Kansas / Leftoverture – a certain “squawky, pinched” sound to the guitars…

More of the Music of Kansas

More Progressive Rock Albums with Hot Stampers

This is one of the pressings we’ve discovered with Reversed Polarity.

This copy of Kansas’ most consistent album, their masterpiece I might venture to say, has an OFF THE CHARTS A+++ side two! This copy shows you the ROCK album they actually recorded. The average copy of Leftoverture only hints at the power of the band.

Side two just KILLED from start to finish, with the deepest, punchiest bass, moving up the frequency ladder to the clearest sweetest mids, and following it all the way to the top with the most extended grain-free, silky highs.

Most copies, like so many rock records from the era, are veiled and smeary. Often they lack extension at one or both ends of the frequency spectrum, more often than not up top, which results in harshness and shrillness, not the sound you want on a Kansas record!

But copies such as this one show you the kind of sound that is possible with Leftoverture. It is, in a word, SMEAR-FREE, with superb transients, textures and clarity that are the natural result of getting every last bit of musical information into the grooves.

Another tough test: the vocals on the first track. They often sound strained right from the get go. It’s the rare copy that doesn’t show some strain on those first four lines. This copy, as good as it was, even had a trace of it. (Sometimes the sound is so strained it’s game over after the first thirty seconds. Who can listen to that kind of sound?)

Folks, if you have the big speakers that a balls-to-the-walls rock record like this one demands, you are in for one serious audiophile quality prog-rock experience. (Or is is Art Rock as the AMG likes to call it?) Wall to wall and floor to ceiling barely begins to do it justice. Like so many of the great rock recordings, the sound just JUMPS out of the speakers!

Side one was good, but simply not in the same league as side one, not even close. We gave it an A+ for being open and extended, but it is not as full-bodied as the best.

IF — And Only If — You Can Reverse Your Polarity for the First Track

We discovered more than two years ago that the first track on side one is out of absolute phase. Here’s what we wrote:

But last night (07/13/06) we made an AMAZING discovery. I was listening to another Sterling original, and the slightly aggressive, hi-fi-ish quality of the opening vocals made me think that maybe I had been putting up with a problem that I should have investigated further. What really sold me on the idea was listening to the vocals and noticing that the ambience was “disconnected” from the voices. It’s hard to explain exactly what that sound is, but it’s almost as if the ambience is added in on top of the voice instead of surrounding and resulting from the voice. I suspected reversed absolute phase.

Sure enough, WHAT A DIFFERENCE! Most of the phony processing on the vocals turned out to be a phase problem, not a recording problem. Now the echo and ambience around the voices sounded correct. The whole tonal balance of the recording shifted downwards, adding needed weight to the sound.

I remember really liking the sound of this album twenty years ago. Looking back, I wonder if my system was somehow reversed without me even knowing it. It stands to reason: I didn’t know a lot of things back then that I know now. Hey, I only discovered the absolute phase of this recording a day ago. There’s still plenty of interesting discoveries to be made it seems!

We owe a big “thanks for the heads up” to our good customer Chris Looby (proud owner of the previous Hottest Copy) who took the trouble to point out to us that only the first track on side one is reversed. (I hadn’t bothered to get past that song once I determined that the phase needed correcting. Apologies for the oversight.)

The Latest Phase Discovery

This time around we learned that track three on side two is reversed phase. Every copy we played, that’s at least ten out of ten, was reversed for that track and only that track on side two. Listen to your own copy — you know, the one you paid three bucks for from your local record store — and then reverse the phase. It gets a whole lot better on that track.

Peeling the Paint

We also noted at the time that “The average copy of this record is so bright, thin, aggressive and transistory it will peel the paint in your living room and leave your ears bleeding.” We got that right too! It will!

Unmusicality

The best copies get rid of a problem that quickly becomes irritating as you play track after track: a certain “squawky, pinched” sound to the guitars. Bad copies of the album have that sound through and through, along with excessive amounts of grain and grunge. The guitars are very prominent in the mix on practically every song here, so when the guitars sound sour, the track as a whole does too.

These mastering and pressing problems make the overall sound simply UNMUSICAL. The way we found that out was simple. We cleaned and played lots of copies, and every once in a while we heard one that allowed the music to breathe, open up, sound balanced, make sense even.

Those copies showed us a Leftoverture we didn’t know existed and gave us a goal to shoot for with all the other copies we played. After hearing such a truly killer copy we often go back and downgrade the ratings for the copies we thought were the best. Such is the way with these shootouts.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Carry On Wayward Son Track Commentary

Reverse your phase or suffer the consequences.

The Wall Track Commentary

Now put it back to “normal” or the bass you heard on track one will disappear, along with most of the other good qualities the Hot Stamper pressings have going for them.

What’s on My Mind
Miracles Out of Nowhere

Side Two

Opus Insert
Questions of My Childhood
Cheyenne Anthem
Magnum Opus: Father Padilla Meets the Perfect Gnat, etc.

AMG 4 1/2 Star Rave Review

… the most determinedly arty of all American art rock bands, they composed and recorded Leftoverture, an impenetrable conundrum of significance that’s capped off by nothing less than a five-part suite, appropriately titled “Magnum Opus,” and featuring such promising movement titles as “Father Padilla Meets the Perfect Gnat” and “Release the Beavers.

Leave a Reply