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.
During the period covered by this second of four Classics CDs, Bennie Moten's Kansas City Orchestra was at the peak of its powers, dominating the jazz scene of the Midwest. There were not a lot of famous names in the group yet, but the soloists were colorful, and the band's ensembles could really rock in a pre-swing manner. The main players at the time included cornetist Ed Lewis, Harlan Leonard on various reeds, baritonist Jack Washington and Moten himself on piano. Highlights include "Moten Stomp," "Kansas City Breakdown," "Get Low-Down Blues," "Terrific Blues" and the remake of the band's hit "South."
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.
For a library user these multi-album sets are very handy! This contains the first five albums of the American Symphonic / Hard Prog legend Kansas, covering their best era. As usual, the original vinyl covers are duplicated as they are, which causes some uncomfort if one wishes to read the texts…
I used this album to introduce myself to Kansas many moons ago, and I'm very glad that I did. At 48 minutes, this album gives you the most popular Kansas tracks and only a miniscule amount of fluff. On top of that, the album artwork contains references to the ten previous albums the group had released, a clever and beautiful idea.
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection.
I really don't like the opening bar-room boogie tune It Takes A Woman's Love To Make A Man, but aside from that this album is a near flawless example of Kansas' particular brand of art-rock. Full of tight playing, creative lyrics, incisive solos, and impassioned vocals, Masque is brimful of nuggets. While's it true that the group already started off with a bang and then recycled most of its ideas, the songwriting got better and better, and there are a few peaks on this album.