The violin one last time.
Rock fans know Robby Steinhardt as a member of KANSAS, for whom he played violin and sang, occasionally playing other stringed instruments and keyboards. Was in the band until 1982, so he was involved in the entire 70s prog phase and the beginning of the 80s AOR phase. He returned for a few years around the turn of the millennium, being involved with the albums Always Never The Same and Somewhere To Elsewhere, the great but sadly brief return to prog rock. Last year he recorded his only solo album “Not In Kansas Anymore” together with the well-known producer Michael Franklin and his brother Tim Franklin. Unfortunately, Robby Steinhardt was no longer able to witness the release of the disc because he succumbed to his illness a few months earlier.
Of course, the title of the album immediately catches your eye. This one has the suffix “A Prog Opera” and its artwork features characters from the children’s book “The Wizard of Oz” in which the main character, Dorothy, is blown away from her home in Kansas by a hurricane on an amazing journey. There she is… not in Kansas anymore. On the other hand: Anyone who has played with KANSAS for years and gives his solo album this title must at least bear in mind that it can be misunderstood. The note “Prog Opera” is also surprising: only about half of the pieces have lyrics, and these do not have a consistent theme. The term “opera” should probably be understood more musically. In addition to a permanent band, there are a lot of guest musicians on the album, including Pat Travers, Patrick Moraz (ex-YES), Steve Morse (DEEP PURPLE, ex-KANSAS), Chuck Leavell (ex-ALLMAN BROTHERS and many more), Bobby Kimball ( ex-TOTO), Ian Anderson (JETHRO TULL) and Les Dudek.
The music is beautiful, melodic progressive rock with detailed arrangements. The album is certainly not a KANSAS imitation, but it’s not just because of Robby Steinhardt’s distinctive violin playing that one feels reminded of KANSAS from time to time. The melodies for the instruments are very pleasing, even if not always for the vocals. This is particularly noticeable in the choirs. On ‘Truth To Power’ they leave a slightly uncomfortable, hit-like, easy-listening impression, on ‘The Phoenix’, on the other hand, they are very strong. ‘Downtown Royalty’, a song about people on the losing side, seems ambivalent. Out of respect for their fates, the music is quite restrained, so that alongside good sections there are also sections that seem rather tired and boring. In between, there are small special features such as ‘Pizzicato’, a rural idyll made up of a partly – according to the title – plucked violin, Ian Anderson’s unmistakable flute and acoustic guitar. Definitely worth mentioning is the interpretation of ‘Dust In The Wind’, here with a quote-rich ‘Prelude’. One oddity of KANSAS history is that one of their most atypical tracks became one of their all time hits. The new version available here initially follows the simple and reduced original, but then becomes more and more voluminous with electric guitar and rhythm section, finally with piano (a great Chuck Leavell), wind instruments, additional strings and choir.
So “Not In Kansas Anymore” is a pretty good last work by Robby Steinhardt. A real annoyance is therefore the sloppy documentation on the CD case. Not only is the track list on the back wrong, the printed texts contain gaps, mistakes of an unbelievable extent and frequency and some misprints. The deceased deserved more respect for his legacy!
- Stefan Kayser