In the Spirit of Things

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Kansas hired Bob Ezrin to tighten up their sound for 1988's In the Spirit of Things. In a strange way, the timing was opportune, since they had a hit in 1986's Power, and 1988 was welcome to veterans, thanks to the boom of classic rock radio stations and the rejuvenating power of the CD. And, give 'em credit -- they wound up with an album that's arguably more focused than their '70s highlights. That doesn't mean it's on par, since they can't deliver a hit single as good as "Carry On Wayward Son" and "Point of Know Return," and whatever remnants of humor they had are gone, as this is doggedly somber. Still, they're musically more adept, thanks to Ezrin and guitarist Steve Morse, which is welcome. That doesn't mean it's an unqualified success, however, since the cavernous, DDD-wannabe production screams 1988 even more than Leftoverture epitomizes 1976. Nevertheless, In the Spirit of Things remains one of the group's more consistent albums and easily a latter-day highlight. (By the way, Brendan O'Brien, a superstar producer of the '90s, working with Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots, recorded this record.)

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