Monolith (Kansas album)

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Monolith
Studio album by Kansas
Released May, 1979
Recorded January - April, 1979
Genre Progressive rock
Length 41:40
Label Kirshner
Legacy/Epic
Producer Kansas
Kansas chronology
Two for the Show
(1978)
Monolith
(1979)
Audio-Visions
(1980)
Singles from Monolith
  1. "People of the South Wind"
    Released: 1979 (1979)
  2. "Reason to Be"
    Released: 1979 (1979)

Monolith is the sixth studio album by American progressive rock band Kansas, released in 1979 (see 1979 in music). The album was remastered and reissued in 2011, as a Japanese import vinyl-replica Blu-spec CD (Epic EICP 20078). A domestic version of the remaster was released in standard CD format in the U.S. as part of the Legacy Complete Album Collection series' Kansas entry.

Although this was Kansas' third straight studio album to hit the Billboard Top 10, its sales were slow compared to the previous releases, and its one Top 40 hit, "People of the South Wind" enjoyed only brief popularity. The title refers to the meaning of the Siouan word "Kansa," the Indian tribe for which the state of Kansas was named. On their 80-city U.S. tour, the band's set list featured the entire album early in the tour, though by the time the tour ended, about half the songs had been cut from the live set in favor of older numbers. A national broadcast of their show at Alpine Valley, Wisconsin on this tour featured the entire album and is one of the most popular unissued live recordings of the band. Believing that fans didn't like Monolith, they did not perform any of the songs again until the mid-1990s, when they revived "People of the South Wind" and "Reason to Be" briefly. In recent years, the opening track, "On the Other Side," has been featured in performances on and off on tours, including that for the Device Voice Drum DVD, although not appearing on the DVD itself.

Following the U.S. Monolith tour, the band had its first tour of Japan, in January 1980. The band performed four songs from Monolith on their Japanese tour: "People of the South Wind," "Stay out of Trouble," "How My Soul Cries out for You" (the set closer featuring a dramatic performance including a body dropping from the ceiling), and "On the Other Side" (which was released as an edited picture sleeve single in Japan). A special promotional album featuring three songs from Monolith and five of their earlier popular songs (2 studio versions, and 3 live versions) was issued to radio stations there to publicize the dates, entitled "Kansas Monolith Tour 1980 in Japan."

Monolith initially sold about 800,000 copies, obtaining gold status, but ultimately went platinum in the early 1990s. Kerry Livgren donated his platinum record to the Kansas State Historical Society.[1] The album reached #10 on the Billboard album charts, marking their third straight (and last) studio album to reach the top ten. It reached #27 during a 3-week stint on the Swedish album charts.

Even though MTV was still two years away, promotional music videos were produced for four tracks on Monolith: "On The Other Side," "People Of The South Wind," "Away From You," and "Reason To Be."

Livgren's lyrics on Monolith were partly influenced by The Urantia Book, of which he was a devotee before his conversion to Christianity.

Album Cover Art[edit]

The album cover by artist Bruce Wolfe features an Indian in a space helmet with horns on it standing in front of what appears to be the World Trade Center Twin Towers rendered in stone behind which is a lunar scene featuring what appears to be construction ruins of some sort. The key to the cover art is the juxtaposition of the stones (monoliths, two of them) with the moon and the Indian/spaceman. These symbols go together to form a particular picture that will be more familiar to 21st century fans than to original fans.

Due to the particular juxtaposition of elements, the term Monolith in the album title therefore refers to the black monolith from the Stanley Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey. This connection implies the album cover is telling us there is something on the moon and it has to do with human history/spirituality and our present period. That the band is known to have esoteric influences underscores this interpretation. The song "On The Other Side" therefore refers to the "other side" of the astral veil, or the state of in-between lives.[citation needed] It is unclear whether the band was aware of the esoteric references in the painting. Drummer Phil Ehart was the point man on album art, and he had personal approval of all aspects of it. Erhart has made no public statements about the cover, and no music journalist ever asked about any deep or esoteric aspects of it.

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 2/5 stars[2]

John Swenson of Rolling Stone, who had previously reviewed Point of Know Return, was far less pleased with Monolith, particularly criticizing the album's pretentiousness ("this band is just an American version of the Moody Blues and Emerson, Lake and Palmer: "serious" music that turns up its nose at rock & roll's expressiveness and substitutes bombast for emotion.") and the awkward hemming and hawing lyrics (citing "And if I seem too inconclusive/It's just because it's so elusive" as an example).[3]

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "On the Other Side"   Kerry Livgren 6:26
2. "People of the South Wind"   Livgren 3:41
3. "Angels Have Fallen"   Steve Walsh 6:39
4. "How My Soul Cries Out for You"   Walsh 5:49
5. "A Glimpse of Home"   Livgren 6:37
6. "Away from You"   Walsh 4:26
7. "Stay Out of Trouble"   Walsh, Rich Williams, Robby Steinhardt, 4:15
8. "Reason to Be"   Livgren 3:51

Personnel[edit]

Production[edit]

  • Producer: Kansas
  • Engineers: Brad Aaron, Davey Moiré, Steve Tillisch, David Pinkston
  • Assistant engineer: Les Horn

Charts[edit]

Album - Billboard (North America)

Year Chart Position
1979 Pop Albums 10

Singles - Billboard (North America)

Year Single Chart Position
1979 "People of the South Wind" Pop Singles 23
1979 "Reason To Be" Pop Singles 52

The album also reached #27 on the Swedish charts during a 3-week stay on the charts, Kansas's highest charting album overseas.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Cool Things, Kansas Platinum Record, Kansas Historical Society
  2. ^ Allmusic review
  3. ^ Swenson, John (6 September 1979). Album review, Rolling Stone. Archived from [1].