The Best of Kansas is the first compilation album and 11th album overall from the American rock band Kansas. It was originally released in 1984, and featured one new track, "Perfect Lover," written and performed by then-lead vocalist John Elefante. The compilation was re-released in 1999 in a version supervised by the original band members, so "Perfect Lover" was dropped in favor of three additional tracks: from Song for America, Masque, and a track deleted from Two for the Show to make it fit on a single CD. The album has sold over 4 million copies in the US, and was certified quadruple platinum in 2001.
Kansas' third album, Masque, is a lyrically dark effort courtesy of guitarist/keyboardist Kerry Livgren's brooding songwriting. Musically, Masque foreshadows the tight melodies and instrumental interplay on the next two albums, Leftoverture and Point of Know Return, which together serve as the peak of Kansas' vision. The band deserves more respect than it gets for incorporating British hard rock and progressive rock to become the only U.S. progressive rock band of note during the genre's 1970s heyday. Robbie Steinhardt's violin work certainly helped give Kansas a distinctive sound. The liner notes indicate Masque is a "concept album" thanks to the title's definition: "A disguise of reality created through a theatrical or musical performance." Vocalist/keyboardist Steve Walsh's "It Takes a Woman's Love (To Make a Man)" is the leadoff track, and it's atypical of the rest of the album. The song is a fairly basic yet groovy pop/rock tune about musicians' loneliness on the road, but it is spiced up with some saxophone lines.
As the story goes, Brigid Polk was a longtime friend of the band and one night decided to bring a cassette recorder with her to record their set. This is the result. It's lo-fi, it's mono, but it still sounds like a decent bootleg (even though it is an official release). By the time this was released, Lou Reed had left the band and Velvet Underground was nothing like they were in the days of the peeling banana and locking yourself in a box as a gift. A Deluxe Edition was released by Rhino a few years ago, but this is the original album on Cotillion/Atlantic, as is.
For Robert Altman's Kansas City film, since the story was centered in 1934 Kansas City, Altman wanted to have younger musicians depict top jazz artists of the era playing at one of the legendary jam sessions. He recruited many of today's top modernists and, although they used arrangements based on older recordings, they did not have to necessarily improvise in the style of the time. Actually, it is surprising how close the musicians often come, recapturing not just the music of the period but the adventurous spirit of such immortals as Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, and Lester Young. A dozen songs from the film are on this very enjoyable and unique CD, which features such players as trumpeter Nicholas Payton, clarinetist Don Byron, guitarists Russell Malone and Mark Whitfield, pianists Geri Allen and Cyrus Chestnut, altoists Jesse Davis and David "Fathead" Newman, and four of today's great tenors: James Carter, Craig Handy, David Murray, and Joshua Redman. In addition, Kevin Mahogany sings "I Left My Baby." Although there are some audience shouts on a couple of the pieces, this is one soundtrack album that very much stands up on its own.
Philip Glass’ Concerto Fantasy for Two Timpanists and Orchestra, composed in 2000 and transcribed for wind ensemble by Mark Lortz in 2004, is a significant addition to the repertoire of large-scale works for timpani. The work is rhythmically galvanizing, sonically alluring, and features virtuoso cadenzas for both soloists. Symphony No 4 ‘In the Shadow of No Towers’ is Mohammed Fairouz’s first major work for wind ensemble, and its inspiration is the provocative comic book by Art Spiegelman, written shortly after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Spiegelman himself has commented: “I’m moved by [this] scary, somber, and seriously silly symphony…I’m honored that the composer found an echo in my work that allowed him to strike a responsive chord and express his own complex responses to post 9/11 America. He emerges from the rubble with a very tony piece of high-brow cartoon music.”