, but those two large images struck my imagination in a big way (as a kid, when playing cowboys & indians, I always chose the "indians"), and the post-nuke setting had me imagining some sort of Wounded Knee revenge.

    As for the music, I didn't find it that strong, but on par with POKR, despite not having something as emotional as Dust.... But on the whole, the sonics and songwriting were relatively disappointing, despite an average track length longer than its predecessor (this was an important criteria for me back then). I remember seeing the band in some concert or festival around that time and thought Walsh was an extraordinary performer, but their next album's artwork discouraged me from buying it and only kept them in the radar when sampling them at a friend's home.

    here's what I had to say last time I listened to it when I wrote my PA review:

    This album was my second or third bought and the group's most splendid Post-Nuke & Native gatefold (both inner and outer) artwork fascinated me, despite the music being "very average" but still better than what would be coming up. I spent hours looking at the fascinating art work of the cover imagining Sci-Fi Disaster tales (while listening to other prog groups than Kansas) whose scripts I lost a few years later. No longer tracks to distinguish them from the pack, but there are a few over the 6-minutes mark.

    Opening on the album-best and opening On The Other Side, this is the classic Kansas giving us the deeds with a bit of drama, just the way we like it. Unfortunately the promising (by the title anyway) People Of The Southern Wind is a rather awful AOR with a dreadful chorus line and Walsh's synths choices (he also rocks the piano) are disputable cheap-sounding, but the song can be viewed as catchy. The ambitious Angels Have Fallen is unfortunately IMHO cheesy but likely to please most of the group's fans. How My Soul is easily the most puzzling from the A-side, because of its experimentations (which I find unconvincing)

    Opening the flipside is the track that was most likely put forth by the band and radios, Glimpse Of Home, a pure-AOR vocal track, but with some complex music, but marred by fake strings synth (just use a mellotron for f**k's sake). Away FromYou is from the same AOR mould with complex music than its predecessor, but a bit more acoustic. Stay Out Of Trouble is more of the same, but slightly less radio-friendly. The closing Reasons To Be is a cheesy almost-crooner track, which is best forgotten.

    The Kansas fall from good or essential 70's prog band is now under way by the time of this album, but this one still has moments and might just be worth owning in vinyl for the superb artwork. In some ways, I prefer Monolith to Masque and POKR. We still have that very recognizable Kansas sound, but clearly the inspiration is waning by now. The trouble is that even picking out one track that would stand out from the rest of the album, is rather difficult, like the previous album had.
    Due to the present thread, I may actually hunt down a good vinyl of this album if only for the artwork
    Just relistening to the album now... It's +/- how I remembered it: Kansas' last worth. Having researched No One Together, yes, that track would've fit well on Monolith instead of that stupid and embarassing closing track
    Last edited by Trane; 05-10-2019 at 08:58 PM.
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  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by Vic2012 View Post
    I saw them in the early 00s. They played a proggy medley that included a bit of On The Other Side ( the proggy bit with the anvil strikes). It's a fine album. Angels Have Fallen is the prog epic of the album. It's classic Kansas.
    I saw the band in July of 1979 on their tour for the album and I remember them doing this song and having an anvil on the stage. Robbie Steinhardt made quite an striking impression hitting that thing with a big hammer!

    Anyway, I always liked this album ever since it came out (of course I had already bought it by the time I went to that concert in July).
    And for me this is their last good one...

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    AV was a step down. It had 3-4 really good songs but didn't care for most of it. Vinyl Confessions is a great album, imo. After that album I only really like Freaks Of Nature and Somewhere To Elsewhere. Prelude Implicit is good but hasn't aged well.

  20. #20
    Today I played Point of know return, which is the only album I own on vinyl. It was my introduction to Kansas and it still has a special place. I have the first 5 albums on CD and after that I stopped, more or less. I have a Best of, Device Voice Drums and Prelude Implicit and thinking of adding some more to my collection.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vic2012 View Post
    AV was a step down. It had 3-4 really good songs but didn't care for most of it. Vinyl Confessions is a great album, imo. After that album I only really like Freaks Of Nature and Somewhere To Elsewhere. Prelude Implicit is good but hasn't aged well.
    Agreed, the opening track Relentless is fantastic though.

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    cunning linguist 3LockBox's Avatar
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    First off, love the album. It does pain me however that No One Together could have been on the album instead of something like Stay Out of Trouble or How My Soul Cries Out for You. Secondly, why is a Kansas album not on the main page?

    For those of you who have never pulled the trigger on this album it can be had brand new for $4.99 at Amazon. It tickles me to think there might be some Mastermind behind the vinyl and cassette tape revival as a means of driving down CD prices.
    Last edited by 3LockBox; 05-13-2019 at 07:58 PM.

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    I'm one of those in the 'big step down' camp. A couple of good tunes (my favourite is actually Kerry's beautiful 'Reason to Be'), but overall this is the sound of a band beginning to fall apart to me, as it attempts to cope with enormous and sudden fame and changing musical times. Great guitar sounds on a lot of the tracks here, but it's a shame they're wasted on some of the rather marginal compositions.

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    I've been a Kansas fan since about '78 (age 12). Loved LO and POKR, everyone in my jr high school had them and we played them to the death. And so did local rock radio. But no one, I mean no one ever had or listened to Monolith. AV was fairly popular I guess based on the strength of Hold On and No One Together.

    So I never actually heard Monolith until about 10 years ago when I wanted to complete my Kansas collection. Not bad but not hugely impressed either. Seems like they were going for the yacht rock market with some of those songs. IMHO the best thing about it is the cover.

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    That's Mr. to you, Sir!! Trane's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by arturs View Post
    I've been a Kansas fan since about '78 (age 12). Loved LO and POKR, everyone in my jr high school had them and we played them to the death. And so did local rock radio. But no one, I mean no one ever had or listened to Monolith. AV was fairly popular I guess based on the strength of Hold On and No One Together.

    So I never actually heard Monolith until about 10 years ago when I wanted to complete my Kansas collection. Not bad but not hugely impressed either. Seems like they were going for the yacht rock market with some of those songs. IMHO the best thing about it is the cover.
    Relatively amazing... Monolith was all over the record bins back then, probably because of Dust In The Wind of the previous album... Personally, the album I'd never heard or seen was Masque , maybe it had something to do with Canadian market distribution... But I had to wait until the 90's and Europe to find out about it... Not that I missed much, though, cos I don't like it much, as there is only The Pinnacle that I like a lot both Icarus and All Over The World are much less interesting and the rest of the (shorter) tracks are basically AOR avant la lettre. As for AV, I must say that outside NOT (which I had no idea that belonged to Monolith sessions), I didn't care at all... I(d have almost mistook it for a Steve Perry-era Journey if it didn't have their signature logo all over it.


    Yes, Monolith's cover artwork is tops in my view for a few reasons (some stated in my previous post), and that includes a great inner gatefold (something not present in other Kansas album, a lot of which were not gatefold releases in Canada). I always found the LO and POKR a bit too pretentious in the intent, and the former is a bit awkward is its realisation.
    my music collection increased tenfolds when I switched from drug-addicts to complete nutcases.

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