Kerry Livgren - Q.A.R. review at Angelic Warlord (2023)

Reviews: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Kerry Livgren - Q.A.R.

Musical Style: Progressive/Classic Rock Produced By: Kerry Livgren
Record Label: Numavox Country Of Origin: USA
Year Released: 2022 Artist Website: Kerry Livgren
Tracks: 9 Rating: 85%
Running Time: 43:34

Kerry Livgren - Q.A.R. review at Angelic Warlord (1)

Kerry Livgren takes progressive and classic rock sounds and combines them with a vocalist by committee approach on his August of 2022 independent (Numavox Records) solo offering Q.A.R. (standing for Questions, Answers, Resolutions). Livgren, obviously, needs little introduction as guitarist and keyboardist of Kansas, with whom he penned hit singles “Carry On Wayward Son” and “Dust In The Wind” and recorded eight Gold albums, two Platinum albums and two quadruple platinum albums combining to sell over 14 million records worldwide.

Livgren started to branch out from Kansas subsequent to a late seventies decision of faith, which led him to record in 1980 his debut solo album Seeds Of Change to see him match the right song with the right vocalist to include Ronnie James Dio, Steve Walsh, David Pack and others. He remained busy throughout the eighties by releasing four albums with his new band AD and an instrumental solo effort entitled One Of Several Possible Musiks (1989). Nineties, however, were not quite so prolific in featuring a pair of solo albums, When Things Get Electric (1995) and soundtrack Odyssey Into The Mind’s Eye (1998), but turn of the century represented a musical renaissance for Livgren. In addition to recording a new Kansas album, Somewhere To Elsewhere (2000), Livgren reunited with an early version of Kansas under the Proto-Kaw moniker and recorded three albums over an eight year period. Finally, his magnum opus of which he had been at work for over 30 years, The Resurrection of Lazarus, saw the light of day in 2021.

So where does Q.A.R. fit into the equation? If into mid-period Kansas, then Q.A.R. will be up your alley with a lightly done progressiveness but not to the point of overdoing it- in other words, no ten plus minute “Song For America” style epics! Likewise, Q.A.R. brings the commercial elements to draw in the AD style eighties rock crowd not to mention the classic rock vestiges to appeal to those into When Things Get Electric. You will even find a short instrumental that would sound at home on One Of Several Possible Musiks. Whereas I hesitate to offer comparison to Proto-Kaw due to lacking a similar over the top progressive flair, Q.A.R. does feature Proto-Kaw vocalists Lynn Meredith and Jake Livgren to go with a Seeds Of Changes style best vocalist for the best song inclining to also include John Elefante, Warren Ham, Greg X. Volz, Susan Shewbridge and artist himself.

Album opens to 25 minutes of the best Kansas influenced progressive to classic rock you will hear. I identify with first two songs, “The Intelligence Theory” and “One Out Of One”, as combining for s single nine-minute song. Former is a two and half minute instrumental running the gamut from its opening medieval influenced seconds to Hammond B3 to lead guitar (courtesy of guest guitarist Steve Morse).

Latter begins its first minute and half instrumentally to woodwinds, rolling drums and soaring keyboards. With John Elefante at the vocal helm rest of the way, song embodies a classical progressiveness as stilly done moments underlined by piano give way to heavy rocking rhythm guitar as a steadfast melody commands the regal scene. An extended instrumental run finds Livgren stretching with the type of lead guitar of which only he is capable. “One Out Of One” would fit in perfectly on classic Kansas albums Leftoverture and Point Of Know Return. Lyric snippet:

The exceptions the rule, til it finds you the fool
And you're fiddling while Rome burns away
Impure in the fire, you're a voice in the choir
Of the millions lamenting the day
(You're one out of one)

One who is waiting, still creating
Held in the Heavens, seeking the end
Love's not emotion, new devotion
On to the life eternal ascend

I identify with “Everyone’s Home” as symphonic rock paradise, and fittingly so in light of vocalist Susan Shewbridge (I could be wrong, but I believe this is the first time Livgren has worked with a female vocalist). Dignified keyboards speaking of the stately if not ballad like command the song its distance, only occasionally giving way to lightly done guitar for the stately instrumental moments evoking images of Seeds Of Change track “Ground Zero”. The momentous refrain is one of the most dramatic from the artist since “Up From The Wasteland” (off 1985 AD sophomore effort Art Of The State. Lyric snippet:

It's welcoming, a glowing fire, fulfilling lives within
I see the banners held aloft, proclaiming what has been

I've come on Mercy's train to find this place, there is no fear
I came accepting, and I find
Everyone's Home, they're all home

The Journey's done, the Course is run, the mountaintop is real
The world that I was sent to reach, at last begins to heal

