Okay, so right off the bat we have to get that whole Kansas thing out of the way. Yes, AD was a band founded by Kerry Livgren, who had been an integral part of the American prog-rock band, and penned the classic rock hit Carry On My Wayward Son. Even in his days with Kansas, Livgren’s songwriting had spiritual overtones, and that eventually led to him leaving the band to form AD. Although Art of the State was technically the second record released by the group (the first, Timeline, was identified as Kerry Livgren/AD on the cover), it was arguably the best album the group produced.
But back to Kansas for a minute. Now I know critics like to diss the band as prog-rock second cousins to the likes of Genesis, ELO and Yes, as the late-to-the-game American prog-rock wannabes. And for sure, not all of Kansas’s material is inspired. However, I tend to like their records. For sure, Leftoverture is good – and not just because it had Carry On on it. The follow-up album, 1977’s Point of No Return which came out the next year, is well done. Monolith wasn’t too bad, but things start to slide south after that.
So, when Livgren birthed AD, he brought music rooted in progressive rock to the Christian scene. Art of the State has a rich soundscape, whether it’s woodwind, a varying palette of keyboard sounds, harmonica, or Livgren’s electric guitar. Add to that the great use of lead and backing vocals, which often translates into emphatic “gang” vocals, such as what you hear on We Are The Men (“We…Are…Men…We are the Men!”).
And although listening to Art of the State today I still like it, the album does sound a bit weary after about 15 minutes. The Fury and Progress give the record a bit of a lift, but that’s if you can get through the first five tracks. Don’t get me wrong; it’s well-made, well-played music. But heck, that was Chicago’s gig for, what, 20+ records, most of which after the first three were intolerable. (Side note: if you haven’t heard their debut, double lp as the Chicago Transit Authority, you’re missing out).
No offence to Livgren and AD, but I’d rather listen to a late ’70s Kansas record than Art of the State. Still, the record was my gateway of sorts to the world of prog-rock, so you have to give credit where credit is due.
- All Creation Sings (4:24)
- We are the Men (4:45)
- Lead Me To Reason (4:00)
- The Only Way To Have a Friend (4:18)
- Games of Chance & Circumstance (4:19)
- The Fury (5:38)
- Progress (4:43)
- Heartland (3:45)
- Zion (3:26)
- Up From the Wasteland (4:26)