Jake Livgren lends his raspy vocal flair to “Above This Night”. The minute and half-instrumental opening mirrors a darker complexion as chilling keyboards to start transition to piano and guitar with a bluesy vibe. Subsequent to acapella vocals, song takes an upbeat turn its remaining span as vocals touch upon the heartfelt in aligning with the encompassing melody to draw in with repeat play. Bass moves to the forefront for the blues driven instrumental interlude. Lyric snippet:

I'm moving, I'm thinking so clearly, discerning, I am healing
I'm feeling, the truths that I know I'm remembering
I'm walking, toward the high goal, I'm exploring, understanding
I'm talking, the sounds that I hear are expressing

Touch me at your delight
Shining with fire, ignite

I'm playing, expressive excitable, feeling
Creating, I'm so full of praise there's no offering, but my singing
I'm waking, this gift I've received not deserving

Elefante returns on Showstopper “Song Du’ Jour”. Albums second lengthiest at five and half minutes, song begins to acoustic guitar that gives way to a mirthful tempo, with elevated bass driving the warmly tinctured verse sections and forwardly placed ardor the inviting (almost pop based) refrain. Multiple instrumental excursions further uphold the progressive elements. When factoring not just Elefante’s vocals but also a guest violin appearance from the late Robby Steinhardt, “Song Du’ Jour” represents a mini Kansas reunion of sorts.

Lone song to which I struggle is “Fire In The Boiler”, a three minute blues rocker to feature soulful vocalist Warren Ham. No, far from band and not skip worthy - I particularly enjoy the layered vocal melodies - but I identify with blues-rock as having a bit more substance in terms of track time (three minutes is not enough time for a blues song to make a statement for itself). Such is not the case with albums second blues cut “Block & Tackle Blues”, a full four and half minutes to see artist front with his laid back and reserved vocal form. Song comes across every bit easy going with shuffling bass, composed tempo and gritty guitar to taste. Also, note that the last time we saw Livgren on vocals was Seeds Of Change track “Whiskey Seed”.

Of albums remaining numbers, “The Days We Live” highlights the classic tenor vocal qualities to Lynn Meredith as an airy an ethereal AOR influenced five minutes. Atmospheric keyboards lead the way alongside lightly done guitar in bolstering the understated but persuasive melody. Instrumentally, things again shine as Livgren again cuts loose with his tasteful lead guitar (one of treats to Q.A.R. is seeing artist showcase his guitar licks and chops). Lyric snippet:

So Love - it comes when you're least prepared
And all of the things you thought you knew, and never shared
And Love - it's only the days we live
Each one's a treasury of all we have to give
And never take back

Now, I believe in every possible somehow

Could it be that we would ever be just one More moment of Time

Greg X Volz guests on closing five and half minute ballad “When You Walk”. Piano and orchestration compel the gentle and graceful scene in reticent fashion, underscoring the still done verse sections only to align with acoustic guitar for the placid refrain layered with vocal melodies. I am reminded of Kansas track “The Coming Dawn (Thanatopsis) off Somewhere To Elsewhere. Lyric snippet:

Now the clamor of the world is growing bolder
and it pulls upon my heart as if to say
There is nothing more than what you see around you
I long to see, that face that eyes have never seen before

When You Walk, Won't you walk with me
Be my calm, in a stormy sea
Lift me up, When I fall down
Take my life, for your crown

Q.A.R. equates to a very good albeit lightly done progressive rock mixed with classic rock album. If a fan of all aspects of Livgren’s career – again, Kansas, solo material, AD, etc – then I can see Q.A.R. appealing to your tastes and representing an essential purchase. The plethora of guest appearances, not just vocals but also guitar and violin, lend further significant value. Artists guitar and keyboard work not to mention songwriting remain at high levels. Lone constructive commentary is that perhaps the album could have used an additional song or two or at the very least, I wish the artist had further explored the progressive side to his songwriting and included another epic in the seven minute (or lengthier) range. Still, Q.A.R. represents a can’t miss proposition.

Review by Andrew Rockwell

Track Listing: “The Intelligence Theory” (2:23), “One Out Of One” (7:03), “Everyone’s Home” (5:22), “Above This Night” (5:01), “Above This Night” (5:01), “Song Du’ Jour” (5:40), “Fire In The Boiler” (3:10), “The Days We Live” (4:55), “Black And Tackle Blues” (4:33), “When You Walk” (5:24)

Kerry Livgren - Keyboards, Electric & Acoustic Guitars, Bass, Drums & Percussion, Lead Vocals
Steve Morse - Lead Guitar
Mike Patrum - Drums
Craig Kew - Bass
Robby Steinhardt - Violin
John Elefante, Warren Ham, Jake Livgren, Lynn Meredith, Susan Shewbridge & Greg X. Volz - Lead Vocals

Reviews: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

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